Saturday, February 21, 2009

Messy Cars

Last week I decided to become a Clean Car Person. It's a lofty goal, as any stranger who has glanced at my backseat could tell you.

I know of four groups of Messy Car People. One group is the Just Plain Sloppy. The second group is Moms--women who used to keep clean cars before resigning themselves to a higher calling. The third group consists of Students and Small Apartment Dwellers.
Historically I have belonged to this third category. When I was going to school full-time and working at Olive Garden the rest of the time, my backseat served as a library/wardrobe. When I later moved into an apartment with a startling lack of closet space, I would actually bring items from the apartment to store in my car. Pete would ask, "Where are our photo albums?" and I would answer, "Left side of the trunk towards the back." (This is a lie. Pete never asks to look at our photo albums.)

The fourth and final group is Randy Peterkort. There may be others who have reached this sophisticated level of messiness, but he is the only one I have met in person. I once spent a road trip testing 75+ pens for ink and reading aloud from 25+ Indiana antique store pamphlets. In the end he reluctantly agreed to part with 30-some inkless pens and four pamphlets (duplicates). To reward my efforts I selected treats from his dashboard candy shop; to rejuvenate my intellect (dulled by the ink testing and and pamphlet reading) I studied the Constitution of the United States. Randy has a copy in the middle counsel, next to the Declaration of Independence and a back-stash of Tizzlers.

Now, I am not choosing to be a Clean Car Person because I think it is intrinsically better than being a Messy Car Person; on the contrary, I think there are many seasons in a person's life when it isn't logical to keep a clean car. It would have been inefficient to continuously stock and clear my car of books, aprons and ties. For what, a clean car while I slept? Cleanliness and organization only makes sense to the point that the efforts don't outweigh the benefits.
Moms and other busy people who keep a clean car may be serving their aesthetic visual preferences (which is right and fine), but they aren't necessarily more productive for doing so. And I can't think of any reason why being comfortable in order is better than being comfortable in mess. Just think of all the times you could have used the Declaration of Independence while driving! I can't think of any, so I appreciate your help illustrating my point.

The "cleaner is not intrinsically better" truth also applies to living rooms, closets, drawers and desks. The one exception is a clean kitchen, which is superior in every way to a messy kitchen. I definitely want to become a Clean Kitchen Person.

I am choosing to keep a clean car because I enjoy a clean car and because it makes sense in this season. A clean car lends a certain calmness and a feeling of put-togetherness that (though perhaps artificial) feels nice. A clean car is a special kind of luxury, one I can afford at this point in my class-less, olive garden-less, child-less life. Also, I am a part-time service rep and an online student, which makes a clean car one of the only luxuries I can afford.

Next week: "Becoming a Rich Person."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Customer is Sometimes a Manipulative Liar


Q: Suppose you check into a hotel for a three night stay. On the second morning you receive a receipt under the door, signifying the end of your stay. What do you do?

a. Call the front desk and say, "I'm supposed to be checking out tomorrow, not today."

b. Pack your bags, go to work, and tell your boss (who set up the reservation), "They kicked me out of the hotel!"

Q: Suppose your employee shows up to work with his luggage and says that the hotel "kicked him out." What do you do?

a. Ask the employee, "What happened, exactly?"

b. Call the hotel and throw a righteous fit at 8:45 in the morning.

Q: Suppose the front desk representative explained that the hotel did not "kick" the guest out, though did put a bill under the guest's door, due to the (apparent) incorrect departure date. The incorrect departure date could be the fault of either you (the boss who set up the reservation) or the fault of the reservations office; regardless, the guest approved the (incorrect) departure date at the time of check-in, and the hotel is more than happy to extend the stay of its guests. What do you, the boss, do?

a. Recognize the misunderstanding, apologize for your employee's rather embarrassing and dramatic response, request that another night be added to the reservation, and assure that your employee can return to the same room.

b. Email a hotel manager and express your outrage over this situation in which, essentially, nothing happened.


If you answered mostly (a), you are a reasonable person who plays by the logical rules of goods and services. If you answered mostly (b), congratulations! You make a sucker out of everyone in the (a) category, and win $20 off your nightly rate.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Lily, Jee and Pee Pee

Here is the thing with children: they don't pretend to like you more than they like you.

Lily likes me fine, but she loves Pete. I mean, I monitored my phone the entire day that her mom was in labor with her, I baby-sat just so that I could spend time with her, I crocheted a blanket for her birthday and bought her a valentine's day gift, but you know: whatever. Pete has a BlackBerry with some very entertaining ring tones, and I can't compete with that, apparently. Which is fine, really. It's fine!

One of three things is going on here:

1. Lily, in an act of solidarity with me, is buttering up Pete, knowing that he needs an extra push before having kids. This would explain why she crawls out of my lap, climbs into Pete's lap, and leans in for a kiss. In fact, if Pete agrees to having a child anytime in the next five years, I will credit one year old Lily.

2. Lily has a crush on Pete. This would also explain the kissing.

3. Lily somehow knows that I monitored my phone the entire day that Lily's mom was in labor. Lily senses that I was excited about her before I even knew who she was, before I even discovered that she is exceptionally cute and charming and funny. And while she (I'm sure) appreciates this level of unconditional love, it probably makes her feel good to have earned Pete's affection, which is solely based on the fact that she is cute and charming and funny.

Lily said my name first: "G." Or: "Jee." I prodded her for weeks to say my name, then one day when I wasn't at the house, her dad found her walking around with a toy phone saying, "Hi, Jee. Hi, Jee." Ever sinse then she has greeted me with a "Hi, Jee." Pete has never encouraged Lily to say his name, which he reminded me of several times after we walked in her house last week and she called out, "Hi, Pete!"

In the car on the way home, Pete said, "You know, we don't even know what "Jee" really means. I mean, I suppose she could be saying your name. But did you notice how she said my name just at the sound of my voice? She hadn't even seen me yet! And I don't think she ever spent an evening dancing around, saying your name over and over, did she?"

This is why I couldn't be happier about Lily's new nickname for Pete.

"Hi, Pee Pee."
"No, Lily, my name is 'Pete.'"
"Hi, Pee Pee!"

It sure does curb the jealousy pangs.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I'm Cold.

Yesterday, in response to my continuous whining and chattering about the cold, Pete suggested that every fall I make the following announcement:

"Pete, I would like you to know that I am going to be cold for the next five months. If at any point you are wondering whether or not I am comfortable, you may assume that I am not."

I am cold from roughly October 16 to March 29, and sometimes well into April. I wake up cold, I get out of the shower cold, I drive to work cold, I make dinner cold, I go to bed cold. My feet are cold, my arms are cold, my fingernails are cold. Even now at work, with no one else here to turn the heat down from the 79 degrees that I have cranked, I am cold.

The reason I can be cold in a 79 degree room is because winter emanates from my insides; it settled there when it settled in West Michigan. Winter is stored in my belly and slowly released in a steady stream of discomfort. While I may be able to layer against the Michigan winter, there is nothing I can do about the winter inside. Sometimes tea helps, but only in the temporary way that a cough drop soothes a sore throat.

And so I find myself, every year, in this race to cure winter. I make lists of the things that I like about winter (which is actually what I am supposed to be doing right now), I try to meditate in a frigid car the way a monk meditates after setting himself on fire, and I lean heavily on my fantasy life, which these days always includes a palm tree.

As for the ultimate cure (moving south), I am starting to suspect that God has me and the rest of the north under a curious delusion in order to keep us here. Case a point: Why haven't all the homeless people in Chicago walked to Miami by now? You see, there's a disease called winter and a delusion that keeps us bound to it. So we just hang around here and talk about the problem of winter for five months, until summer comes and everyone instantly starts complaining about the humidity, like idiot goldfish.

However, I feel I am on the cusp of a breakthrough, that I just may rid myself of this delusion in time to save myself. Though I may love you, I probably will not be able to help you. I imagine all southerners make a pact with God in order to maintain the weight and balance of the globe, so that they can continue living winterless lives while the north slips on its front porch in early December and falls into a black hole called Cold. And I plan to keep that pact if it is a necessary precondition.

Pete, just in case you've forgotten: I'm cold.