Diagnosis: Foot-in-Mouth Disease

My favorite teachers were always my art teachers, except for that one.  That one that I lamented to a classmate, “Mrs. Strickland is such a bitch – I can’t stand her and her stupid “art should always be beautiful” crap.  If you think art has to be beautiful, then you’re a moron who doesn’t know a damn thing about art.  Why doesn’t she go teach Hygiene or something?”

Then my classmate said, “Umm, you know she’s my mom, right?”

And that’s how I found out Emma was Mrs. Strickland’s daughter.

You know how much I just can’t stand to brag (all evidence to the contrary), but I’ve got an unparalleled knack for putting my foot in my mouth.  I don’t even really have to try that hard, it just sashays into any scene like 1950s Marlon Brando in a stained white t-shirt and starts smashing lightbulbs.

If you have something you care about, like and respect, please feel free to count on me to say the most awkward thing about it after having mistakenly thought we were on the same page about it.  Oh, you like Paris Hilton and named your baby after her?  How…interesting!  After I just spent ten minutes trashing her.

I used to try to backpedal when this happened, like I did with Emma when I’d responded to this mom business with, “Oh, uhh.  Well, I mean, she’s actually really nice!”

Even though Emma was only 15 years old at the time, she gave me that look of, “Don’t patronize me.  Just take your awkward medicine and live with how uncomfortable you just made both of us.”

It has taken me years to understand that look, that sometimes you just have to exist in a bubble of discomfort until it passes.

In a recent foot-in-mouth incident, I was forced to attend a seminar on healthy lifestyle habits that turned out to be one long sales pitch from a Real Housewives of Orange County-looking chiropractor who wanted to sell me magnetic shoe insoles to solve every health problem under the sun.

If a chiropractor has helped you in your life, that’s great.  I just don’t like being told that I’m going to learn about healthy lifestyle habits and then get the hard-sell on magnets – unless it’s that weird guy who’s on The History Channel all the time.  He’s like a train wreck I can’t look away from, like The Hogan Family after they replaced Valerie Harper with Sandy Duncan.

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The next day I walked into my office and someone asked how the seminar had gone.  My coworker butted in and he and I answered at exactly the same time, only he said:

“I was impressed.  It’s exactly what me and my wife need.  I signed us both up and we start on the whole regimen next week!”

And I said – at exactly the same time:

“It was some hard-sell, snake oil bullshit from a chiropractor who looked like a reject from the blow-up doll factory.  Yeah, no.  I didn’t sign up for her magic beans.”

I may have used air quotes around the words “magic beans” for effect.  Maybe (yes).

I can tell you, the ensuing silence clung to the air like a dog fart.  And not one of those dog farts from a beautiful dog.  It was a junkyard dog fart.  A fart from a dog that eats a steady diet of discarded, rotting mob victim-flesh and spent motor oil.  The kind of dog fart that makes you banish even a beloved dog from your dining room and think less of them as a family pet from that moment on.  A dog fart of destruction.

Did I immediately backpedal?  No – this time I didn’t.  Because I believed in every word I had just said.  I hadn’t said it to insult my coworker – I said it because I truly felt this magnet saleswoman was a scam artist and should be called out for it.  I had no idea he was going to barge into our conversation.  Nobody had even asked him his opinion to begin with.

So I let the dog fart sit in the room, and did nothing to dispel it.  I didn’t say, “Oh, I was just kidding!  I’ve actually heard great things about those magnet soles!” like I would have years ago.

Because sometimes you just have to sit with the discomfort and let it be uncomfortable.

As a lifelong codependent and people-pleaser, this can feel like the hardest thing in the world to do.  To let someone be mad at you and then just sit with it?  Not cow-tow to them to try to make things all better?  Not rush in to smooth things over?

It’s not your job to make everybody feel better.  Say it with me, out loud:

“It’s not your job to make everybody feel better.”

I’m not saying be rude – far from it.  Just stop making it your job to fix everything.  Be okay with the discomfort, and don’t change the subject to distract everyone from the discomfort.

Man, that Hogan Family went downhill after Valerie Harper got fired.

Everyone Who’s Ever Sold You Insurance is a Weirdo

Given my dirtbag upbringing, Lolita years, and eventual downward spiral of becoming a musician, I’ve spent a lot of time around weirdos and scumbags.

I’ve had to say, “Is this the bathroom door?” while pointing at a piece of moldy plywood that’s been propped up against a large hole in a wall.

I’ve had to say, “Cool python, Wack Max, but can you wait until after I leave to feed that rabbit to him?”

I’ve had to say, “Don’t mind me!” to a group of people shooting heroin in a kitchen so that I could reach into the fridge to grab a leftover rack of ribs.  Hey – they were from Bobby Rubino’s and I was really hungry from all that acid I had taken!

That being said…

Nothing could prepare me for the kind of weirdos that I would encounter in the years that I worked in insurance offices.

My truly fabulous mother-in-law just retired from the insurance business this month, so this one goes out to her.  Happy retirement, Patrice!  (She is the lone exception in the case of insurance weirdos.)

So!  Without further adieu, here is a non-exhaustive sampling of insurance coworker weirdos, because if I had to list all of them here, we would be here for five years still listing them off.  And I’m limiting it to coworkers, because if I even started to get into weird customers, this would go on for the rest of our lives.

Richie Sambora Guy:  This guy was not a fan of Bon Jovi – he was a fan of Richie Sambora, the guitar player from Bon Jovi.  His first day of work, he asked me, with his jaw clenched, if I thought Richie Sambora was “the most gifted guitar player of all time” so I, of course, said yes.  Because I could tell this guy was a *psycho*.  All he talked about, all day, every day, was how awesome Richie Sambora was and how unfair it was that Jon Bon Jovi got all the attention in the band.

When customers would come in and sit at his desk, he would casually ask, “So, what do you think about Richie Sambora?” and when they would say, “Who?  Is he an agent here?” or “He’s allright?” he would start flinging papers across his desk and stammering, “Well, I guess people are entitled to their own opinions!”

Old Woman Who 100% Stalked Me:  This woman not only rifled through my desk and my trashcan every night after I left work, listened in on my phone calls, and once asked me if she could go through my purse “out of curiosity”, but she used to peer into my car windows in the parking garage on her lunch break, and then come back into the office and question me about items that I had in my car.  “What’s with the frisbee I saw peeking out from under your jacket on the passenger side floorboard of your backseat?  And that phone bill has been sitting on your front seat for over a week now, I hope you don’t get a late fee.”  Good point, WEIRDO.  Who likes late fees, right?

Santana and Rob Thomas “Smooth” Woman:  Anytime this song would come on the radio, this woman would crank it up to 10 and angrily shush anyone who so much as uttered a sound for the duration of the song – including customers who were sitting at her desk asking questions about their homeowner’s insurance policy.  “Shhhhh!!!!” with a glare.  Every time it came on.  For two years.  When that song first came out, it was on like five times a day.

And speaking of!  Santana “Oye Como Va” Guy:  After a coworker who he didn’t like quit, this guy celebrated by pulling a Casio keyboard out of his desk drawer and playing Santana’s “Oye Como Va” on it, over and over.  A move I would have totally respected…

…except then he just started doing it anytime business was slow.  Every time he finished playing “Oye Como Va” he would say, “Would you rather hear some Billy Preston?”  Then I would say, “Yes!  Please!” then he would play “Oye Como Va” again.  (Please note, this was a completely separate insurance workplace and this guy was in no way affiliated with “Smooth” woman.)

Man Who Couldn’t Stop Talking About His Butthole and How Totally Not Gay He Was:  Within my first fifteen minutes at this job, the boss made sure to tell me, appropos of nothing, that his “butthole had a sign on it that said, “Exit Only!” and then laughed about it like the Joaquin Phoenix Joker for a full ten seconds before deadpanning, “I’m not gay.”

Then he reminded me of this butthole/not gay fact thirty minutes later.  And then another five times over the course of the morning.  I refused to laugh anytime he said it, prompting him to ask me where my “sense of humor was located.”

Had I thought of it at the time, I would have responded, “I would say your butthole, but I’ve heard that it’s “Exit Only.”

I worked at this office for half of one day before picking up my purse, pretending that I was just going to lunch, and then never returning.

Woman Who Looked Exactly Like Matilda The Hun from the Original G.L.O.W. Who Would Pick Up The Picture on My Desk of Me and My Sisters and Say The Filthiest Things Because She Didn’t Know That I Knew Enough Spanish to Know What She Was Saying:  I won’t even repeat the things she said.  They were straight-up, Larry Flynt would blush, absolute filth about what she wanted to do to me and my sisters.  She’d say this stuff and then lick her perpetually chapped, mustachioed lips and mouth-breathe at me, right at my desk, in my face. I never let on that I understood almost every word she said, because I did not want her to confuse this with “interest” on my part and then try to make me be her prison bitch. 

When she wasn’t standing at my desk, she used to stare at me from across the office while she squeezed Walgreens-brand petroleum jelly onto her finger out of a cap-less tube that she kept in a Ziploc bag, and then smear it on her mouth and go, “Mmmmm.”

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Come to think of it, I’d never seen her and Matilda the Hun in the same room at the same time…

Also, she had her car repossessed from our parking lot on her first day of work, but that’s really neither here nor there.  Just an item of interest, it being her first day and all, as she was yelling, “You’re lucky my gun is still in New York, pendejo!” to the finance guy on the phone.

Please feel free to share your workplace weirdos in the comments, and then we will all laugh at their expense because we’re petty and mean-spirited.  Or is that just me?

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Do you enjoy this crapola?  Click the Follow button if you do, and you’ll get a nifty email anytime I post this crapola.  If you don’t enjoy this crapola, might I recommend that you go into the insurance business?  You will meet some quality, non-weird people there.

“I’ve never bagged a babe.  I’m not a stud.” – Farmer Ted, Sixteen Candles

Nobody Cares What You Like

This is purely an old person “get off my lawn” discussion, but I am fascinated when I see kids get asked what they want to eat for dinner and then get cooked separate meals from everybody else at the table.

You know what we ate for dinner when I was a kid?  Whatever my mother was making that night.  If you had a dissenting opinion, you could feel free to either go hungry or arrange to eat at a friend’s house that night.

For instance, I don’t like ham.  Never have.  I think it tastes and has the texture of what I imagine human flesh carved up and served on a plate would taste like.  If I have to eat it, I will gag.  I will involuntarily heave.  I literally cannot force it down.  Growing up, one of my friends didn’t like ham, either.  So what did we do?  She and I drafted the following reciprocal agreement in order to address our shared issue:

If my mother was making ham, I would eat dinner at her house that night.  If her mother was making ham, she would eat dinner at my house that night.

I believe they call that “learning priceless problem-solving skills” and charge like $1,500 nowadays for a workshop to learn them.

Granted, we did have that one night where both of our mothers were coincidentally making ham, but that was the night we learned that sometimes life is just out to kick you in the taco and there’s nothing you can do about it.  Yet another life lesson!

I can tell you for damn sure what none of the mothers in my neighborhood were doing.  They weren’t cooking four different meals to suit everyone’s tastes each night.

I can’t even imagine how hard my mother would have laughed if I’d said, “Oh, hey.  I know you’ve been at work all day at your crappy, low pay, high stress job that you hate, and I know that you’re making sloppy joes for everyone else, standing in front of the stove still wearing your work clothes, but can you make me chicken fingers instead?  You know, just for me?”

You would still hear that laughter today, echoing through eternity, bending space and time in its wake.  I would have never lived that down.  That would be a story that was passed down to all future generations:

“Can you believe she thought I would make an entirely separate meal just for her?  Why stop there?  Why not ask for your own castle and unicorn?!  Her own dinner!  Sure thing, Jackie O!  I’ll get right on that!”

Same goes for stopping at multiple fast food places.  If I’d said to my mother, “I know everyone else is getting Burger King, but can you make an extra stop so I can get some Wendy’s?” she would have just lost control of the car and driven into a lake, she would have become so delirious with laughter.

You knew better than to complain about your lack of fast food choices.  You were lucky when you got fast food at all, and not the frozen cube steaks and sauerkraut Mom forgot to take out to thaw that morning.  You’re gonna get picky about the fast food?  Oh, that’s rich.  Why not get picky about free candy on Halloween while you’re at it?  Get picky about the denomination of bills in a birthday card!  But I wanted fives!!!

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It wasn’t because my mother was a harsh parent – far from it.  It’s because dinner was an event that was grounded in facts.  Dinner = whatever Mom was making that night.  That was a fact.  The idea that children might have been permitted to have an opinion on the matter was totally unheard of.  It never even crossed my mind.  Did I have an opinion on whether she should pay the property taxes quarterly or once a year?  Nope!  Because my opinion wasn’t relevant to the matter.

The same way that your opinion is irrelevant as to whether the sky is blue or the sun rises in the east.  If you have issues with these things, you better find a way to deal with them, because the sun ain’t rising in the west just for you, babycakes.  You’re not entitled to have the world skitter around your likes and dislikes because, I can assure you, absolutely nobody is as concerned about your likes and dislikes as you are.

If you care 100%, then the rest of the world cares negative 500,000,000%.

Nobody cares what you like – and we all need to come to terms with that.

Like Mom used to tell me, “You are so special…” and then she’d pause and say “…juuuust like everybody else.”

That’s not only accurate, but will sure as hell keep you humble, too.

Sometimes you have to eat something for dinner that you’re not crazy about.  What can I tell you?  Life is hard, kid.  It’s one meal.  Either force it down or load up on side dishes that night.

Now get off my lawn.