too long; didn’t write

whiskey

Today was a blasted nightmare hellscape of a day, and when I got home my wife still managed to one-up me within less than a minute of me walking in the door.  I had an eighteen thousand dollar order finally deliver today after two and a half months of sitting in the warehouse, and while ultimately I’m pretty sure everything ended up working out more or less to the good I spent the entire day on the phone dealing with customer service issues and intermittently talking people who had spent an enormous amount of money off of ledges.  Today started with a customer who bought a leather power sectional a few months ago coming in and wanting a refund.  Like, literally, I walked in the door, and they were already in the store.  I managed to trade those people to another set and actually made some money on the deal, but still.  This is me, the entire fucking day:

SparseFrighteningDaddylonglegs-size_restricted

And, like, okay, there are no bullet holes in me, and that’s probably a whole lot of good thing, but I still spent damn near my every fucking waking second dodging, or looking for furniture in a giant warehouse, furniture that was not where it was supposed to be, or walking up to co-workers and saying things like “I need you to save my life right now, and here’s how you’re going to do it,” and various and sundry other things, and as it turns out that all of that shit is stressful as fuck.  I am actually walking into the last day of my week at negative sales, too, which brings its own special brand of exhaustion with it.

I, no shit, suggested to my boss around 5:30 tonight that we start a fight club, and I’m not sure I was kidding.

(Here’s the kind of day I had, in microcosm: y’all know Panera Bread, right?  They’re tasty and shit.  Today we had an employee from Panera walk into the store and drop off a menu, announcing that they were actually delivering now.  Cool!  At around 1:30, in the early stages of the shakes from hunger, I decided I didn’t have time to leave the store and needed to get a lunch delivery of some sort, and– at the menu’s suggestion– downloaded the Panera app.  Which could not be convinced that the address of my place of business, which is a real place that is actually there, since I was at that address at the time, existed, and so would not let me proceed to the part of the app where I actually order food.  So I called them, at which point the recording informed me that the restaurant was closed for renovations despite the fact that their employee had brought me a menu today.  Extend that exact kind of bullshit to every single interaction I had with any human at any time today and you have my day.)

I don’t drink.  I’mma start.

RIP, Mrs. Gates

image-29403_20180310.jpgxI got a text from my mother just now, while I was eating dinner, that my second grade teacher had passed away, at the admirably ripe old age of 92.  Mrs. Gates is one of the several teachers that my book Searching for Malumba is dedicated to, one of only two from my elementary/primary school years.

I had found myself wondering about her many times over the years.  My second-grade recollection of her was that she was one of my older teachers, but that could have meant she was 40; kids are terrible at pegging how old adults are, right?  As it turns out, she was nearly 60 when I had her, so she was probably nearing retirement at the time.  I remember her as being probably the best example I ever had of the “strict but fair” teacher, which was something I always tried to emulate in my own career.

The funny thing is that when I try to unearth specific memories of what she was like as a teacher, I can only come up with one or two of them, and the clearest memory probably counts as educational malpractice, to the point where I almost feel disrespectful for talking about it.   Mrs. Gates was always big on cleanliness– keeping the room clean, and in particular, keeping our desks clean.  She’d actually inspect them from time to time– I have no idea how frequently; this could have been a daily or weekly thing for all I remember, or it could have been more frequently than that.

I am still in touch with literally no one who was in my second grade class, but I can think of perhaps four or five kids who are no more than a quick Facebook search away.  And I guarantee each of them remembers the day Mrs. Gates got tired of Jonathan W. (I remember his full name, but why let him Google this?) having a sloppy desk for like the nine hundredth time in a row and in a fit of frustration dumped it out on the classroom floor in front of everyone.  Objectively, with thirty-some-odd years of hindsight, this was probably a terribly humiliating thing for Jonathan and was not the proper way for her to have handled the situation.  certainly can’t imagine dumping a kid’s desk out on the floor in front of the whole class.  And yet, I think for most of us, it made us more fond of her– and make no mistake, strict as she was, the kids in that class loved Mrs. Gates.  Because this lady wasn’t taking any shit, and chances are most of our moms would have done the same damn thing in similar circumstances.  I stayed friends with Jonathan until he moved away, I think in middle school sometime, and that story was still getting told at slumber parties years later.

For whatever it’s worth, I suspect he’d probably still laugh at the story.  I dunno; maybe I shouldn’t have told it.

Rest in peace, Mrs. Gates.  I hope wherever you are, all the desks are pristine.

Hooray for metaphors!

(Writing this at work, on my phone, so expect typos and formatting nonsense.)

I had a dream last night. I was at the Student Union at Indiana University, where I went to college, and I came out over this large staircase they have in the back of the building.

The stairs led down to desert, which is not there in the actual building. I got halfway down the stairs and realized that ahead of me there were snakes– sidewinders, specifically– as far as the eye could see. Thousands of them.

I turned around, and the path behind me back to safety was full of angry hornets. Where I was was moderately safe but I still had to kick a snake away or swat a stinging insect every few seconds.

I stayed there, growing gradually more terrified, until I woke up.

Shut up, brain.

On the books I read, and where I get them

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For the last several years, I’ve basically been boycotting Christmas.  With the single exception of my son, I’m done buying gifts for anyone at Christmastime and I don’t want anyone getting anything for me either.  I’m not a Christian.  I’m a grown man with his very own job and in general if I want something I can get it for myself.  The fact that the right wing has managed to make how I greet people during December into a shibboleth doesn’t help, either.  Fuck it, all of it.  I’m out.

My mother has had… some trouble with this concept.

I’ve tried to redirect her always-considerable Christmas energies (my list of “what I got” when I was a kid was regularly two or three times as long as anybody else’s, and we were never rich– Mom just really prioritized Christmas) away from my wife and I and toward my son, but “No, really, don’t get me anything” hasn’t sunk in.  She’s still getting me things, although I’ve gotten her to tone it down to one or two smaller gifts.  This year it was a Barnes and Noble gift card.  Just that.  And she practically begged me to use it.

I should not be surprised that my mother knows my weak spots.  Okay, fine, I’ll bend my principles and go get some free books, geez.

She also got my wife a card, and my son had some free-floating cash around, so we piled into the car yesterday to go to Barnes and Noble, and Christ if I wasn’t reminded yet again why I get every damn thing I read from Amazon now.  I used to shop at Barnes and Noble all the time and then they moved their store to the mall, and since then damn near every time I walk into the place it generates a blog post.  The mall is seven million miles away and the weather was absolute shit yesterday and the crowds and the parking lot and jesus why the hell am I doing this to myself and my family.  

A brief diversion: I have, for the last couple of years, been trying to aggressively diversify my reading, if not in subject matter than at least in terms of the authors I’m reading.  I’m always on the lookout for new authors, and in particular I’ve been trying to focus on women authors and authors of color for the last couple of years.  I wrote my top 10 books of the year post yesterday, and while part of me looked at it and went yeah, mission accomplished— eight of the eleven books were by women– another part of me noticed how blindingly white the list was.  Nine out of the ten authors.  In other words, white women, specifically, appear to be the beneficiary of this policy.

Okay, cool.  So this year I focus more on authors of color, right?(*)

Y’all have any idea how hard it is to find authors of color in the science fiction/fantasy section at Barnes and Noble?  Way harder than I thought it was going to be.  I started by going through my Amazon wish list and trying to find some of those books.  No luck on 90% of them.  I wanted to just scan through the new books, but they’ve gotten rid of that section in SF&F recently and everything is spine-out now.  Okay, start looking for authors with visibly ethnic-sounding names and/or using initials instead of first names, which is generally code for “woman author.”  No luck.  Hell, just finding books by women was difficult enough.

I mean, I eventually found three books, two from my wish list and one that I literally grabbed because I’ve heard of Wesley Chu and he’s Asian and I’ve never read anything by him.  But the whole process was unpleasant and took much longer than it ought to have.  Turns out discovery of new books is kinda complicated if all you have is the spine and the author’s name to go on.

And then we got up to the counter and the salesperson gave my wife her spiel about the membership card.  And we’re cool with that!  It’s your job, you go do it.  And then I got called over by the salesperson next to her and she did the same thing, and my son made it obvious that he was standing in between his parents and the first lady realized we were together.  And I didn’t have a card either, because the card costs $30 annually and I really don’t spend the $300+ every year it would take to make the card worth it at Barnes and Noble any more.  I’m not arbitrarily adding $30 to my sale so that I can save money $300 worth of purchases later.

So she leans over to me and snarks, again, in a really shitty sort of tone, “You’d have saved nearly half the cost of the card already if you joined up!”  And it’s at this point where you’re no longer just doing your job and you’re kind of being an asshole.  I already said I don’t want your card.  You’ve had the card for years.  I get it.  I have to spend $300 before I save any money and I’m not going to.

I opened my mouth, and alternate-universe me snapped “If I wanted to save money I’d have bought this shit from Amazon” back at her.  This-universe me, luckily, has a bit more sense and just said “No, thanks” again and we left, driving another seven million miles in snow and over ice to get back home, and I resolved to let the Goddamn post office do the driving for me from now on.  Because I’m in sales right now and I’ve worked a register plenty of times before and I try my very hardest to never be anything but perfectly nice to anyone on the other side of a register from me.

So quit making me work at it.

Also, lady?  Did you notice we were buying with gift cards?  Somebody else already spent that money.  I’m not getting your loyalty card today.  Between the two of us we got five or six books for like $10 and I don’t care about your card right now.

Ugh.

(*) Miss me with it if you have any plan to quibble with how I arrange my reading, okay? There are millions of books out there and I can’t read all of them, so I’ll use whatever the fuck criteria I want to decide which ones I spend my time on.  Thanks.