Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I'm Smart, Bitches

Most of you who read this regularly know the following information by now, but I'mma tell you again anyway:

On October 21st, 2011, at 7:00 a.m., on the fifth floor of a building on my undergraduate institution's campus, I made the GRE my bitch.

I don't have official scores yet, but the autocalc from the multiple choice estimated a verbal score of 670-770 and math score of 560-660 (both out of 800). So, in other words, I got a 1230 at the minimum and a 1430 at most.

Does this guarantee me anything admissions-wise? Definitely not. But will it break ties for admissions and/or scholarships if I'm up against someone else's submission? F'sho.

I was a little upset about the GRE structure when I began studying for the test two months ago. More specifically, I was very upset about the number of errors I found in the study book, never mind that it was a brand new test and I'd paid a crap ton of money for it and had no idea how it was going to go. But I studied - more than I have ever studied for a single exam in my life - and exceeded my SAT score by at least 60 points. Given my strained relationship with standardized tests, I'm incredibly proud of this fact.

I am also happy to report that I have three recommenders working on letters for me right now. You might recall that that stage in the process was one of the scariest, second only to waiting for admissions decisions.

So I am now ahead of the game in terms of administrative stuff, having secured my letter writers, entered basic data in most of my applications, taken the GRE, and begun my personal statements. It's November 1st, and my first deadline is a month away.

A month away, hmm. Wasn't there something else I...?...Oh yeah, that...creative submission thingy. The one that will make or break my acceptance into schools, some of which have about 3% acceptance rates. Yeah...better get in gear on that one. Good thing I'm used to writing tens of thousands of words during November!

Monday, October 3, 2011


In deciding whether or not I should get up and write this thing I have fought a battle in my head. The battle is part of a larger war that has been going on for an unmeasurable amount of time.
I ask myself, do I get up and write, write some stupid little anecdote from high school just because I'm high on my memories and the writing style of the memoir I just finished and the trendy flash fiction I read after finishing that memoir? What use is it anyway?

I sit there and fight with myself; yes, I can tell myself all these diatribes about writing for my future and writing for practice and writing this down now because I may never again think to write this thing, in this way.

I am also getting up for work in fewer than eight hours, and I can tell myself all these noble things now but I'll be pissed off in the morning when my alarm clock goes off and I know that part of why I'm tired is because I stayed up to write something that will almost certainly never make it into the pages of a literary journal or published book.

And then I ask myself, what is the value of either of those things - that is, the extra sleep or the recording of another memory? If I write I lose sleep for one night but if I stay in bed I wake up feeling plugged up and discontent, tired anyway, asking myself what difference does it make if I"m well-rested when all I'm getting up for is a job that I resent for the loss of this kind of spontanaiety, this kind of strange creative outburst?

If I stay in bed, how many more of these little moments are there going to be that make up one greater moment, until I am lying in bed years down the road thinking, okay, I never finished a story but I did at least sleep? The choice, now that I am sitting in this lit room (dark rooms lit by a lamp after you've gone to bed seem different than the same dark rooms lit by lamps looked before bed, don't they?), seems trivial in a life-or-death kind of way. Or life-or-death in a trivial kind of way.

Or something...cleverer than that.

This is the memory, by the way.

It is the spring of my sophomore year in high school, and I am standing with my sister, who is home from college, and our mom in her apartment.

"I think we should go to church," my sister says.

"We should," my mom says, and they smile pleasant, dreamy smiles, as if someone suggested we should go for coffee.

"Church? Why should we go to church?" My tone is a combination of genuine and theatrical irritation. I have been questioning my religion for over a year now, but I have not definitively renounced Christianity. I am an unsure, fledgling kind of non-believer; I have not yet learned that the very topic of religion need not stir up defensiveness.

"Because," my sister replies with only the slightest exasperation, "Jesus loves you." She and my mom smile again, but this time they're "you know how she is" kind of conspiratorial smiles, smiles which blithely ignore our absence from church for over a year, which perpetuate the myth of us as a churchgoing family.

Because Jesus loves you. What a leap in logic. Jesus loves you, therefore you should go to church. Years later, I will ace Philosophy of Logic and learn that this statment is, without a doubt, some sort of fallacy.

I pretend my doubts are based in logic because that's what's trendy in the circles where smart non-believers hang out. Because it is easier to ignore what it truly means, in my own life, to give up religion. But I've never read Darwin and cannot remember how old they say the Earth is or any other fact that some can spit out with encyclopedic accuracy, armed with weapons for future arguments.

Another moment in the future I will spot a book in Barnes and Noble called The Quotable Atheist, which serves to arm non-believers in exactly this way. I will consider picking it up (because at 24 I finally know I'm not a Christian anymore for sure), but re-shelve it because I'm beginning to wonder what the point of it all is. Learn things just for the sake of using the knowledge against others, pretending it is self-evident and that you didn't learn it from some gimmicky book?

Plus, it seems hypocritical. After all, like I said, it didn't start with logic.

In my mom's apartment in my sophomore year of high school, I concede that we can (though I avoid "should") go to church. Because I can either get up on Sunday and listen to people tell me in soft voices that Jesus loves me, or I can sit quietly in the living room of the apartment, fearing it to be true.

Friday, September 30, 2011

GRE "Workouts" Make My Brain Sore

Last night, I felt calm, focused, and still-well-rested after work, so I decided to crack open my GRE review book and do some practice problems. I read through the introduction, underlined important information about what would be on the test, and decided to whip out some scrap paper and do the diagnostic test.

I've never talked to (okay, more like shouted at) a book so much in my life. First of all, the bloody *Princeton Review* authors ought to proofread their book a little better before it goes to press. I found two (two! 2! dos! due! deux!) typographical errors in the first five pages. Putting an Ivy League stamp on something is NOT an excuse to get sloppy, mmkay? Is this what I get for buying your book instead of Kaplan's because it was $10 cheaper? Tell me, Princetonians, does this mean I can anticipate a little slip of the intern's finger on the answer keys next time I practice, such that it says the answer is "D" when it should actually be "E"? Or, worse, a completely wrong answer altogether because some hungover schmuck was let loose on a calculator?

Take the fill-in-the-blank portion of the verbal practice I did. I don't remember the sentence, so I'll make one up. But this is basically what happened: Imagine the sentence was, "They got into a __________ over who would control the remote," and the choices were A) discussion B) altercation C) commotion, or D) agreement. I was meant to infer that the blank word was something along the lines of fight, so I would then eliminate agreement, because it's the opposite, and discussion, because it's not a strong enough word for what is implied. Then I would be left with altercation and commotion, and while commotion kind of fits, altercation fits better. But I wouldn't put altercation because the blank was preceded by the article "a," which of course indicates the noun that follows will start with a consonant. So I would figure they were trying to trick me, and select commotion. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Wrong not becuase I'm actually wrong, but because the bastards who write this are so lazy that they can't just put "a(n) ________" like the writers of the SAT, ACT, and every goddamn grade-school proficiency test I ever took. Oh, and did I mention that they just changed to the new GRE last month, meaning that I am one of a million guinea pigs on a new verson of a test that they can't guarantee demonstrates any useful knowledge (as if they could make any guarantees on the old one)?

Once again, I embark on a new phase of the application process, and all I can come up with to say is a resounding, "FUCK." As for the rest of the verbal stuff, let's just say that, according to The Princeton Review, I'm only a sort-of okay reader. And that may or may not be a problem because I'm pretty sure that studying the craft of writing and producing a book-length thesis in two or three years kind of necessitates such skills. And then there is the math, which I was optimistic about because people I know who've taken the GRE told me that you don't calculate as much as reason your way through the problems. And that's exactly that they try to make you do, but only if you don't immediately go blank when you see something like this:

or this:


HUH? What the fuck is a positive integer? Least possible value? The value of K in terms of  N?? Why does N get to call the shots? Why must we do everying according to what makes N feel comfortable? I think N's getting a little too haughty for his own good. Fuck N and his hunger for world domination!

So I just select the option that says it's impossible to know the answer based on the information given, because how the hell am I supposed to know the numerical value of a bunch of letters?

And then I find out that not only do about 90% of the problems I said were impossible to solve actually have answers, but that their big words like "positive integer" really just mean simple things, like "some number that's not negative."

Jesus people, I just want to write a damn novel. I just paid $160 for a giant, month-long headache.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Obnoxious Facebook Statuses: Week 5

Today's OFS:

so when i picked [my son] up from school today they told me he didnt pass his vision test. so called dr baker, he see`s him oct. 17. and will the referre him to an eye doctor

Thank you, Trish. I was on the edge of my seat worrying about what may turn out to be your son's very serious condition. I walk to raise funds and awareness for astigmatism every year, in remembrance of when my family members found out they had to wear glasses. Please, do update us on October 17th, when Dr. Baker "see's" the boy and "referre" him to the eye doctor. I'll be praying for you.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dear ______ : Remember Me?

I have just entered the second scariest stage of my MFA application process (the first, naturally, being the period after I submit the applications and await responses): letters of recommendation. This has been a bug up my butt since I made the decision to start applying. I'm fine doing everything else (making a submission, filling out forms, writing cover letters, etc.) because it's all me. But asking people to write and send out written documents on letterhead attesting to my greatness makes me very, very uncomfortable.

Don't get me wrong - I was a good student. I had a 3.7 average in both my majors. When I took class with the teachers to whom I sent requests, I showed up, spoke in class, and did good work. But that was 2-4 years ago and, because we were on a quarter system, the classes only lasted 10 weeks. And while I understand that writing such letters is a part of an instructor's job (as well as an employer's), it seems one-sided to take a class, disappear for several years, and then pop up one day asking for a favor. I won't be the first or last to do this, no doubt, but I would never dream of asking if it weren't a requirement for admission.

I drafted preliminary requests and finally worked up the nerve to send them today, right before I went to lunch. I gave my instructors plenty of time to respond, but clearly nothing is guaranteed. Ideally, I hear back soon with resounding choruses of "Of couse!" Or, maybe, "Jog my memory, will ya?" Or, frighteningly, "Who are you?" or, "No, because I don't like you and your writing is abysmal."

I would have felt more comfortable asking work references because they have all known me for a year or more and could attest to specific things about me and my work ethic. But I'm at an awkward post-college stage: I've been out long enough to create distance, but not long enough to forgo academic references (most schools ask for references from instructors if you've graduated in the last five years). If anyone declines, it won't be the end of the world - I have backups. But if I could just have one less thing to worry about...

When I saw just now I had an e-mail, I freaked out and opened my inbox, only to find Sallie Mae's latest pearl of wisdom about paying down loans. I guess I haven't really left undergrad, have I?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Answer is B...Usually...Sometimes: Why I Hate Standardized Tests

I've reached another step in the getting-in-to-school process. I finally scheduled the GRE (which is, for those who don't know, like the SAT but for grad school). About half the schools I was looking at expect me to take it for an MFA, but nearly all require it if I want an assitantship.

The dreaded standardized test. It matters, but it doesn't. It's important, but it's not. I need to leaf through study aids and do practice problems over the next month, but not too much or I won't work on my writing sample, which is about 1,000x more important. Most schools' FAQs say the same thing: We will read your writing sample first, and if it's good, we'll look at the rest. (Unlike undergraduate schools, which check the SATs and transcripts first to make sure you have at least a scrap of competence and THEN consider the rest.)

In other words, we want you to write well, but if you do that and only get a 129 on your GRE, you will make our program the laughing stock of the university graduate school.

My sample is the most important, and my verbal scores are pretty important. Math is the least important. However, I would need the most practice on the math, some on the verbal, and my writing sample needs work every day until the application is submitted. So, how does one find a balance? How can I possibly quantify exactly the time and concentration that should go into each one?

The seemingly best answer is to spend lots of time on my sample, and split the rest evenly between math and verbal practice. But then there's the little problem of my fear of standardized tests.

It's not that I freak out or have anxiety attacks (that would be an easy fix - just get some anxiety meds and I'm good to go). I am calm in testing situations. But I don't necessarily test that well, either. I took the SAT twice, convinced that the first attempt was an off-day. When I re-took it, my score only increased by 10 points. I don't want to make that mistake again.

Maybe I would have done better if I had barricaded myself in my room and crammed with study aids. But I've heard enough stories from people who did all that and still took a completely different test than the one the books said they would take. I was applying to music programs (this was before I officially added the double major in English), and it seemed more sensible to work on my audition pieces than try to increase my vocabulary by 400% in five weeks (sound familiar?).

Perhaps I'll never figure it out, but studying or writing fiction would both be better than blogging at this moment.

Or will working through my anxiety fix it?

Nice try.

I do know for sure that actually having full weekends now can't hurt.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Here we go...

Applying to MFA programs is really hard.

Finding MFA programs and picking which ones to apply to is really hard.

When I started this process about two weeks ago, I decided to poke around some websites and make a "short list" on a spreadsheet. You know, just copy some links and some basic information about a few schools to refer back to later. I used a highly organized and scientific method of seeing a school on the list whose name or location vaguely interested me, clicking on the web link, saying, "Oh, this looks nice," and pasting the link into its designated column.

Meanwhile, forty schools later, I am so far from narrowing down my list that I don't even know where to go from here. Sixteen (sixteen!) are Top 50 schools according to this guy, and an additional eleven were given honorable mentions as Underrated Schools.


And here's the thing about applying to graduate school, as opposed to undergraduate: With the exception of the rankings of specific programs within the schools, "good" undergraduate schools are self-evident. Ivy League schools are clearly at the top, followed by other good private schools and top-tier state schools, then average state schools, then shitty state schools, and then most community colleges (not that there's anything WRONG with going to state school or community college, before anyone gets their panties in a bunch - I'm talking about prestige and name recognition here). You can start with that knowledge and then research specific programs to find schools that suit you.

Graduate, professional, and law programs do not work this way. Individual programs, rather than schools, distinguish themselves. For example: the University of Iowa boasts the #1-ranked MFA creative writing program, but its law school (though still pretty high) ranks in the Top 30 somewhere. Conversely, Yale is home to the #1 law school in the country, but if it has an MFA writing program at all, I can't even find information about it. The point, then, is that searching for good programs by school name is like hunting for the proverbial needle in the proverbial haystack.

So instead I consulted the above-mentioned lists. There were dozens of really neat programs, many of them well-funded. I got increasingly excited as I browsed the pretty pictures of the campuses in the fall and imagined myself hammering out my self-assured masterpiece of a thesis in the local, independent funky-college-town-coffee-house and writing lesson plans for my eager undergraduate students.

And then I (sort of) crashed back to reality. What the hell was I doing? Applying to the schools I had on my list at that point would be like applying to all eight Ivy League schools and a few highly selective private schools for "safety." Considering that many of the programs I've researched have acceptance ratings somewhere in the single digits, I needed to lower the bar just a tad.

Which brings me to my current conundrum: how does one find middle-of-the-road programs? Aside from that Underrated list (which probably isn't "underrated" anymore now that everyone in the MFA universe has seen it), where would I be able to find something that's good but not too good? Modest but not a joke? Every program's website talks about how amazing and perfect they are, so how am I supposed to sort through them?

Hence the spreadsheet, expanding by the day like the Navidsen family's House of Leaves (mmm, how about that literary reference?) - I finally had to just go through just about every full-residency program on this database.

So now I have to make my cuts. I'm freaking out. What if I cut schools that would be amazing, and apply to places that I'd hate, or wouldn't accept me or wouldn't give me any funding at all?

And this is all before I start dealing with the GRE, my 3 letters of recommendation, hundreds of dollars in application fees, writing my sample, composing a personal statement for each school, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum.

So, yeah, I'll say it again. Fuck.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Bagel Fairy No More (and Other Identity Crises)

WARNING: This post is long as shit so if you just want the short explanation, scroll down to the part in bold.

Ladies and gentlemen, an era has ended. After three years of slicing bagels, brewing coffee, and sneaking expired souffles in the dish area, I am done. I put in my notice, gave up my store key, and clocked out for the last time yesterday afternoon. I am finished, for the moment, with food service.

I quit for the reasons you've probably guessed: I'm tired of getting up at 4 a.m. on Saturdays, of backaches, and of ungrateful little twats certain customers. I've outgrown my college job (after all, I started just before fall of my senior year and am now nearly 25). Mostly, I need as much time and energy as I can get in order to prepare for what will hopefully be the next stage: grad school and an out-of-state move.

Grad school, that glorious and untouchable promised land of Doing Something Worthwhile, has been in the back of my mind for the last two years. A small part of me wanted to begin right in the fall of 2009, because going to school seemed less scary than getting a real job. But I know a great many people who have done just that; most are nearing thirty, have a Ph.D. in something obscure like Ethnomusicology, and completely lack social and job skills. Oh, and they're about $3,972,313,207,710,695,349,504 in debt.

So I worked. I picked up full-time hours at my college gig, eventually going back to part-time once I landed an entry-level office job. I quickly learned, among other things, that the Real World sucks. I missed the fantasy world that was college, where all of my meager income was expendable, and I could get away with saying things such as, "I'd never want to work in a soulless place. I just want to do what I love." I still craved more education, but seeing as I couldn't even decide what to study, I held off. I began to read more books and articles, write during my breaks at work, and even crapped out 2/3 of a novel last November (thanks, NaNoWriMo). I knew I'd try to go back to school someday, and that the question of when and how and for what would come in time. Instead I took more initiative regarding my own education.

I started this blog, at the suggestion of my sister, to ensure that I kept writing on a regular basis, even if it was only silly bullshit read by friends and family. (I'm proud to say that said silly bullshit is now read by friends and family as well as a handful of strangers.) Prose Therapy was originally intended as an intellectual exercise, a place to discuss writing and literature and to chronicle my post-college existence. By the third post, however, I was already using it as a platform to vent about my job. Before long, I was reading and commenting on at least a dozen customer service blogs, and thereby entering the sphere of Bitching Blogs (specializing in Restaurant Employee Bitching Blogs). And once I did that, I took my name, picture, and whole identity outside of work out of it.

I got a new job, also in customer service, and the bitching continued (though it became less frequent). I have been at that job for a year, and now it's not-so-new and I can feel the famed glass ceiling pushing down.

Over the last few months I've been covering for someone on maternity leave, working out of the main office. I helped out with a few accounts while there, including a group of hospitals and medical centers. After that stint ended, I was asked to write up a procedures guide for the on-site employees on what I did there. I spent about an hour writing the document, constantly obsessing over grammar and clarity as if it were a term paper or creative writing submission. I cared about my words and how they fit. I hadn't particularly enjoyed working on that account, but strangely, enjoyed writing the guide. I even got a compliment about it from the sales executive.

I told all this to my good friend, who herself was a lost graduate with an arts degree until she decided to apply to law school last year. When I sheepishly admitted that I kind of liked writing the thing, she paused for a moment.

"If you liked writing that," she said, "then you need to go back to school for writing."

So this fall I am applying to MFA programs all over the country.

Yes, I could try to get a job at a local alternative paper and try to claw my way up the writing totem pole without getting another degree. Yes, I could finish that novel without an MFA. I could even keep my job and use my vacation time toward a low-residency program. But summer camp, four years at a university, and study abroad have spoiled me and nurtured a "practicality be damned" mind set. I want total immersion - the whole experience. I want to live away from my hometown, for the first time in my life, long enough to learn who I am outside of it. And I want to learn for learning's sake.

All that said, after doing research I have found that an MFA does not have to be a frivolous, expensive waste of time. It can be a job-placing, fully-funded, career-launching experience (note the word 'can': I have no delusions about it being easy or guaranteeing me anything, if I'm lucky enough to be accepted in the first place). So I'm beginning the application process now, and hopefully will start working toward the degree within the year.

Which brings me to the point of telling you all this (yes, there's a point, and you do get a gold star if you have read all this from the beginning):

I am no longer the Bagel Fairy, writer of a Bitching Blog. I will probably still vent about work from time to time, but my job will cease to be a main feature. I titled the blog Prose Therapy because it was meant as a place to vent about and ponder life...you know, the Redemptive Power of Writing and blah blah blah. As my life continues to change, so will the nature of the venting and pondering. For the next six months, much of it will likely have to do with the grueling graduate school application process (as well as serve as a procrastination tool).

In other words, bagels are out of the picture now. Unless I'm eating them.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

50 Ways to Seduce A Man

While browsing the magazine section at a bookstore, the cover of Cosmopolitan jumped out at me. The headline read, "50 Ways to Seduce A Man." I thought, 'isn't that a no-brainer?'

I didn't open up to the article - I didn't have to.

50 Ways to Seduce A Man

1. Take off your top.
2. Take off your top.
3. Take off your top.
4. Take off your top.
5. Take off your top.
6. Take off your top.
7. Take off your top.
8. Take off your top.
9. Take off your top.
10. Take off your top.
11. Take off your top.
12. Take off your top.
13. Take off your top.
14. Take off your top.
15. Take off your top.
16. Take off your top.
17. Take off your top.
18. Take off your top.
19. Take off your top.
20. Take off your top.
21. Take off your top.
22. Take off your top.
23. Take off your top.
24. Take off your top.
25. Take off your top.
26. Take off your top.
27. Take off your top.
28. Take off your top.
29. Take off your top.
30. Take off your top.
31. Take off your top.
32. Take off your top.
33. Take off your top.
34. Take off your top.
35. Take off your top.
36. Take off your top.
37. Take off your top.
38. Take off your top.
39. Take off your top.
40. Take off your top.
41. Take off your top.
42. Take off your top.
43. Take off your top.
44. Take off your top.
45. Take off your top.
46. Take off your top.
47. Take off your top.
48. Take off your top.
49. Take off your top.
50. Take off your top.

See, I could write for Cosmo...right?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Obnoxious Facebook Statuses: Week 4

Today's OFS:

"i can bet that anyone out there does not have nearly the complications that my life has.. i dare u to challenge me."

I accept your ('scuse me, *ur*) challenge, "friend." My life's complications are sufficient that I have neither the time nor the energy to get into "woe is me" pissing contests on the internet.

What do I win?

Then again, perhaps your urge to engage in such behavior indicates that you do, in fact, have bigger problems than the rest of us.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Coffee With Reverend Feelgood

I went to the coffee shop for an iced mocha on an I-don't-care-it-costs-$4-it's-sunny-and-Sunday kind of morning. As I waited for the barista to take my order, a white-haired man approached me with something in his hand.

I thought, "Please, no," because in this city when a stranger approaches you with something in his or her hand, they are usually crazy, or asking for money, or both. The man was smiling, but it was a wide, genuine kind of smile rather than the maniacal type I had been anticipating. (The last time I visited this location, a man sat at the table next to mine outside and began smoking a cigar and muttering to himself.)

The smiling man handed me the two items in his hand - a gift card and note card folded in half - and told me he wanted me to use the gift card to buy myself whatever drink I'd like. I sensed my face as it scrunched up into skeptical puzzlement, melted into surprise, and finally relaxed into a smile. I then waited for the catch; usually, whenever someone who isn't crazy hands you an item that is even remotely appealing, you have to make a pledge or sign up for something or give money on the spot.

The catch, which was sort of a catch but not exactly, was for me to do something nice for someone else - a 'pay it forward' kind of thing. Something was being asked of me, yes, but neither required nor demanded.

I thanked the man several times and ordered my iced mocha with a smile on my face. I had wondered if I was this man's only caffeine beneficiary, but the barista's look of jaded disinterest as I handed him the gift card answered the question for me: I was not the first, and I would not be the last. In my mind I conjured up an image of the man as a sane-looking but truly-crazed Random-Act-of-Kindness-ophile, getting off on his altruism as he flashed a jacket full of $5 gift cards at unsuspecting customers. But it was 90 degrees and the man wasn't wearing a jacket.

While I waited for my drink, a woman - presumably the man's wife - came in and sat down at his table. When two teenage girls entered the store, the woman quickly got up and sidled over to them, planting herself in front of them and ignoring their startled expressions. Their faces scrunched up into skeptical puzzlement, melted into surprise, and finally relaxed into smiles as she delivered the spiel.

I took out the note card, certain it would contain a link to the couple's self-help book/wind chime music recording website. I wasn't too far off - printed on the card instead was the name, address, web site, and phone and fax number of a local Methodist Church.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have been plugged by Jesus.

Five or six years ago, my first reaction would have been disgust. As a new nonbeliever disgruntled with the religion in which I had been raised, I had almost no tolerance for an institution I was beginning to view as - well, intolerant. I would have found the gesture hypocritical and phony, like the teachings of filthy rich televangelists and pastors of so-called megachurches, who preach about humility while their limos wait outside. The giftcard-giving would have registered merely as a cheap ploy to get more butts in the pews by feeding people's addictions and guilt (it was, after all, Sunday morning, and clearly none of us was at church).

Thankfully, I have abandoned both the blind faith of my childhood and the resentful cynicism of my adolescence. After finally taking the time to start truly learning about religion (not just learning prayers or condemning an entire belief system outright), what I see today is a struggle for relevance and visibility. Pastors and priests used to have the public's ear because everyone went to church every week. Now, they must go out and prove they are worthy of our attention.

Perhaps this cultural shift seems that much more profound because I am in the middle of reading a book about Isabella of France, queen consort to the English King Edward II during the early 14th century. Isabella's subjects, having never heard of coffee shops, married clergy, or Methodist churches (or any Protestant church at all) would have been absolutely floored by what transpired on Sunday. In an age where people were fined, thrown in jail, and executed for failing to show up to church and/or conforming to the cultural standard, it would be unthinkable that a spiritual leader would have to go into secular society offering gifts and asking - in a roundabout way - if I would pretty please go to his church if I was so inclined?

I'm not here to say whether these changes are encouraging or catastrophic, or what the Christian church will look like in 700 more years (if it even exists by then). But I do know now that I was wrong to say the Christian Church is rigid and unchangeable compared to the rest of society. It's more like one's thought process while high on marijuana: it'll reach the same place it would otherwise, only a hell of a lot more slowly.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Obnoxious Facebook Statuses: Week 3

I have a feeling that certain "friends" are in for some recurring appearances on here.

Remember this girl? This week she had this to say on Facebook and Twitter:

It's funny how I've outgrown the people in my life. I am not the same naive girl I was two, three years ago. I have grown into a stronger more knowledgable woman. So maybe you should step your game up.

So grown up, apparently, that she just had to squeeze in another general telling off to an undetermined number of Facebook "friends" and Twitter followers.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Conversations With My Family

When I was little, my dad's side of the family would get together for gatherings. When it came time to decide on an activity or restaurant we would stand around either arguing or playing the passive-aggressive "Who's going to say something first so I can figure out what I should suggest?" game. A few years ago, it turned into a conversation via e-mail in which everyone would hit 'reply all' with their two cents. These days, Survey Monkey is how we roll.

The following is a survey that went out today regarding my sister's visit this weekend.

1. Which activity do you prefer?

a.) Miniature Golf (weather permitting)
b.) Bowling & Arcade
c.) Board Games (in conference room at my office)
d.) Conservatory (Includes chamber music concert 2:00)
e.) Beer Pong

The ratings:
Awesome Idea!
Sounds Good

2. Restaurant Preference

a.) BJ's
b.) Mimi's Cafe
c.) Red Lobster
d.) Olive Garden
e.) Sushi
f.) Japanese Steakhouse
g.) California Pizza Kitchen
h.) Mongolian BBQ
i.) White Castle
j.) Other suggestion (as if we really needed to make the list any longer)

The ratings:
Good choice
I think I'd want to hurl

3. I prefer to

a.) Eat late lunch around 2:30, activity afterward
b.) Activity first, dinner afterward
c.) I don't care

4. I think Mom and Dad should

a.) Live in the house until they retire
b.) Move to a condo
c.) Buy a ridiculously large house since it's a buyer's market
d.) Rent
e.) Live in the garage and save for retirement

5. I think Jenny...

a.) Is a hippie [Bagel Fairy's Note: She's a vegetarian]
b.) Needs to get another dog [BF's note: She has three]
c.) Now has storms chasing her instead of the other way around [BF's Note: She majored in meteorology and wanted to be a storm chaser, but recently had her roof torn up by a tornado]
d.) Is taking too long to produce grandchildren/nieces/nephews
e.) More opinions

Monday, May 2, 2011

Administrative ASSistants?

As you know, I have worked at quite a few reception desks and switchboards, and as a result dealt with much of the same-yet-different bullshit as when I was working behind a cash register full-time. I've been meaning to write this post for a while, not so much because I want to rant (although that is an inevitable part of it), but because I truly want people to know this information.

Receptionists, administrative assistants, and executive assistants are so-called because they play three very different roles within a company. I have heard many sneers at these terms; people claim they're all euphemisms for 'secretary' - indicators of an overly politically-correct society. This is partially true because, even though the first secretaries were men, it is today generally considered a gendered term. What do you think about when someone says the word 'secretary?' Personally I picture a young-ish, leggy blond the boss is either sleeping with or wants to sleep with. (But that could just be my perverted imagination.) If you think of Robert Gates or Hillary Clinton, good for you - but I still have a point to make.

But what does she actually do (and I say 'she' because, let's face it, I have yet to meet a male admin)? If her title is 'administrative assistant,' she typically handles phone calls, mailings, and orders at the department level. Executive assistants, on the other hand, deal only with one person or a small group of people at the top, and manage everything from client appointments to hotel reservations. Receptionists greet the public and route calls for the entire building, as well as check badges and alert security of any problems. Execs are paid the most, receptionists the least, and admins about in the middle.

Still, for most, these employees all fit under the secretarial umbrella. And for all their differences, they serve the same basic purposes: 1) to be the face of the company or individual they serve (and ideally a friendly one), 2) to serve as a barrier between their higher-ups and members of the public who have no business with them, and 3) to perform tasks that superiors either don't have time to do or consider beneath them.

Here is why I feel this is important to share: because in spite of all the righteous moaning I've heard from people and read on blogs about working in the service industry, some of the very people who advocate better treatment of staff by customers have shockingly disparaging things to say about administrative professionals. Perhaps they forget that these individuals deal with the public too - that the same assholes who don't tip and talk down to you just because you're a server turn around and pull the same shit at reception desks. (And I will be speaking primarily of that position since I am most familiar with it.)

The other thing you need to know is that you cannot expect that an admin or receptionist is familiar with every aspect of the company or willing or able to do certain things for you. They know extensions, people, and where the bathrooms are. They do not, as a rule, know whether an employee is in the office, when your appointment is, where your meeting is, numbers and addresses for other businesses, or what job opportunities are available. (This is especially true in buildings where hundreds of employees work.)

Obviously, in the case of all the companies whose desks I cover, reception and switchboard services get contracted out to another company - so the person you're talking to might not actually work for the company at all (another reason not to be too incredulous if a receptionist can't answer certain questions for you). For my part, I try to represent the company as best I can, because I know that people don't have any way of knowing that I'm a contractor just covering for the day. I'll try to help you within my capacity to help you, but if I cannot then that's it. The employees at the company are my customers, and I have to please them first. My choice is either to take shit from you, the guy/girl off the street who wants to talk to HR about a job application, or give in and call HR and get reamed for bothering them.

A word on jobs. I know you want one. I know times are hard. I know you want to stand out and look proactive and talk to somebody TODAY. But this isn't a restaurant or the year 1953. Hiring managers don't want to make time for you unless they schedule it after comparing you, on paper, to everyone else. People tell me they submitted an application and "no one's called me yet," as if it were a given that they were qualified and guaranteed a phone call, so they must need to clear it up in person. Or they complain about the online application. (Hint: If you're not intelligent enough to use the internet, you're probably not intelligent enough to get a job here.) I'm sorry I'm the one blocking you from what you hope will be an edge over the competition. But I promise, it's not really me who's doing it, and if you persist you will not look professional and assertive so much as desperate and pushy.

Also be aware that, in some cases, admins know more than they're allowed to divulge to protect the employees. At The Healthcare Company, for example, we don't *officially* have title information. So if you want to speak to the Director of Marketing about a "fabulous opportunity for growth" or the President about whatever petty little grievance you have regarding a product, you're SOL until you find a contact name. I don't expect anyone to really believe that I don't know who the President of the company is, but the rules are pretty much set up the way they are so that executives and employees don't have to deal with solicitors or angry consumers.

All this applies to callers as well as visitors. In general, the system works out pretty well to weed out the "wrong" people, but can cause some awkward situations if you've simply forgotten a last name or are trying to make a general inquiry about something and are getting nowhere. You'll often find that talking to a human is not necessarily any more efficient than dealing with a voice recording because companies are too big and individuals' expertise too specialized. The emphasis, then, is on security and transferring callers quickly. People with company contacts will always get priority treatment over everyone else, no matter what.

I wanted people to be aware of these things so they know that administrative types are not always the cold, dispassionate people they can appear to be. Nor are all receptionists and operators as dumb as they are trained to appear. Be polite, have a contact name, stick to the point, and I'll be more than happy to dump you on someone else.

Monday, April 25, 2011

What is a Meme? I don't know, but check this out!

I love Inception memes. If you don't know what a meme is, I don't really know either, in spite of having seen dozens of them and read several articles. But it's one of those things which, once you see it, you get it. So here are some of my faves, and hopefully they will make you laugh (though you kind of need to have seen the movie for most of them).

And finally:

Yes, I realize I'm a huge dork for this.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Shit That's Really Starting to Get on My Nerves, Part VI: Trollin' for Pity on the Interwebz

Something's getting a little out of hand on Facebook and Twitter.

...Okay, lots of things are getting out of hand on there, including Facebook and Twitter themselves, but today I would like to focus on one particular thing, most commonly known as pity-baiting.

This is not a new phenomenon; pity-baiting, or the act of lamenting one's misery and life situation in order to court another's sympathy, has been going on for as long as anyone can remember. I'm pretty sure Jesus said something along the lines of, "I sure feel alone right now..." at the last supper so that one of the disciples would respond, "Hunnie, what's wrong?" It's in the book of Matthew, I think. Somewhere. Anyway, the point is that pity baiting, though it pre-dates social networking sites, has reached an unprecedented level of obnoxiousness. Because pity-baiters post more than everyone else, and because they're usually the "friends" you like the least, their posts seem to litter your news feed far more than anyone you'd really want to be reading about.

The other thing about pity-baiters is that, the fewer responses they get to their statuses, the more they seem to post them. If I may speculate on the inner-workings of the pity-baiting mind, I imagine that the thought process goes something like this:

I can't believe that no one responded to my post. It's as if they don't care that I'm going through a bitter divorce at the same time I get diagnosed with eczema. Perhaps I was too subtle. I'll post again. I'll say, "I wish someone would just understand," and that will make them wonder what's going on, and whoever really cares about me will take the time to ask. Then I'll know who my friends really are.

Here is a sampling of some tweets written by a former co-worker, just in the last three weeks or so, listed in reverse chronological order:

Tired of the games its time to cut some people off.
Guess I'll get ready for bed #solame [Note: "solame" translates to "only me" or "me alone"].
Every time I open up, people give me a reason to shut down.
So much on my mind I wish I had an outlet but instead I'll sleep.
I'm bored.
My life is consumed by pain.
I am at church four days a week and still need serious saving.
I'm feeling a certain kind of way, and its not a good thing.
I wish I could just disappear.

Of course, she tweets these things, which are automatically uploaded onto Facebook as well, so they appear twice. Typically, no one takes the bait, but when they do, their "what's wrong?" questions either receive a vague response or none at all.

For me, the above mentioned is perhaps the most maddening part of the pity-baiting process. These people state their problems, sometimes taking the time to describe even complex emotions, knowing full well that this is all public information, but don't bother to answer when they get exactly what they want: someone to ask "what?" or "why?". Perhaps they feel self-conscious because they set up an expectation of something like a cancer diagnosis when they're really just behind on credit card payments. Perhaps they realize that, in fact, they don't really want their co-workers, former third grade classmates, and eleventh cousins to know that their significant other cheated or that they were demoted at work.

Perhaps letting people know what's actually wrong is beside the point; just alerting them to your suffering and possibly making the right ones feel guilty for it is enough.

Update: Literally one day after posting about my annoying, pity-baiting Facebook friend, I logged on to find this:

Pity-Baiting Friend: I am not very hapy right now
Friend of PBF: Why?
PBF: Ppl are frustrating
[end of conversation]

Ladies and gentlemen, case and point.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Obnoxious Facebook Statuses: Week 1

I've had quite a bit to say about other people's annoying Facebook statuses and tweets. I've been trying to figure out what to do about my irritation for a while, and narrowed it down to a few options:

1.) Be an adult and accept that everyone has their own opinions and joys in life,

2.) delete my account altogether,

3.) delete people from my friends list who engage in the obnoxious behavior, or

4.) make fun of them on my blog.

The first option is absurdly unrealistic and no fun at all. The second is horrifying, while the third takes away one of my dearest sources of entertainment. So I am forced--forced, then, to add a new feature to my blog. I shall periodically delight you with my favorite "friends'" remarks, rants, and ruminations--unattributed and (most importantly) unedited.

Today's obnoxious status comes from a former high school classmate, who attended and finished school for social work and completed an unpaid internship, only to get knocked up by a guy who'd graduated a year ahead of us. Now, among the constant updating of pictures of her baby boy her page is littered with celebrations of domesticity.

[I feel] like Suzy Homemaker in the best way possible this week: made blackberry pie sunday, meatloaf wrapped in bacon yesterday, banana bread today and cheddar beer soup tomoorow.... now off to clean!!

I hope I can be this happy some day.

Friday, April 15, 2011

You're (Still) More of an Idiot Than You Think: Rants from a Different Counter

As I continue to attempt to figure out how I plan to crank out regular posts, enjoy another guest post by my good friend The Towel Fairy. You can read her other guest post on Prose Therapy here.

People have some serious nerve these days. Personal responsibility seems to be a thing of the past. An outdated concept, crowded to the outskirts of the human psyche by a demanding nature and a me-first attitude. Until I started working in the hotel industry I was at peace with the way the world worked. I certainly considered myself to be a reasonable, rational, and above all polite person and I thought that, in general, the rest of the world was as well. In the past two years I have worked at two different hotels in both the food and beverage department and at the front desk. And in those two years I have met the sleaziest, slimiest, sorriest excuses for human beings imaginable. People who are so inconsiderate that they can’t even conceive that their “small requests” are the most demanding and complex tasks to accomplish. There are no “pleases” or “thank yous”. There are just demands. If you have never worked in the service industry, I challenge you to step outside your shoes and try to see things from a different perspective. If you HAVE worked in the service industry, this will seem all too familiar.

So begins my rant.

Ah’ll Be Bahck

One of the largest annual conventions in the world is hosted in our city on the first weekend in March, a three-day-long competition for both amateur and professional gymnasts, cheerleaders, dancers, fencers, hockey players, weightlifters, and body builders. There is also an entire exhibit hall which houses vendors of things like vitamin supplements, Muscle Milk, energy drinks like Red Bull and Monster, and other performance enhancing pharmaceuticals. Every hotel in the entire city is sold out for this one weekend. These people actually try to make their reservations for the next year on the same day they check out.

For the purposes of this story we will be focusing our attention on the weightlifters and body builders. Never before have I seen so gross a display of both vanity and douchebaggery (except maybe once on an episode of Jersey Shore). Men and women prance about the hotel lobby wearing skimpy bikinis and man thongs while flexing every (and I do mean EVERY) muscle on display. Their overly spray tanned bodies bathe the lobby in a soft orange glow while their jaundice-tinted eyes survey the competition. Checking these people in to the hotel is a nightmare. The second something goes wrong, veins begin to bulge and the yelling commences. Let me be clear. We know this group is coming each year, and the two weeks leading up to the main event are spent painstakingly reviewing every single reservation to make sure there are no errors. So when a problem occurs upon check in, it usually their fault, not ours.

A few guests in particular had made their reservations for the wrong hotel. One man was 6’ 5” and close to 300 pounds – and all of it was muscle. I explained that we didn’t have his reservation. He told me that I was incorrect and that I should look in my system again. I asked for a confirmation number, which he promptly and matter-of-factly provided. I didn’t need to look in the system again because I recognized the format of the confirmation number he recited. It was not our confirmation number; his reservation was at a hotel 15 minutes away. I politely explained the situation.

“You’re wrong,” he said, “I know for a fact I book a room at THIS hotel!”

“Sir, let me give the other hotel a call to verify.”

*Belabored sigh* “FINE!”

I called the other hotel and they did indeed have his reservation – including a matching confirmation number. I explain to him once again that we did not have his reservation and handed him directions to the correct hotel.

“This is IMPOSSIBLE! I can’t believe you guys transferred my reservation to another hotel without telling me! I’m going to report you to the Better Business Bureau!”

“Sir,” I said, “It is impossible for us to transfer reservations from one hotel to the other. We all have different operating systems, which do not communicate with each other. And the hotel in question is not even a part of our brand.”

“But I want to stay HERE!”

“I’m sorry sir, we’re sold out. We’ve been sold out for the past four months.”

“What am I supposed to do now?!”

“May I help the next in line please?”

This scenario played out at least 8 different times during MY shift… I can’t begin to imagine the hell that 2nd shift experienced.

“Do You KNOW What A Happy Ending Is?!”

About a month ago we had some VIP guests staying in the hotel. I can’t release their names, but I can tell you that they were VERY famous musicians. They were also VERY demanding. They stayed in our hotel for a day and a half and ran us ragged the entire time.

One of the band members called down to the desk to arrange for an in room massage. No big deal, we schedule these all the time. We have two different masseuses on call: Lisa, who can only work on weekdays, and Bob, who is available every day of the week. It was Saturday, so I set up the appointment with Bob.

About 15 minutes before his massage was schedule to begin, the guest called down to the front desk to make sure I had scheduled his appointment with a FEMALE masseuse. I explained that the only masseuse we had available on the weekends was Bob and that he was great at his job and came highly recommended.

“No! This isn’t gonna work! I NEED a FEMALE masseuse!”

“I’m sorry sir, Bob is the only one that is available.”

“Naw, you don’ undastan’ ME. I NEED a female. Do you KNOW what a happy ending is?!”

“I do understand sir. But unfortunately our female masseuse is not available today. And even if she were, I can guarantee that she does not perform those types of services.”

“FINE. I’ll wait fo’ tha nigga Bob.”

Side note: Bob is white.

The Last Train To Clarksville – The Very Last

Asinine questions are commonplace where I work. But sometimes we get a question that astounds even the most seasoned guest service representative.

A guest called the front desk from a guest room.

“Yes, where is the nearest train station?”

“I’m sorry ma’am, a… a train station?”

“Yes, I need to take a train.”

“I’m not sure ma’am, I’ll have to google it. Let me put you on hold for a moment.”

10 Minutes of extensive, confusing googling…

[Bagel Fairy's note: We live in a small city where the idea of taking a train is associated with Europe and Agatha Christie.]

“Ma’am? The closest Amtrak station is a 2 hour drive from here.”

“Oh, I thought there was one here.”

“There was ma’am. But they shut it down in 1977.”

“Well, can you make me a reservation for tomorrow?”


“Of course ma’am. Where do you need to go?”

“I need to get to Puerto Rico.”

… huh?

“Ma’am… isn’t… I mean… Puerto Rico is an island.”


“…Ma’am… trains don’t go… underwater…”

My coworker slowly looks up from her paperwork and gives me a quizzical look. I reply with a facepalm.

“What I mean is, ma’am, there’s an airport 20 minutes from here.”

*Angry sigh* “Never mind, I’ll do it myself!” CLICK.


Bagel Fairy's Note: If any of my fellow bloggers or readers is interested in doing a guest post à la Towel Fairy, let me know in the comment section.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Checking In

I am still on a little hiatus while I figure out what to do about this computer situation. In the mean time, enjoy this little parody of work life from Banterist.













Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dude, Looks Like A Lady

It has been with increasing frequency that I have encountered men at work who refrain from using certain language or recounting certain stories for the sole reason that a female is present.

It usually goes like this: I am training at a new site and find myself among a group of men from a male-dominated department, such as maintenance. They begin to joke around about something, and sooner or later the conversation takes an inappropriate (read: sexual) turn. Then, upon remembering I am in the room, one will comment,

"I'd tell you the rest, but there's a lady present."

I never know whether or not to feel offended by this. I like the idea that they want to respect women. I don't like the idea that, in order to do so, they feel the need to censor themselves. I have the impulse to cry out that I'm an adult just like them, not a delicate flower whose virgin ears need protection. That it's not right to assume that, just because I'm a woman, I need to be shielded from dangerous assaults on my innocence.

But before I fly off on some feminist diatribe I need to remember that the reason this happens is not just because of men, but also because of women. Women are still taught to be squeamish about *certain* topics and words, and many will state explicitly that they are uncomfortable with some conversations just because they're women. This bugs me, because the only other group of people I can think of around whom adults modify their language for their protection is children.

When I was young and curious about things, I couldn't stand it when adults would stop short of revealing something juicy, only to glance at each other and agree to hold off until I was no longer in the room. Why, I wondered, did everyone assume that I could not, or would not, endure and understand the truth? I couldn't wait to grow old enough to know things. But now I often find that I am still not privy to certain anecdotes and language for the sole reason that I have a vagina. And it's not the fault of the employees who won't "go there" in front of me--it's the fault of sheltered, uptight bitches who cry to HR every time someone says the word "fuck" in their presence.

I'm tired of this shit. Yes, we're all going to modify ourselves a bit in front of people we don't know as well and loosen up more around those we work with, but let's try to keep the standard the same for everyone--either keep it super professional around both men and women, or be adults and deal with the language and anecdotes of the real world.

I would much rather have my insight and perspective valued than have the door held for me but be kept in the dark. Antiquated manners and notions of deference be damned--I want to be truly respected, not placated. To be listened to, not patted on the head.

So if you have a dirty story to tell, by all means, tell the whole thing without holding back. If I'm offended, it's because it's offensive. Not because I am a woman.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Wanderlust Quelled

Isn't it funny how you don't appreciate time off until you get almost none of it? I remember the summer between high school graduation and my first year of college. I was living at home and working part-time, which resulted in an obscene amount of free time and a modest income that was entirely expendable. Given that I can hardly recall a thing about that summer (save graduation and a two-week trip to China, that is), I clearly squandered that money and time on god knows what and had little to no appreciation for my good fortune.

So when plans to visit an old buddy in Albuquerque in late March fell through and I found myself with a week of vacation time to use before the end of the fiscal year, I finally realized the gift that had been bestowed upon me, which is to say five days of (paid) nothingness. After half a year of working six (sometimes seven) days a week, I discovered something as fabulous as a trip to the beach or to see an old friend: freedom. Not the buzz-word, euphemistic, politicized, we're-better-than-those-people-over-there kind of freedom, but the state-of-being-free kind.

And once I fully grasped the lack of checklists, time sheets, mail runs, phones, schedules, 6:00 a.m. alarms, and managers, I was finally able to fully embrace my liberty, and relax enough to get shit done.

Here's a list of a few things I accomplished in those six days:

-Got the oil changed (is it a sign of maturity that I relish the extra time to accomplish such things?)
-Took in my violin for some much needed cleaning/repair/upkeep
-Finished that biography of Elizabeth I
-Visited both sets of parental units and talked to my sister
-Saw two movies (in the theater!)
-Spent some quality Mario Kart time with my buddy The Towel Fairy, whom I will likely not see much once she starts law school
-Went clothes shopping and resisted the urge to buy crap I didn't need
-Purchased razors in the vain hope that spring-like weather would arrive soon after (and for which I'm still waiting)
-Watched Inception a second time with my boyfriend so we could debate about whether he was dreaming the whole time or not (I still don't know because those tricky bastards wouldn't show his left hand at the end, because he wore his wedding band in the dream sequences)
-Got my hair cut for the first time since that free haircut charity thingy last summer
-Consumed about a gallon of coffee

You know what I didn't do, for once in my life? Get myself so worked up over a guilty sense of needing to accomplish everything in order to feel like I'd accomplished something that I ended up doing nothing at all (funny how that happens). Long stretches of idle time can wreak havoc on the psyche that way.

Only a pretentious, over-thinking asshole like me could extract such meaning out of a five day stay-cation; however, my douchebaggery notwithstanding, I propose a recommendation to all, if you can, to make some off-duty time for yourself next time you get a day or two off work. Just do it. You're welcome.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Another Absence

Hi there. You won't hear from me again for a while, because my computer is still not working and I have the entire week off (gasp!). I had vacation time to use before the fiscal year ends, and for the first time since college I am taking time off and going nowhere. Hell yes. I once would have complained about this, but that was before I was working six days a week. Last night I slept a glorious twelve hours, and as a consequence it's 10:40 and I'm not going to bed yet. Crazy.

Have a lovely, drama-free spring week. I know I will.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Shit That's Really Starting to Get on My Nerves, Part V: Heavy-Handed, Guilt-Inducing Messages About What I Should Believe and Do

You know what kind of message I'm talking about; you got them all the time as soon as well-meaning friends and family members discovered the internet in the form of chain e-mails: Forward this petition if you have a soul, the text called from underneath the canopy of strangers' e-mail addresses. Forward this if you care about abused women, abused children, abused animals, the poor, the destitute, conspiracies, the oppressed minorities of third-world countries. Ignore this if you are callous about starvation and genital mutilation! Go ahead. I dare you.

The aim, of course, is to establish the sender's moral superiority over you in order to guilt you into making the statement and/or taking the action called for in the message. And while the aforementioned demands typically refer to political issues and ask for signatures on ineffective petitions, another loathsome breed of guilt-baiting has sprung in the form of religious fervor. The message is basically this: "I believe in Jesus, and I'm not ashamed to say it" [read: I'm self-righteously unafraid to declare my devotion]. I occasionally see this on my Facebook news feed, simply rolling my eyes and continuing to the next item. Here's one I came across last week, though, on the profile of someone I work with:

Can anyone tell me why it is so hard for people to pray, but easy to swear? Why it is so hard to re-post a [C]hristian status, but easy to post gossip? Why can we worship a celebrity, but not Jesus? Gonna ignore this? Most of you won't re-post this. The Lord said, 'If you deny me in front of your friends, I will deny you in front of my Father.' I posted. Will you?

In spite of my lack of religion, I pride myself on being tolerant of people's convictions and their desire to publicly express them, but this is completely ridiculous. And while I enjoy the company of the person who posted this and have even spent time with her outside of work, this is the first I've heard of her supposed religious zeal. She swears, gossips, and reads celebrity news, and therefore is clearly not above these things. Condemning an action does not negate it.

That said, the person I really take issue with is whoever wrote this self-righteous drivel, and I am going to respond to it point by point.

On why it is "so hard for people to pray, but easy to swear": Because we have become an increasingly secular society. While there are plenty of people who still say grace before their meals and have crucifixes on their walls and otherwise have their religion woven tightly into their everyday existence, this is no longer the case as much as it once was (and still is in some cultures). Besides, swearing and praying are not mutually exclusive; plenty of people do both.

On why it is "so hard to re-post a Christian status, but easy to post gossip": It is not a matter of being 'hard' or 'easy.' Religion is a very personal thing for many people. The number of times you post about how much you love your deity on a social networking site is not directly proportional with how genuinely committed you are to your faith. Conversely, gossip is shallow, and there is very little at stake for the person spreading it (though it is, of course, often harmful and damaging to the object of it).

On why we "worship a celebrity, but not Jesus": To compare Jesus's relative cultural importance to that of today's A-listers--most of whom will be all but forgotten in a few generations--is the most ludicrous part of this tirade against godlessness. No, Jesus does not make too many appearances on the cover of US Weekly, but he is still the star of the second half of Western civilization's biggest bestseller and continues to be one of history's most influential figures thousands of years after his time. Whoever wrote this either doesn't understand the difference or gives our superficial culture way too much credit.

On whether or not I'm "gonna ignore this": I'm not ignoring it. I'm pointing out what's wrong with it.

On the assertion that "most...won't re-post this": Even if I considered myself a Christian, I would not allow myself to be intimidated into re-posting something by someone who is employing such immature shaming tactics, and the same goes for any "post this or you're an asshole" messages.

On what "the Lord said": By refusing to re-post, one is not "denying" Jesus so much as rejecting the method of delivery of such a message.

On whether or not I will post: I suppose it is self-evident by now that I will not be re-posting.

If I have something to say about religious, social, or political issues, I will be writing my own status.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Bagel Fairy's Disappearing Act

Sorry for the neglect, dear readers. I have had ideas for posts but my laptop at home won't turn on, meaning my capability of posting hinges on which position I am working and how many supervisors are poking around. Considering that almost none of the blogs I read are work appropriate, I sadly have to forego blogger.com until I'm on a desk where people aren't breathing down my neck at all times.

Friday, February 25, 2011

On Listening

I am the world’s nosiest bitch worst eavesdropper. I know it’s wrong to listen to other people’s conversations, read things that weren’t meant for my eyes, and inquire about things that aren’t any of my business, but I can’t help it.

Okay, I can help it, but I don’t want to.

Contrary to appearances, I do respect people’s privacy; I don’t get information just to turn around and blab to other people. That’s not to say I’m above gossiping, but anything said in confidence will remain in confidence, at least to those whom we mutually know. Also, if you are discussing a private matter in public and not even making an effort to lower your voice, you should expect the story to be overheard (and possibly evaluated) by others. (This is how I explain listening to other people's dinner conversations.)

Also contrary to appearances, I like people. They’re interesting. I may hate working with them all some of the time, but I like watching and listening to them. They’re funny, sad, exuberant, irritating, ironic, redundant, pathetic, resilient, and extraordinary—oh, and no two are alike. Like I said: interesting.

Anyone who browses PostSecret, listens to This American Life, or reads memoirs understands that such curiosity transcends petty gossip. That whatever is happening on the surface contains layer upon complex layer of stories and memories to explain it. That gestures and facial expressions are as significant as the words, and at times more so. People-watching is how I learn how the world works. It’s what compels me to read, to learn about culture and history, and to try to figure out why things are the way they are.

This is all basically an über-pretentious way justifying my habit, but I suppose I could entertain worse ones, like cocaine. Or watching The O'Reilly Factor.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Big Brother is Watching the Bagel Fairy Pick Her Wedgie

Remember Il Duce?

Apparently, changing two dozen procedures and policies was not enough. Now that the dust has settled and he can't have his minions in the store at all times, Il Duce has installed cameras all around the store - in the dining room, by the registers, in the back of house, over the food line, and of course in the office, where the safe is. There is a monitor in the manager's office which displays all the aforementioned screens, and evidently an employee somewhere in East Bumblefuck gets paid to sit and watch all these screens, as well as those of all the other stores in the franchise.

Oh, and Il Duce's son, the one working as a shift supervisor and receiving an "allowance" by the big cheese in lieu of an hourly wage by the company, showed up drunk to work last night. I guess that didn't get caught on camera.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


This is a re-post from last summer, because my computer at home blew up and I'm off in 10 minutes. Deal with it.

After I discovered the existence of Cougar Life, a dating site on which Women of A Certain Age can search for young male playthings (referred to as "cubs"), I made a fake profile immediately. I had to know what kinds of men went on there, and what kinds of women they were after. I also hoped to stumble across a profile of someone I actually knew, just because I'm a nosy asshole.

I am a cougar of sorts in real life. I am 23, but my boyfriend is still too young to drink. Plus, my sister, who is nearly four years older than I, is married to a guy who is a week younger than I am. And finally, my mom is married to a man six years her junior. We often joke that we're a family, or a "pack" of cougs, if you will.

I put on my profile that I was blond, 36, and single - none of which is true. I had thought about creating a full profile, complete with a real persona, but I had neither the time nor energy to do that.I felt kind of guilty about lying, but at least I did not respond to any of the messages I got and, of course, had no intention of pursuing any members on the site. I browsed the profiles of those who messaged me as well as a few other local dudes, and found only a couple of interesting things (unless faceless 20-year-olds revealing their midsections counts as "interesting"):

1. Several of the men who messaged "me" - the 36-year-old blond me, that is - were nearly "my" age or older. (If the whole point is young men and older women, shouldn't these guys be going for the 50+ crowd?)

2. I got a high volume of responses in spite of my having only a basic (read: free) profile, no picture, and virtually no information - but the cubs were still all over "me" (umm...can we say DESPERATE?).

Due to those two facts I had a sampling of men I would automatically weed out if I were actually taking the site seriously, all of whom came off as "spread myself super thin so that I send everyone a really general message and hopefully get more responses back" types of guys.

So, after reading the occasional messages I got (at times with much amusement), I decided to delete my profile permanently.

When I got to the final stage, Cougar Life asked me for a reason for junking the account. I wrote the following:

My husband found out I had a profile on here, and he was like, MEGA PISSED. Kept saying something about me "cuckolding" him. Really, I think he is just self-conscious about the size about his manhood, but it seems that most of the site's members are as well anyway.

Oh well, back to the cougar den. Guess it was fun to dream. Maybe I'll go for the neighbor's lawn boy.

Given that this 36-year-old blond (heretofore referred as "Statutory Stacey") is my creation and therefore part of my fictional tale to render as I see fit, I have decided that she did in fact go for the lawn boy, and the cub was all over it.

Monday, February 7, 2011

You're More of an Idiot Than You Think: Rants from A Different Counter

My good friend from college--we'll call her the Towel Fairy--was a music major, like me. Also like me, she was unable to find a "real" job after graduation and wound up in the service industry, working at a hotel desk. Many evenings have been spent loudly ranting about customers together over alcohol, comfort food, and Mario Kart.

The Towel Fairy has plenty of amusing and anger-inducing stories about her guests, but would first like me to impart some wisdom onto my readers about how to behave (and not behave) upon arrival at a hotel. Enjoy.

1. I will never understand why people continue to show up to check in to their hotel room without a single form of payment on them. No credit card, no company check, and no cash, not even a measly photocopy of a purchase order dating from weeks before. Even that I could work with. But no, guest after guest continues to come to the front desk with one thing to say: “My company was supposed to pay for it”. While that may be the case, your company should have done one of three things: 1) They should have faxed over a credit card authorization form. This form does exactly what you think it does. It authorizes the hotel to charge the card that was used to hold the room when the reservation was made for the cost of this guest’s stay. 2) They could have given you a company check, made out to the hotel that would have covered your costs. 3) They could have called the hotel directly before your arrival and transferred a deposit to your reservation through our accountant. They didn’t do any of these things? I’m not letting you into a room without a method of payment to authorize for your entire stay. Give me your personal credit card, get in touch with your contact at your company, or sleep outside, bitch.

2. We really don’t recommend booking your hotel room through a third party company. Always call the hotel directly. Sites like Expedia, Priceline, and Hotwire purchase rooms from us at a discounted rate, which yes, helps us fill rooms. What they don't tell you is that your room is guaranteed for only two people (unless otherwise specified), that your smoking preference is not necessarily guaranteed and that you will be the FIRST person to be moved out of your chosen room type if we are overbooked. We also will move people WHO PAY THE MOST to the suites if we are overbooked on standard room types, not you. Honestly, using third party sites are a great way to save money if you’re making a quick trip or you’re short on cash. But seriously, don’t expect us to pull out all the stops for you. We want your business, yes. But your business is only worth about fifty bucks. Don’t expect complimentary up grades, free internet, or free breakfast. 

We’d much rather give those things to someone who is paying $179 per night.

3. Always research the area to which you are traveling. If you do not like noise, DO NOT stay at an airport hotel. If you start complaining about the noise from the airport, the hotel staff will assume you are a moron. YOU booked this hotel, no one forced you to book it. If you want a lower rate, do not book in the middle of the city. Yes, it is convenient, but you will have to pay a hefty parking fee. There is never free overnight parking in any downtown area. You will also have to deal with more noise. All hotels post their information on the internet, on a printable page that outlines the features of the hotel. 
Use this information to your advantage.

4. Do not complain about the quality of the towels, bedding, soap, shampoo, etc. We do not have a choice as to which of these things we purchase and use. Our brands have standards that we have to follow, or we pay fines. You will not get a discount if you complain about these things. We are not going to knock off fifty bucks because you didn’t think the towels were fluffy enough to soothe your sensitive skin as you dried off after your shower. We will simply come out and tell you that we are forced to purchase these things through our brand supplier. 

And besides, how DARE you complain about the quality of things like shampoo and soap? They’re FREE, douche bag. Have you been to the grocery store lately? Sundries are incredibly expensive. Remember when the pioneers made soap? They used LYE, jackass. Be glad we don’t give you soap made from lye. And even if we did, I would still hate you for complaining about it. If you don’t like ours, bring your own. …Jackass.

5. If your room is not cleaned to your standards, please simply ask the front desk to have a housekeeper come by again. At this point, the management are usually the ones who will come and clean your room because they want to see for themselves where their staff is lacking. The management really does care what the rest of the staff does during their workday. Mistakes are made. You are not perfect in your job either. 

6. If, during your stay, the housekeepers did not clean your room, or did not make your bed, it is nearly 90% of the time, the guests’ fault. If you leave your Do Not Disturb tag on the door, the only person who can go in your room is a manager. If your bed is not made, please look to see if you left personal items on the bed. The housekeeping staff is not allowed to touch your belongings.

7. If you have children, ask to be placed on a lower floor or in the rooms directly over the front desk or other non-room space. Then the kids can run around all they want and you wont get a phone call from the staff asking you to knock it off. We really do want you to enjoy your vacation, but not at the expense of the comfort of other guests.

8. If you EVER get violent with any staff member you will be forcibly removed from the premises, charges will be pressed, and you will be blacklisted from our hotel and the other hotels in the area. Neighboring hotels are our competition, but they are also our neighbors. And we love warning them about violent jerks like you. We don’t deserve your abuse, and neither do they.

9. If you are worried about leaving your valuables in the hotel room, don’t do it. There are safe deposit boxes available at the front desk for all guests, free of charge. All medication, jewelry, money, electronics, passports, important papers, can be locked away at the desk at your discretion. We trust our housekeepers, but we understand why people worry when it comes to items like passports and travelers checks. If you’re truly worried, lock the important items up at the front desk.

10. When we tell you that there is nothing we can do, it’s because of one of two things: 1. There really is nothing we can do because we are full, there are special circumstances regarding your reservation, etc. OR 2.You have been a complete jerk, we have lost our patience with you, and we don’t care if you have a nice day or not.

11. Do not take things from the rooms. Not the towels, blankets, pillows, ashtrays, NOTHING. The housekeepers do pay attention to inventory and we will charge your credit card. On the registration paper that you signed, it clearly states that any damages to the room or theft of items will result in charges to your card. And yes, you will find that reimbursing the hotel for a stolen item will cost about two times as much as buying that item in a store. Don’t steal.

12. We will post an extra cleaning fee to your room if you leave the hotel and it takes the housekeepers hours to clean up your disaster. They have the managers come upstairs and take pictures to prove that you’re a slob, and no fighting with your credit card company will help you. The hotel’s account with the card company is bigger than yours as a corporate business. Deal with it.

13. If you want a quiet floor, ask for the floor where the corporate travelers are kept. We put them on the highest floor of the hotel so that they won't be bothered. They spend 50 times what you spend in our hotel and are treated the best. We know all of their names, their wives’ names, even the names of their kids. We will pick up their dry-cleaning; have flowers sent to their wife for them or anything else. Corporate travelers are our favorite guests because they usually only have housekeeping come in every few days, don’t make any noise, are out early and back late and they don’t complain. Even when they do complain, it is in a polite way, and we are always more than happy to accommodate their request. These people are walking dollar signs. We want them to be happy.

14. If you are not traveling on government business, do not try to book the federal discounted rate. If you cannot produce a government ID upon check in, your rate will be changed to the normal rack rate for the day. We’re not stupid.

15. Don't try to cram 15 people in one room. You are breaking the fire code and you can absolutely be fined for this. We charge an extra person fee in the room because it costs us more in wear and tear, linen usage, water, electricity, etc. Sometimes, we will waive the extra person fee if you are nice. We’re flexible. But don’t bitch at us when your reservation stated that there would only be one person in the room (so you could get a cheaper rate), you booked a generic room type (also so you could get a cheaper rate), and we saw that information in the computer and put you in a room with one king bed. I don’t care that you showed up with 6 people. Unless you all like to cuddle, things are going to get awkward and you have no one to blame but yourself.

16. If you do not know the difference between a debit and a credit card, do not use your debit card. “But my debit card also functions as a credit card,” you say. False. Our credit card system cannot tell the difference and will deduct the money from your bank account electronically until well after you have checked out. We release the money back to you the day you check out. But it can take your bank up to 10 days to put it back in your account. If you cannot afford to have that money held up, hit the ATM and just pay in cash when you check in. It saves a lot of grief for both you and the hotel. This is why we ask for a credit card at check in, not a debit card. We will not send a fax to your bank telling them to release the funds immediately, ESPECIALLY if you have just accused us of stealing your money. We just assume you are an idiot. …. Which you are…. Jackass.

17. If you book an advanced purchase room, you will save a lot of money. TRUE! You receive this courtesy discount because you are guaranteeing you will be in the hotel on that date. By booking this rate you have agreed to pay for the room the second the reservation is made and you have agreed that this reservation is non-cancelable and non-refundable. We honestly don't care if Great Aunt Ruth jumped off a bridge, that Mittens was hit by a car, or that you’re in jail and can’t make bail. These things are not our fault. Sorry dude. But let’s be honest. You never really liked Great Aunt Ruth because she always gave you homemade socks for Christmas. You always liked Sparky way better than you liked Mittens and the vet bills were getting really expensive, what with Mittens’ kitty diabetes. And you wouldn’t be in jail if your idiot friends hadn’t egged you on in that bar fight last night, which you totally would have won except that guy was like wicked strong and had a definite advantage because he was only drinking light beer. It turns out carbs really weigh you down. So you lost $150 on a hotel room. Big deal. You have bigger problems. At least Sparky is still alive.

18. ALWAYS become a member of that hotels loyalty program when you sign in. Gold Crown Club, Choice Privileges, Wyndham Rewards, Priority Club Rewards, Hilton Honors, etc. Ask at the desk for them to sign you up. We get a bonus for signing people up, and sometimes we will up grade your room for free. A lot of times you will get free drinks, coupons, free bottled water or a snack, a pass to a manager’s reception, etc. Not to mention the fact that you earn points which add up to free nights or free stuff in the future.

19. If your secretary books your room incorrectly, don’t yell at the hotel staff. Your problem did not occur because of a mistake within our company, the mistake occurred within yours.

20. Don't smoke in a non-smoking room. We can tell if you did. We take pictures of the cigarette butts you leave behind. We really do charge that $300 smoking fee. And you won't get that money back.

In the e-mail the Towel Fairy sent to me she mused, "I just remembered I haven’t told you the one about the dead guy and the naked hooker. Perhaps another time."

Yes, another time. Definitely need to hear about that one.

Friday, February 4, 2011

No Friday For You!

Friday is not a cause for celebration when you're in food service.

Most of our customers work in offices or are affiliated with the nearby university, meaning that they run on a M-F schedule, even if they don't necessarily keep 9-5 hours. So, on Fridays, well-meaning people comment on the oncoming weekend and say things like, "Happy Friday!" on their way out.

I remember working in the cafe five days a week, when I would typically have one weekend day and one random weekday off. I almost never got two days off in a row, but the scheduling manager would try to at least give me a Saturday or Sunday. Even then, I had an enviably regular schedule compared to the other full-timers because I was an opener and kept similar hours each day.

So when those regulars celebrated the imminent weekend that I myself would not always enjoy, I would wish the same to them while quietly envying their jobs which allowed them to sit down, have hour-long lunches, and two-day weekends. Even though I now have finally found one of those jobs, I still work Saturday mornings, thereby continuing to rob me of the joy of Friday. When people at my job get excited about the weekend, I pretend I feel the same, though I know I still have one more day of getting up before dawn to get through. And I know I can no longer be bitter about it, as it is now my choice to give up a portion of my weekend.

So, happy Friday to you. But not me.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Shit That's Really Starting to Get on My Nerves, Part IV: Winter

Can I be totally lame for a moment and talk about the weather?

I’m getting damn sick of these winters every year. Winter is annoying, time-consuming and expensive. The bills go up, sweaters take up way too much of my closet space, and the whole world is cranky because no one’s getting any sunlight. The house is unbearably drafty, and creepy crawly creatures seem especially eager to take up residence in my bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen.

Waking up in the morning is more difficult than any other time of the year, not just because I’m uncomfortable, but also because I know it’s going to take an eternity and a half just to get out the damn door (especially if I get a nosebleed as soon as I get out of bed due to the dryness). I don my normal work clothes, plus an extra sweater or jacket. Then I have to put on special socks and lace up my snow boots, or if not that than at least wear sneakers to work and change into my other shoes later. I then get out my scarf, hat, and gloves, and just when I think I’m ready to walk out the door I’ve almost inevitably forgotten something. But I’m so bundled up and stiff that it takes titanic effort just to climb up the stairs and reach for whatever I’ve forgotten. And now, I’m almost certainly running late.

After nearly falling on my ass fifteen times on the walk from the door and down the uneven steps to the car, which is parked on the street and is often flanked on one side by a mountain of snow from the plow, I set forth beating the snow and ice off the windshield. Then, after rocking the car over the snow drift while narrowly missing the nearby cars, I drive to work in a two-wheel-drive vehicle that’s very low to the ground and nearly two decades old.

Once on the road, I have to check my GPS and make sure I’m still in the Midwest, because the other drivers appear never to have seen snow or ice before. Or, at least, they’ve never driven in it. They’re either flipping their shit because they saw one flake and are now driving five miles an hour, or they’ve decided that even though the roads are packed and it’s a level two emergency, they can speed because they drive an SUV. On my commute, I listen to how many schools are closed and contemplate how long it would take to earn my Master’s Degree and become a teacher.

At work, everyone tries to outdo one another with the number of times they almost died, as well as itemize the number of accidents and spin-outs they saw on their way in. They compare this year’s winter to that of last year, the year before that, and 1988. They then talk about moving to Florida—(that is, Middle America's Mecca). But none of them ever moves there, or at least not until they turn 75. Throughout the day they complain, pull up Weather.com on their computers, peer out the window, discuss whether it’s getting worse or better, call their kids, and complain some more.

The drive home involves most of the same bullshit from the morning commute. I get home an hour later than I normally would, and by the time enter my house I can’t feel my face and the ankles of my pants are dirty and soaked. I don’t feel like cooking or going anywhere so I call for a pizza delivery, but feel so guilty about making the poor driver go out that I feel like a lazy asshole.

I take a hot shower—by far the most pleasant part of the day—using special shampoo for the seborrheic dermatitis on my scalp. I leave my hair wet because blow-drying it will make my scalp flaky, even though I have taken care to wear a hat every time I step outside. I then apply lotion over every inch of my body so my skin won’t crack, even though I wear about two or three layers.

I change into sweats and climb into bed. There are dishes to wash, laundry to be done, and things to pick up, but it’s too cold for any of that. The last thing I want is to be constantly reminded of how cold it is, considering I spent my work day answering the question, “Cold enough for ya?”

Fuck winter.