Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Post!

So I know it's been about a millenia since I've posted on this poor, long-forgotten blog. But I have traditions to keep. So, in honor of Arianne and Manny C. (who are probably the only ones who have ever kept up with this blog to begin with), here is my annual "List of Things I've Learned This Year"!

1) Job satisfaction is so much more important than higher pay checks. I should know-I've worked for a pittance for the past year, but I love my job so much I can't bring myself to care.

2) Once you set your mind to it, you actually can pay off debts. Even when you're poor. It just takes a LOT of discipline to not spend your extra money on frivolities and send it to Visa instead.

3) America makes you fat. New diet, here I come!

4) Despite the fact that it made me fat, I really do belong in the States. Don't get me wrong-I wouldn't trade my experiences in the UK for anything, and am so grateful for the friends I made and lessons I learned there. (Could've done without the swine flu, though.) But my real home is here, with my family and the people who've known me for years and love me in spite of it all. :)

5) Babies are SO CUTE. Ainsley, this one's for you. I'm going to spoil you ROTTEN in February.

6) Friendships change. But that doesn't mean they have to end. Just let them evolve, and everything will turn out exactly the way it should.

7) Stuff is just that-stuff. It's material, and not worth crying over.

8) I don't need a PhD to be smart. Yes, I'd love one, but it's not worth another 100k in student debt just to feel like I have a brain. To shamelessly quote Good Will Hunting, I can get the same education "for a dollah fifty in late chahges at the public library". If I want more knowledge, I can take responsibility for that myself.

9) A lot of tourists are really stupid.

10) So are customers. I think everyone should be forced to work in customer service at least once in their lives just so they understand the crap we go through.

11) Relationships take work, and compromise. But that's OK. It's when you stop working and compromising that you should be worried.

12) I no longer recognize anyone on MTV. I think that means I'm officially old.

13) Living near your family? Not actually a bad thing. As an adult, I still have all the independence and autonomy I practically demanded in my late teens and early twenties, but I also have the support of my family and can see them whenever I want.

14) You don't need a lot of friends to have a full social life-a couple of close ones will do just as well.

15) Sometimes it's OK to blow off your responsibilities to dance to Newsies and eat ice cream.

16) Real Christmas trees are a lot more difficult to deal with than I remember them being.

17) Winter. Sucks. Ass.

18) There's nothing so comforting as having someone by your side who will always support you and take care of you. Whether it be a significant other, a best friend, or a sibling, it's the most important thing in the world.

So there you have it-my list of 2010 life lessons. Feel free to share yours in the comment section!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

So it's finally starting to hit me that I'll be going back to school in the fall. Objectively, I had accepted it as soon as I got my admissions letter, but I hadn't thought about the realities of it. The chief reality, of course, is an overwhelming feeling of intellectual inferiority. The more educated I get, the stupider I feel. Which I suppose is a sign that I'm becoming more objective and intellectual, as the true intellectual is able to admit they know nothing. Or something like that. I'm back to the way I felt 2 years ago when I started my masters, namely "what the fuck am I doing here, and who the fuck let me in here in the first place?" Pardonnez-moi pour le francais, but you get my drift. I wish the other people I know doing doctorates weren't so smart. Why can't there be some ditzes getting PhD's so I don't feel so alone? I mean, I can't be the only mental klutz to pursue higher education. (And good God, am I mentally clumsy. For example, my to-do list for the afternoon went as follows:

1) Follow up with financial aid office.
2) Look over list of required courses.
3) Pick courses.
4) Realize the courses I picked are all held at the same time.
5) Pick different courses I don't care about, such as "Theology and Hermeneutics".
6) Find a dictionary. Look up "hermeneutics".
7) Realize I can't sign up for courses until I pay my enrollment deposit.
8) Look at bank balance. Bang head on desk, burst into tears.)

Is it just me, or are these not the actions of someone who deserves to be called "doctor"? Maybe I'll just change my first name to doctor, then everyone will be forced to call me that and I won't have to spend the next 5 years feeling like the brainless wonder.

(Sidebar: I use the "change my first name to doctor" pun all the time. It always gets a laugh. I'm waiting for the day that someone finally realizes it's a quote from "Sleepless in Seattle", and that I am not only not witty, but don't even pick obscure movies from which to steal puns.)

Please tell me someone else out there feels as mentally unequipped for higher education as I do.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Playing That Funky Music

I'm in a funk today. (Nothing like the funk I was in last fall, thank God!) But still. I'm playing that funky music, white boy. I think more than anything I just miss having a group of friends. Don't get me wrong-I've got friends here. And I've got Matt, which is amazing. But I don't have a solid group of friends who always hang out together and think of each other as family. I think this might be the first time in my life I haven't had that. I totally get why people say it's so hard to make friends after you graduate. Everyone works, gets tired early, and wants to go home to their significant other. And I'm DEFINITELY no exception to that. I know once I start school again, things will be better. True, there are only four incoming students in my program, but I can always join the graduate students' association or something. And I'll be auditioning for the shows that Georgetown Law School puts on every year. And I'll be flying to Miami once or twice a month to choreograph a show. (P.S. I got hired to choreograph Chicago in Miami...way excited about that!) So I'm sure it will get better. But right now, I just wish I were with my friends.

I wish I was in Miami helping Manny move, and helping Shana plan her wedding, and helping Arianne and Kevin get ready for their little girl to arrive. I wish I was in Dublin sitting around with Fiona watching Supernatural and drinking wine, and in London eating burgers with Adnan, and drinking with Clovis, and dancing with Chris, and eating ice cream with Alicia and Joe, and sitting on the couch in PJs watching a movie with Alicia Crane. I wish I was in Tennessee with Grace helping her babysit Parker. And in a million other places with a million other friends. It makes me sad that I can't be all these places at once. I wish they would just perfect teleporting, already!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Doughnut Hole

So this one's been coming for a while. Yes, friends, it is time for a rant about US health care.

I never realized how horrendously awful health care in the US was until I moved to another country. Now, I know the NHS has some problems, but the point is that every citizen (or visitor) to a country has a fundamental right to at least basic and emergency health care. I thought the US had a decent system in place. I really did. (Chalk it up to upper-middle-class naivete.) I was under my parents' insurance until I graduated college, and then I immediately got a full-time job with health benefits, after which I moved to another country where I didn't need insurance. Then I moved back to the US.

Before I rant, I will say this-I understand how a person could not see the problems with the health care system in this country. Much of the population is working-class union members. Mr. Bob Everyman who joined the Steel Worker's Union (or whatever) right out of high school, worked for 40 years, retired, and had union insurance for when Mrs. Everyman got pregnant, little Johnny Everyman fell off his bike, and little Suzie Everyman had her tonsils out, probably sees no problem with the system. And I get that. It works for most people.

But then there's the doughnut hole-the 16% of US citizens who receive no health benefits and are ineligible for government aid. I am a prime example. I work 3 jobs at upwards of 65 hours a week, but as they're all part-time, offer me no insurance. I applied for private insurance, which is slightly cost-prohibitive, but I am fortunate enough that I can afford to pay for basic insurance. Like most people, I am a generally healthy adult-I have asthma, which is an easily managed and fairly inexpensive condition. Otherwise, I have no health problems to speak of. I just need insurance to get 2 monthly prescriptions and see my doctor twice a year. Sounds simple, right?

Think again. First and foremost, the fact that there is no government health program for people who earn too much for welfare is a huge problem. As the insurance companies are independent, they can do things like what was recently done to me: I applied for insurance. A full month later, I was approved. Then, a week after I had already paid my first installment, I received a letter telling me that due to my health condition, the cost of my insurance would multiply by 4. A week after that, I received another letter saying that the insurance would still cost 4x the amount originally quoted to me, but they would not cover any syptoms or medications related to asthma, allergies, pulminary disease, chest pain, or cold and flu. Namely, all the symptoms and dangers I need insurance for. Now tell me-how can that possibly be legal?

I stated above that I understand how some people cannot see the problems with health insurance. But the fact that cases like this (and infinitely worse) have come to light in the news time and time again, and the GOP refuses to acknowledge the problem, claiming that a public health care option is "socialism"? Give me a #$%&ing break! There's a difference between socialism and caring for your citizens. Buy a bleeping dictionary and look up "socialism", for God's sake! Because the GOP refuses to allow Obama to pass a public option bill, I now have to drive 3 hours and back to see someone for 10 minutes so that they will write me a prescription, and then pay upwards of $200/month just to get a couple of inhalers. And I'm lucky-the only reason I was able to find a doctor at all was because my boyfriend's mother works in a doctor's office and could get me in without either insurance or having to pay a few hundred dollars for the privilege of having a prescription written for me. Imagine if I wasn't so fortunate!

Something else that rankled me-yesterday Congress overturned a law stating that an employee who is fired or layed off can remain on the company's health insurance for 6 months. Their reason? There is no system in place to help the unemployed, and it's unfair for a guy who's fired to have insurance while his neighbor next door who can't find a job in the first place has no access to health care. So the solution is not to give aid to the guy without, but to take away the benefits of the other guy? What are we, kids on a playground fighting over a piece of chalk?!?!?!

Am I the only one who is seriously pissed off about all this?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

We Live to Serve

As is par for the course for many overgrown college students, I work in customer service. In fact, I work 2 jobs in customer service-one as a video store clerk, and one in guest services at a museum in a very touristy area. As a result, I spend 12 hours a day, 7 days a week dealing with either tourists or customers. And as you might expect, sometimes I need to vent. I have been tempted for some time to write a profane and vitriolic post just letting off some steam. But instead, I think I'll put it into a different context. Thus, below is my list of "Things the Person Behind the Counter is Thinking".

1) If you're between the ages of 13 and 19, we're already judging you. Yes, it's unfair. No, we're not going to stop. We've had too many days ruined by obnoxious teenagers. (Some people ruin it for everyone.) But if you're nice to us, we'll totally let go of our preconceptions and treat you with respect.

2) You hid something under your jacket and managed to get out of the store without us noticing. Congratulations, you got away with you. You also just got us fired. At the very least, we've been put on probation and forced to pay for whatever you stole out of our own pockets. Guess we'll be taking cold showers and wearing a lot of sweaters for the next month, because there goes the money for the heating bill.
2a) Same goes for if you switch the price on something. Probation/fired. Forced to pay for what you stole.
2b) And if you walk out on a tab. You've just forced your waitress to buy you dinner and gotten her fired or put on probation.

3) If something is genuinely wrong with your experience at our store/restaurant/site, please tell us. We do actually care. But we only care if you tell us nicely, without yelling, and use specific examples to explain the problem. The second you're rude to us, we tune out.

4) We get yelled at all day. We're pretty much impervious to it now. We will not be affected or scared into action by your bullying. All it does is make us hate you more. And when we hate you, we will do absolutely nothing to solve your problem. In fact, if there's a way we can charge you more without breaking any rules, we'll do it. And our managers will back us up. They hate you just as much as we do.

5) On that same token, we will never forget if you've mouthed off to us. If you are rude to someone at an establishment you frequent that has a file on you (your gym, your hairdresser, etc), they will put a note in the computer file about it. Every single time you walk up to the desk, the first thing the person behind the counter sees is the note in the computer saying you're rude and not to do you any favors. Sorry, but it's true. That one outburst will haunt you forever.

6) Kids touch things. Kids move things around. We get that. And it's OK. What's not OK is to let your kids run rampant through our store, throwing things around, and then not pick up after them.

7) And it's REALLY not OK to move things around yourself and not pick them up and put them back where you got it. You know how at the end of a long workday you want nothing more to go home? So do we. Except we've been standing up for 8 hours getting yelled at and now we have to go clean up your mess for an hour instead of going home. Also, there are surveillance cameras everywhere. When you make a mess, we see it. When you eventually come to the counter, we don't see you, we see the mess we're going to have to clean up at 11pm.

8) For God's sake, don't treat us like we're unintelligent ignoramus'. If you had any idea how many customer service personnel were in management training, going to graduate school, or attending medical or law school, you'd be seriously humbled.

9) If you treat us like people, we will like you. We really don't hate people. If we did, we'd be working in a warehouse or something. If you're a regular, learn our names. We'll learn yours. You never know-we may even become actual friends. And guess what our friends get? Free stuff.

10) Most of the time, the person behind the counter has the power to fix your problems. We pretend like we don't. If we don't like you, we'll only do the bare minimum to help you and leave the rest to our manager. If we like you, we'll pull every string in the book. You have no idea the kind of power we really have.

11) If we have a rule, it's for a reason. No food or drink? We've got light carpeting. No gum? We don't want to stay until 2am with a scraper removing the gum from under the chairs. We will not be happy if you sneak something past us and then stick the gum under something or spill your drink all over the carpet. It's annoying. And expensive.

12) We know you want to be an exception to the rule. And we sympathize with whatever your plight is. We really do. But if I had a nickel for every person who asked me for free stuff because it was their birthday, or asked me to make an exception and let them into an exhibit without a ticket because they traveled so far, or wanted to skip waiting in line because they'd had such a long day, I'd be a millionaire and wouldn't be serving your french fries. Whatever your perceived "special circumstance" is, I've heard it before. Probably within the last ten minutes.

13) If an obvious joke comes to mind about our uniforms, our nametags, our logo, whatever, please, take pity on us and don't say it. We've heard it at least 10 times today, and it gets less funny every time. We laugh because we're required to.

14) Don't stand at the counter talking on your cell phone. That's a quick way to get "he's a douche" put into your computer file.

15) If you do happen to lose your temper and are rude to us and didn't mean to be, apologize. We're real people. You're a real person. A heartfelt apology might help. It might not, but it certainly won't hurt you.

16) Before you accuse us of making a mistake, think it through. If we did make a mistake, tell us nicely and we'll fix it and then some. But often, we did nothing wrong. (An example: the other day a guy checked out 2 movies from me. He came back an hour later, slammed one of the DVD boxes on the desk, and started to yell at me, accusing me of giving him the wrong movie. He apparantly had meant to rent a different one. Sorry that I'm not a mind-reader; I assumed when you brought "An Education" to the check-out counter, that's the movie you wanted.) Stop, calm down, and think about the problem for a minute. If it really was our mistake, calmly tell us, and we'll come through for you.

17) If you've had a bad experience with one employee, don't take it out on another. Saying "I know it's not your fault" while continuing to yell at us does nothing. If you really knew it wasn't out fault, you wouldn't be yelling at us, now would you?

18) Don't be afraid to ask for help or ask us for recommendations. We like to give advice about our work. That's why we work there.

19) If you see another customer being rude to us in line, and either make fun of them after they leave or act sympathetic to us in some way, you're in. We'll love you forever.

20) Don't apologize for putting $2.00 on a credit card. It makes absolutely no difference to us.

So there you have it. The ugly truth about customer service. If you've ever worked it, I hope you enjoyed this post and found something to relate to. If you haven't, keep these points in mind the next time you get angry at a cashier. They could save you a lot of headaches in the future.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I'm Baaaaaaack!

Well, gentle reader(s), (are there more than one of you?) the time has come to start blogging again. I intended this blog to be a public record of the ups and downs of grad school. I thought that after completing my MA (by the skin of my teeth) that I would be done, and would be forced to enter Grown-Up Land. But, fortune has smiled upon me, and some admissions officer at Catholic University who must surely be addicted to mind-altering substances has accepted me to their PhD program in Religion and Culture. Whodathunkit? (Not me, that's for sure!)

So here I sit, gearing up for school once again. And as I sit here, grinding my gears, I can't help but notice how different my life is now from the way it was 2 years ago, the last time I was getting ready to start school. Do you ever take a step back and look at your life and think, "Wow, if someone had told me a year ago that this is where I would be now, I would have laughed in their face?" I do that all the time. And no matter how many times I make that observation, I'm always surprised by it. (A fact which doesn't reflect too highly on my intellect....)

It's not so much that my life is different (though there's definitely that-I'm in a different city, living with a long-term boyfriend (something I'd never even considered doing before), working a new job, going to a school I never expected to go to), but more that I myself am different. I feel like when I wasn't looking, I grew up, and I have no idea how it happened. Suddenly I'm eating vegetables, budgeting my money like an adult, filing my taxes on time, not drinking myself into oblivion a couple of nights a week, etc. And honestly? I think I'm actually OK with it. Which is weird. Has the "oh-shit-I'm-an-adult" epiphany happened to anyone else recently?

But I digress. The point is, I'm back, and ready to start blogging again for the whole 2 people who care. Leenieblog 2.0 is ready for action!

Yeah, that was lame. Some things never change.