Bike To Work

Gail rides her bike to work every day, even yesterday, a day that began at thirty-four degrees with sleet pelting down. I like to bike to work, but that’s the problem: I want to keep on liking it, and when the temperature’s less than forty degrees, or when freezing rain threatens to turn me into a glazed confection, and especially when both of those springtime disasters are happening at the same time, I give it a miss. Sort of a rule with me.

But not Gail. She loves to ride her bike to work even when the weather is freezing, the streets are ice-covered and slippery, and wimps like me are driving to work in the comfort of our well-heated Toyotas. “I just keep a change of clothes in my office,” she says, and while I give her points for foresight and perseverance, the part about bicycling through freezing rain frankly cancels out all the positives as far as I can tell.

She can even get excited about riding in the rain, something else I don’t like to do at all. She wandered into the break room while I was boiling water to make tea and gazing at the rain pouring down on the street scene outside. “Oh good, it’s raining!” she chirped. “That’ll melt all the snow and ice. I was a little worried it might be slippery on the way home.” But not worried, I guess, about being soaked through and contracting hypothermia.

I wish I had Gail’s attitude, or just her bullet-proof imperviousness to adverse conditions, but I don’t. I’ll start biking to work again when this apocalyptic weather lets up.

Locked Out

I opened the door for one of the women who works in the office down the hall, not to be chivalrous, but because she’d forgotten her card key. For reasons that have yet to become clear to me, all the doors in our office building are locked, and the locks can be opened only by waving a card past the glaring red eye that stares out from the brown plastic pad beside the knob of each door.

It wasn’t the first time I’d opened the door for her. Just last week I found her waiting outside the same door for someone to come along and let her in. She got locked out both times when she got up from her desk to visit the bathroom, forgetting her card at her desk. I know this because as I leaned over to unlock the door I said something witty like, “Lock yourself out again?”

She was nice enough to chuckle at my inane comment, even nicer for telling me how she got locked out, then added: “I just want it implanted in my butt, like my cat.”

The image of everyone at the office waving their butts at the doors to open them stayed with me the rest of the day.


It’s almost warm enough now to go out without a jacket on. I won’t say that it’s comfortable, only that we’re headed in the right direction.

The part about not being comfortable doesn’t stop anyone from running around in no more than a pair of shorts. This is Wisconsin, after all, the land where people are crazy enough to go out in shorts and a t-shirt when the snow melts and the temps finally climb up to forty degrees. After a long winter much like the one we just had, it’s necessary.

But I’m not there yet. As the years have passed I’ve grown less able to resist the cold and my fingers especially lose heat so easily that I take special precautions to keep myself insulated all through the winter season now. I used to chuckle when I told people how my mother wore long underwear from the end of September until April or May, but I’m made of the same stuff she is, after all, and because the office where I work apparently doesn’t have the money to heat the rooms one degree above sixty-eight, I’ve been wearing long-sleeve undershirts for the past four months. It’s either that or wear gloves, and I need nimble fingers to work the keyboard of my computer.


On my morning break I happened to look down at the palm of my hand while waiting for the microwave to boil water for a cup of tea and I noticed that there was an impressively large chunk of wood sticking out of the side of the pad at the base of my little finger. By “impressively large” I mean big enough to see without squinting, and these days I have to squint to see anything smaller than a housefly.

I take my break at ten o’clock. The last time I handled any splintery wood was in the afternoon the day before. Therefore, I’d had a pointy chunk of wood stuck in the side of my hand for almost eighteen hours, its blunt end up in the air like a cat’s butt, and hadn’t noticed it.

There. Now you know how unconscious a guy can be.

etaoin shrdlu

I locked myself out of my e-mail account at the office yesterday morning while I was suffering one of those brain cramps that won’t let me remember what my password is for nothin’! It’s a simple password; it’s not really even a word, which is in fact one of the rules you’re always told to apply when thinking up a password: Should not be a word in the dictionary. So I just stamp out a simple little pattern on the keyboard, easy to remember … except yesterday. No matter how many times I tried – and they only let me try just so many times – I couldn’t get it to accept my simple little pattern.

After I was locked out, the computer invited me to recover my password by answering the challenge questions. When the IT people set me up with a computer account five months ago, I had to select five challenge questions and provide my own personalized answers to them. One of them, for instance, was: “Who is your favorite president?” Inasmuch as I have a favorite, that would have to be Theodore Roosevelt. When I had to answer that question yesterday morning, though, I was presented with this conundrum: The window for the answer was only big enough to hold seven or eight characters, so the answer wasn’t “Theodore Roosevelt.” I must have answered “Teddy” or “TR,” or “Teedee” – his family used to call him “Teedee” when he was a wee little lad. No wonder he grew up to become such a badass.

And it turned out all the questions presented similar conundrums. I knew who my favorite teacher was, but did I answer “Mrs. Klingenhofer” or simply “Klingenhofer?” Was my first car a “Volkswagen” or a “Veedub?” That sort of thing. So no matter how many times I tried to answer the questions – and, again, it will let me answer only so many times before locking me out – I couldn’t get it right.

So I called the IT help desk and asked them to unlock it and, after it was unlocked and I could sign in again, I reset all my challenge questions and made the answer to all of them “etaoin shrdlu,” the name of the first man to successfully pick his nose on the moon. Or something like that.

Do Not Phone

So awfully glad it’s Friday. Not for the usual reasons, though. I spent the last four days on the telephone returning calls from three-hundred customers who called in a panic when they received a letter from our office that told them how to report their continuing education courses when they renewed, only they thought it was telling them that they had to take one of the three classes given as an example in the letter. Utter pandemonium ensued. It could have been worse. More than ten thousand licensed professionals received that letter; I’m grateful that only three hundred called me.

The tsumani of calls seems to have passed. There were only a dozen or two callers yesterday, as opposed to the fifty or sixty I’ve been getting, and I expect the same or even less today. Fridays are usually slowest when it comes to phone calls. That’s one of the weirdest things about my job. I expected that Fridays would be busiest because, in my experience, that’s when everyone flakes off at their regular job. I sort of expected they’d be using their work phone and work computer to deluge me with requests, but that doesn’t happen. Maybe my impression of everyone flaking off to talk about the Packers game on Friday is mistaken.

Anyway, Happy Friday!

princess phone p

Dear Members of the Public: I know we in the service industry aren’t supposed to lecture you or complain about you, because the customer is always right and so on, and for the most part I can work with that, but I feel the need to vent on just one subject. I’ll only bring it up this once and I’ll never harp on you again if you’ll just STOP PEEING WHEN YOU’RE ON THE PHONE! I MEAN IT! Where’d you learn it was okay to do this? CUT IT OUT! Multitasking is a wonderful talent, but there are limits! Use some common courtesy! Do you pee while you’re talking to your mom? Wait, don’t answer that. I probably don’t want to know the answer.


Overheard at the office pot luck yesterday:

“How did you make these cream cheese roll-ups?”

“Well, I started by saying to my wife: ‘Honey, I need something for the pot luck at the office tomorrow.’ Then she said, ‘You should have told me that yesterday.’ Then we fought for about fifteen minutes. Then she got in the car and drove to the store, and the next morning there were cream cheese roll-ups in a Tupperware in the fridge.”

Unstuck in time

I had one of those weird what-day-is-it moments while we were in the middle of a dance lesson last night. I really, really thought it was Wednesday, somehow, even though we’ve had our lesson on Tuesday night for I don’t know how long. I don’t know when or how I convinced myself that it was not Tuesday but it must have happened after I left work, because my desk is surrounded by calendars and I’m constantly referring to my Outlook schedule so I don’t forget anything. When the bubble popped I felt well and truly bummed. Like, Damn! Now I have to do Wednesday over again!

Are You Following Me?

I grabbed my water bottle from the bottom drawer of my desk where I keep all my snacks stashed and headed for the break room to fill it up. As I turned into the hallway I could see there was a guy standing outside the door of the break room chatting with someone on his cell phone, and when he saw me he stepped into the room, apparently to get a little privacy, because when I followed him in he turned and headed to the far corner.

Unfortunately for him, that’s where I was headed, too. I like to give my bottle a rinse before I fill it up, and the sink is in that corner of the room. When I stepped up to the sink and turned on the tap, he shot me a quick look out of the corner of his eye, then stepped away, crossing to the other side of the room and facing the wall.

Now, I like to fill my bottle with cool, filtered water from a dispenser in the break room. And where do you suppose that dispenser is? It’s on the other side of the room, right next to the spot where the guy chatting on his cell phone was standing! It was one of those situations where you didn’t want to do what you’d always intended to do because it might make you look a little creepy, but that kind of thing has happened to me so often that I don’t even flinch at it any more. I walked right on over.

As I began to fill my bottle, the guy turned away from me as if he were going to keep on standing there talking, probably because he didn’t want to look like he was walking away from me every time I followed him to the next place I was going anyway. In another moment or two, though, he began to wander back to the corner of the room where the sink was. He probably figured I wouldn’t be headed back that way any time soon. I was half-tempted to go get a paper towel from the dispenser next to the sink to wipe my bottle down, but I settled for using my hand as a squeegee.