Friday, November 30, 2012

The working life: The last-minute business trip‏

 Here's what happens when your boss tells you at the last minute that yes, you are going on that trip to the Middle East with him and your other colleague. 

You get a ticket for not too much money, but you get a center seat. In coach.

The company doesn't even pay for the CEO to fly business class. Why would they pay that for you? Even if it is a 13-hour flight?

Oh - and the other catch? You leave on a Friday. So you can be there Saturday night. For Sunday meetings.


SH considered coming with me - he needed the 16,000 miles to get his status for next year - but his passport expires in a few months and you have to have a passport valid for six months to enter the country.

In a stunning instance of efficiency - from both SH (who finally got his passport photo taken, as had been on his list since MAY, and applied for a new passport) and the State Department, his new passport arrived two days before my departure. But it was too late to include him on the trip.

Anyhow. SH dropped me off at the airport with my big suitcase and returned home with my winter coat.

I should have kept the coat. The favorite thing to do here, apparently, is to air condition the heck out of everything.

Which makes sense. The climate here is like Houston. 

That is not a compliment.

I had looked at a map and thought, "Desert. I need only two pairs of socks because I can wear one and wash one."

In theory, that is true. However, what I failed to take into consideration was that desert + ocean = humidity and my socks still are not dry, 24 hours after washing them.

Back to the flight. Thirteen hours. In the middle seat. I knew it was going to be trouble when I got to my seat and saw a big guy with spread legs. Some men are very comfortable taking all the space without any consideration for the people around them.

This guy was one of those guys. He took the armrest from the very beginning and he leaned toward me. "Lean toward the aisle!" I wanted to say. "Lean away from me!"

But no. And I didn't feel comfortable saying something to him because what do you say? "I notice you have a belly and are wide and you fill the entire seat, but would you mind keeping your arm away from me?" Yes, the arm was totally within his control, but he didn't look like he liked to be messed with. In fact, when we were waiting to take off, he had a series of cellphone arguments with someone named Beth on whom he kept hanging up and then calling again. She, too, would call him. They would call each other back just to argue.

He was one cranky dude. Who was not shy about voicing his crankiness.

He scared me a little. 

Every time he got up, I would claim the armrest. Only every time he got up, I also got up because I hate bothering people to let me out, which is why I always want the aisle seat.

So we would both be up and by the time I got back, it was too late for me to have the armrest.

Then he would fall right back asleep, leaning into my space, and snoring.

I had no place to move. I finally gave up, put in my earplugs, and tried to sleep, which meant I had to pull the tray table out, put the pillow on it, and lean forward until my back and shoulders hurt too much. Then I sat up again.

And tried to sleep sitting up, with my neck pushed forward unnaturally because the airplane seats are designed for men 5'9" tall and not for me.

Which was made even more complicated by the fact that my other seatmate watched movies until 3:00 a.m. Which meant there was light.

When I got to the hotel, I couldn't fall asleep until late. Then I woke up at 3:30 a.m. local time. I finally gave up, got up, read, did some work, and then had breakfast and went to the souks.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Marriage 501, Lecture 649: Grain of salt

The first time I visited SH at his bachelor quarters, I was a little concerned. His office was half-filled floor to ceiling with boxes, boxes I later discovered were empty. He was keeping them for the next time he moved. There was no room for them in his little storage unit in the garage because he had his wine in there. The wine couldn't be in the apartment because the apartment had landlord-supplied heat, which was one of the factors that tricked me into moving to this arctic wilderness - I was never cold in his apartment because we cranked the thermostat. Oh - and the wine would have been too warm, so it had to be in the garage, which was also heated and which did not require that I set foot outdoors to reach. I was warm, I never had to shovel, and I didn't have to go outside to get to the car. You would have been fooled, too.

He had stacks of newspapers, junk mail, magazines, and expired coupons behind his sofa. I learned later that he had learned his hoarding from the masters, his parents. I still shudder to think what will happen when their house has to be cleaned out. Who does that to their kids? Sticks them with a houseful of crap that neither the parents nor the children want or need? Clean your own crap out of the house, I say, or it's all going in the dumpster. My co-worker says her mom's house is full of crap. Marcie has asked her mom if she's going to clear some of the stuff out and the mom says no, it's for Marcie to do when mom dies. After all, the mom says, she did it for her mom.

"I'm sending it all to the dump," Marcie says.

I'm on Marcie's side. Leaving a mess for your children to deal with upon your death is selfish and mean.

But SH's parents - well, anyhow.

The other thing SH had that worried me was that under every jar in the cupboards and in the fridge was a square of folded paper towel.

"What's this?" I asked. "Why are there all these paper towels? It looks trashy."

"So the shelves don't get dirty," he answered matter of factly.

I shook my head in confusion. "What?"

"So the shelves don't get dirty!"

"You mean so food doesn't run down the sides of the container?"


I shook my head again. "That's why you wipe the container off before you put it away. That's how civilized people do it."

"Nope," he maintained. "This is how you do it."

I rolled my eyes. I later learned that this, too, was something he had come by honest. Not that his parents used paper towels under everything but that their jars and containers were dirty on the outside and the contents ran down to the shelves, leading to very sticky and messy shelves, the cleaning of which turned into one of my many chores upon visits to those premises, not because I was asked but because it turned my stomach every time I opened the fridge and saw the mess.

SH's response to his raising was not to clean jars - which involves nothing more than a quick swipe with a dishrag - but to catch the contents on paper towels.

We have changed that paradigm in our house. I have mostly broken him of the habit. We keep our food containers clean. Sure, stuff gets on the refrigerator shelves occasionally, but that's why those shelves are removable. Twice a year or so, I take all the shelves and drawers out of the fridge and wash them. It takes half an hour and zip - done!

But every now and then, there is a relapse. As shown in the photo above. Which inspired me to inform SH that SALT DOES NOT LEAK.

But it's better than it used to be.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Marriage 501, Lecture 535: Property rights

This is bad placement of stuff, according to SH. Ignore the dirty stovetop. I hate this stove. It is so hard to keep clean. I want a gas stove. Do not ever buy a glasstop electric stove or you will regret it to the day you die.


SH: What stuff?

Me: You put the pen on my library books! And the recipe on top of that!

SH: That's because I value clear counter space.

Me: Then how come you have your crap all over the bathroom counter?

SH: It's not all over. It's pushed against the wall. See? Counter space.

This is good placement. According to SH.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Marriage 501, Lecture 54: We're going to be late‏

This is how it works at our house.

SH and I agree to attend an event. Or to go to the airport. 

Let's use, for example, the decision to attend a movie on a worknight. I.e., "Skyfall," which I agree would probably be better on a big screen than on our TV. 

Although let me back up for a second:

If we are late to the airport, I have trained myself not to care, at least when we are going so SH can catch a plane. "It's not my problem it's not my problem it'snotmyproblem" is the mantra I chant to myself as SH gets increasingly frustrated with TRAFFIC! Who knew there would be TRAFFIC on the way to the airport? 

I do not like being around tense people and tension. I come from a low-drama background. SH is used to seething tension and frequent explosions. 

If SH misses his plane, it's not my problem. And if he misses a plane to his mom and dad's house, well, tante pis. Shrug.

But - if we are going to the movies, which we have done once in the past three years, I think, then I want to be on time.

In college, my boyfriend was always late (well, that's my memory, anyhow) in picking me up to go to the movies. I hate missing the previews. I also hate missing the beginning of the movie. Sometimes, we were going to a movie at Greenway Plaza, which would mean previews. Sometimes, we were just going to whatever they were showing in the Chemistry Lecture Hall. I don't think they do that at Rice any more. Now, the students hang out at the very fancy, expensive new rec center, which might be why tuition is now $35,000 a year instead of $3,900 a year (and that included all fees and our blue books - it was a shock to get to grad school and have to buy my own blue books. They weren't expensive, but I showed up for the first test without one) like it was when I was in college. Even though I emerged from college in debt, it was only (only!) $13,000, which was less than my starting salary of $20,000 (with 11 paid holidays and full insurance coverage with no contributions from me). 

Where was I? Oh. With the college boyfriend, who was a sweetie, we were always late to the movies, which annoyed me to no end, mostly because I hate missing stuff but also because the reason we were late was because he was always helping people with their physics homework. On a Saturday.

"Just tell them you'll help tomorrow," I would say. "Nobody has to do homework on Saturday night." Of course, they did it anyhow. I went to a nerd school. And of course many of those nerds have started technical companies that have made them wealthy. Maybe I should have been doing physics homework on Saturday.

So. SH and I decided to go to a movie. The movie started at 6:30. I got home from work at 5:30. When I got home, SH came downstairs. 

SH: I think I'll go for a quick run.

Me: Now? [Casting doubtful look at clock]

SH: Sure. There's plenty of time. Hey! What's this? [Indicates package I brought in]

Me: I think it's the new [fluffy, not made in China] sheets.

SH: Was it UPS? I didn't hear the doorbell.

Me: I don't know. It was by the door when I got home.

SH: What if they're made in China?

Me: Then we return them.

SH: I have to see.

Me: I thought you were going running.

SH: I have time.

5:45 SH has gone back upstairs and has come back downstairs.

SH: I guess I need to go running.

Me: Do you think there's time?

SH: Of course!

He puts on his running clothes. He goes back upstairs to get his mp3 player. He checks his email.

5:50 SH leaves.

6:00 He's gone.

6:10 He's gone.

6:15 He returns

SH: That wasn't bad, especially considering I haven't been running since the half marathon [in June].

Me: We're going to be late.

SH: No we're not. 

Me: Yes. We are.

SH: It doesn't start until 6:30. I guess I should get in the shower.

Me: Really?

SH: I'm sweaty! I haven't had a shower in two days!

Me: You've been sitting at a desk for two days. You're not dirty.

SH [sniffs armpit]: Yes, I guess it's OK. And if I'm sitting next to you and you don't care, then it doesn't matter. But I need to shave.

Me: We are going to be late! We're going to miss the previews!

SH: So what? We're only late if we miss the beginning of the movie.

Me: No! I want to see the previews! [Which I now know were a complete waste of time. Apparently, the theater near our house thinks "market for people who like stylish British thrillers about a British icon" = "market for people who also like very loud movies/sequels about Transformers."]

SH: I need to shave.

Me: You have got to be kidding me.

SH: I look scruffy.

Me: Like anyone at the theater will care? Just put on a wool cap and you'll look like a hipster dude who's scruffy on purpose.

SH: Fine. [He gets dressed, but only after putting his running t-shirt in the dryer so he can wear it again: "Why would I put on clean clothes if I haven't taken a shower?"]

6:28 We leave for the theater.

Me: We're going to be late. This is all your fault.

SH: I thought you would be happy that I was going running. You're the one who didn't want to walk to the theater. Don't you want me to exercise and be healthy?

Me: Not particularly, at least not now that you are back on your work insurance.

SH: You don't care!

Me: You're making this into my fault.

SH: And I made the bed! And did the dishes! You're not giving me credit for the things I do around the house!

Me: What on earth does that have to do with being on time for the movie?

SH: I was BUSY!

Me: We're going to be late.

6:29 We arrive at the theater

Me: I cannot believe you always do this. You always scrape in by the skin of your teeth.

We walk into the theater. There is a line for tickets/beer. No, they are not separate lines, which is stupid but brilliant - force people to wait in the beer line for their tickets and they'll figure that they might as well buy beer.

I leave SH in the line and find us a seat on a couch that turns out to be very uncomfortable and reminds me why I prefer watching movies at home now.

They don't start the movie until 6:40. Because it takes that much time to sell beer to everyone in line.

SH wins.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Marriage 501, Lecture 643: Walking the walk‏

SH: We can walk to the theater. [We are going to a movie at a theater for the first time in three or four years. When was the last time? We went to a movie on Superbowl Sunday a few years ago because the Packers weren't playing and if they're not playing, who cares about the game? Well, SH would care if the Steelers were playing. But nobody else. And that time, we went with movie passes I had gotten after I showed some ten year old AMC passes that SH had found at the bottom of a box when he for once threw some crap out and probably just re-arranged the rest. Much to my surprise, AMC gave us current coupons, which was completely unnecessary but very very nice. Although their incremental cost was nothing and there was the possibility that we would spend money on concessions. Which we did. Because SH was making the decision, not me. I NEVER buy stuff at the theater because - well, because you all know why: I am way too thrifty and scared of eternal poverty to spend $6 on 10 cents worth of popcorn.]

Me: I don't want to walk.

SH: But it's only ten blocks. 

Me: Ten blocks!

SH: That's ten minutes.

Me: I don't want to walk. Why can't we drive?

SH: The weather will be nice. We should take advantage of it while we can.

Me: Drive.

SH: Why do we live in a neighborhood where we can walk to things if we're not actually going to walk?

Me: So we can say we live in a neighborhood where we can walk to things. It sounds good.