Friday, December 31, 2010

2011: Sure To Be My Most Productive Year Ever

Since it’s the last day of 2010, I should probably take stock of my accomplishments over the past year. Let’s see, I know I must’ve accomplished something…   Well, I did attend my first writers’ conference, where I pitched a humorous memoir to a number of literary agents who all encouraged me to start a blog. Then, I started a blog.  And a few months later, I managed to get one of my humorous essays published in a real magazine for actual money!  I also pitched my screenplay to a big-shot studio executive who said he’d call but never did.  And, um, that’s about it.  I was kind of hoping to make more progress, considering that I don’t have a job to distract me from my career goals.  I mean, what the hell was I doing with all of my time?

Oh, that’s right – I was watching television.  According to the latest Nielsen study, the average American watches 4.8 hours of television per day.  I’m not sure if I watch that much, but I have been known to spend an entire evening watching back-to-back reality shows.  I've already confessed that watching television is one of my worst habits.  In the past, I've defended myself by asserting that, as a humor writer, I’m required to keep up with pop culture.  But I suppose that, in theory, I could leave my apartment and converse with a real person.

If I did give up television, just think of all the free time I would have!  In 2011, I would have an additional 1,000+ hours with which to accomplish my career goals!  Now, I don’t have the mental fortitude to face an entire year without television, but I figure I can start with 30 days and then reevaluate.

If I actually want to do this, I should probably establish some ground rules.  So... I'm not allowed to watch any television shows, reality or otherwise, and that includes online content and DVDs.  But I am allowing myself to watch the occasional feature-length film, since the social life of a 30-year-old consists almost entirely of going to the movie theater with equally boring couple friends.  That being said, I will limit myself to two films per week.  The only other exception is that I’m allowed to go to a bar during Saints playoff games, but I promise to close my eyes during the commercials.

Having fully committed to the idea, I went to break the news to my husband.  I knew he'd be thrilled.  He didn’t own a television when we met and blames me for ruining his productivity.  About an hour ago, I walked into his office and announced that I had made a New Year’s Resolution that he was going to love. Before I could continue, he asked if I was going to stop wearing my hideous blue pajama shorts.  So now I have two resolutions: to not watch any TV for 30 days and to wear those "hideous blue shorts" as much as possible.

I was hoping to make the most of these last few hours by watching as much television as possible, but unfortunately, I already agreed to host a New Year’s Eve party tonight, so my afternoon is reserved for cleaning and cooking and decorating.  I invited everyone I know in Austin, so that makes 3-7 people. Should be a total rager.  I hope no one calls the cops.

I’m probably overdoing it with the preparations, but my past failures as a hostess have made me paranoid. The last time I threw a party, I started drinking several hours beforehand, and at around midnight, I thought to myself, “I’m starving!  Why doesn’t this party have any food?”  Then I realized that I had forgotten to put out the appetizers.  I ended up eating the entire cheese plate the next day, by myself.

This time, I’m putting everything out in advance.  The upside of only having a handful of friends is that you’re not afraid to break out the good stuff.  Whoever does come over tonight will be feasting on organic chocolate truffles, taking shots of Patrón Silver, and toasting with the most expensive champagne that Target sells.

And at the stroke of midnight, my guests will have the privilege of witnessing the start of my television boycott.  I get excited just thinking about all of the productive things that I might do tomorrow, after my horrible hangover wears off.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas: Round Three

Sorry for the long silence.  I’m currently on a whirlwind Christmas tour across North America.  After kicking off the Christmas season in Austin, my husband and I flew to Florida to visit my parents and then to Western Canada to visit his family.

Yesterday, I was planning to write a very touching blog post reflecting on family traditions and the spirit of Christmas.  I was even going to incorporate this picture of the hand-carved jewelry box that my great-grandfather made for my great-grandmother for their first Christmas as a married couple...

It would’ve been an incredibly moving and inspiring post – perhaps my best one ever.  But it was a long day and by the time I got around to it, I couldn’t even bring myself to type “Merry Christmas.”  I only managed to get as far as “Merry Chr” before I fell asleep.

In my defense, I had just prepared a vegan Christmas dinner for eight people in an unfamiliar kitchen with only two small pots.  It was like my own little Top Chef holiday challenge.  And every time I felt overwhelmed by the threat of an impending gravy disaster or having to mash eight pounds of potatoes in one tiny bowl, I would take a sip of red wine.  Two hours and two bottles later, I was in no condition to reflect on anything.  But fixing dinner was the least I could do.  My in-laws, who normally skip the whole Christmas tree tradition, had gone out and purchased an artificial tree in my honor, knowing that I'm something of a Christmas fanatic.

Anyway, now that Christmas is officially over, it seems that the moment for deep reflection has passed.  So I’ll just briefly summarize my various Christmas activities and traditions by region:

Austin: combining heavy drinking with holiday movies, and scouring the stores in order to accumulate an infinite supply of soy eggnog (it's highly addictive and lasts a good two months in the fridge)

Florida: decorating our seven-foot freshly-cut Christmas tree specially imported all the way from North Carolina, drinking piña coladas and pumpkin beer poolside, eating crab melts and carrot cake and spritz cookies, and assisting my parents with all of the newfangled technology (iPods, Kindles, all-in-one remotes, and wireless printers that won't print)

Canada: having real snow on the ground, the vegans outnumbering the non-vegans and hijacking Christmas dinner, Christmas crackers, lemon squares and snowball cookies, and a lot of extremely competitive board games

Ah, you gotta love tradition.  Well, however you celebrate, I hope you all had a wonderful holiday.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Happy Holidays! From: Someone Incredibly Thoughtful

Technically this blog is supposed to chronicle my ongoing career crisis, so I usually feel compelled to tie in a possible career choice or previous job or at the very least throw in some thought-provoking, soul-searching mumbo jumbo.  But today I'm not even going to pretend to be on topic.  I've always believed that the holidays are a time for celebration, distraction, and ignoring one's problems.  It would be sacrilegious to do any real work.  Even if I did have a job, I'd probably be doing exactly the same thing right now: deciding where to go for happy hour and taking care of some last-minute online shopping.

As I mentioned previously, one of my many talents is buying thoughtful presents for people.  So today, as my gift to you, I'm offering up a few pointers and suggestions for those of you who are still struggling to find the perfect gift for that special someone.

The key to good gift buying is to tailor each gift to the recipient.  Start by making a list of their personality traits, hobbies, and interests.  Try to avoid the obvious.  Giving golf balls to an avid golfer certainly makes sense, but I'm afraid it won't earn you any points in the thoughtful department (unless they're the ridiculously expensive, top-of-the-line golf balls and they're hand-delivered by Tiger Woods).  Remember, thoughtful gifts are full of thought, so if you came up with the idea in less than a minute, keep thinking.

To get you going on the right track, here are a few examples of creative, specific gifts…

[In case you're wondering, I don't get paid to promote anything.  I promise you, this blog earns negative income.]

If your special someone has a sweet tooth, you might consider giving them the world's largest gummy bear.  Or if you know what their favorite candy bar is, pick up a few hundred and then use them to spell out "Merry Christmas!" on their living room floor.

If you're shopping for a desperate single woman who happens to find baby animals adorable, give her the 2011 Hot Guys and Baby Animals calendar.  Or if this is a Hanukkah gift, go with the 2011 Nice Jewish Guys calendar.

Is your special someone a complete narcissist?  Then give them a customized stuffed animal that looks exactly like them.

For the introvert on your shopping list, buy a t-shirt that discourages social interaction.

Shopping for someone who really hates their job?  Help them vent their frustration in a creative way with a mousepad that reads, "I've Quit Better Jobs Than This."  Also available in a tote bag, coffee mug, or wall clock.  Don't think they're ready to take their job hatred public?  Then how about a pair of "I Hate My Job" thong underwear?

And for your loved one who suffers from road rage?  How about a remote-controlled LED car sign that displays messages such as "Idiot!" and "Back off!"

Still stumped?

If you're shopping for your boyfriend or husband, practical items are always a good fallback.  If there's a new video game or a cool gadget on the market, he's the first person in line.  But I'm betting his underwear has been around since the beginning of time.  Buy him some new pairs, throw out the old ones, and consider it a thoughtful gift for yourself.

You can never go wrong with alcohol.  Sure, it's not the most thoughtful gift, but have you ever seen anyone look disappointed when they're handed a bottle of booze?  Even if they don't drink, alcohol is perfect for re-gifting.

And of course, there's always cash.  Who doesn't want more money?  Unfortunately, cash is commonly regarded as the least thoughtful gift possible.  Some people say it's better to give a gift card, but my husband likes to point out that gifts cards are just "money with strict limitations."  Instead, try giving cash along with something small, like a highly personalized ornament.  That way, your gift says, "I'm capable of being thoughtful, but I also want you to have this money."

Boy, nothing gets me in the holiday spirit like solving someone else's gift-buying dilemma!  Now if only I knew where to go for happy hour...

Monday, December 13, 2010

“Hallelujah! Holy s***! Where's the Tylenol?” – Clark Griswold

There’s no better way to spend a Monday in December than watching half a dozen holiday movies back-to-back.  As an aspiring screenwriter, I naturally have impeccable taste in films.  When it comes to Christmas movies, I pretty much stick to the classics: Miracle on 34th Street (1947), It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, Home Alone, Love Actually, Elf, Bad Santa ...

And then, of course, my number one favorite holiday movie, Christmas Vacation.  An undisputed classic movie masterpiece.  I can’t understand why it wasn’t nominated for Best Picture.  Casablanca, The Godfather, Christmas Vacation – these are films that will stand the test of time.

For the most part, I avoid the hundreds of crappy Christmas movies that play non-stop on ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas.  Fred Claus, The Santa Clause 3, The Christmas Shoes – seriously?  I don't want to sound presumptuous, but surely I could come up with a better premise than “a poor kid struggles to buy his dying mother a pair of god-awful shoes."

Time for some Christmas brainstorming!  Here are a few holiday movie ideas off the top of my head...

The In-Laws Who Stole Christmas.  A Christmas fanatic unknowingly marries into a family of Grinches and desperately tries to convert them.

My Super Sweet Sixteen meets Trading Places.  Wealthy parents carry out an elaborate plan to teach their spoiled teenager a lesson by forcing her to spend the holidays as a lonely homeless person.

The Hangover, holiday-style.  When a hated boss goes missing after a wild and drunken holiday party, several co-workers fear that they are to blame and must retrace their steps.

Milk Money meets Prancer.  A not-too-bright kid encounters a down-on-her-luck stripper wearing a sexy holiday costume and assumes she’s Mrs. Claus.  When the stripper plays along and explains that "Mr. Claus kicked her out," the kid insists that she stay in his basement.  Meanwhile, he tries to reconcile her with Santa, who happens to be visiting the local mall.  A bizarre romance ensues.

Just think, one of these ideas could be my breakout screenplay!  My former screenwriting teacher knew the guy who wrote Elf, and that one cute little script totally made his career.  Although apparently, the major studios are increasingly resistant to holiday movies.  Hence the complete lack of holiday films this year.  They must be waiting for someone to pen the next Christmas classic.  Don’t worry, Hollywood, I’m on it!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Inspiring Friend #5: Ali

I’ll admit that ever since I saw the movie The Bucket List, I keep a list of things I want to do before I die.  So far, I’ve been knocking off the low-hanging fruit, like “fire a gun” and “start a blog.”  Chances are, I’ll never get around to the more challenging items.  And after I’m gone, someone will come across my list and think, “Oh, how sad.  Look at all of the things she never did.”  This fear propelled me to start a second list of things I’ve already done, so that the person going through my belongings will then say, “Oh wait, she did do some cool stuff after all.”

In general, people spend a lot of time talking (or blogging) about their crazy, impractical goals but never actually go out and pursue them.  Instead, they wait and hope that, one day, they'll just happen to end up climbing a mountain or running a marathon.  "Someday.  When the timing is right.  Maybe next year.  Or the year after."  I find it inspiring when someone stops making excuses and does what they've always wanted to do.

One morning, my friend Ali was having brunch with some friends.  Out of nowhere, she set down her fork and said, "I'm going to quit my job and travel the world for one year."  And then, to everyone's surprise, she went ahead and did it.

Ali and I first met in college while studying abroad in London.  A few years later, we both moved to New York and started working in finance.  In fact, we were roommates while I was dating my husband.  I got engaged around the same time Ali decided to go on her around-the-world journey.  While I was preparing to settle down and make a huge life commitment, Ali was handing in her resignation, getting rid of her apartment, and putting all of her belongings into storage.  Literally days after my wedding, she set off on the adventure of a lifetime.

Although she met up with friends and family along the way, it was mostly a solo mission.  She was tackling everything on her bucket list all at once: glacier trekking, surfing, exploring the Australian Outback, scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef, skydiving, Full Moon Party in Thailand, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, safari in the Serengeti, cage diving with great white sharks, a 13-day trek to Mount Everest.  I was exhausted just hearing about it.

While Ali was traveling, everyone else was obsessed with the book Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia.  Sure, it was a nice story, but it paled in comparison to the journey of my real-life friend.  Three countries?  That’s the best she could do?  The subtitle of Ali's memoir would be: One Woman's Search for Everything Across New Zealand, Australia, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, Ethiopia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Portugal, Germany, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Iraqi-Kurdistan, Jordan, Israel, Nepal, India, Italy, Wales, and England."  Seriously, that's one hell of a subtitle.

Not many people would have the guts to take on such an itinerary.  She went to Iraq based on a single paragraph in her Lonely Planet guide book, entitled “If you wanna go, this is how.”  Throughout the year, she faced more than a few challenges, including visa issues, lost bookings, sketchy hostels, 36-hour bus rides on unpaved roads, religious festivals that shut down entire countries, and one very close call with a terrorist bombing.  And she still managed to fly back for the occasional wedding.

One year later, she came back for good.  She found an apartment, got a job, and resumed her normal life.  Looking at all of her pictures, I can’t help but feel incredibly jealous.  I would love to spend an entire year traveling.  It's already on my bucket list, right between "have a kid" and "find a career I love."  I’m sure I'll get around to it... someday.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Crappy Job #4: Last-Picked Intern

[Note: Since this is my 50th blog post, I've made it super lengthy.  And as a special commemorative bonus, I've included a drunken rant.  You're welcome! ]

I went straight from college to graduate school, mostly because getting accepted to graduate school seemed easier than finding a job in the post-9/11 recession.  Unfortunately, my graduate program required its students to obtain a summer internship in finance after the first year.  To me, it seemed like an impossible feat.

At the time, the work experience section of my resume listed the following: gas station attendant, shoe saleswoman, and waitress at Big Pecker’s Bar & Grill.  I had applied for finance internships while I was in college but hadn’t so much as gotten an interview.  My frustration over not being able to land a respectable summer job reached a boiling point during my junior year while I was studying abroad in London, prompting me to send the following drunken mass email:

Well, I've sweated my way through a dozen online application forms, telling these snotty firms how I flipped shoes at Payless (i.e. facilitated the maintenance of a conducive purchasing environment) and how I wore a skirt up my [@$$] while waitressing at Big Peckers (i.e. utilized suggestive selling at B.P. Inc. to increase profit shares).  But after all of this superior BS-ing, I have received five letters this week alone saying, "We sincerely appreciate your interest in our firm but regretfully can not pursue your application at this point in time" (i.e. we used your application to [do something inappropriate]).  […]  Now I’ve devised a back-up plan, and I'm letting you guys in on it.  First, I'm taking my Optimization textbook, my TI-82, and my raincoat straight to the pawn shop.  Then, I'm going to hop the first plane to Jamaica and begin my career behind the tiki bar a la Tom Cruise in Cocktail.  And until I learn how to flip the bottles and really start raking in the tips, I'll be shacking up with the hot guy from How Stella Got Her Groove Back because he will have realized that Stella is a lifeless, loveless investment banker who gave up her dream of making furniture whereas I am carefree and ready to devote my life to piña coladas and making love at midnight.  […]  Any of you who want to cast aside your cover letters and join me, simply respond to this email with “[something highly offensive]", and I will keep you updated as the plan progresses.

Now that I was a graduate student, I hoped it would be different.  Most of the work was being done for me.  The director of my graduate program had compiled our resumes into a book that would be distributed all over Wall Street.  So what if I was the loser of the bunch?  I had been hand-picked by the admissions department of a prestigious university to be the token female!  Even if I was the flawed diamond in the display case, surely someone would still be happy to have me.

A week after the resume books were sent out, I received no less than a dozen calls asking to set up an interview.  Suddenly, I was brimming with optimism!  I would be a professional business lady after all.  No longer would my resume be a source of embarrassment.  Finally, I would be able to replace “Server at Big Peckers” with a position that reflected my true potential.

My optimism was short-lived.  I soon realized that our prospective employers were interviewing every student and then choosing the best candidate.  My rejection letters arrived in the form of a fellow classmate boasting that he had been offered the position for which I had also interviewed.  Time and time again, I had to smile and say, “Congratulations on being the superior candidate.  You must be thrilled.”  I was like a fat kid waiting to be picked for a sports team, and between every round of picks, I was forced to run laps.  By "laps" I mean a grueling four hour job interview during which I was interrogated about my lack of work experience.

It came down to me and one other guy.  The hiring season ended, and rumors of unplaced interns ran rampant through the halls of the math building.  Even my back-up plan fell through – the hateful manager of the Applebee’s in Times Square felt that I was under-qualified to waitress in such a classy establishment.  I had never been more depressed.

Then, in a suspicious coincidence, two intern positions suddenly opened up at the company where one of our professors worked.  I suspected that our professor had gone to Human Resources and said something along the lines of, "Listen, the unemployable rejects from my program need an internship, so bring them in and let them sit around on the fortieth floor for a couple of months.”  Don’t get me wrong, I was incredibly grateful, but the whole thing was kind of humiliating.

At first I took comfort in the fact that I wasn’t alone.  The other guy in my program was there, and every day we ate lunch together in the cafeteria at a table reserved for losers.  But our lunches turned awkward after it became clear that he was the favorite intern.  I blame the fact that our quantitative mentors weren’t accustomed to working with women.  There was only one other woman on the entire floor, and it took me awhile to figure out that she wasn’t a man.  She had short hair, wore masculine-looking suits, and stomped around the office acting strangely aggressive.  This was my female role model.  Her advice: act like a man.

I spent the summer drafting reports that would never be read by anyone.  When the summer was over, many of my classmates were offered a full-time position after graduation.  I didn't receive such an offer – not even when the other intern turned his offer down.  It was pretty obvious to everyone (myself included) that I was a bad fit for that particular group.  The experience propelled me to seek out a smaller company with cooler, younger employees.  I found just such a company, and they were happy to have me.  There, I not only excelled but also met my future husband.  Accepting that job was probably the best career decision I ever made, and it was all thanks to my crappy internship that sent me running in the opposite direction.

And I lived happily ever after for the next two years.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy, um, American Tofurky Day?

As some of you may already know, I’ve toyed around with the idea of becoming a vegan chef.  In this post I describe my journey from a cheese-addict who could barely work the microwave to a vegan culinary genius.  Since then, my confidence in the kitchen has taken a hit.  I will admit I’ve ruined a few meals.  Apparently there is such a thing as too much tamari.   I also had an unfortunate "glue soup" incident involving arrowroot powder.  Given these recent blunders, it’s probably a good thing that I’m only cooking Thanksgiving dinner for me and my husband.

Tip of the Day: If you ever want to discourage extended family members from coming to your Thanksgiving holiday, just tell them you’re preparing a vegan meal with Tofurky and all the lactose-free trimmings.

Today’s preparations are already off to a rough start.  Somehow I managed to burn my pumpkin-pecan pie on one side.  I guess that’ll be my husband’s half of the pie.  It’s only fair – technically, he’s already had his Thanksgiving.  As a Canadian, he celebrates Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October.  It’s not my fault that he failed to remind me about Canadian Thanksgiving this year.  I did eventually bring home a store-bought pie in belated recognition.

Between the American-Canadian date discrepancy and the vegan diet, Thanksgiving ranks pretty low on my list of favorite holidays.  There’s not much to be thankful for when you don’t eat meat or cheese.  Low cholesterol?  The fact that there’s a turkey out there somewhere who will live another day?  I know my parents are thankful that they won't have to eat my vegan pie that's burned on one side.  But seriously, I am thankful that Thanksgiving signifies the start of my favorite holiday season, which means I’ll be with family soon enough.  In the meantime, I can perfect my vegan Christmas cookies!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Inspiring Friend #4: Liz

In a previous post, I shared my fear that motherhood will interfere with my dream career (once I figure out what my dream career is).  My understanding is that when you have a baby, life becomes chaos and nothing gets accomplished for eighteen years, give or take a year.  So when one of my friends manages to be a mother without giving up her other life goals, I find it both inspiring and comforting.

My friend Liz is a perfect example of doing it all.  She’s always had a talent for multitasking.  In fact, the reason we became friends during our freshman year of college is that we were both able to go out every night and still maintain a perfect grade point average.  (What can I say?  It’s a gift.)  That wasn’t the only thing we had in common.  Neither of us had any idea what we wanted to study.  Out of desperation, we asked the Dean for advice, and she suggested that we major in Economics.  So we did.  I added a double major in Math, and Liz added a double major in Computer Science.

After graduation, Liz got a job working as a computer programmer.  In addition to being the world’s hottest programmer, she was also great at her job.  It wasn’t long before she was managing an entire team of geeky programmers.  But, like me, she ended up having a career crisis.  After a bit of soul-searching, she concluded that she was in the wrong field and that her new dream was to become a doctor.  So, she completed the necessary undergraduate courses, took the MCATs, and sent out her med school applications.

A few weeks before Liz was supposed to start medical school, she gave birth to her first child.  Her family and friends urged her to defer school for one year, and she reluctantly agreed.  She finally started medical school this past September, just days before her 30th birthday.  Liz has always loved a challenge, so now she’s pregnant again.  Her second baby is due one week after her first-year exams.  When she told me the big news, she seemed relatively unconcerned.  “Oh well,” she said, “I can handle two babies and medical school.  Piece of cake.”

The other day, Liz was reading the lecture notes for the first time while walking into the exam, and a 22-year-old classmate pointed out her poor time management skills.  Liz gave her the evil eye and said, “Thanks, but actually, I can read this chapter and five others right now and still pass the exam.”  And of course, she did.

Whenever I feel depressed, I picture Liz as the old, surly, pregnant woman in class, and it immediately cheers me up.  She makes me so proud.  I can’t even imagine how stressful her life must be.  But I once watched her swallow a live goldfish on a dare purely for pride, so I’m pretty sure she can do anything she sets her mind to.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

For Sale

This past weekend, my husband and I decided to drive around Austin and check out open houses.  It was my very first house-hunting experience.  I’ve always been afraid to commit to a place of residence.  Over the past nine years, I’ve rented nine different apartments.  But Suze Orman thinks we might find “a steal of a deal” given the current real estate slump.  We might just stumble upon our dream house, with ridiculously tall counters and a wet bar and a ping-pong room and a view of Michael Dell’s mansion!

Since many of these homes have been on the market for 180+ days, I kind of assumed that the sellers would be desperate to make a good first impression.  I was expecting to walk into an immaculate, freshly-painted home where I would be besieged with hors d’oeuvres and flattery.  Instead, it felt as though we had caught them by surprise – like the real estate agent had ushered the family out while we were walking up the driveway.  There was hair in the tub, globs of toothpaste in the sink, and dog crap all over the yard.  It was a lot like meeting someone you flirted with online.  It took me about five seconds to realize that I had been lured to the house with fabulous-looking pictures that had been taken ten years ago, before the family moved in and trashed the place.

One of the real estate agents jokingly mentioned the scene from American Beauty where Annette Bening keeps repeating, “I will sell this house today!”  I wanted to point out that during that scene, she was actually CLEANING the home in preparation for her open house.  I mean, how do you expect me to envision relaxing in my new whirlpool Jacuzzi when it’s covered in someone else’s hair?  I guess the real estate agent was too “busy” to tackle any cleaning – she did have to set out a couple of water bottles and a stack of brochures.  But I hear that they have this amazing new service where strangers will come to your home and clean it for you.  Honestly, what will they come up with next?  If the family can’t afford such a service, couldn’t they at least pay their kids a quarter to sweep up the dead bugs?

Anyway, this got me thinking that maybe I should start my own home staging business.  For a reasonable fee, I will coordinate and supervise the cleaning, point out the major eyesores, and offer valuable home-selling advice.  For example, I would’ve told the owner of the first house we looked at that he needed to get rid of the scary, windowless prayer room.  For the love of God, remove the altar, paint over the mural, and call it a walk-in closet.  I also would’ve recommended removing the giant wasps’ nest hanging in the entryway.  Do you really want to risk a potential homebuyer going into anaphylactic shock on your doorstep?

I think I have the perfect skill set for this type of work.  I’m detail-oriented, I’m a neat freak, and I love to complain.  I could single-handedly turn the real estate market around!  Oh, and in case you’re curious, I’ve stopped house-hunting for now.  See, another prospective homebuyer scared off by a bad first impression.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"You may all go to Hell and I will go to Texas" – Davy Crockett

This month marks the approximate one-year anniversary of my decision to leave New York City and move to Austin, Texas.  People always assume that my husband and I relocated for work or to be closer to family, but in fact we didn’t have a good reason.  I blame boredom.  And garbage.  On a beautiful, crisp autumn morning, my husband and I were enjoying a lovely stroll to our favorite New York brunch place and had to dodge several sky-high mountains of trash, an infinite amount of dog crap, and one particularly disgusting puddle of vomit.  By the time we reached the restaurant, we had decided to get the hell out of that city.

So we made a list of cool cities with fewer people, cheaper beer, and more favorable tax rates.  I had recently quit my job in finance and my husband worked from home, so we were free to go anywhere.  Austin was the first city on our list, so we flew down for a three-day visit.  Due to sheer laziness, we never made it to the other cities.  (Seattle was number two, but whatever – I hear it rains a lot in Seattle.)

I like to tell people that we moved to Texas completely on a whim because we’re such spontaneous, adventure-seeking individuals.  But in reality, the decision involved a very lengthy, detailed assessment of the pros and cons of living in New York versus Austin.  Here are just a few of my favorites:

  • Super friendly – people say hello in the elevator!
  • Good public schools in case we ever have kids
  • Convenient outdoor trails in case we ever go running
  • Laidback hippie town is probably more our style

  • Requires owning a car and knowing how to drive it
  • Neither of us look good in cowboy hats
  • Will have to find new dentist
  • No direct international flights except to Cancun
  • Insanely hot summers (i.e. outside = sweating, even at night while sitting still)
  • Possibility of being attacked by killer bees, scorpions, or poisonous spiders

  • Online grocery shopping
  • Has the best of everything
  • Diverse population
  • People are always impressed when you say you’re from New York

  • Subway stations are the most disgusting places on Earth
  • Insane taxes (none of which goes to cleaning up the subway)
  • Greater chance of being attacked by terrorists or rats
  • A pint of beer costs a small fortune
  • No Dairy Queen or Target
  • We never actually go to museums or to the opera or to the theater or to charity galas, nor do we shop in any fancy boutiques
  • I refuse to navigate a stroller in a city of 8 million people
  • The only grass nearby is fenced off inside the public housing projects

I think we always knew we would go but were afraid to leave New York after eight years.  That city has a way of sucking you in and making you unable to function in the outside world.  “What do you mean, I have to drive there?”  “What do you mean, you don’t deliver?”  “Why is everything closed at 9pm?"  It would certainly be an adjustment, but in the end, we thought it would be worth it.

When we shared the big news with some of our acquaintances who were die-hard New Yorkers, they thought we had lost our minds.  Their response was something along the lines of, “So you’re just going to Texas?  Like, voluntarily?  No, you lost me.”  In defense of our decision, I reminded them of the fable from Who Moved My Cheese? where the little rats learn to embrace change, savor the adventure, and enjoy the taste of new cheese.  This did not convince them of my sanity.

But a year later, I’m still happy with the decision we made.  A change of scenery is great for getting unstuck in your career.  I've also discovered that Austin is an ideal city for creative types.  And I have yet to be attacked by killer bees.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Math Teacher Extraordinaire

My parents were both public school teachers.  My mother was named Teacher of the Year in our county, and my father was perhaps the most well-liked teacher in history – he was renowned for playing Who Wants to Be a Bubblegumaire? with his fifth grade students.  Naturally it occurred to me that I might follow in my parents’ footsteps and devote my life to molding young minds.

Given my advanced mathematics degree and the desperate need for high-quality math teachers, I suspect I would be welcomed at any middle or high school with a fanfare of trumpets and rose petals.  And I would likely have an immediate and profound impact on the students.  I wouldn’t waste any time babying them or trying to make math seem fun.  Instead, I would appeal to their competitive nature by pointing out their below-average ranking compared to other developed countries.  I would kick things off with a motivational speech: “Aren’t you tired of being stupider?  Are you just going to roll over and give up your competitive advantage in science, technology, and engineering?  Yeah, yeah, 'math is hard.'  You’re not even trying!”  Then I would share my own experience as one of the few Americans in my graduate math program.  I would tell them about the French graduates of L'École Polytechnique who were quick to inform me that my education was inferior.  I’d fill the students with rage and bitterness and thus inspire them to learn!

It sounds like an infallible plan, but I do have a few concerns about teaching.  I am not exactly a patient person.  I’ve never been described as having a calming influence.  And I would have little tolerance for lawsuit-happy parents or disrespectful kids.  I would probably end up like that New Jersey teacher who is currently serving 90 days in jail for grabbing a kid by the ear while leading him out of his classroom.

Just the other day, my husband and I were trapped on an airplane with an unsupervised kid who kept kicking our seats.  We politely asked him to refrain, and he responded by calling my 145-pound husband a “fatso.”  To my amusement, my husband turned around and said, “Look, d***head, cut it out!  I’m a lot bigger than you.”  After that, the kid actually behaved for the better part of an hour.  I suppose the “right thing to do” would have been to say nothing.  But it was fairly obvious that this kid wasn’t just going through a phase.  He will inevitably grow up to be a terrible person unless someone (anyone) intervenes.  I’m not the type of person to step aside and let kids like that take over.  I guarantee that little monster is out there right now, dragging down our nation’s math scores.

As much as I'd like to be inspirational, I'm not sure I can spend eight hours a day with other people's undisciplined children.  But I have the utmost respect for those who do.  

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tree-Hugger / Polar Bear Advocate

In case this whole screenwriting thing doesn’t work out, I’m currently weighing my alternatives.  At the moment, my back-up career of choice is to become an environmental activist.

Now I don’t like the outdoors per se, but I’ve found that nature contributes greatly to my appreciation of the indoors.  When I am occasionally forced to venture outside, there is nothing better than coming home to my high-rise apartment where I can peer down at the world from my clean, air-conditioned living room.  I mean, if it weren’t for nature, I would totally take my apartment for granted.

Note: These are not actually my hands.  That would’ve required wandering into the woods and getting nature all over me.  I purchased this picture online.

My hatred of hiking and camping might cause some to question my commitment to the cause, but I swear I'm legit.  Whenever I see that Nissan LEAF commercial where the lone polar bear is stranded on a tiny chunk of ice, I feel melancholy for days.  I even had a nightmare involving that same polar bear and some of his North Pole penguin friends who were forced to flee the melting ice caps.  It was very upsetting.

When it comes to saving the environment, I already do what I can.  I’m a committed vegan 98% of the time.  I buy mostly organic and green products – even my mascara is made from rice bran.  I give dirty looks to people in the grocery store who opt for plastic.  My living room furniture is carved from sustainable mango wood.  I share a car with my husband and drive it like an old person, only to the grocery store and back.  If I ever own a house, I plan on having solar panels installed.  And if I can ever afford a private plane, I’ve already decided to follow the example of Leonardo DiCaprio and fly commercial instead.

I even have green experience on my resume.  I spent several years pricing wind energy projects.  In fact, my husband and I came up with a super cool model for wind-derived power when we were first dating.  Our relationship grew out of a shared love for green energy and mathematical equations!  How romantic is that?

Unfortunately, there’s a big problem with calling yourself an environmentalist.  It's almost impossible to not feel like a hypocrite.  Living in Texas, I’m an egregious user of air conditioning.  I still keep a can of Lysol to combat the smell of my husband’s hockey equipment.  And I’m too lazy to compost my vegetables.  To avoid feeling like a hypocrite, I would have to sell off all my possessions and live completely off-the-grid.  Having watched the True Life episode about living off-the-grid, I’m still haunted by the guy who broke down and stole a Coca-Cola from some campers, eventually giving a tearful confession.  I’m just not sure I’m ready to take it to that level.  Although... it might help me to get my memoir published.  I’ve wanted to read Doug Fine’s humorous memoir about living off-the-grid ever since I found out that he kicked off the whole experiment by purchasing some goats on craigslist.

I guess I’ll give this studio executive two more weeks to contact me before I go the other way and start purchasing livestock.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

30 Years To Life

In my household, I’m the master of the TV remote, so it’s up to me to determine how best to waste away the evening.  Every once in a while I allow my husband to express his opinion.  It’s always a risky move – he has questionable taste in television.  Even when I point out all of the good reality competition shows that are on, he’ll end up choosing a four-hour documentary on the history of weapons.

Recently, we compromised and started watching The Good Guys.  It’s basically the cop version of The Odd Couple.  In one episode, the detectives must track down a criminal who is stealing technology and reselling it.  Lucky for them, the careless criminal leaves behind a vital clue: a single drop of BBQ sauce!  It turns out that the thief is actually a struggling food blogger who resorted to stealing in order to finance his dream job.

At first, it seemed like a ridiculous premise.  I mean, why would anyone risk jail time to sustain their blogging lifestyle?  Then I thought about it some more.  Would the guy really have been better off slaving away in a job he despised for thirty or forty years?  A job can feel an awful lot like a prison sentence.  Maybe worse. 

After all, I hear that in certain minimum-security facilities, inmates are guaranteed at least two hours for outdoor recreation and weight-lifting.  When I worked in finance, I hardly ever made it to the gym and was only allowed outside for one five-minute coffee break.  And I might actually prefer an orange jumpsuit over those ill-fitting button-down dress shirts.  Not to mention, if I went to prison, I’d get more exposure to Hollywood celebrities, which would be invaluable for my screenwriting career.

Not that I’m going to start stealing any time soon.  I already struggle with an overactive guilt reflex.  I constantly feel guilty for things I haven't even done.  Imagine how bad it would be if said crimes were real instead of imagined.

The point is: maybe it’s crazy not to take risks when it comes to doing what you love.  I’m not just talking misdemeanors and felonies.  There are all sorts of reckless things you can do in pursuit of your dream job.  Take me for example.  I quit my paying job on a whim in order to pursue an unattainable goal while squandering my life savings. 

It just occurred to me that my loyal followers might be concerned that I will eventually run out of money and give up blogging.  Rest assured, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to keep you entertained.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

He Said He'd Call...

Last night, I finally had my pitch meeting with the big-shot studio executive.  I had precisely five minutes to convince him that my little comedy script was far superior to the forty other scripts he’d been pitched that day.

I was feeling pretty confident.  I was totally prepared.  I had planned out exactly what I was going to say so that I wouldn’t go off on any tangents.  I had carefully chosen an outfit that said, “Hello, I am the epitome of cool. I am hip and trendy and have my finger on the pulse of today’s youth.”  And I was feeling funny.  Already that day, I had made like three really hilarious jokes at my husband’s expense.  I was ready!

It’s amazing how quickly five minutes goes by when you’re in a potentially life-changing meeting.  Overall, I’d say it went pretty well.  He was surprisingly down-to-earth, and he seemed to like my concept.  At the end of the meeting, he said he would “definitely follow up with me.”

So now I’m like a neurotic teenage girl all over again.  I’ve been compulsively checking my e-mail every ten seconds.  How long will he wait before contacting me?  Two days?  Ten days?  He did say “definitely.”  I mean, you don’t just casually throw around the word “definitely,” right?  Maybe my internet isn’t working.  Maybe his internet isn’t working.  What if he meets another script that he likes better and never e-mails me?  How long do I wait before I give up and move on with my life?  It’s already been eighteen hours and twenty-four minutes.

I’m reminded of the time in seventh grade when what’s-his-name said he would hold hands with me after school by the buses, and I had to stand there and wait.  And wait.  And wait.  He eventually showed, but then a week later, he said he didn’t want to hold hands with me anymore.  I spent the next ten years trying to appear aloof and uninterested at all times.  It actually worked out pretty well for me.  So with that in mind, I think I’ll step away from the computer and get back to my super cool life.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Most Embarrassing Career Moments

Back in my finance days, I strove to be a serious and professional business lady.  Capable.  Competent.  Composed.  Unfortunately, I never quite pulled it off.  Perhaps it was my forty-dollar power suit.  Or my unconvincing business voice – I typically end every statement like a question?  Or maybe it was the fact that I embarrassed myself on a regular basis.

As an aspiring humor writer, I’ve learned to embrace my embarrassing moments.  They’re my gift to share with the world.  So here are my top 3 embarrassing career moments, painfully relived for your enjoyment...

#3  Inappropriate Contact with the Intern

I was working at an investment bank on Wall Street.  It was the last day of the summer intern program, and a female intern, who I barely knew, approached my team to say thank you and good-bye.  With all of my co-workers watching, I made an unusual decision to forgo the traditional business handshake and instead ambushed her with a hug.  Now normally, in social situations, I go to great lengths to avoid the awkward hug, so I have no idea what possessed me to initiate one in a workplace setting.  It was the most awkward hug in the history of awkward hugs, and I have since vowed to never hug anyone again.

#2  Wrecking the CEO’s Office

When I was 24, I went on one of my first business trips.  The client that I was visiting had me work out of the CEO’s office, since he was away.  I was having a really great time swiveling around in his fancy chair and pretending to be a very important businesswoman… until I got up for coffee and accidentally knocked over a stack of framed artwork that had been leaning precariously against the wall.  All of the frames shattered.  The secretaries came running and found me standing in their boss’s office in a pile of broken glass.  I dealt with the situation by pretending it never happened.

#1  Worst Conference Speaker Ever

My boss was scheduled to speak at a conference in Holland but was unable to go, so he sent me in his place.  I was one of several speakers, all of whom were middle-aged men with intimidating qualifications.  I was a 25-year-old girl with limited experience as a cocktail waitress, shoe saleswoman, and gas station attendant.  Needless to say, I was nervous.  Very, very nervous.  Throughout the presentation, I kept hitting END instead of PAGE DOWN, so I would have to flip all the way back to the current slide.  I did this ten, maybe fifteen times.  The people in the audience found it hard to watch and stared down at their hands, thinking “Please God, let her find the PAGE DOWN button.”  After the presentation, I was supposed to go to a dinner honoring the conference speakers, but I was too mortified to show up.  Being the mature business lady that I was, I snuck out the back door and hopped a train to Amsterdam, where a Dutch friend took me out and got me wasted.  A few months later, I received my conference speaker evaluation forms in the mail.  Let’s just say that I will never be invited back.

Believe it or not, I’ve witnessed a few embarrassing career moments that topped even these stories.  At one work party, my co-worker’s wife announced that she had been with another woman, much to the surprise of her husband.  At another work function, a client of ours, whose wife had left him earlier that day, decided it would be a good idea to get hammered and grope the female consultants.

Just another reason to switch careers every few years.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Inspiring Friend #3: Beth

Since today is the 30th birthday of my good friend Beth, I thought I would dedicate this blog post to her.  Also, I missed getting her birthday card into the mail before the 3-day weekend, and online cards don’t cut it for milestone birthdays.  Beth and I have seen each other through quite a few milestones.  She came to my birthday sleepover the year I turned ten (although she threw up and had to leave early).

I think one of the reasons we've managed to stay friends over the years is because we have so much in common.  We’re both good in a fight (Beth because she has a black belt and me because I’m a giant).  We both grew up to be surprisingly attractive female statisticians.  And we both married a co-worker.

After college, Beth got her security clearance and went to work for a government contract company.  I’m not at liberty to say what she was doing, but I will say that I’ve always admired her ability to rock a scarf with a pantsuit.  A couple years ago, Beth started feeling restless and said she needed a change.  I interpreted this to mean that she would grow increasingly disgruntled, complain incessantly about her job for a few years, and maybe eventually send out a few resumes.  In the past, this has always been my strategy, but Beth is a lot more proactive and resourceful than I am.  While training for a marathon, she took the GMATs and began taking MBA classes at night.  Then she went to a local career fair and got a cool new job at a luxury car company.  I always thought career fairs were for college kids looking to score free candy and trinkets.  Who knew you could actually attend one as an adult and walk away with a job?  Apparently they even have career fairs now for the 50+ age group.  Because you’re never too old for a career crisis!

When Beth got married just a couple of weeks ago, the groom said he was marrying “the most capable, competent woman in the world.”  I couldn’t agree more.  I often feel lazy by comparison.  I’ve had to purposely seek out other friends who are slackers just to even things out.

I like to think that Beth inspires me to be more proactive and that I inspire her to take more breaks.  So Beth, wherever you are, I implore you to stop being productive and do something fun and irresponsible on your birthday.  And I will do something fun and irresponsible in your honor.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Crunch Time

You may have noticed that I haven’t been sticking to my every-other-day posting schedule.   It pains me to imagine my tens of readers constantly refreshing my website in the hope that I’ve published a clever new post, only to be disappointed.  But I want you to know that it’s not because I’m lazy or because I’ve run out of funny stuff to write about.   I’m under a serious deadline.

Exactly two weeks from today, I have a five-minute pitch meeting with a big-shot in the film industry.  I won’t reveal his name in case he routinely Googles himself like I do, but trust me when I say that he’s a person of influence.  So I have 14 days to come up with the perfect pitch and make my script Oscar-worthy.  I’ve known about this meeting for quite some time, but I do my best work in full panic mode.  In college, I would chug a 2-liter bottle of Diet Mountain Dew and crack open my textbook 24 hours before every exam, and I graduated summa cum laude.

Of course, waiting until the last minute with creative endeavors is a bit more risky.  Believe it or not, I do go through periods where I’m just not feeling very witty.  I’ll keep re-writing the same line of dialogue and asking my husband if it’s funny, and he’ll keep saying, “No!”  My husband is brutally honest and has a real knack for ignoring my feelings.  Sure, it's helpful and improves my writing, but sometimes I just wish he would lie.

Whenever I feel discouraged, I call my mother.  I could read her the worst thing I’ve ever written, and she’d praise me for hours.  I have no idea if she actually enjoys my writing, because she’s so damn convincing.  I myself am more like my husband.  Our kids will always know when they suck at something.

Maybe I should send my mother to my pitch meeting, pretending to be me!  She can sell me better than I can sell myself.  I can hear her now, "This is the funniest script EVER WRITTEN!"  How could he possibly argue with that?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pro-Kiters hits newsstands!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I wrote a humor piece for this month's issue of skirt! magazine.  You can now read it online as well.  The piece is about the first time my husband and I went kiteboarding.  Based on the feedback I've received, the funniest lines are the ones that make fun of my husband.  That's not surprising; I think all wives are skilled at making fun of their husbands.  But I should probably thank him for providing me with such great material.  He's the best.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Leisurely Life

I’ll be honest.  Not having to get up and go to work every day is pretty awesome.  The only real downside is the guilt.  At my age, I should be a productive member of society, and yesterday my biggest accomplishment was painting my toenails.  Even when I’m having a productive day by my standards, I still feel lazy for not having an actual job.  As H. Jackson Brown, Jr. so eloquently put it, “We seldom enjoy leisure we haven’t earned.”

My parents were visiting this past week, and I couldn’t help but envy them.  Not only do they have the freedom to do nothing all day, but after 30+ years as public school teachers, they’ve earned the right to not feel bad about it.  People often say that retirement can be a “difficult transition,” but my parents didn’t seem to have any problem adjusting.  Literally hours after finishing their last day of work, they jumped in the car and moved to a retirement community in Florida, thus fulfilling my dad’s lifelong dream of living on a golf course.  They sold their truck, bought a golf cart, and never looked back.

My mother originally planned to seek part-time employment at the local post office but has since decided that she doesn’t have the time for it, what with water aerobics, Tuesday Scrabblers, and “lunch and a movie” outings with the other wives.  My father wants to attend bartending school but has no interest in working as a bartender; he would use the knowledge for entertaining purposes only.  I thought it was a silly idea, until I realized that my parents have more friends and a busier social schedule than I do.  Every night, it’s something: Western casino night, “Whole Lotta Colada” night, Pirate Cruise night, 2-for-1 happy hour night at the clubhouse.  The other day when I called, they were at a poolside luau, roasting an actual pig.

When they’re not busy partying, they’re training for a mini-triathlon or volunteering at Manatee Park.  So it’s not like they’re without purpose.   My father’s big goal for November is to go see the Rockettes and get his picture taken with them while wearing his tuxedo.

It's nice to see my parents embracing the leisurely life.  I don't think they've ever been happier.  I fully plan on following in their footsteps.  After I’ve earned it, of course...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Battle of the Sexes

My husband and I are both competitive, so naturally we keep track of who is better at what.  For example, I’m better at scuba diving, beer pong, and removing hot toast from the toaster oven.  And he’s better at ice skating, poker, and spinning a pen.  We’ve even gone so far as to compare IQ scores – I lost by a few measly points.  After another thirty years or so, I suppose we’ll tally up the results and declare an overall winner.  Until then, it’s anyone’s game.

Recently, I admitted defeat in the breadwinner category.  With his marginally higher IQ, he was always the favorite to win it.  At least I can say I earned the higher salary for a few glorious months.  It was a year after we started dating, and I received a promotion and a sizeable raise.  At first, he was thrilled for me, until he heard the amount and ran the numbers in his head.  He was careful not to ruin my moment; he immediately took me out for a celebratory dinner, during which he alternated between praising my success and pouting in silence.  In return, I was careful not to rub it in; I only brought it up once, maybe twice a day for the first month or two.

But alas, my breadwinner status was short-lived.  His wages soon surpassed mine, and the gap has been growing ever since.  Not to worry – the Bureau of Labor Statistics insists it’s perfectly normal.  Apparently, only 25.9% of wives earn more than their husbands when both are employed.

Perhaps this is because more women are drawn to artistic pursuits than to, say, math or computer science.  I used to be the counterexample, but I eventually cast aside my math books in favor of creative expression.  This brings up another point.  Perhaps women are more prone to changing their minds, and as a result, spend more time backtracking and less time climbing the corporate ladder.

Anyway, whenever I feel bad about earning less than my husband, I remind myself (and him) that the situation could still change.  And if it does, I will be more than happy to share my success with him.  If I win the Oscar for best original screenplay, I’ll let him hold my purse while I’m on the red carpet!  And if my blog eventually takes off, he can quit his job and be my assistant!  Well, in any case, I’ll always be the better scuba diver.

Friday, September 24, 2010

I'm a Writer. A Real One!

When asked what I do for a living, my answer varies depending on what mood I’m in.  If I’m in a really bad mood, I’ll say, “Nothing of value.”  And if I’m in a really good mood, I’ll say, “I'm multi-talented; I dabble in everything.”  But most of the time, I outright lie and describe my previous position in finance.  I just can’t bring myself to say “unpublished writer.”  I don’t want people to get the wrong idea and assume that I have no writing talent or that I’m a “writer" who doesn’t actually write.

Since I don’t have a good answer to the "What do you do?" question, I try to avoid meeting new people as much as I can.  My anti-social husband couldn’t be happier. 

Unfortunately for him, those days might soon be behind me, because I just signed my first freelance writing contract!  And come October, I should be a published writer.  I don’t want to jinx myself and spill all the details before it actually happens, but feel free to go ahead and praise me.

This means that I’m kind of, sort of, employed.  And the next time someone asks me what I do, I’ll be able to pull out a copy of my published essay and wave it around in their face.  Maybe I should get my $200 paycheck framed and display it in my living room for all to admire!  Of course I could use the $200, since I already spent half of it on a bottle of celebratory champagne.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  The way I look at it, my success should increase exponentially from here on out.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Career Advice from the Big Screen

You can learn a lot by watching movies, even how to deal with a career crisis!  Some of my favorite films feature protagonists who are unhappy with their jobs.  Let’s see what advice they have to offer...

Working Girl (1988)
Steal your boss’s identity and develop a romantic relationship with a big-shot in the industry

Jerry Maguire (1996)
Write a 27-page mission statement detailing everything that is wrong with your industry, and when you're subsequently fired, don’t forget to steal the office goldfish

Office Space (1999)
Try occupational hypnotherapy, embrace insubordination, take your boss’s parking spot, beat up the fax machine, and embezzle $300,000

American Beauty (1999)
Blackmail your boss for $60,000 and blow the money on your dream car, then spend your days smoking pot and flipping burgers

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
Wear the same Costco-brand sweatpants for a week straight while you wallow in hilarious self-loathing

Role Models (2008)
Engage in destructive behavior while on the job, get arrested, and work through your issues in the world of live-action role playing

(500) Days of Summer (2008)
Go to work hungover, give a long-winded speech about everything that is wrong with your industry, and quit in order to pursue your dream job for which you are completely unqualified

Julie & Julia (2009)
Start a blog and hope for fame and fortune

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Jami the Journalist in Jacksonville

People sometimes ask me what I do all day and how I manage to survive without a job to pass the time.  What, have you not heard of Google or Wikipedia?

The other day, I spent the better part of an hour Googling “how to be successful.”   Somehow I ended up reading an academic paper by Pelham, Mirenberg, and Jones entitled “Why Susie Sells Seashells by the Seashore: Implicit Egotism and Major Life Decisions.”  The paper explores the name-letter effect, or the idea that people have positive associations with their own name and are more likely to choose name-resembling spouses, occupations, and places of residence.  For example, since my name is Jami, I’m more likely to marry John, become a journalist, and move to Jacksonville than I am to marry Dave, become a doctor, and move to Detroit.

It sounds kind of silly, but I did marry a guy with a J-name, so I couldn’t help but wonder what occupations I might be subconsciously drawn to...

Jet pilot
Jewel thief
Jehovah's witness
Jesus Camp counselor
Joke writer

Huh.  Well, I suspect jet pilots are discouraged from taking Xanax to combat a fear of flying, so I’ll go ahead and cross that one off.  I can’t be a jockey unless I magically shrink a foot and a half.  And although I do enjoy judging others, I could never compete with Judge Judy – she's more popular than Oprah!  At the moment, I’m leaning toward joke writer in Jamaica.  No, wait, I’ve got it… I’m a job-hopper!  Wow, this explains so much.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Crappy Job #3: Gas Station Attendant

WaitressShoe saleswoman.  Gas station attendant.  Clearly, I was a woman of ambition.

I purposely avoided working for one of those deluxe gas stations that also sold hot dogs, Slurpees, and lottery tickets.  I could only be bothered to sell gas and cigarettes.

My father initially objected to his 18-year-old daughter working the night shift by herself, until he found out that the owner of the gas station was the son of Johnny Unitas, one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time.  Apparently, free oil changes from the offspring of a football legend were worth the risk that his only child would be slain in a robbery.

Despite the obvious risk involved, it was probably the best minimum-wage job I ever had.  Look, the pros almost outweigh the cons!

  • My shift began at 4am and ended at 11am, so work never interfered with anything except for sleep.  At the time, I had a very demanding social schedule, so I needed to be available both day and night for spontaneous get-togethers.
  • There was a lot of downtime.  I would lay my head on the counter and “rest my eyes” until a customer came in.
  • By the end of the summer, I could name at least 40 brands of cigarettes!  Whenever my friends and I played Kings, it was my go-to category.

  • There was no bulletproof glass.  Just me and a cash register.  When I wasn’t sleeping on the job, I was constantly on the lookout for men in ski masks.
  • At the beginning of every shift, I had to count all of the cigarette packs.  It was supposed to deter employee theft.  The next time you’re sleep-deprived, try counting to 400 without losing track.
  • When questioned about my unusual sleep schedule, I would tell people that I worked the night shift.  Little did I know, Night Shift was the name of a strip club in nearby Baltimore.  I got the occasional strange look and had no idea why.  You can imagine my surprise when someone finally asked, “Oh, are you a stripper?”

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Crappy Job #2: Payless

I'm on a mission to decide if all of my prior jobs have been horribly flawed or if I just don't like working.  In a previous post, I reminisced about being a waitress.  Today, I’m tackling the fun-filled summer I spent working in retail.  Payless ShoeSource, to be exact.

Don’t ask me why I wanted to work in a shoe store.  Having inherited my mother’s freakishly large feet, shopping for shoes ranks somewhere between getting a root canal and filing my tax return on the list of things I enjoy.  At the time of my employment, Payless was the only store in a 50-mile radius that carried my size, and the selection was terrible.  Think elderly churchgoer.  I would’ve looked just as stylish had I duct-taped the shoe boxes to my feet.

Interesting Fact of the Day: My high heel is exactly the size of a standard wine bottle.

Anyway, here is my assessment of working at Payless ShoeSource...

  • Using my discount, I was able to save a whopping 75-cents on my oversized high heels.  
  • I managed to amuse myself by channeling Al Bundy from Married with Children.  “I sell shoes.  Envy me.”
  • Big corporations love annoying procedures and unnecessary paperwork.  I had to take a drug test, fill out one of those Briggs-Meyer personality profiles, and undergo formal training, all for the humiliation of working at the local mall.  As a testament to their lengthy screening process, I was offered ecstasy by another sales associate on my first day of work.
  • Participation in the employee suggestive selling competition was mandatory.  I got stuck promoting deodorizing shoe balls to smelly-footed customers and easily secured last place.
  • I had planned to use this opportunity to meet other fabulous women with size 12 feet, but the only regular customer who purchased shoes in my size was a cross-dressing man.
  • I quickly discovered that most adults are too lazy or too dumb to put a shoe back where it belongs.  They prefer to cram it into the wrong box, possibly in a different aisle.  Um, yeah, thanks for making my minimum-wage job more challenging.

    That wine bottle is calling my name.  Next time, I will reflect on my time spent as a gas station attendant.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010

    Quitting with Flair

    Since I’m both bitter and creative, I’ve always been tempted to quit my job in some hilarious way: on a cake, in a Mac alert, or by ripping my shirt open and having “Do What You Love” tattooed across my chest.

    Resigning gracefully requires an incredible amount of willpower, especially when you loathe your superiors.  I once worked for a blatantly sexist guy who ironically carried a purse.  I also worked for a guy who routinely told off his employees, his clients, his waiters, and even his wife’s gynecologist.  And at one point, I worked for my husband, who often implied that his employee was lazy.  But as tempted as I've been to resign a job with a legendary "screw you" statement, I never so much as gave the finger on my way out the door.  My father always told me to "never burn bridges."  I know it’s just a saying, but the world really is a frighteningly small place.  Awkward run-ins are inevitable.

    Case in point:  At age sixteen, I decided to spend the summer working full-time for the government.  Five minutes after I clocked in on the first day, I realized that I had made a terrible mistake.  I wanted to tell my boss that his office smelled weird and that he could take his data entry and shove it, but my parents convinced me it was a bad idea.  I stayed the entire ten weeks, and on my last day of work, I presented my boss with a thank you note attached to a giant bag of Pull-N-Peel Twizzlers.  Six years later, I randomly ended up sitting next to that same guy on a flight back from London.  He immediately remembered the Twizzlers, gave me his business card, and offered to help me with my career in any way he could.

    This story is part of the reason I have yet to quit a job with any style or flair.  It’s a good thing, too, because several of my former bosses have popped up in future situations, including a job interview.  And I run into my husband all the time.

    So if you’re considering quitting your job, I suggest sticking with the traditional resignation letter and venting your frustration in other ways.  Like, say, an anonymous blog!

    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    Inspiring Friend #2: Julia

    After graduate school, I took a job at a financial consulting company in New York.  Coincidentally, my friend Julia landed an internship with a fashion magazine in the same building.  While I was pricing power plants and analyzing interest rate curves, Julia was attending photo shoots and hanging out in the sample closet.  For three years, I pretty much lived vicariously through her.  During our daily Starbucks runs, she would regale me with her exciting adventures in the fashion industry.  This was before The Devil Wears Prada hit theatres, so it was all very mysterious to me.

    I was jealous of course, but her job was not without its drawbacks.  Starting at the bottom can be a humbling experience.  As a lowly intern, her duties included appearing in the magazine’s Figure Fixers spread as “the girl with the big butt.”

    And it was months before she was allowed to write anything.  When she finally did write her first article – which was read by her father and her grandmother and everyone else she knew – the assigned topic was sex toys.

    Eventually, Julia was writing articles on all sorts of topics, and she blossomed into a full-fledged fashionista.  One day, I even spotted her face on the MSN homepage.  I myself am style-impaired, but I was probably more fashionable just being in her presence.  She would always fill me in on the upcoming apparel and accessories trends.  I was the first to know that skinny jeans were making a comeback (I was horrified).

    After a few years, we both moved on to other jobs, but whenever I step inside a Starbucks, I’m reminded of her inspiring rise from big-butt intern to glamorous fashion writer.  Perhaps there’s still hope for me.  I just need a foot in the door and a few years of hard work and persistence.

    Tuesday, September 7, 2010

    And the Award for Strong Female Protagonist Goes To...

    I’ve been in a bad mood all afternoon.  It’s dark and rainy, my annoying neighbor has been pounding away on her piano for hours, and the “simple and tasteful” bridesmaid shoes that I ordered online just arrived inexplicably covered in glitter.

    I was in the middle of complaining about how everything sucks when I received some unexpected good news.  My comedy script, BEST WISHES, NICE KNOWING YOU, was named a quarterfinalist in the Cynosure Screenwriting Awards.  Okay, so Cynosure isn't as well-known as the Nicholl Fellowship, but I consider it a great compliment since their mission is to reward scripts with compelling female protagonists – in other words, women who aren’t constantly bursting into tears and who face bigger problems than not having a boyfriend.  My protagonist is an exaggerated version of myself, so naturally she’s a strong and independent woman without any of the annoying, stereotypical traits.  (Oops, I was just whining about my shoe purchase.  That was an aberration, I swear.)

    I think I’ll put on my glittery shoes, grab an umbrella, and go out to celebrate.

    Saturday, September 4, 2010

    Crappy Job #1: Waitress at Big Peckers

    Since I’m currently in Ocean City, Maryland for a bachelorette party, I thought I would dedicate this post to my waitressing career, which began (and ended) right here at Big Pecker's Bar & Grill.

    I decided to work at Big Pecker's because I’d always dreamed of serving up greasy burgers while wearing a super short tennis skirt and a t-shirt with a giant cartoon rooster on it.  Okay, no, I wanted to spend the summer at the beach while saving money for my junior year abroad in London.  I only budgeted about $50 a month for rent, so I shared a lovely pink garden shed with three other girls.  Seriously, here's a picture...

    In addition to waiting on tables, my duties included mandatory karaoke performances by the wait staff; chasing after mullet-sporting rednecks who skipped out on the bill; and squeegeeing the glass around the perimeter of the restaurant in my obscenely short skirt, eliciting car horns from the drunken senior weekers cruising down Coastal Highway.  It was an interesting summer, to say the least.

    After I leave a job, I always assess the pros and cons in the hope that I will choose more wisely next time.  The following is my analysis of waitressing at Big Peckers:

    • I did manage to save an impressive sum of money, which I blew on alcohol and bumming around Europe.
    • It was my easiest job interview to date.  The manager looked me up and down and handed me the infamous tennis skirt.
    • I discovered my talent for carrying extremely heavy trays on my fingertips.
    • I am now an excellent tipper.
    • I think everyone should be yelled at and belittled by an irate customer at least once in their life.  It builds character.

    • I can’t even tell you how many times I was forced to sing Donna Summer’s “We Work Hard for the Money.”  Did I mention I’m a terrible singer?
    • I can no longer eat ranch dressing, after making buckets of it from scratch.  The secret recipe: combine one tub of extra heavy mayonnaise, one giant carton of fatty buttermilk, and a teeny-tiny packet of seasoning.
    • I left the beach paler than when I arrived – the result of working 12-hour shifts, 6 days a week.
    • My fellow students at the London School of Economics had all spent their summers interning at investment banks.  I had to say I worked at a prestigious company called B.P. Incorporated.

    Now I shall have a beer in honor of waiters and waitresses everywhere…  Happy Labor Day weekend!

    Thursday, September 2, 2010

    25 Things I'm Terrible At

    A few weeks ago, I compiled a list of 25 Things I’m Awesome At.  In the process, I thought of hundreds of things I’m not so awesome at.  I didn’t want to overwhelm you with my shortcomings, so I cut it down to 25.

    1.) Dancing
    2.) Walking in high heels
    3.) Looking on the bright side
    4.) Making presentations
    5.) Playing basketball
    6.) Remaining calm on airplanes
    7.) Keeping secrets
    8.) Waking up early
    9.) Touching my toes
    10.) Answering trivia
    11.) Having a sense of style
    12.) Acting my age
    13.) Climbing ropes and/or doing push-ups
    14.) Managing my 401k
    15.) Feigning excitement
    16.) Making small talk
    17.) Handling rejection
    18.) Remembering names
    19.) Being patient
    20.) Singing
    21.) Driving
    22.) Avoiding sunburns
    23.) Making a good first impression
    24.) Using my time wisely
    25.) Getting blog followers

    Tuesday, August 31, 2010

    The Countdown

    Every couple months, I’ll point out a cute kid and remind my husband that I’d like to be pregnant in two years.  It’s been "two years" for about three years now.  When I recently revised it to one year and ten months, he freaked out and said, “What happened to two years?”

    I understand his hesitation.  Whenever I see a frustrated mother dragging around a screaming child, I immediately break into a cold sweat.  Given my own personality and that of my husband, I suspect our kid will be especially prone to whining and throwing tantrums.

    Nonetheless, I really do want to be a mother... eventually.  My reasons are as follows:

    1.) I refuse to let these twin-bearing hips go to waste.

    2.) As illustrated in the movie Idiocracy, I feel compelled to pass on our genes.  Our kids will no doubt be uncoordinated, allergic to everything, and have giant feet, but at least they’ll be intelligent.

    3.) As illustrated in the show Toddlers & Tiaras, there’s a lot of bad parenting going on.  I’m confident that I will be able to avoid the major pitfalls and make only minor mistakes, like guilt-tripping my kids for ruining my social life.

    4.) I have a phobia of becoming a lonely old person.  When your kids get older, they’re obligated to call you on a regular basis and invite you over for holidays.

    Since motherhood is looming, my career crisis needs to be resolved ASAP.  It’s hard enough for a new mother to maintain an existing career, let alone jump-start a new one.  I will also admit that I’m not sure I’m cut out to be a stay-at-home mom.  I think I’ll be a better mother if I have at least a part-time job to escape to.  Maybe I’ll feel differently once I have my own child.  I’m basing this theory purely on other people’s children.

    Bottom line: I'm feeling the time pressure.  The back of my mind keeps repeating, “Must have thriving career in two years.  Must have thriving career in two years...”  Oh wait, one year and ten months.  Crap.