25 September 2007

A Capital Idea

I never thought I'd look so forward to receiving my monthly credit card statement.

Two months ago, I failed utterly to receive my monthly credit card statement for no apparent reason. I realised it when I got last month's statement, because I try not to carry a balance. No problem, right? Call the company, point out to them that you always pay on time and in full, ask them to refund the finance charge and reset the billing cycle, Bob's your uncle.

Not so. (Well, I do have an Uncle Bob, but that's another story. Actually, I have two or three of them.) In any case, the customer service number printed on the bill is something akin to Dante's Eleventh Circle of Hell. The Tenth, of course, being erratic drivers in minivans on the Turnpike. After labyrinthing my way through countless layers of automated choices ("If you'd like to hear a duck quack, press 8") I finally decided to pull out the big guns and press the button for "lost or stolen cards" figuring that might be urgent enough to warrant a customer service rep with a pulse. Eventually I found one, and was promptly put on hold.

Four times.

For ten minutes each. Fortunately, I was on a land line, so I wasn't using precious cell battery time. I was then transferred. Also four times. And asked for my first name, my last name, my account number, the last four digits of my social, and my mailing address.

Four times.

This, of course, resulted in my having to explain (four times) that yes, that is really the name of the town, and no there aren't really "three" of anything in it, except possibly three last remaining seconds before I went completely ballistic and reached through the phone to throttle someone.

Ultimately, they decided they could, in fact, remove the whopping six-dollar finance charge (hey, I'm an English professor. Six bucks is a lot of money where we come from.) and send me a copy of the missing statement. Whereupon they verified my address yet again.

This was two weeks ago. In today's mail, I got an envelope from Joe Schmo's House of Banking MasterCard Services (with the address wrong despite five-time verification, thank you very much--and yet until this they've never had a problem sending me bills). I opened it and read the letter:

Dear Valued Customer:

Enclosed find the copy of the statement you requested for the account number listed below. Please feel free to contact a Customer Relations Representative if you have any questions.


Joe Schmo's House of Banking Services, Inc.

Guess what wasn't enclosed. They'd mailed me a cover letter. And no statement. Brilliant, I tell you. Absofuckinglutely brilliant.

Then again, this is the institution that decided it was a good idea to give me a line of credit in the first place, so that should tell you something.

21 September 2007

B, My Name Is Breast

The last week in August, I was conscripted to attend what seemed like an inordinate number of faculty orientation meetings (particularly as I've been working at two of the three institutions for more than a year) and was thus forced to wear several variations on the infamous "Hello, My Name Is" sticker. You know the ones. They're blue, and really annoying, and they look like this:

(whilst searching for a suitable image that didn't have something rude scrawled in it, I discovered they also apparently come in red. Who knew?) Anyway, I have always found them particularly annoying, not only because I'm antisocial at heart and would prefer to introduce myself only to people who are actually interested in finding out my name, but also because I've never found an appropriate place to affix them.

Let's think about this for a second. I am a woman. I am, in fact, a petite woman. I am also small of torso, being instead mostly leg. Tradition and modesty dictate that we affix such labels to our lapel area, or, failing actual lapels, to our upper chest on either our left or right sides. And frankly, in my case, there's not a lot of real estate there. What there is, is mostly already taken. So to speak. So it's awkward. And often slightly amusing, particularly in warm-weather attire.

I always feel sort of sad, though, when engaging in this most innocent of social overtures. Because while my left breast is out there, announcing itself gaily (Hello! My Name Is TheFireCat) my poor, unadorned right breast sits there, sulking. It, apparently, has no name.

18 September 2007

Tapir Madness

You know, after plotting out tomorrow's course with my dad (mostly so he and my bike-riding mom would know where to drop water bottles early tomorrow morning, swell parents that they be) I'm starting to reconsider my training schedule. Maybe I'll start my taper RIGHT NOW.

Seriously? Ten miles was really cool. The day I ran my first ten-miler, my dad waited for me on the front porch and there was massive high-fiving and I was incredibly proud. Because ten miles is really far to run.

But this? This is insane. The numbers are just starting to get really incomprehensible. 18 miles? 18 miles is not a distance to run. 18 miles is a distance to drive; 18 miles is a distance between exits in some parts of Pennsylvania: "Oh, good. There's a Waffle House at the next exit. Can you hold it another 18 miles, honey? Because then we can pee and eat some scrapple." (FYI, you should totally imagine that in my husband's voice. Because that is one sentence that would never be uttered with the roles reversed.) 18 miles is the distance from our house to the nearest Starbucks, in any direction--a positive thing, in my fair-trade-bean-loving opinion. 18 miles is the length of a really bad delay on the Turnpike during a snowstorm, or the backup if they close the Tappan Zee.

18 miles is a lot of things, but above all, 18 miles is really freaking far. And I'm not sure I'm ready to get intimately acquainted with just how far that is. As Dawn Dais said in her book, The Non-Runner's Marathon Guide for Women, "After 18 miles, I had run out of thoughts." The good news, for me at least, is that's when running starts to get easier. In acting school, they call what I do, "reading too cerebral." My husband used to just call it "really fucking annoying."
"Baby," he'd tell me. "Just shut up. Stop thinking. Please. For me." So when I'm somewhere halfway between Stockton and nowhere, and the trail is looking a little unfamiliar even though I've been there three or four times a week since what seems like the beginning of time when I started training for this thing, and my brain slowly gets unhinged--that's where the running gets good. That's where 18 turns from being something scary and real into just another number, the way my student loans were so absurd that they stopped seeming like real money. (Six hundred dollars for a new rear bumper? That's too expensive. But thirty thousand dollars' worth of student loans? That amount of money, all in one place, and that place being "my lifetime," was just so inconceivable that it used to make me laugh giddily, even while I was paying it.)

And now, since Taper Madness will not actually officially begin in Three Feathers until two weeks from tomorrow, on October 3rd, I give you the next best thing.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Tapir Madness.

17 September 2007

Stay the Course

In the last several weeks, I have spent a great deal of time seriously wondering whether I will be able to finish the marathon on the strength of the training I've done the past several months. We hear all sorts of inspiring stories, from Team Hoyt to my friend Marathon Peach, a sixteen-year liver transplant survivor, to people running to honour the memories of Marines close to them who've died in Iraq and elsewhere while defending their country. They tell us that the excitement of race day and 50,000 cheering fans and the course lined with Marines will carry us the last six miles, even though the training only allows for one run of 20 miles as the longest distance.

I've wondered about all that, because I know where my weaknesses are, and I know that it has been a long and, at times, difficult summer for me, and that my emotional state slowly but inexorably takes its toll on my physical body. I know all these things, and I wasn't entirely sure where in the middle of this equation the marathon would land me.

Then, this morning, it crystallised for me along the trail. The early morning sunlight; the amazingly cold, clear, crisp weather along the river that is so different from the sultry grey heat of this day two years ago; the strength in my body and in my heart as I blasted through my personal record for a five-mile pace by several seconds. I will succeed. I will complete this race.

And the number one reason is that I am not a quitter. Happy anniversary, my dearest love. I miss you.

15 September 2007

Houston, We Have Lift-Off....

...or, should I say, cat-off.

If you ask me, the whole thing is rather anticlimactic. I feel slightly deflated. And other, off-colour remarks.

Making Matters Worse

So far, this is not helping things any. Following the directions on how to assemble this cat has only caused more hilarity here in Three Feathers.

11 September 2007

Is That a Knitted Cat in Your Pocket, Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

This began as an experiment in stripes with leftover yarn from a blanket knit for my friend Matt's newly adopted son. Mostly because I had nearly a skein of each left over, and I liked the two colours together, I flipped back a few pages in the pattern book and began knitting a stuffed kitten (my other options were bear and bunny).

The gathered end will one day be the catt's butt (is that anything like the bee's knees, I wonder?) and somehow, the pattern assures me, once I add arms, legs, tail, and stuffing, I will be able to fashion the flat end and baste it in such a way that it will grow ears. I'll let you know how it all turns out, but so far I'm skeptical.

Especially since earlier this evening I was sitting in my therapist's waiting room--my very Christian therapist, mind you--and I took this off its needles and sewed the seam up the back. At which point I held it up to inspect my handiwork and immediately blurted out loud, "Oh! A penis cozy!"

I suspect I'll be visiting this therapist for quite a bit longer now.

03 September 2007

So Many Wrong Ways to Take This

I just went into the bathroom to brush my teeth and found a sticky-note on the edge of the sink from my mom, saying she loved me.

It was stuck to a New York Times bag filled with used cat litter.

In many other families, this would cause enough bad blood to ruin the next forty Thanksgivings. But knowing my mom, and how she feels about the cats' presence (and, more to the point, the fact that they have excretory systems), and the general gist of this weekend's conversations? It somehow makes total sense. And if I could get one of them to hurk up a hairball right now, I'd wrap it in a paper towel and leave it by her crossword puzzle, to say I love you, too, Mom.