I’ve always Depended on the Kindness of Strangers

Saturday is the day I realized my car was stuck in it’s parking spot.  (Please notice that last Saturday was two days BEFORE the extreme low temperatures.)  I got into my car on Saturday and attempted to drive to my first destination of the day; I put the car in reverse, but nothing happened.  I tried to move the car back and forth, little by little, but my tires just kept spinning every time.  I put the car in park and took control of the situation: I called my mom.  But Mom couldn’t actually help me because 1) she’s 700 miles away and 2) she’s never dealt with lots of snow either. After hanging up (I’m still in my car that is going nowhere), I used my phone to Google ‘car stuck in the snow’.  Here’s an excerpt from Wikihow on ‘How to Get Your Car Out of the Snow: 12 Steps’.  (Please notice the section in bold)

Dig away excessive snow and ice. Break up the ice immediately surrounding the tires. Obviously, if you have a shovel, you can dig out the snow. (This article assumes you don’t have a shovel handy (or else you wouldn’t be stuck, would you? If you don’t have one, improvise. A trowel is a good cheap shovel that can stay in even a small car; a plastic one won’t rust.)

That is what the website says word for word. A normal reaction to all this would have been to go buy a shovel immediately, dig myself free, and find a better parking spot.  But wikihow was mocking me, so I went back inside my apartment feeling defeated and didn’t leave for the rest of the day.  There was more snow on Sunday, and I knew the situation would only be getting worse – so I watched all 10 episodes of Sean Saves the World, the new sitcom starring Sean Hayes as a single, gay dad. (Can you tell I avoid my problems?)  I even had a friend text me that she would help dig me out, but I stayed on the couch.

It wasn’t until Wednesday (when the city of Chicago reached an almost tropical 14 degrees) that I bought a shovel on my way home from work.  I had to take the shovel on the train because my car was still submerged in snow – hence the need for a shovel.  I could feel the commuters on the Red Line looking at me and my shovel and thinking, “Silly girl.  You get the shovel BEFORE the snow,” but maybe that was just my imagination.  When I got off the train, it was cold and dark outside.  So I did what I do best and decided to put the snow-shoveling off until the next morning.

I did not look forward to this whole exercise.  I’ve never actually shoveled snow before.  I got my shovel (how many times can I use the word shovel in one post?) and walked towards my car.  A man was standing in the street and asked if I needed him to dig my car out of the snow.  I wasn’t really sure what to say – did he want money?  But I said ‘Sure, some help would be great.’  (The man had 5 or 6 braids in his hair so I will refer to him as Braid Man.)

I didn’t take a picture of Braid Man, so here is my artistic interpretation using ClipArt and Paint.

knight

I had my little ice scraper, so I tried to help as best that I could but Braid Man did most of the work.  And there was a lot of work since my car had fallen victim to a snow-blower.  It looked something like this:

Wall of Snow (2)

I would have taken a real picture, but then I wouldn’t have been helping with the digging process.  However, this picture is pretty accurate, except there was even more snow.  Once Braid Man had gotten rid of most of the snow (while all I really did was clear my windshield and break my ice scraper in the process), he told me to get in the car and try to drive out.  The car moved some before getting stuck in a fresh pile of snow, but Braid Man would not be thwarted!  He pushed my car from the front and then the back, and continued to clear the snow and ice each time the car stopped moving.  A gentleman walking by on the sidewalk stopped to watch our maneuvers and give some helpful tips on which tire was stuck. He eventually lost interest – I’m not sure Braid Man appreciated his comments.

Finally, after close to 30 minutes my car was free!  During the digging process, I tried to express my gratitude. ‘You’re an angel’, ‘What would I have done without you’, ‘I appreciate this so much’.  Once I was out of my parking spot, I wanted to thank him one more time.  But he just handed me my shovel and walked away before I could say anything.  Kind of like a cowboy walking into the sunset at the end of a movie.  OR like my own personal Dennis Quaid (another Day After Tomorrow reference!)- conquering the frozen elements to come to my rescue.  Thank you Braid man, wherever you are.

And thank you Dennis Quaid, just for being handsome.

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Surviving the Polar Vortex: The Dos and Don’ts

I’m sure it’s not news to anybody: it’s freakishly cold outside.  In Chicago we’ve had record snow fall and low temperatures.  Everyone told me that last winter was mild, but I can honestly say that I didn’t understand until now.  This storm has been a rude awakening for this Mississippi girl.  Here’s how I’ve handled the worst cold front in 20 years.

Do:  Be thankful you have a job where people understand the difficulties the winter storm can cause commuters.  (Or that you work in an old building where the reliability of the heating system is often questioned)  Either way, I’ve been working from home the past two days.

Don’t Wait until the storm hits before purchasing a snow shovel. I thought only people with sidewalks needed snow shovels but I was wrong.  SO WRONG.  Half of my car is currently covered with snow – I can’t see two of the tires.  So now, I am going to have to buy a shovel and bring it home via public transportation.  I’m still psyching myself up for that trip.  (PLUS, I’ve never shoveled snow before.  Is there some sort of trick to it?)

Do:  Remember to go to the grocery store before the extreme cold hits.  My grocery essentials: Diet Coke, frozen pizza, milk, and Ben & Jerry’s.

Don’t: Wait until the night that the temperatures drop to go grocery shopping.  Transit will be slow and you will spend a fair amount of time waiting for the bus to and from your grocery adventures.  The whole ordeal reminded me of scene from The Day After Tomorrow.  (Remember when Dennis Quaid and his partner had to walk to New York in their arctic gear to save Jake Gyllenhaal from the library?  In this scenario, I am Dennis Quaid and my ice cream was Jake Gyllenhaal.)

Don’t forget the ice cream!

Do: Be thankful that you purchased an Official Chicago Women’s Coat last winter.  That thing certainly keeps you warm!  Another bonus: if you should happen to fall down the icy stairs at the El station, your puffy coat will provide your bum with some extra padding.  However, the coat will not shield you from the embarrassment of sliding down 6 steps before having a stranger stop you on your way down.  Luckily everyone was so bundled up, I couldn’t see anyone’s face and I assume they couldn’t see mine.

Don’t: Hesitate to call to call your landlord if you notice murky water in your kitchen sink.  It is sewage water!!  Gah-ross.  I am the lowest apartment level, so when a pipe froze I was the first apartment to notice the water backing up.  I’m so lucky.  For the past two afternoons, I have had multiple Polish gentlemen in and out of my apartment attempting to fix the problem.  Every once in a while I will hear an “Oh boy…” from the kitchen followed by Polish and clanging of pipes.  The problem is still not fixed.

Do: Make sure you have enough tv shows and/or movies in your Netflix queue to entertain you.  You will not be getting much human interaction (except with your Polish property manager) so you are going to need some entertainment.  I made the mistake of watching lots of t.v. over the weekend, which left me with slim pickins’ for Monday and Tuesday.

Don’t: Be surprised when you do go outside for a quick errand.  Your nose hairs might freeze, but you will survive.

Do: Remember to call your mom.  She is probably worried about you and will require multiple updates.

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Stay Warm everyone!  Don’t forget your hat and mittens.

Ok, Cupid, I’ll Give It a Try

Let’s talk about dating – a topic that I have managed to avoid on the blog so far.  It’s probably related to the fact that I am barely dating at all.  But I have tried (a little) and have come to the conclusion that there are no normal, single men in Chicago.  None!

I did have a crush on someone quite a while back, but of course that went nowhere because he was kind of dating (and later officially dating) someone else.  I made it very clear I was interested.  This means, I told everyone in my office that I had a crush on him, and we would all giggle when his name came up in conversation.  Isn’t that what normal 28 year olds do?  Wait, only 7th grade girls?  Damn.  I’m totally out of moves.

Since I wasn’t meeting many single guys on my own, I turned to online dating.  A part of me finds sites like OkCupid and Match.com absolutely terrifying, but I felt like I didn’t have much choice.  I did peruse OkCupid for a short time when I was living in Mississippi.  Almost every profile I read professed a deep love of ‘huntin’ and ‘muddin’, and although I love a pick up truck as much as the next girl, I felt that the available pool of men were not really for me.

              

Fast forward to last fall.  I updated my OkCupid location and started window shopping for a boyfriend. I was actually excited.  I was reading profiles of guys who liked art and theater and other creative pursuits.  They had interesting movie and music preferences and were able to sound witty and charming in their profile – I think an online dating profile is the most difficult medium a writer can tackle.  And only a handful mentioned killing animals for fun!  I was so, very optimistic.

It took me only a few dates to become as jaded and cynical as everyone else.  Here’s why:

Guy # 1:   We planned to meet for drinks, but the time kept getting pushed back because of his other plans.  By the time we met, it was 11 p.m.  (I had literally lived in Chicago for only a few weeks at this point, and I was more than a little nervous about setting out by myself so late.)  I texted a few friends to let them know I was going on a blind date, and what this guy’s profile name was in case I disappeared suddenly.  (I have done this on all subsequent dates.  If I go missing, I want to make sure the police will have a good lead – DUH!)

Conversation with this guy was going ok UNTIL the guy asked me if I did any improv

ME:  No, I prefer working on full length plays.

HIM:  Well, you will. This is Chicago.

Excuse me, but please don’t tell me what I will or won’t like.  Once the improv door was open, he admitted that he had a sketch comedy show with some his of friends all about their experiences with online dating.  We started talking about the bad dates he had gone on (I, of course, had none to speak of since this was my first ‘online’ date ever).  If you are ever on a first date and this subject comes up, CHANGE THE SUBJECT IMMEDIATELY.  I promise, you will learn nothing but horrifying things about this other person.  The date was so-so, but the guy kinda went a little cuckoo when I told him texted him that I wasn’t interested in a second date.  He sent a few more dramatic texts saying I should have told him I didn’t find him attractive instead of saying I might be up for a second date.  Kind of a drama queen.  I can’t help but wonder if our date has made it into his sketch show.

Guy #2:  We met for drinks.  We had plans, then he cancelled the plans because ‘a friend of his was really bummed and needed him’ only to text me an hour later asking if I was still up for meeting.  Those sketchy circumstances aside, I actually had a good time.  Conversation wasn’t awkward (the drinks helped) and the guy seemed to be pretty normal.  Attractive, funny, and he seemed to like me.  There was even a goodnight kiss involved.  Then, I experienced the fade away.  He just disappeared, never to text or message again.   (You should follow the link to a very funny dating blog called Stupid Cupid.  These ladies are hilarious and understand the pitfalls of OKcupid)  If you’re keeping score, I’m 0 for 2.

Guy #3:  This time I met the guy for dinner.  We messaged a few times before our date and realized that we lived on the same street.  He literally lived four houses down from my apartment building.  I almost cancelled when I found this out.  What if it was absolutely terrible and I kept running into him in the neighborhood?!?  But I got over that anxiety and went anyway.

The date wasn’t so bad, and it really helped that this guy was tall and very cute.  He was a little strange, but his good looks were making up for it.  The strangest part of the evening was when he admitted to taking classes at Second City NOT because he was interested in improv but to improve his social skills.  (huh?)  Then, he wanted to play improv games at the dinner table.  (I actually agreed to attempt this with him.  In case you couldn’t guess, the game was a disaster.)  That WAS the strangest part UNTIL…

When the meal was over, Guy 3 reaches in his pocket and says, “I brought something for the occasion.”  I was petrified.  What is in his pocket?  Why is he making sudden movements?  Is this guy the OKcupid killer?  Then, he pulled out a Chat Pack.  What’s a Chat Pack, you say?

It is a deck of conversation starters.  Ideal for car trips and classroom activities.  Here are a few sample questions from the manufacturer:

* If you could have any book instantly memorized cover to cover, which book would you choose?
* Of all the movie characters you have seen, which one do you believe is most like you?
* Which of the 12 months do you think would best describe your personality?

Basically, this guy needed a cheat sheet to have a conversation.  I was so relieved that nothing illegal came out of his pocket, I agreed to ‘chat pack’ conversation.  It wasn’t SO bad, but the conversation had been going fine!  Why did we need help?

I actually ended up going out with this guy a few more times (did I mention that he was really tall and good looking and lived just down the street?).  But of course, we had hardly anything in common and he was just as strange on later dates (but without the chat pack).  I haven’t seen him in months because he moved to go to medical school.

After these and few other OKC dates, I swore it off for a while.  I kept logging on and looking at profiles, but I didn’t actually want to read any of them.  It was so much work.  Not to mention, it was a little depressing signing on to receive boring, disgusting or no messages at all.  So, I took a break.

Until recently… please stay tuned for part 2 of online dating adventures.

I Know My Chicago Geography

So, I’m watching an episode of Criminal Minds (don’t get me started on my obsession with Dr. Spencer Reid), and this week the BAU find themselves in Chicago.  Hey!  This should be fun.  (If by fun you mean the episode will scare me even more than normal because it is supposedly taking place in my backyard.)

One of the scenes takes place at an intersection.  A crazy, brain-washed teenager barricades himself in his car in the middle of traffic (because that’s the kind of thing that happens on Criminal Minds).  A police officer then radios for assistance and gives his location at ‘Ashland and Division’.  I know that intersection!!  I used to live one block from there.  I know what it looks like.  And that intersection does not look like this.  I took notice of some of the shops when the BAU showed up at the crime scene (oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the kid blows up the car he’s in).  I definitely saw a fancy bistro.  You can’t fool me you fancy television show!  The fanciest thing at that intersection would be a toss up between the crappy Mexican restaurant or the identical mexican restaurant across the street.  (Literally across the street and have the same name.)

Image

Mexican restaurant number 1

It’s so nice to feel like I know an area.  It’s only taken me a year!  I also recently found myself in a restaurant that where I ate on my first day in Chicago.  I was with my dear friend (who had strep throat and felt awful) and I had no idea where we were.  It wasn’t until I walked in that I realized it was the same place.  I got oddly excited about it and told my friends:

“Hey, I’ve eaten here before.  It was my first day in Chicago and I had just taken my friend to a walk-in clinic because she was sick as a dog.  It took us forever to find parking!”

My friends didn’t really understand why I was so excited.  I didn’t really know why I was so excited.  But I think it’s because places are becoming more familiar.  Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve ever recognized a place (I’ve been here over a year after all) – just maybe the first time I was so aware of it.  Or maybe it was because I had been so completely lost and turned around the first time I visited.  Either way, it feels really nice knowing my way around (kinda sorta).

How I Became a Thief

First, I must apologize for my absence.  Many factors have contributed to my lack of updates – but the most important one is that I was the assistant director for a show that just opened.  As is often the case, the show eventually took over every spare moment I had, but since it’s opened I have free time again!

Now, if you have ever been involved in any kind of theatrical production before, you know that the week before opening is tech week.  Tech Week is really just code for ‘lots of stress’ and ‘really late nights’.   Costumes and lights and props and set changes are all being added in for the first time, which means the wonderful show you have been rehearsing completely falls apart and now we must put it back together.  Everyone is sleep deprived because rehearsals run longer, and it takes a room full of intelligent people 10 minutes to decide what door the actors should exit from to avoid being hit with the set pieces coming onstage for the next scene.

So let’s just get to the thief part of the story:

During tech, I was arriving to the theatre early AND staying late.  One day, the director asked me to run down the street and buy paper towels, snacks for the actors, and caffeinated beverages before everyone arrived.  I didn’t mind, sometimes assistant directors do shit like that.  She gave me her credit card so she could treat everyone to some pretzels.  I walked down to the convenient store, greeted the nice man who is always working, and made my purchase.  But I got so wrapped up in choosing the right chip flavor for snacks that I forgot the paper towels.  Later that evening while there was a very intense conversation happening about lights, I realized I had forgotten the paper products and  offered to run back down to the store.

Back at the store for round 2, I picked up the paper towels and two candies just for me. (Hershey’s Cookies and Cream and Reese’s Pieces, in case you wanted to know)   When I checked out, my debit card was declined.  This is literally one of my worst fears ever.  Even when I have PLENTY of money in the account, I get a twinge of anxiety when my card runs through the machine.    I realized the deposit I had made earlier in the day hadn’t gone through yet.

I informed the gentleman that I would not be buying anything and that I did not have another card.  Nothing feels worse than walking away from a counter of items you can’t afford.  How embarrassing!  I couldn’t afford paper towels and chocolate.  But I was also too embarrassed to go back to the theatre and tell everyone the reason I had no paper towels was because there was only $5.78 in my checking account.  What was I going to do?  I remembered that a friend of mine had just moved in across the street.  So what do I do?  I call him and ask to borrow ten dollars.   I was much more willing to let him know I was broke than the theater full of actors and designers.  And I could just pay him back the next day when my deposit went through.

Back at the store for round 3, the cashier giggled to himself as I grabbed my same items.  Paper towels, Hershey’s, and Reese’s.  He handed me the candy, “I know you want these in your purse.”  I smiled as I left the store.  While I was walking down the street I went to put the candy in my bag when I saw a Hershey’s and bag of Reese’s in purse already!!  When my card was declined, I didn’t realize that I had already put the candy in my bag.  II had been in such a hurry to get away from the shame of a declined card, I forgot to give the candy back.  Now I had two of each candy….but half of that was STOLEN!!  I was a shoplifter, a thief, practically a hardened criminal.

One half of the stolen goods.

One half of the stolen goods.

I had been in that same store three different times at this point.  I know the right thing to do was to just go back and return the unpaid for treats…but I didn’t.  I’m a coward.  But I felt so guilty!!  Guilt or embarrassment?  That’s a very tough choice to make…and I chose guilt.  To top it all off, I totally forgot about the Hershey’s bar until yesterday when I found it at the bottom of my purse.  (Yes, I am the kind of girl who loses track of candy and granola bars in my purse.)  The feeling of shame over what I had done came rushing back, so I ate the candy bar to comfort my guilty conscience.