Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jump Me, Please

Raised by an amateur mechanic, I’ve managed to pick up enough about cars to get myself out of most precarious vehicle oriented situations.  I was required to pass my step-dad’s personalized test before I could even consider going to the DMV to get licensed.  I had to identify all major parts of the engine, and perform basic tasks that could keep me from being stranded or allow shop mechanics to screw me over: change the oil, change a tire (Yes, I was timed; I grew up in Nascar country.), pop the clutch, jump start a dead battery, stop using the emergency brake, add water to the radiator, and siphon gas, among other things.  As a direct result of spending my youth as an assistant grease monkey, I appear to have developed some over-confidence in my ability to handle my car.  I mean, sure I can bleed new brake pads; I did it once when I was ten.  I admit to being a fairly crappy driver, but I don’t get too worked up over vehicular maintenance.  It was an inconvenience, but not a surprise when my clutch went out.  I knew I needed a new battery this year, and I was pleased to have gotten two more years than warranted out of the battery in place.  I can barely work an oven, but I can get by with my car.

The last time I changed the battery, I was in college, and I spent a month parking on hills and popping the clutch; while I could live with a dead battery, I could not foresee a month without beer.  The parking tickets I acquired cost more than twice the price of the new battery and the coat hanger I used to anchor it in place. 

This year, with winter approaching and the temperature dropping, I knew the time for a new battery was imminent.  A coworker had to jump my car a week prior, but there was frost on the windshield and 3am.  I figured if it stayed above freezing, my battery would make it another week or so, and if not, I’d just pop the clutch or get a jump.  In short, I saw no reason to rush out to buy a battery right away.  I drove to Raleigh to pick up my new motorcycle, and spent Saturday night driving home.  I realize that I’ve already admitted to being a poor driver on four wheels, so the next logical step isn’t typically to reduce the number of wheels by half, but that’s exactly what I’ve done. 

On a predictable stop for gas, my battery had finally had enough of the cold and my insistence on pushing it to its very limit.  Stranded in an apparently less-than-lucrative portion of an unfamiliar town, I considered my options.  Pushing my pickup and popping the clutch was out of the question; I was on flat ground with about 40 feet of space, hauling an additional 450+ pounds of motorcycle, and I didn’t want to risk jarring the ramshackle strapping I’d rigged.  My jumper cables were about half a foot too short traversing the distance between the motorcycle battery and the truck battery.  My only remaining option was to enlist a stranger for assistance.  Crap.  I find the damsel in distress routine abhorrent, and I despise asking for help in almost any capacity, let alone requesting aid from a complete stranger.  Luckily, this distressed damsel merely needed the hero or heroine to park their running vehicle near mine and pop the hood.  The most daunting task at hand was finding a willing participant.  Historically, I’ve had no problem helping out others in this exact scenario, so I felt confident I’d have little issue and I’d quickly be on my way.  I was wrong.

Crappy Samaritan #1:
The only other vehicle pumping gas was a short bus on an F450 frame, which I knew would easily suit my needs.  On the side of the bus was a Christian church logo, and well-dressed ladies were milling about, presumably grateful to stretch their legs.  While my experience with Christianity has been somewhat precarious, I know Christians are typically good people who are willing to help folks in need.  Furthermore, this is a group of women, so I wouldn’t have to endure a potential sleazebag staring at my breasts, talking to me as if the presence of ovaries is indicative of mental retardation, and insisting on hooking up the cables himself, risking destroying both batteries, as I’d log since removed the red plastic cover labeling the positive terminal in a fit of rage and frustration inspired by an ill fitting starter connector.  Clearly, this appeared to be an ideal arrangement. 

I approached the group with my best disarming smile and a positive attitude.  Despite the fact that I knew full well the battery in their van held twelve perfectly appropriate volts, I asked, “Hi, ladies!  What kind of battery do you have in there?”  I briefly explained my situation, and politely asked for their help.

“I’m sorry, but we can’t help you.  We can’t do things like that.  If we had a man here, it would be different.”  Excuse me?  She seriously just implied they were incapable of doing something as the direct result of the lack of a phallus present.  Just exactly what role does a penis play in using jumper cables?  I’ve never seen a penis with thumbs.  How would it reach the battery at all?  Obviously, these ladies are accustomed to much different penises than the ones in which I’ve been exposed. 

Despite my irritation at having my biggest pet peeve displayed shamelessly, I forced a smile and tried to keep my demeanor light.  I did not say, “If you can’t pop a hood and identify the battery of a vehicle, ANY vehicle, you shouldn’t be driving it.”  I did say, “Actually, ladies, I was raised by a mechanic and am about one bad date away from lesbianism by default.  I shouldn’t have an issue with it.”  Their mouths literally hung open as I shut mine.  Apparently, I’d struck their exposed right-wing republican nerve just as strongly as they had tampered with my girl power nerve.  Luckily, another car drove up at that moment.  As I scurried away, I said, “Thanks anyway, and have a safe trip!”

Crappy Samaritan #2:
I walked toward a gold sedan occupied by a lone female.  When I saw her, I was immediately relieved, thinking I’d found another chick on an independent journey.  She looked up as I was approaching, still about 20 feet away.  Her eyes grew huge, a look of sheer panic formed on her face, and she began to frantically wave me away.  I don’t know what the hoodlums of Burlington, NC typically look like, but where I come from, they do not wear college sweatshirts with pink lettering, cowboy boots, or braided pigtails.  I had no clocks or dollar signs hanging from thick chains, had no drawings of weapons adorned on my clothes, wore no ill fitting pants I’d have to hold up while running from the law, did not flash any gang signs, nor did I refer to anyone via racial slur.  This woman’s reaction appeared to be a minor infraction that I could easily overlook.  I slowed my walk and held up the jumper cables to give her the opportunity to scan her memory and identify the object as a non-weapon, which proved only mildly effective.

She cracked her window enough to facilitate speaking, but limit other interaction.  This woman obviously still viewed me as a threatening creature, a position in which I am unaccustomed to portraying.  Safety is important, and while she may be a bit dramatic, I can’t totally blame her wariness merely because I knew I didn’t want to stab her.  I gave my best disarming smile for the second time in two minutes.  “Hi!  Don’t worry; I’m not looking for money, food, or booze.  I have a simple dead battery situation.  Is there any way you can give me a jump?  You can stay in your car if it makes you more comfortable.” 

My change in approach appeared to do nothing to mollify her anxiety or convince her I had no intention of burglarizing, raping, or murdering her.  She moved her mouth toward the crack in the window to tell me, “No, I can’t help you.  I have a rental car.”  A rental car?  Last I checked, having a rental car is a rare opportunity in which you treat a car as delicately as a superhero/superheroine treats his or her crime fighting machine.  You are supposed to abuse rental cars.  One may offer to jump start a hobo’s shopping cart of bizarrely accumulated items or take one’s frustrations out by beating on the radiator or redlining the tachometer.  It makes sense to spend a few extra dollars on insurance, as you may very well destroy the vehicle by the way you treat it, given those who have come before you did the same.  This lady was either not well versed in the proper mistreatment of rental cars, or continued to believe I had nefarious intentions and was conjuring up lame excuses. 

“I understand, ma’am.  Is there any way you can stick around until I get my car jumped?  I don’t know this city, and it doesn’t look like the best area.”  I could practically see her imagining my team of merry hooligans arriving to harvest her organs for sale on the black market.  If actual trouble did arise, this woman would be utterly useless.  “Never mind.  I’ll be fine.  Thanks for your time.” 

Crappy Samaritan #3:
A gentleman arrived in a jeep and I approached him, jumper cables in hand, and asked him for assistance.  He had on a camouflage hat and looked the part of a country boy.  “I’m sorry.  I have a weak battery,” he answered.

“Okay, but your alternator is functioning, right?” No, sir, you have a weak IQ.  NEXT!

Crappy Samaritan #4:
I waited in the store for another car to arrive.  A well-dressed man entered, and I asked again for help.   He told me, “No, my car isn’t really made to jump off other cars.” 

“Oh, is it a hybrid?” I inquired. 

“No, it’s a Corolla.”  NEXT!

Crappy Samaritans #5-7:
“No.”  By this point, I’d quit thanking people for their time to hear my plea.  These folks were either idiots or jerks; sometimes it is hard to tell. 

Good Samaritan #1:
A woman walked into the store while I was asking two of the last potential do-gooders, and she had heard the denials I’d received.  She approached me and asked me if I was a student at the college advertised on my shirt.  I told her I was a graduate, as was she.  She said she’d be happy to jump start my truck so I could be on my way.  I may not be actively using the degree I’d earned in my current career, but I’m pleased that it is now officially more than an incredibly expensive conversational piece.

We walked outside, and I noticed the church van had returned.  The leader of the group approached me and told me they’d initially left, but decided to come back and wait until I was on my way to prevent any danger, which promoted them in my mind to Good Samaritan status after all.  My fellow alumna and I were able to successfully jump start my truck in a matter of seconds, earning a literal round of applause from our audience of crusading ladies.  No penis was necessary, and I made it home safely without turning off the engine. 

I bought a new battery first thing the next morning, and was even able to recycle the coat hanger holding the old battery in place by adjusting it to fit the new one.  Next time, I’ll replace the battery when it starts showing signs of trouble.  Of course, I could just park on hills for a while… 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Meeting the Parents

I’m dating a man who comes from a more impressive background than mine, at least on paper.  My boyfriend, Alex, hails from a family of physicians, lawyers, and culinary experts, which is a far cry from my motley family.  In my family, I’m one of the few lucky enough to have the opportunity to earn a degree of higher education, although my generation and those younger are starting to up the ante.  Inevitably, Alex and I reached the “meet the parents” stage of our relationship, which is intimidating and daunting at best.  Alex arranged a nice dinner, in which we would be accompanied by his mom, a culinary professor and celebrated food critic, and his step-dad, an owner of multiple restaurants.  The closest anyone in my family comes to reaching culinary professional status is a truck driver who delivers frozen food to restaurants (I can get you a killer deal on bulk frozen hot dogs!). 

I walked into that restaurant, trying not to show my trepidation of the unblemished surroundings.  I held my head high, I looked the part, and I’d done my research (The protocol is to use the utensils from the outside in.).   Much like Alex, his family turned out to be wonderful people.  They were great conversationalists, highly interesting, and far from pretentious.  My nerves calmed shortly after the introductions and the first glass of wine. 

It didn’t take particularly long to discover how truly out of my element I was; actually, it took the arrival of my Caesar salad.  It arrived, looking delicious and immaculate, with the exception of two thin strips of an unidentified substance placed in an X directly on top, as if it was mocking my inferior knowledge by marking the unknown.  I leaned toward Alex, attempting to smile sweetly and asked in a hushed voice, “What the hell is that?”  He told me they were anchovies, and I suppose my next inquiry was written on my face because I needn’t ask.  He explained they were usually in the dressing, but these anchovies are much fresher.  I’ve never claimed to be an aficionado at fine dining, and this was totally new to me.  He told me I am “precious,” which he says all the time, and I’m confident is his way of saying, “you’re mildly retarded by my standards and I find it amusing.” 

Next, I tried an artichoke, which I was certain I could handle without incident.  I was very wrong.  All artichokes I had encountered previously were on a pizza, in a dip, or in a jar, so I had actually only had artichoke hearts and had never seen a full artichoke in all its glory.  Confident in my fine dining endeavor, I put an entire leaf in my mouth and chewed.  And chewed.  And chewed some more.  Oh, hell.  There was no way I was going to be able to swallow this thing.  I tried to bite it into smaller increments so I could swallow the leaf, but that was unsuccessful.  I tried to chew it into a compressed ball to get it down, but then I imagined it springing open once I swallowed, leading to an airway occlusion, a raucous scene, and a blatant display of my ineptitude.  Furthermore, an ambulance would likely be called, and my own coworkers would show up to my aid; not only would I be an embarrassment to my boyfriend, but I’d never hear the end of it at work.  I decided my best course of action was to discreetly spit it into my napkin and hope no one noted my incompetence.  I thought I’d gotten away with it, until I saw Alex chuckling in my periphery. 

I ate a good portion of my pasta without any major glitches, and Alex’s step-dad offered to let me try his quail, which I’d only had once before and was littered with shotgun pellets.  He placed the leg on my plate, which was no more than two inches long.  I made a valiant effort at proper etiquette, with a failed attempt at cutting the meat off the bone with utensils.   I suppose my furrowed brow displayed my frustration with the damn bird, because Alex’s step-dad said, “Tiffany, it’s okay.  Just pick it up and eat it.”  I did as the man said, and as it turns out, quail is mighty tasty, despite the fact I don’t possess the good manners to eat it correctly.

Once the dinner was over, I rose to say my goodbyes and express my gratitude at meeting these fine people, when I saw a chewed up ball of artichoke leaf on the floor near my foot.  Once I got a good view of it, I was damn glad I didn’t swallow it, as I was more certain than ever it would have caused a medical emergency.  I kicked it under the table before anyone else saw the evidence and made a silent vow to myself to gain some class. 

The next day I called my mom to tell her about my fine dining experience.  In between fits of hysterical laughter, she told me about having dinner with some of the highballers in my dad’s family when she was younger.  At the age of 19, my mom had never had shrimp, so she had no idea if she liked it.  My dad’s family insisted that she try the cocktail shrimp, and she was trying to display an heir of classiness, much like I was.  After her shrimp encounter, my dad’s family asked her how she liked it.  She told them, “I don’t think I care for shrimp.  It was awfully crunchy.”  Similar to how I now know not to try to eat an entire artichoke leaf, my mom learned to peel shrimp before she eats it.  My mom told me they never held the incident against her, and I’m pretty confident Alex’s family won’t either. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Stuff Me When I'm Dead

Luckily for me, I was raised in a family that does not shy away from atypical or taboo conversational topics.  Even more luckily for me, my family is interesting and full of diverse characters; among others, my family consists of a preacher, various motorcyclists, a bank robber, a drug addict, a blind albino, a paraplegic, a hypochondriac, a schizophrenic, an amateur chef, a dentist, and a former fugitive, as well as many people who probably shouldn’t be allowed access to firearms (I have an uncle who shot himself in the foot).  As for myself, I’m a paramedic.  My family never fails to keep me entertained and grounded.  

A few years ago, there was a rash of rapid fire deaths in the family, giving one particular year a theme.  On the bright side, as a direct result of my gothic stage in high school and college, I had to do very little shopping for funeral attire.  My family is huge, so we’ve got some experience in funerals, and we were really starting to get the hang of this funeral thing after so much exposure in such a short period of time.  We may not have totally put the fun in funeral, but we did have an evening enhanced by White Russians, that led to my aunt yelling “Who’s your daddy?!” complete with a reenactment of some of our lesser seen relatives.  Classy, I know. 

Once the tears dried following the last of four funerals in as many months, the inevitable topic of what we wish to be done with our remains when the time comes was brought up.  My aunt Bo, who has always had a flair for drama, wishes for a full funeral and burial, complete with flowers and weeping friends and family, “and you bitches better not bury me in anything tacky.”  My mom is indifferent to the ceremonial particulars, stating simply that she wants to be cremated, “and don’t you dare put me in a nursing home before it happens.  Just take me in the backyard and shoot me.”  I want any of my viable organs to be donated to anyone who may be able to get a little more use out of them and the remainder of my body to be donated to science, specifically The Body Farm in Knoxville, TN. 

My cousin Morgan, however, does not feel restrained by the pull of society.  Frankly, she never has, and I admire her brazen disregard for practicality or tradition.  My favorite fashion accessory in history was the ever tasteful grill seen in all of her smiling prom photos.  Morgan has a special request: “I want to be stuffed.” Naturally, this unusual remark caught our attention.  She tells us that she wants to be posed like a bear with her arms up and teeth bore in a snarl, frozen mid-attack for eternity.  She appears to have given this topic a fair amount of thought.  She would even like us to record her voice with threats before she dies, so that we can pose her above people while they’re sleeping and really freak them out, but the voice recording was only an added “bonus.” 

Obviously, this is going to take some time and effort to arrange, as this is an atypical request; luckily, she’s young and healthy, so we have plenty of time.  Being the good, loving cousin I am, I put my research skills to use.  I was in college at the time, so I used the campus library to peruse books on taxidermy.  Most of the librarians probably weren’t terribly surprised at this particular subject, as I was frequently there and researching books on death and forensics, but I received more than one raised eyebrow.   The only real fruit of my library research was learning that human taxidermy is not legal in this country, which makes little sense to me seeing as how embalming and plasticization is perfectly legal.   

I made an inquiry to one of my anthropology professors well known for his expertise in animal carcasses; he had confessed to us he was responsible for the “no road kill in the break room refrigerator” rule, as there was a time in which it was not an uncommon sight, and some folks were displeased to see a dead raccoon next to their yogurt.  (He was one of my favorite professors, and not merely because he assigned a project in which I took home a tibia of a deer that led to my roommate questioning my sanity when I walked through the threshold wielding it like a bat over my shoulder.)  Despite my professor’s extensive experience, he was at a loss. 

The internet, not the most highly accredited source in empirical research, proved much more helpful.  Apparently, for an extra fee, you can have a body shipped to Mexico, where they’ll do pretty much anything for tacos and maybe some clean water.  Excellent news, and the conundrum is solved!

It was my turn to write a poem to another member of my family, as per our Christmas tradition, and this seemed the perfect topic.  Some families have elaborate meals; we make fun of each other in sadly prosaic rhyme. 

I present to you Morgan’s Christmas Poem of 2005:

Stuff Me When I’m Dead

I’ve told you once,
I’ve told you twice.
Taxidermy
Is not very nice.

She’s my cousin,
You heard what I said.
Morgan wants
To be stuffed when she’s dead.

Kept in a closet
And saved for a scare.
I’ll be the one
Who fixes her hair.

We’ll record her voice
Before she’s dead,
Then place her over
Someone in a bed.

It’s no wonder
We all think she’s crazy;
Her afterlife plans
Are a bit hazy.

In fact, I think
It’s against the law,
But that’s never
Stopped us at all.

Whatever the cost,
This is her wish.
Morgan will be
Stuffed like a fish.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My mom might be the worst forensic investigator ever.

My mom is the prime candidate from whom I inherited my strong stomach and possibly unhealthy interest in things of a macabre nature. During my youth, she and I spent more than a few Friday nights eating dinner in front of the TV watching VHS copies of Faces of Death, which could only be rented at the local video store with a slightly unconventional “back room.” As a mother daughter team, we occasionally perused the photos displayed on Rotten.com, studying various degrees of carnage with less trepidation than morbid fascination. In my teenage years, when I opted for a combined gothic and punk rock style, my mother handled my stylistic deviation with grace and once even applied pink streaks to her hair to show solidarity.

In adulthood, I’ve opted to use my powers of the gruesome persuasion for good instead of evil; I studied forensics in college and am now a paramedic, as opposed to a serial killer. I think serial killing would be far too much manual labor, plus it would be impossible to have to keep it all a secret. I know from my studies and a brief obsession with forensic television shows and books that it is shockingly difficult to completely dispose of a body and forensic evidence, so I’d likely get caught, and you probably can’t check out gross stuff online with your mom when you’re on death row. Furthermore, I’d be pretty pissed off if I had a biohazard on my Chuck Taylors to deal with. Most importantly, while my mom and I may have bizarre interests in the obscene, neither one of us have the moral ambiguity to do horrible things.

A few years ago, the sudden and mysterious disappearance of a local young man named Kyle Fleischmann who appeared to have a bright future ahead of him made national headlines. It was a tragedy that has left many people with a plethora of unanswered questions and inspired a brief frenzy of public interest in local crime. Naturally, my mom was no exception.

About a year after Mr. Fleischmann vanished, I received a text message urging me to call my mom immediately. My mom answered my phone call with no salutation and a serious tone, “I FOUND KYLE.” First of all, I’d like to point out it’s a little jacked up that my mom calls him by his first name, as if they’re old buddies, when in fact, they’ve never met. Secondly, I’m no better; I knew exactly what she was talking about because Mr. Fleishmann’s disappearance had been the topic of several of our discussions throughout the year. Thirdly, what the crap? The probability various search parties have missed clues of his disappearance, and yet my mom has happened upon him seems incredibly low.

“I think I’m gonna need you to clarify that a bit, Mom.”

“Seriously, I found Kyle, and he’s not looking too good.” As a person with a confirmed overactive imagination, several scenarios ran through my mind:

Scenario one: My mom has lost her damn mind. She is hallucinating as a result of acute psychosis or psychotropic drugs, although she is well past her years of experimentation. This one ends with my mom locked in a mental institution, and it seems fairly unlikely.

Scenario two: My mom actually happened upon and identified Kyle Fleishmann, and he’s either dead, horribly drug addled, or an amnesiac, none of which would have prompted my mom to send me a text message prior to contacting emergency services. Unless she thinks texting me qualifies as contacting emergency services, and as a result she would possibly still qualify for a vacation in a state sponsored mental ward. This also seems unlikely.

Scenario three: My mom has found something gruesome and her own overactive imagination went into overdrive. This seems plausible, considering she almost shot me point-fucking-blank at 1 am once when I came home from college, thinking I was an intruder with a key despite the fact that I contend that I informed her of my plans in advance. To her credit, she was up all night watching scary movies with my younger cousins, but I still do not believe this is an excuse for almost murdering your only child.

“Can I get you to be a little more specific?”

“Well, I went to my boyfriend’s work off of the BFR, and you know what kind of stuff goes on around the BFR. He had told me there was a bag of something decomposing down the road, so I thought I would be a good citizen and go check it out. I looked in the bag and it stinks and has maggots and everything! Something is definitely dead, and I’m pretty sure it’s Kyle. Do you think I should call the police?”

This only takes me a second to mull over. An adult corpse wouldn’t fit into a standard garbage bag. A killer would have to be a complete moron to dispose of a body in this manner. Lots of people in that area walk around at all hours, so it likely would have been seen. I know for a fact people in the ghetto have a tendency to call 911 for the most mundane of reasons, so something in a state of advanced decay probably has already been dealt with by the authorities. Decay found in urban areas is typically animal remains. My mom has a rather intrepid imagination, and this is probably a whole bowl full of nothing blown out of proportion.

“If you think you should call the police, by all means, do so. I seriously doubt that is necessary, though. Do what you think is right.”

“But I FOUND KYLE.”

“Then call the police, but use the non emergency line.” Do normal people have these kinds of conversations with their parents? I wouldn’t know what it’s like to hail from normal people, so I can’t comment on how normal parental conversations traverse.

“I don’t want to be the crazy lady who calls the police over some crap.” Calling one’s daughter to report a possible murder is clearly a much saner alternative. “I don’t want to ignore a potential crime scene, either. Can’t you just drive the ambulance over and check it out?”

This actually seems pretty viable until I consider I haven’t managed to convince my partner that I’m not a total weirdo yet. I’m sure seeing me fascinated and hovering over a smelly pile of bones, goo, and maggots is totally going to make him trust me to have his back when we respond unarmed to a location where people routinely shoot each other. We don’t actually have any written rules prohibiting us from investigating dead things, but I’d only been there a year and I didn’t want to be the one responsible for the creation of such documentation. “It doesn’t seem like it’s going to get any more dead by tomorrow, so I’ll drive over on my day off to take a look.”

One look in the bag the next day reveals a set of hip bones far too small and quadrupedal to be human, showing signs of advanced arthritis, indicating old age. The level of decay and insect activity puts it at about 5-7 days post-mortem, without referencing my old textbooks. A quick peek further in the bag to the skull confirms we have a dead, rotting canine corpse with enough advanced age to have lost several teeth in life. While this is obviously not the best or most ethical way to dispose of the remains of a family pet, I’m confident no serious crime has been committed. I tried to let my mom down easy, “Mom, you found an old, dead dog.”

“Well, damn. I really thought it was Kyle.”

About a year and a half goes by without any public knowledge of headway being made in the case. I get another phone call from my mom, and she starts the conversation seriously: “I found Kyle again. For real this time.” She begins to tell me how she found several marijuana plants and some grisly remains in the woods near her work. As an office manager of a company that makes bathtubs, I’m not quite sure why she was perusing the woods around her office, but I let that one slide. She took a picture of the remains, part of a lumbar vertebral column and part of a pelvis, on her phone and sent it to me.

Photo courtesy of Mom.

I responded via text message: Momma, I think that’s a deer that’s been dead for quite a while.

She immediately calls me with an exasperated and incredulous tone, “But how do you know it’s a deer and not Kyle from a phone picture? There wasn’t even a head!”

“I studied bones in college. Surely you remember me leaving home after high school and winding up with a science degree. I don’t need high resolution when it’s that blatant. At the very least, it’s definitely not human.” I begin to tell her how the hip bones are completely inappropriate for a human, but she is no longer interested. I offer to come look at the remains, but she’s apathetic. She doesn’t even suggest I bring the ambulance with lights and sirens blaring to investigate.

“FINE! It wasn’t Kyle this time, but I’m gonna find that guy.” The police force and citizens can rest assured; my mom is on the case!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

My neighbor thinks I'm crazy

I have a neighbor that thinks I'm crazy, due to two incidents in which he may have viewed my actions completely out of context and the fact that I come from a long line of women endowed with an element of ridiculousness.

Incident #1: I'm sitting on the porch of my apartment at 1 AM reading a book and enjoying an adult beverage, when I see out of the corner of my eye an unidentified shiny object moving slowly near the next alcove over. I try to ignore the object, telling myself it is of no consequence to me, but as a person with a confirmed overactive imagination, I begin the inevitable process of envisioning the myriad of things this object could be. I imagine scenarios in which it is an alien, a robot, and an animal in distress, among other things. I take my dog out, so I can get a better look from afar, and my sweet puppy sees the unidentified object and barks at it. Completely discarding the fact my dog barks at empty boxes and bags, I took this as a sign that I absolutely must investigate further. After all, it is shiny and I'm pretty much always attracted to and distracted by shiny things. What if this object presents a hazard to myself and those around, and I am the lone person who can prevent calamity? One can simply not sit idly by during a situation as daunting as this, so I conclude action must be taken.

As a paramedic, I know safety is imperative, so I opt to take the proper precautions. To my lovely ensemble of my red terrycloth bathrobe and messy hair, I add combat boots and my headlight (I know I look like a ridiculous miner with a bright light strapped to my forehead, but I don't care. That shit is useful, and no one can convince me otherwise. I acquired this headlight after making fun of my mom for wearing hers, then discovering the joys of hands free light sources. I'm well on my way to starting a headlight revolution.). I begin my stake out by approaching the alcove from the front of the building and skulking my way to the back toward the object in question.

A neighbor, obviously immune to my stealthy approach, opens his door and gives me a look that can only be interpreted as a combination of fear and incredulousness. This is a look I have come to call the "I better not get too close to my crazy neighbor" look. I make a poor attempt in a hushed voice enlighten my neighbor to the situation at hand, as I realize the more I tell him while decked out in my bathrobe, combat boots, and headlight, only serves to make me appear mentally unstable. He slowly shuts the door to his apartment, watching me with a dubious look throughout. None of the heroic scenarios I'd imagined included any question of my sanity, but I discard the brief encounter and continue my investigation.

Once I approach the object, I discover a largely deflated and dying green helium balloon low to the ground and blowing gently in the wind. Crisis averted, I retreat to my apartment with a touch of chagrin, laughing at myself.

Incident #2: A few weeks later, following an evening out with friends, I come home to settle into my usual spot on my porch at 1 AM, book in hand. I look to the right of my favorite antigravity chair and see what appears to be a baby snake right beside me. It is so small, I have to get a closer look to make sure it isn't a worm. I grew up in a rural enough area to know the difference between poisonous and non-poisonous snakes, and this appears to be a pretty generic black snake. Black snakes do a lot of good at keeping disease ridden rodents at bay, and my compassionate nature prevents me from having any desire to kill this snake, but I do want it off my patio. I come up with a plan to sweep the snake into a dust pan and flip it into the nearby woods.

Safety in mind, I prepare for my mission. I'm wearing jeans and a tank top, which will suffice, but I add my combat boots, tactical gloves, and my headlight. I arm myself with a broom in one hand, and a dust pan in the other. I rearrange my patio furniture for better access, and I position myself in a crouch so I can slowly approach the reptile while scaring it as little as possible. While I'm crouched and ready for action, my aforementioned neighbor has apparently taken this moment to walk his dog behind the apartment complex, giving himself a direct view of what he must believe is his crazy neighbor, while the snake is conveniently hidden behind a blue bin that I use as an outdoor table. I briefly consider my options, and I decide that I don't have much to gain since he already thinks I'm insane and alerting him to the presence of the snake may only serve to freak him out more. I opt to stay as still as possible, thinking maybe he won't notice me crouched, armed, with a bright halogen light strapped to my forehead if I don't move. (Yeah, like a dinosaur. We can't all be geniuses while thinking on our feet.) Suffice it to say he not only noticed me, but completely altered his path, turning about face and walking his dog in the other direction altogether. I freed the snake without any complications or encounters with the momma snake that can't possibly be terribly far.

I decide I probably shouldn't inform my neighbor that I'm tasked with saving lives on a daily basis, which turns out not to be an issue, because whenever I see him when we are both walking our dogs, he crosses the parking lot or goes in another direction. I've opted to play it up instead, waving and giving him my best crazy eyes and big smile look at every opportunity.