Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Jiggety Jig

There's a preliminary paragraph of whining and then some cool stories. Stick around dear readers.

I'm home in Portland. We flew out Monday night, and it was extremely unpleasant. I've mentioned it before, but I have a problem with my ears when I fly. I don't know what it is, or why it happens, except that I suspect my Eustachian tubes (connecting my ears and my throat) are blocked in some way. Imagine someone taking a wooden dowel, half an inch in diameter, and lighting it on fire. Now imagine that someone taking that dowel and forcing it into both of your ears, pushing it in as far as it will go. And then some more. In any event it leaves me weeping and clawing at my ears in public most every plane ride I take. I'm also left partially deaf for several days after. My ears are only clear when I tilt my head forward and stare at the ground. I'm not looking forward to the trip back to Provo. Also, I got sick my first day back. What a trip this has been.

Not much happened our first night back, except that my brother F needed to be picked up from work around 11:45, and my mom was in bed already and H was playing Cranium, so they sent me. And what did I drive? The Buick skylark that my dad bought from the old lady across the street's daughter for $250. H told me the basics - where the lights were on this car, and sent me out to the driveway. I spent a few more minutes acquainting myself with the car so I wouldn't die driving it- you know, finding out how to work the broken parking brake handle, finding the locks, how to fasten the seat belt, all the essentials. And man alive, I love that car. It's a beater with a capital B. It's got this old fashioned steering wheel that I'd kill to have. It's just the sort of car Optimistic. wouldn't let me buy, and don't tell Eunice, but I think I'd trade her in for this car. It's a true old lady car and deserves the name Eunice more than my Galant. Anyway, I hope to get to drive it more while I'm here.

Once I had F home we went to the computer and I got out all the music I'd brought with me. Have you heard of Of Montreal? He countered by asking me if I'd seen the youtube video collection of Hooch from Scrubs. Good times were had.

I mostly was sick yesterday, so I stayed in my pajamas for a long time, went through some of my old stuff I had stored downstairs, and sneezed uncontrollably. My mom was watching a little girl for the day, who pestered me when all I wanted to do was sit down and eat my Raisin Bran. Normally I can humor children with the best of them, chatting about their stuffed rabbits dressed like hip-hop artists and whatnot, but she wouldn't leave me alone, was tugging on the towel on my head, was running around me, and was tugging at my bowl of cereal, until I flat out told her "I'm sick. I don't have time for this" and retreated to the family room to eat in peace.

It was a fairly uneventful night, and those of us in our room all went to bed around 10:30. I woke up around 1:30 to find a half eaten pizza on the table and H and her best friend Alexis in the office. Hooray! Apparently Alexis works at Papa Murphy's now, which is where the pizza and the following stories are from.

Despite being voted the best pizza chain in the nation, the Papa Murphy's branch that Alexis works at employs crack users. All of her coworkers do drugs, some of them in the walk-in at work even. A large, rosy cheeked, wholesome looking boy makes pizzas for a drug dealer he knows who's too poor to eat. I suspect he's not a very good drug dealer. A couple who work there apparently got into a fight when they were alone running the store. The wife got a promotion, and the husband accused her of sleeping with the supervisor. They left the store to continue fighting, shutting everything down. The supervisor gets a call that the store is shut down, so he's forced to drive down from Vancouver on his weekend that he has off to celebrate his first anniversary to see what's up. Another coworker had just arrived to work only to find the store closed. Then she finds the couple sitting in their car in the parking lot next door, tells the supervisor, and he goes to find out what the crack is going on. The wife is weeping inconsolably, the husband is staring straight ahead. When the supervisor approaches them, the man gets out of the car, throws his uniform at the supervisor, says he quits, then leaves his wife in the parking lot and drives off. Nobody talks about it now.

Karina is another coworker, who used to do meth, but is all sober because she only drinks and does pot now. She's under 21 and can't legally buy alcohol. Her mom was having a party, so when Karina got home her mom sent her into the back. When she turned on the light she found a near rabid raccoon in the room with her. When she came out to tell her mom about its presence, her mom pointed her finger at her and said, "That's my raccoon. I tamed it. Don't you go bothering it." Pure madness is what I say, but I never laughed so hard as I did when I pictured this girl's half drunk mother lecturing her about her tamed raccoon.

Also, their store was broken into, but it was by someone who knew the code and how to turn off the security cameras, so it was definitely an employee. They all assumed it was the jealous husband who had quit, but then they got the tapes from the nearby Rite Aid, and they discovered it was some petite blond girl they work with. Alexis had been counting everything in the cash drawer earlier that week and had discovered that they were $200 over, and she mentioned it to the girl and asked what she should do. The girl replied in a falsely innocent, almost mocking tone, "Gee Alexis, I don't know. What should you do with $ 200 extra dollars? Hmmm." And faced with this girl's implication that they should take the money, Alexis said she'd just ask the supervisor what to do with it. Then they were robbed. No one has seen the girl since.

Alexis also informed me that H talks on the phone in her sleep. "What, like she calls people up?" I asked. "No, she answered her phone during her nap." Only when Alexis was telling me this she said she'd called during "Nap" and I interjected that it sounded like it was a time of day for H - I can picture her saying "Well, after Nap I've got to go to work."

Anyway, Alexis called her and H answered her phone even though she was asleep. It went something like this-

H: Hello?
Alexis: Hey, were you asleep?
H: (groggily defensive, because she actually is asleep) No! I'm awake.
A: (confused) Oh. Okay. How was the beach trip?

H went on to tell her all about the ward beach trip before introducing the subject of tigers.

H: And then we were divided into groups and we were the tigers.
Alexis: Wait, what? After you got back you were tigers?
H: What? No, the tigers turned into T-shirts.
Alexis: The tigers were T-shirts?
H:The T-shirts were T-shirts!
Alexis: What T-shirts?

It was at this point that H woke up to find herself in mid conversation with a phone in her hand, and she very legitimately asked Alexis "Wait, what T-shirts?"

I wish I'd brought my tape recorder.

Monday, August 20, 2007

X marks the spot

I had my last day of work on Friday, which made for a very unusual week. It was the week between EFY and Education Week when finals are going on, so there was absolutely nothing to do at work. Nothing. Our set board, usually a twelve page list of rooms to set up and take down, was only two pages long. So I had some cleaning projects I embarked upon.

One was to clean a staircase in the back of the cougareat that leads up to a third floor catering kitchen. It was actually a lot of fun because it was filthy, covered with all sorts of old food stains and shoe marks. The best part was that just as I started cleaning I heard krebscout's voice from below, and after making a crack about her mother's father I revealed myself and we got to talk while we both worked. Me cleaning stairs and her slicing a billion loaves of cheese bread. I can't even tell you how nice it was.

Tuesday and Wednesday the ballroom had been reserved for me especially to clean out all the chandeliers in the ballroom using the lift machine. Only two of us are lift certified, and the other person is afraid of heights, so the task fell to me. I cleaned 15 of the 24 on the first day, and saved the rest for Wednesday. It was while cleaning chandelier #18 that one of them dropped. I watched helplessly as the giant glass bowl I was cleaning detached itself from the ceiling and slid down its three foot shaft. It caught on the small round bit at the bottom that holds the light bulbs, but now instead of hanging by eight wires it was only staying attached by four. That scared the crap out of me. I was 30 feet up in the air at the time so I was more than a little worried about my safety. A maintenance guy, my boss, and the head of the building got involved, and the chandelier was screwed back in. I was told not to twist them excessively. I hadn't twisted this last one very much at all, so it was really unnerving to know that I didn't know whether any of them were secure or not. I hurried through cleaning the rest of them. I just wanted to be done with them.

When not cleaning the chandeliers on those days I cleaned the catering kitchen. The walls are spattered with all sorts of what I hope is soup and the baseboards were filthy. Unfortunately it allowed for a lot of time to think, which wasn't so great. Mainly all I could think of was the fact that I was leaving my job on Friday. I want to say I don't know why it has affected me as much as it has, but that's not entirely true. It's just hard to push past my emotions and put it into words. Mainly it's because it's change, and because I won't get to see my coworkers anymore. And it's that I've been working there for 23 months. All of my college experience is tied into my job. Never having been very studious I always put work before schoolwork. I made my job a large part of who I was.

I discovered that I was afraid of two things - of not being needed, and being needed, so it was hard to console myself. I scrubbed and scrubbed, trying desperately to leave my mark by removing those on the walls. Everything I saw reminded me that I was leaving. That marble. I'll never have another chance to clean that marble!

Wednesday is when my coworkers and I finally started the treasure hunt. I'd talked about it for awhile, but was finally moved to action now that I was leaving. We made clues and traveled to obscure places in the building to leave them. Above the varsity theatre, on the catwalks above the ballroom, in the glass display case with the cougar, etc. It was fun sneaking around and leaving clues, and I felt better in a way.

Thursday we got to go exploring with the building coordinator, who took us to some of the Wilk's lesser known places, like the 7th floor, and into the ventilation shafts on the first floor. The first floor was the most fun, because of the wind tunnel. There's a door you can open to access the ventilation system for the building, and opening it is nearly impossible because of the incredible pressure of the air behind it. It's freezing and it's a struggle to fight your way into the tunnel, but once you're inside the pressure is less. Exiting the tunnel is also a challenge because in front of you is a cement wall, and jumping out of the tunnel with so much force behind you leaves you in danger of being splatted against this wall. So you have to jump and try to swerve around the corner to the right as much as possible.

Friday we finished the treasure hunt and made a trophy to put in the final spot with some Twinkies as a prize, because we figured they'd stand the test of time. There's a good chance no one will find the treasure, but it was fun hiding it just the same. And my boss brought in ice cream for my last day, which was incredibly thoughtful of her.

Friday I did everything for the last time - punched in and out, dropped my keys, turned in my radio, hugged everyone goodbye, and I cleaned out my locker. Two years worth of memories that were taped up inside of there are now in a large bag on the floor of my room. It was all very final when I walked away. Except I went back there on Sunday for church and I think it was a little too soon. It's silly really, but I was fighting back tears all throughout sacrament meeting. The chair in front of me had been scribbled on with a grey crayon. A Mr. Clean magic eraser will take that off. And Optimistic. had a bit of string he was playing with at one point that he tied around the chair in front of him. Vandal. In Relief Society all I could think was, "I miss my work" and try as I might to distract myself by singing "start wearing purple, wearing purple" in my head I couldn't get away from the thought. I miss my work. I saw that the moving partition was broken at the bottom, and that the white board needed cleaning. Who was going to call that in? Who was going to clean that? And worst of all was hearing the Elder's Quorum next door stacking their chairs. That was too much for me. It's a good thing church was over at that point, because I needed to leave that building. All of this is me being ridiculous and overly sentimental -I know that, but it doesn't change anything.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Vomit and why I like it OR How I spent my summer vacation by Genuine M. Draft

Let's start with the fact that I'm a custodian and I spend my time cleaning up after other people; people who don't understand the use of trashcans, reading bright yellow closed signs, or aiming. It gets old at times, putting up with these people. And some days there aren't any rooms to set up and I'm faced with the prospect of going and dusting something, anything, just to fill the time. And that's where the miracle of the vomit comes in.

For reasons not entirely understood I don't have a dislike for vomit. It's not just that I don't mind it either - it's that I love going and cleaning it up. And it happens without fail that if it's slow at work, someone somewhere it the building will decide to retch without making it to a receptacle. And we get a call at the supply desk.

It used to be that a general call would go out over our radios. "802, someone threw up in the women's restroom on the third floor by the elevator, is there anyone available to clean that up?" or "802, we just got a call from the convention in the ballroom and they said there's vomit in one of the booths. Could one of you find where that is exactly?" and I'd be thinking "memememememe, oooh, me! Pick me!" and answer the call as quickly as possible, hoping to be the first one to get a crack at it. What happens now though, is that they know to just call me first.

"802 Genuine?"

"Go ahead."

"Could you please come down to 1086?"

"Absolutely. I'll be right there."

Apparently no one else is leaping at the chance to clean it up. So I get gloves and bio hazard bags and go in search of the vomit. I guess I like it because it's something different. Different from the normal sets and bathrooms we do, and different every time, because just like a snowflake, no pile of puke is ever the same. Each incident is unique and presents its own set of challenges.

One thing I've learned - vomit is only fun to clean up for the first half hour or so. After that it's incredibly unpleasant. I had a case at the beginning of the summer where someone had thrown up in a small back room of BYUSA. The room was narrow, cluttered, not well ventilated, and as for the vomit, there was a lot of it. I assessed the situation as best I could and set to work, but it was rather difficult. The main problem was that this girl had upchucked on the piano she'd been sitting at. All I could think of was all the lectures I've been given as a custodian to be careful with the pianos, don't scratch the pianos, make sure you keep covers on the pianos, and here somebody had gone and vomited all over one. It was between the keys even.

Another tricky thing was that the room was carpeted. I can't just mop that up and call it good like I can do when I'm working with tile. I had to get a machine with a hose that sprays chemicals and also sucks up the puke, and it's hard because you have to get right down into the mess to clean it properly and try to do it without actually kneeling in anything unpleasant. I was in there for an hour and a half, and what boggles my mind is that during this whole procedure there were people in this tiny room trying to hold a meeting over the noise of my vomit slurping machine. It reeked in there, the way only bodily fluids can, and I was left to wonder why on earth they couldn't have finished up what they had to talk about in another room. I chalked it up to insanity.

I started a post back in June about vomit, and I titled it Not For [L'afro], because I know how much of a vomiphobe she is. The fact is, I became violently ill after going out to eat and I threw up 25 times. That was probably the least pleasant experience of my life. Up until then I'd been on good terms with Ralph - we understood each other quite clearly - you're sick, so I'm going to come up, pay you a call, and then you'll feel better. And I believed him after the first time I threw up, because it does make you feel better, but the following 24 times I cursed his name. What more could he possibly have to bring up? What more could I possibly have in me?! I was empty I tell you, empty!

The ironic thing was that I'd been having a discussion at work the last couple of days about vomit. I asked people if they had anything they threw up into as a child, aside from the toilet. I'm talking about when you've already been pronounced sick and you're sleeping on the couch in the living room. What do your parents put next to you in case you have to hurl and can't make it to the bathroom? Most families have a set thing they use - a specific bowl or a pot. There's a wide range of things. Someone told me they had a towel laid next to them on the floor, another person I know has a designated barf bucket they keep in the garage. Our family uses a brown paper grocery bag.

It seems like the only logical choice to me, but that's because it's what I grew up with. I mean, it's disposable. None of this "you yammied in this skillet yesterday, but today we're making omelets in it" business. I think that's disgusting. No. We used a grocery bag, its edges folded over. I asked my dad once why he did that, why he folded down the edges and he said something about it being easier to grip. I can't quite remember now. But I do know that when I was sick this last time I got out a brown paper sack and the first thing I did was to turn the edges down. (My dad could do it consistently without tearing the bag at all. I am not as gifted.) From what I've seen it helps the bag keep its form. It stays open this way, so there are no worries about missing the mouth of the bag when you've got to use it in the dark. I also like the bag, because it serves as a trash can. By the end of my stay on the sofa I had thrown used tissues in there, as well as some watermelon rind.

People do ask about leaking. Doesn't a brown paper sack leak? I assured them I had no memories of it ever leaking. Maybe this was because by the time you're placed on the sofa with the bag next to you, your preliminary puking has already been completed, and so the bag doesn't suffer much from use. It's merely there as a back up. And, I always had my mom there to switch out my bag if it needed switching. This last time the follow up vomit was not at all mild. It was plentiful. And there was no one to switch my bag because M-Lite had gone out of town, so my bag leaked and I had to make a dash with it to the front porch. I knew I should have double bagged. The second time I did the sensible thing and lined my sack with a plastic garbage can liner. But it was still a paper sack at its core, and I stand by my decision to use grocery bags.

There are other times besides when you're sick that you really need to hurl. There's a small amusement park near us at home called Oaks Park, and we went there at least once or twice every summer, for school or church trips or just as a family. Without fail, I would throw up every time I went. It's the spinny rides that do it to me, and in my head I have a list of rides I know I shouldn't let myself go on - Teacups, tilt-a-whirl, the round-up, the Matterhorn, the spider, the squirrel cages - nope, not a one of them. And a list of rides I can go on - The haunted mine and Big Pink (the giant slide). The Ferris wheel is iffy. It doesn't make me sick in and of itself, but I would go on it after I'd gone on a fast ride to give my stomach a break and I'd end up puking while riding it. I hit a guy that was beneath me on the Ferris wheel once, and I was so glad to get off before him.

I know this about myself, that if I go, I'm going to throw up while I'm there, so I would bring a plastic bread bag with me. It'd be there in my pocket, and when (not if) I needed to throw up, I'd pull it out, do my thing, tie it off, and throw it away when I got off the ride. This was standard amusement park attending procedure for me. Except the last time I was feeling sick on one of their rinky-dink rides and I pulled out a bag to puke into it didn't quite work. I puked into my bread bag, proud that I had averted disaster, until I noticed that my lap felt awfully warm. Come to find out the bag had a hole in it, so it had ended up all over me anyway, and I was left holding the bag. When we met up at the van to go home my mom asked if everyone had had a good time. H2 said she was mad because she'd wanted to go on the Matterhorn, but some idiot had thrown up on it and they'd shut it down. All I could say was, "Oh, sorry. That was me."

And there are dozens of more stories -the vomit in our basement that's been there for at least ten years, the time H got sick at school and laid out in the hallway by the nurse's room writhing in agony as people passed by, all the times I threw up on the school bus in elementary school and had to watch it slosh up and down the aisle when we went up hills, and I've got a great one from when I worked at the preschool. But there's only so much time and space I'm willing to devote to this subject. Perhaps one day I'll publish a series of vomit vignettes. Until then, this is Genuine Draft saying, "Come back next time, and feel free to vomit at my place of work."