Tuesday, August 28, 2007

No you did-n't


If I get one more lecture about how to write a #*!@ email ("Just a line or two, explaining what you need and what you've done already") in a voice that oozes condescension like a sappy tree, I may fucking snap.

I'm sorry -- I don't mean to be so angry, but I write the exact crappity-ass emails Passive Aggressive Boss tells me to write. I just want to scream that I am not actually that stupid (which PAB knows), then throw something and walk out.

AUGH!!! AUGH!!! I was having a reasonable day, I was going to write a nice contemplative post tonight asking you all advice about what to do in my situation, and now I just want to fire up my Blazing Glare of Disdain and skip away towards home.

Okay, I feel slightly better now.

And yes: I am blogging at work. On a non-work computer connected to a non-work wireless network. Really, it's snark from my own laptop or start making tiny voodoo dolls and skewering them with blunt implements.

If I weren't interested in self-preservation, I'd get blind blitzed at the farewell party tonight and send Passive Aggressive Boss short, "ideal" emails that sum up why it is a terrible manager in 10 words or less. Perhaps its departure will help me endure this a bit longer. Although, it gets to choose its own replacement. Maybe getting blitzed isn't such a bad idea after all.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Bath time

You know, there is nothing like returning home from the vet's office with your terrified kitty to make a Wednesday morning interesting -- especially when you open the carrier to discover that your kitty has peed all over himself, his blanket, and the inside of the crate.

I was on the phone at the time, explaining Marlowe's dire health to my mother, when she suddenly heard me saying, "Shit. Oh, shit! Oh my god, oh shit!"

This is because Marlowe had just streaked across the apartment, trailing a whole lot of unpleasantness. Naturally, my reaction was to sit in front of the puddle swearing while my mom implored me to go find a towel. Five minutes later, the carrier hastily tossed through the front window to my deck, and the blanket double-bagged in garbage liners, I went in search of the cat. I found him huddled miserably in the closet. On top of my shoes. Thus began another round of violent cursing, causing the cat to shoot straight over my legs and under my bed as my ever-patient mom suggested perhaps her dim-witted daughter might consider putting the cat in the linoleum-covered bathroom until I found a store that sold pet shampoo.

I coaxed him into the bathroom with food and water, then pulled the door shut and bolted down the street to the nearest pet store. Ten minutes later, armed with heavy gloves, towels, and cat shampoo, I returned to find Marlowe perched atop the toilet seat, wondering what the hell was wrong with me. Murmuring false assurances, I filled the tub an inch or two, pulled on enough clothing to avoid any major scratches, picked up the cat, and dropped him into the water.

As I may have mentioned, Marlowe is partially blind. Consequently, he saw just enough to notice that I wasn't guarding the open space behind my left shoulder. He leaped -- headfirst into the heavy ceramic sink. Undeterred, he repeated this procedure two or three times until I managed to grab his scruff with one glove-encased hand and pry him off the side of the tub. He then went for the shower curtain, and we began a long tug-of-war that ended when I decided it might be wise to let him stay tangled in the plastic.

Working frantically, I didn't notice the low rumbling emanating from the sodden mass of fur beneath my fingers. Marlowe chirps and churls, so I assumed I must have been hearing the pipes rattle in our archaic plumbing system. My happy illusion shattered when Marlowe turned and issued the loudest, shrillest shriek ever recorded during human-cat interaction. The shriek ended in a chainsaw growl, and suddenly I went from scrubbing a paralyzed cat to detaching a crazed monster from my sweatshirt.

During the fray, he kicked the drain plug out of place and wedged two of his hind toes in the drain. For a few moments, I thought I'd have to call 911 and have them come out with a sledgehammer and some kind of tranquilizer gun. Think bathing a cat is challenging? Try bathing a half-blind, raging ball of fury who has a foot jammed in the train of your tub. I finally gave up, dropped a towel on his head, and bolted into the kitchen to retrieve my olive oil. After dumping it all over his head while the towel shook ominously, I managed to pry his foot out of the drain. We then had to repeat the entire bath to remove the oil from his fur.

After 20 minutes, the bathroom looked like several furry gerbils had exploded in it. A layer of wet fur coated the tub. My back ached, and my sweatshirt looked like I'd hugged a cactus. I picked up the remaining towel, wrapped the cat in a neat package, opened the door, and deposited my bundle in the kitchen before shutting myself back in the bathroom. From outside, the sounds of a monumental struggle filtered through the door. Eventually, the tearing cloth gave way to silence.

I checked my watch. It was only 9:30. I probably needed to stay in the bathroom until at least noon, and I didn't have a book. I nervously peered outside: no cat.

I waited a few minutes, then went into the bedroom and snatched a random book off the shelves. It occurred to me that I was being ridiculous: cats don't actually wait for vengeance. It was all some anthropomorphic projection, probably guilt brought about by authorizing his overnight vet stay. Indeed, as I entered the main room, I found Marlowe sitting stiffly on the floor, looking puzzled but congenial. I slipped onto the couch, feeling my worries slip away.

Last night, at about three in the morning, the cat who avoids laps galloped headlong into my room, took a flying leap, and landed on top of me as I slept before bounding straight back off the bed to hide in another room. I'm pretty sure my scream woke both neighbors.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Now with more kitteh

I think I aged five years overnight, thanks to vets with poor phone manners.

Luckily, the same vets are much clearer about Marlowe's prognosis when they come face-to-face with a hollow-eyed, grief-stricken owner.

Details forthcoming, but it looks like it's going to be okay. Expensive, but okay.

After the day he's had, however, Marlowe disagrees.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Only time will tell

It's like this.

My cat, my new best friend, my only companion here...

A routine vet appointment has now turned into an overnight stay and bill estimates upwards of $800 to $1000. The shelter that had him for the last two years never looked in his ears or his mouth, so once-treatable ear mites and a broken canine have morphed into severe, chronic infections, cysts, possible hearing loss, and severe dental problems. The kind that might involve bone infections.

And after only three and a half weeks, in which time we've already bonded to the point where he leaps into bed as soon as I glance towards the sheets because he knows it's snuggle time...I can't afford to fix these things. Not even close. Plus, they maybe can't be fixed: the ears could be permanently damaged, and his constant scratching and head shaking might never go away. (Hello, shelter? How fucking blind are you?) The teeth? Who knows. The countless other problems I haven't even listed here all add up to a vague sense of dread. What happens when this five year-old turns 10? How much should I put him through trying to heal what can't mend? And, horribly, how much can I afford to spend when I'm already scraping to get by? What corner do I cut?

I love him. I know it seems strange, having known him so briefly, but I love him already like the kind of pet you've known most of your life. Right now, he's huddled in the back of a sterile sea green kennel, wondering why I left him.

I am not leaving. I'm supposed to return him to the shelter if I can't care for him. Fuck that. They cared for him so much they sent him straight into a hospital. A few months ago, a year ago, 40 or 50 bucks would have fixed all this. Didn't anyone notice the scratching? The trouble eating? It took me two days to catch on.

I'm taking the day off work tomorrow to see if I can meet the vet, face-to-face. I need to look in her eyes and ask her about the long-term prognosis. I want to understand what it will do to him if we try. Because he's been through enough, and the last thing I want to do is heap more pain on him.

Even if that means coming home to an empty house far too soon.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Getting out of town

Yesterday, I worked 13.5 hours straight, culminating in a three-hour meeting where I took notes on a giant flipchart for the duration.

I also found myself ever more ensnared in office politics, cornered by one boss to explain what was going on between me and another boss (the short story is: I don't know, but I think she hates me). I crawled home and managed to fire off an email to the first boss asking her to keep that conversation off the record...which seems fair to me, since I got pushed into saying anything in the first place.

I think we can confirm that I suck at office politics. I am not skilled enough to lie to someone's face, and so when anyone asks a leading question, I have a hard time dodging it.

I'm exhausted and going to the ocean in an hour. My good friend from college is getting married tomorrow, and I'm lucky enough to be in the beach-side ceremony. Hopefully, Marlowe won't kill me for neglecting him when I come back Sunday.

I think the uncomfortable realization I'm reaching is that there is no dream job after college. Still, I also don't think it does you any good to settle for something you really dislike. Considering how much time Americans spend at work, the least I can do is look until I find something that makes me happy more often than it makes me crazy. I'm giving this one a year, assuming it stays about the way it is now, because the personal stress far outweighs everything else.

Talk to you next week.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

In motion

It's ten minutes to noon, and the office is humming. Voices rise and fall beyond my cubicle as project managers race from one task to the next, pausing long enough to dump another request on our desks. Outside, beyond the hermetically sealed windows, the sun beams down from a naked sky. I look down at my feet in their sandals.

"I'm going for a run," I announce.

A quick stop at the gym, then out the front door. I'm in full workout regalia, except I've forgotten my socks. My feet stick to the orthotics I wear, but I don't mind. It is glorious, warm, the air thick with midday humidity. I head towards the river.

There's a long path along the edge, and I run steadily along its perimeter, passing clusters of office workers, their ties flipped over their shoulders, collar buttons open, blazers hanging off their arms. I am one of them, but not now. It's been days since I've crammed a run into my schedule, and my joints are quick to remind me that I'm not really supposed to go without stretching anymore. I shrug them off, ignore the cramp tearing a hole in my stomach, and slog on down the trail.

By the halfway point, I think I could run home to Seattle. With the light foot traffic, I can afford to look around, and I watch a lazy canoe plash over the currrent. Far below me, a cat's tongue of sand stretches from one horizon to the next. I debate sticking to the path I know, then veer right and pick my way down the ravine, dappled light shimmering between cottonwoods and maples. I burst out onto the sand and feel the tightness in my muscles release.

Down here, the air is sharp and cool. No one else is on the shore, and so I run in the company of breakers lapping hardpacked sand. It's rockier than I expected, and I switch into a high, prancing jog, feet flicking over uneven stones. For 15 minutes, I concentrate on the ground immediately before me. One slip, and I'll be limping a few miles back to the office. I'm not sure what I've gotten myself into; I think about turning back, or clambering up the wooded hill to the security of paved road. But there isn't much farther to go, and my steps are growing quicker.

The last 100 yards are loose sand, and before long I have half a pound in each shoe, chasing the skin where foot meets fabric. I'm red-faced, dripping sweat, and out of breath, but I maintain a brisk trot as I work back up the gentle hill towards the office. By the time I'm out of the shower, I feel invigorated, completely alive. I flick the towel over my shoulder, smooth the wrinkles from my skirt, run a finger comb through my hair, and open the door. I'm ready now.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

I'm so tired, I'm so tired of tryin'

We see a lot of regulars in my line of work. Usually, they're middle-aged, lifelong residents of the community, people with a lot to lose if our project lands on their street.

I spend my Saturdays under a blue tent for the job I'll refer to as Mayhem Inc., alternately sharing information with curious residents and being snapped at by people who think what we're doing is a front. This used to be funny, but now I find I'm breaking the cardinal rule of neutrality by nodding along as the critics rant. The thing is, they're right. We do know what we want to do. Most likely, we're going to do it, unless a vote or a major funding glitch derails the project. I want to tell you more, but I can't. Just like I can't divulge anything to the public beyond what I'm instructed to say. People come to me with hopeful expressions, asking if I can tell them what will happen to their street, their house. I tell them the half-truth: no, I can't, because we don't know. Often, we really do not: big projects take years to gel, and the block-by-block effects change over time...but I do know that their neighborhood is going to be impacted, and I usually know whether it's going to be serious.

And I cannot say a thing.

This afternoon, a man I know from one of our advisory groups said he felt sorry for us, because he wouldn't want to be in a position where he had to lie to poor people. He wanted to know how we slept at night when we did such dirty work for our supervisors.

"Put yourself in my shoes," he said.

"You don't know anything about me," I told him.

"No, but I doubt you've been as hard-up as the people I know."

By conventional definitions, he's right. Still, I wanted to take him by the hand and walk him to my car, where we could drive to the apartment I'm renting. I wanted to show him the empty spot next to me in my bed. To haul out the bank statements, the expired visa, the month-to-month lease and the health insurance I'm fighting to keep. I wanted to tell him that I spent Thursday being lectured, like a dog, behind a closed door in a conference room, because I'd been audacious enough to ask for more work than I was assigned. I'm not fitting in. I'm not willing to pay my dues -- I've never complained, never left a job incomplete, but apparently suggesting I could be challenged with new tasks makes me a problematic employee in their eyes. I need to stop thinking I have anything of merit to offer, because I'm supposed to be grateful that they even decided to give me a job. I thought about sharing how my boss quit two weeks ago, how our other boss is going to have a baby during the worst possible time for our team, how I've worked six days per week since June for a job that's nothing like I was told it would be when I started. I haven't seen my family since I moved, and they're three hours away but I won't be going home until at least October. I wanted to tell him I've lost close to 10 pounds in the last two months, to sit beside him on the floor and tell him that some days everything is fine, but other days, it's all I can do to get home and collapse on the sofa.

Instead, I just smiled a half-smile. As he filled out a comment form, he teased me, saying he was going to write down how I agreed with him about the project being a farce. I laughed nervously and asked him not to.

"I wouldn't do that," he said. "I just like seeing you smile. You have a nice smile."

I clung to those words the rest of the day, trying to believe that people still see the good girl behind the morally questionable job. Hoping they went through something similar when they were young. There has to be more to life. I can't believe work is always going to be this draining and time-consuming, or that I'll feel so little contentment from what I do. What it comes down to is that I need to believe this, too, is going to pass, and that I'll still have a smile that makes people happy when I'm finally done here.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Happy together

Because I can't bring myself to write about work or life, let's go for more distractions: kitty pictures! You know you want 'em.

I'd entertain you with tortoise pictures, too, but my poor boy can't be with me right now. There's just no room for a giant pool in any place I can afford...sigh. Soon, soon I'll have both our babies under the same roof.

Don't mind the crazy green eyes. His pupils don't contract, thanks to a congenital defect that leaves him partially blind. Poor guy went to the vet and failed the vision test completely -- we tossed cotton balls at him, and they bounced off his face. He's also fallen off the couch a few times, thinking he had more room to walk. Is it wrong to laugh at your embarrassed cat because their shame is so cute?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Round and round

How's your week been? Mine's been interesting. Here's a random snapshot.

Bosses quitting on a Tuesday totally suck! Especially when they take you out to lunch under the guise of "Let's all celebrate," only to begin the meal by preluding the announcement of your group's impending doom with, "Now, there's no such thing as a free lunch..." And they wondered why we spent the rest of the day in a shell-shocked trance.

Weird old-men clubs with funny animal and/or telephone-related names? Interesting places to give a presentation. Or, in my case, click through the PowerPoint while someone else gives the presentation. 'Cause that's why I went to Cambridge: to hone my slide show skills. That, and improving my ability to butter up large-nosed, 80-year-old white guys who want to wow me with their tales of anti-Communist activities in 1970s Siberia. Hell's yes, that's what they pay me for! Ladies and gents: your tax dollars at work.

Kitties freaking rock. Especially nice kitties that still let you touch them after vet visits involving blood draws, matted hair removals, and ear mite treatments. I don't think I'll tell the nice kitty that he has to go back to the vet for a full day soon...yeah, we're ignoring that part because the possibility of his being diabetic or in kidney failure is too depressing to contemplate right now.

Oregon drivers?? SUCK. Turn signals, people. They actually didn't install them in your car just for show. Speedometers are also important, because they tell you when you're going 25 miles over the speed limit so you know that maybe you should use those little blinky turn things before you swerve in front of my car without notice. I swear, if you hit me, I will break your arms with your own turn signal lever.

The public process? Dear god. Nope, sir, no, you can't build a tunnel through them there acreage. Little thing called liquefaction. Liquefaction. You know, "smash, crash, bang," instant catastrophe? You don't see why it has to be that way. Well. I know your brother-in-law's second cousin's daughter draws bridges for her industrial art class. That does not make you an engineer. Please go away. Please? Oh, you want to fill out a public comment record. About a tunnel. Sure, just step right here while I get a form and a big stick. It's to hold the paper down while you write. Yes, it is. Now, just look that way...

It's a bit disheartening, really. We have a public process in place so people don't wake up one morning and discover major infrastructure projects running through their neighborhoods. But when a handful of nutty people dominate the entire process, and you have to treat them like they're sane? I wish we could have a cut-off point at six months or a year, where you're just SOL if you didn't get your comment in on time. We waste so much money trying to reach everyone, when half them don't have anything to contribute (but do anyway) and the other half don't care. I'll write seriously about this at some point, but for now...I'm wondering if the process is broken, or if this is just how it has to be when you want to create a collaborative process.