Thursday, February 7, 2008

Directionally challenged is not a joke

I would like to dedicate this blog to Sandra and my mother, the two most directionally savvy (and good at directing) people I know. I would also like to add an honorable mention to Ethan, Julie, and Liz who are pretty darn good with maps themselves, and have served as praisworthy co-pilots through the cornfields of Minnesota, traffic-packed streets of L.A., and winding rues de Paris (respectively). Does that mean that reading blogs is somehow related to reading maps? Hmmm....

Tonight I went head-to-head with yet another directionally challenged member of society: the sweetest, smartest, and toughest (her family is all military) Texas female y'all'll ever meet. Unfortunately, she has been enabled by guessed it...accursed GPS. I won't go into details about my evening, or the four runs my car made back and forth across the ugliest stretch of a HWY 1 you'll find on either American coast (I could paint you a detailed picture of the storefront of a venue called, "Kappy's Liquor and Spirits", unless you'd prefer a sketch of a bulletin board with smiling faces reading, "Need a miracle? Call Jesus!")Suffice it to say, I have finally accepted that 9 out of 10 Americans can't give good directions.

While known to throw out random and unfounded statistics (it drives Phil crazy), I have quite a bit of experience gathering data for this bold statement. In my last job as a host family coordinator, I paid visit to (and thus received directions from) many a befuddled housewife and husband. I began to develop stereotypes about the direction giver's expertise quickly after spending a few hours circling the beauteous nooks and cranny's of El Cajon. (For those who speak a little Spanish-the name says it all!) A nuanced pause on the line, a flustered query, "Oh, you didn't map quest it?" or a nervous, "I'm not exactly sure of the street name...oh! I wish I could remember, I've lived here for 20 years" would immediately signal to my brain to open Internet Explorer and begin Yahoo mapping the heck out of their address before our phone call even ended. Bitter much? Jaded? Oh yes...and if only I'd kept that hard-heartedness with me in my drive out to Boston. It would have saved me a lot of grief tonight, not to mention the 30 people I have already given directions to the same house for the baby shower I am organizing on Saturday. (Thank you Texan friend who "edited" them for me.) Sigh...

Now that I got that out of my system, It is only right to close with a little self-reflecting on my own weaknesses. Ever heard of someone burning the tip of their nose while smelling a pork chop? (Hot steam sucks!)I hadn't either, until I did so tonight while cooking dinner.

I guess we all have our faults.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Why New Englanders Hate Snow

I am experiencing winter shock. Like culture shock... except colder. It has snowed 6 times in the past 9 days. Three of the days were blizzards. It is not even officially winter yet. Apparently, this is not normal in New England (we have already received almost 2 times as much snow as they got last year Nov-April). But, they also tell me, nothing is "normal". The weather is so unpredictable, today they told us on the morning news cast that we'd have a light dusting of 1 inch of snow. Boston College stayed open all day as inch after inch after inch piled up. In the end, we had received an inch per hour... all day! The other day, the nice newscaster gave a 90% chance of rain. It didn't even mist. As you'll notice, this Californian is learning to check her weather forecasts...not that it helps!

Snow, our pure and delicate friend, can be a real pain in the A-- (I'll let you fill in the blanks so that I don't come across as the crotchety Bostonian I am starting to feel like). "But how can this be?" you may ask. I found it hard to believe myself before 7 days of slogging through mud flavored slurpy, ankle deep. After all, it is so lovely on the trees and bushes, so soft to walk through when freshly fallen. In California, more snow means better snowboarding, right? I suppose they feel that way in Vermont, too, or the suburbs, where the roads are wide and easily plowed-where everyone parks in a-covered-gasp!-enclosed-garage. In Boston, snow means every road is reduced to half it's width until the snow melts, which, if your weather is like ours, means March. If you park in a lot down a hill of ice, like we do, driving is out of the questions. (I dug my car out the other day out of sheer desperation and it took me an hour and a half, after which I got stuck heading up the drive and had to get a push, so I wouldn't need to be towed!) Not driving means you can't Christmas shop or buy a gift for your office White Elephant (they call it a Yankee Swap). True, you can still commute on foot, provided you are willing to tromp through knee deep snow. Where snow piles up on what were once sidewalks, one is forced to venture out into the street, angering already enraged drivers who fight through jammed narrowed passes which double their daily commute. These oft-unshoveled sidewalks prevent even simple errands like jogging over to Kinko's to print out your Christmas letter. Walking to the T in the morning means ruining a pair of lined Ann Taylor work pants (the only kind that are warm enough to wear to work). Buying milk becomes a feat I mentally gear up for like a drive through L.A. during rush hour. And let me be sure to clarify, it isn't the cold I'm complaining about. So far, the temperatures in the teens and twenties haven't bothered me a bit. It's the blasted precipitation that falls from the skies, freezes our landlords' driveway into a sheet of glass, covers the cars so completely that you aren't sure if you are walking around a car, or a giant plow-pile, and darkens the skies so thoroughly that nither a cheery ray peeks through all day.

I am counting down the hours till we land in San Francisco for Christmas. Don't blame me if I come empty handed, without presents more than a pocket full of ice-balls and chapped lips. You can thank Old Man Winter. As for me, I'm dreaming of a black Christmas, just like the freeways I used to know...

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Today we were let out of work at 1 pm. I took a picture of my commute home.

At least we didn't try to move in the snow. Here's a pod just like the one we used which I saw two girls trying to wedge closed in the snow down the street at the outset of this afternoon's blizzard.

We are expecting 12 inches of snow in a 6 hour period today. That's what they call a "white out". While I've lived through a snow storm here and there during my winters in Virginia, I was unfamiliar with this term before today. Allow me to explain. A white out is when you are driving home from work and are admiring the snow falling over the nearby reservoir, and the next minute you look back at the reservoir and you see nothing except white. Huh! I am still trying to get used to sundown at 3:30 pm. I mean, it's not Alaska, people! What's up with the sunset???

The other day I had to laugh out loud when I picked the morning after an ice-storm to drive to work. Like a truly pathetic ex-state-riate in New England, I peeped through my blinds around 7 am to "check the weather" as we do in CA and noticed that there wasn't any more snow on the ground (after having taking the "T" for several days due to snowy roads.) I thought, "Hooray, I can drive to work again! Winter must be temporarily over." It wasn't a step beyond our front porch leading down to our driveway that I learned how see-through ice can get. A good 1/4 inch of it was covering our porch. If that wasn't ominous warning enough, how about the fact that no one in our 15 car parking lot had removed their cars to drive that morning? As I ice-skated down the parking lot driveway, I considered bargaining with God that if he'd get me to work, I'd quit driving until March. At that point, I was far too late to catch the T.

When it comes to weather, I'm not what you'd call a "quick" learner. This morning, I was lured behind the wheel again when after testing our front steps carefully to ensure that the ice had melted, I felt confident that the roads would be safe. It's a good thing I work in Human Resources at the University. We were the first to know that things were shutting down when the skies began to dump buckets of flakes around noon.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday Blogspot: 2 blogs for the price of 1!

First Snow

Nov. 20: Today was our first snow in Boston! I was walking to my car after work thinking about how forlorn and lonely the grass looked against the fading trees. Its green was just begging to turn itself into something more subtle, so it wouldn't keep sticking out like a sore thumb. It seemed to be calling out in its tiny little grass voice, "Snow on me! Please snow on me!" I thought, "What a profound observation for my blog! Now, if only it would snow at this exact moment!"

And then, it did. Wispy little flakes flew down at first, and then great big clumpy ones began to fall. By noon, we'd received several inches and the frosted pines outside our office gave off the appearance of a veritable winterwonderland.

In late afternoon, a light rain melted away all the snow. By Turkey Day, we were back to a balmy 68 degrees!

Nov. 22: Thanksgiving in the Saylor household this year proved to be a grand success, thanks to the help of our San Diego visitors, Mark and Crystal Eutizi. (God bless them; they are very handy in the kitchen!)The day began lazily with a 10 am wake-up call. How true that we gen-Xers are loathe to rise at the crack of dawn to begin Grandma's recipes when hours before the turkey should be on the table, we can print 30-minute versions off! To exemplify this principle, I should note that I'd actually printed a lovely make-and-bake-the-night-before brunch casserole recipe offline in efforts to appear like an organized baby-boomer who prepares for the morrow. I'd even shopped for the ingredients 4 days before. Instead of slaving over my stove on Wed. night, however, we accompanied the Eutizis to a cozy little Italian dive (Giacomos) for dinner in the North End and didn't get home until 11:30. I completely forgot about my recipe, so we ate the eggs and sausage individually on T-day morning.

After our somewhat less dignified, but equally "fat and happy" breakfast, we sailed down to Plymouth to view the Mayflower model ship and paid a visit to Plymouth Rock. You'll be interested to know that the historical revisionists have not let Plymouth alone to revel it's glorified past. At every turn upon your visit to the mock plantation, ship, or rock monument you are accosted with negative quotes about "our" egregious errors in taking the "New World" for England. While I do not deny mistreatment of the Indians, I find comments like, "Thanksgiving should be a day of mourning for the atrocities we committed toward the natives" a mite preposterous. My theory is that this backlash has been caused by the Plymouth locals who, sick of 200+ years of tourists, have made the historical exhibits as negative as possible to discourage return. Well, "Ha Ha to you, Plymouth!" This was my 4th time clogging up and jay-walking across your fair village streets, so you can't stop me from glorying in trans-Atlantic survival and relating to the pathos of those seeking freedom of religious expression!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

No more casual Friday

To an estranged Californian, Boston office culture seems like a study of traditions frozen in time. They’ve never even heard of Casual Friday. You should’ve seen the look my supervisor gave me when I casually mentioned it. They have another concept for the Christmas White Elephant, too-it’s called a “Yankee Swap”. What??? Oh, and while we’re on the subject-“dungarees” are jeans (I thought they were those big giant yellow overalls that fishermen wore in storms), “frappes” (pron: fraps) are milkshakes, and anything “wicked” is good. But you probably already knew that one…immortalized by Matt Damon in the movie, “Good Will Hunting.” God bless his beautiful soul.

I am a week into my new job and frankly, nothing but grateful to be employed…at whatever task. Oh I’ll dress up! I’d don real dungarees if they asked me to. Ironically, the fear that I wasn’t dressed professionally enough haunted me even into my dreams the other night when my new manager followed me home to critique my shoes, pair by pair, until she’d eliminated all but one deemed sharp enough for work. I guess my summer teaching job with the no “open-toed” policy had a deeper psychological effect than I’d imagined!

Seriously, my new job’s not bad. My official role is Customer Service Rep. in HR at BC (Boston College)-can you tell they like abbreviations? Basically, I’m a glorified receptionist. It’s easy, but people-oriented. I know that I am where God wants me. I have soooo much peace about it that even when I went to the program director’s office today to inquire about starting my Masters (in Global Social Work) in January and he said I have to wait until NEXT SEPTEMBER (!!!) I didn’t fret. Ok…maybe just a little. I figure I will have plenty to occupy me on campus, what with the gym, free language classes, lectures, employee lunches, football games, etc. It’s even a Jesuit university, so there is a spiritual dynamic to every aspect of university life. We discussed the conversion of St. Ignatius to Christ at our new employee Orientation! If I could pick a religious order to put on my postage stamps, the Jesuits would definitely be it. So, it looks like I’m going to be learning a lot about La Societe de Jesu!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Old People

If my unemployment is going to end any time soon, it is going to be thanks to a member of the AARP. Last week a well-meaning man from church in his 70's referred me to a position at BU that ended up being a tenure-track professorial position! I sent my resume to the person he recommended, only to follow up later and find out I was 15 years underqualified. Whoops.

Today I met Vera, Ruth, Barbara, and Albert. They are my new friends around the corner at the nursing home in my neighborhood. Today was my first day visiting them. Boy did I enjoy myself! It wasn't without fear that I poked into their rooms this morning. Old people intimidate me. Unlike pets or children, they will yell at you or embarrass you if you accidentally cross them. They might even throw a gloppy milk carton! I guess kids could do this too, but it wouldn't be as humiliating. I decided to take a chance and signed up at the Brookline Rehabilitation Center to see what would happen.

Part of my impetus to volunteer at an Old Folks Home (still my favorite name for "Senior Care Facility") came from a comment one of my former ESL students made about the travesty of unvisited seniors in the U.S. I was struck when she reported reading that less than 10% of seniors get visited by family members each year in our country. Most of my guts came from my current unemployed status as a professional LOSER. (I am waiting to hear back from a temp agency-can you believe it?) I decided it was high time I got out of my apartment and back into society!!!

I laughed internally when the social worker who oriented me insisted that I refrain from touching any bodily fluids left on the floor or a bed, but to let the nurse clean them up instead. "Thanks for steeling me back, buddy, cuz I was really looking forward to mopping up some fluid!" An important reason why people don't visit seniors-the smell! (Not to be overlooked.) But this home is a pretty clean one and the windows look out on parks with good ventilation. My job today was to go room to room, checking in on people and introducing myself.

I botched things up a bit with a few 60 year-olds who had just had a mild stroke and were at the home for only a few days of recovery. I just about blasted them out of their wheelchairs trying to make sure my introductions were heard and understood. Their withering looks brought the volume down a few notches, and the speed/depth of our conversation back to reality. Point well taken.

But my biggest surprise was Ms. Barbara Jewett, age 76, with whom I spoke for over an hour. In spite of her age and health problems, she was so with it, by the time our conversation ended she was giving me tips on how to get a job! As I wheeled her to lunch before departing she mysteriously looked this way and that down the hall, then motioned for me to move closer. "Give your resume to...(pause, with furtive glance)...NICOLE!!!" she hissed in a voice half whispered, half mouthed. "Don't tell them I gave you her name, but I heard they were looking for someone in the business office! Just say you 'heard it through the grapevine!'"

God bless the old folks!

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Did I mention he pooped in my SHOES??? Thank God for T.J. Maax or I might've paid full price for those!!! Die, Leopold, Die!