Thursday, January 28, 2010

tricked by a tarp

There is nothing people in NYC love to complain about more than Taxi TV. If you are riding in a cab with someone, it is essentially mandatory to roll your eyes and make some kind of "scathing" comment about it as both of you spastically jab at the "off" button (it always, of course, takes multiple jabs). "Ugh, this thing is just so annoying" or (drunken rant example!) "...and it's just, like, why did she even BOTHER coming if she wasn't going to COME OVER AND SAY HI and like- OMIGOD THIS EFFING TV IS THE LAST THING I NEED TO DEAL WITH RIGHT NOW." You get it.

Sometimes when I'm in a cab by myself though, I forget that I'm supposed to hate the Taxi TV. Such was the case last Friday when I was riding to Penn Station, harried and frazzled per usual. I was zoning out, lost in scheming how I would ensure no one would sit next to me on the train this time, when I became aware of the TV. . . which was showing a guy doing yoga or something with a MASSIVE BLUE TARP over his entire body, in what looked to be either a low-budget local commercial or some painful SNL sketch.

It was hard to hear the commercial over the din of the cab driver's Bluetooth jabbering but I made out the words "private gym body tarp" and watched in awe for the last twenty seconds of the commercial as a variety of gym goers were shown working out underneath tarps (!!) to avoid the embarrassment of having to exercise in front of the judging "others." I whipped out my phone and took this admittedly awful picture.

I'm not sure which is more embarrassing: that it took me until I got home much later that night and Googled the phrase to realize this whole thing was a joke (I know, I know) OR that I was actually disappointed it wasn't real because I had sort of been thinking the tarp would be kinda useful at the gym for when I attempt to "do situps."

Monday, January 25, 2010

road block

Back in 2008, I wrote a sort of ode to the Starbucks "splash stick," the green piece of plastic that you stick in your cup to prevent unwanted splash (that description makes it sound like some sort of illicit medical equipment). Anyway, since I know you all have been CLAMORING for more posts about the perils of spilling coffee, I decided I couldn't not serve up another, especially after what happened to me this morning.

The splash stick (that name just doesn't quite sound right, does it?) has become a regular fixture in my morning routine, to the point where my BFF barista (we've worked things out) just sticks one right into my drink before handing it to me. But, lately, with no sort of explanation or warning, they've been all out of the green heaven sticks. This has been a MAJOR PROBLEM as it has meant I frequently have to carry my hot coffee onto the (crowded) subway with no sort of mechanism for preventing serious spillage.

Usually in these stress-inducing cases, I just concentrate really hard on holding my coffee really carefully amongst the throngs of surly businessmen and quirky twentysomethings ( “quirky twentysomethings” = such a great description). This morning though, uh, let's just say I didn’t succeed so much with “being careful." I was standing in front of a woman who was sitting smugly, reading a book ("The Road") that was resting on her lap on top of a "look at my knit bag" kind of knit bag. Her expression was disgruntled/pretentious and I imagined she was probably some sort of analyst at a think tank... or, like, a clerk at H&M.

Anyway, I was examining her ear piercings, when all of a sudden a bark from her general direction shook me out of my Ke$ha-colored reverie. I took my headphones out and squinted at her (it always takes a few seconds to really comprehend that a stranger on the subway is actually talking to you). "Um, seriously?" she scowled. I took a half-step back and noticed the suit to my right was looking at me all disgustedly. Knit Bag pointed at her lap and I saw that the pages of her book were legit DAMP... with my spilled coffee. I looked at my hand and noticed there was coffee all over the top of my cup and a few drops on my wrist. The grossness of the whole situation combined with the claustrophobia of the packed subway combined with the blatant (and justified?) hostility of Knit Bag almost caused me to just pass out right then and there. Instead I mustered the MOST FEEBLE "I am so sorry" ever, like imagine how April from "Parks and Rec" would react in this situation.

She gave me this super bitchy eye roll as she dramatically reached into her prized knit bag and took out some crumpled up tissues, which she proceeded to press on the pages of her book as if that would make any difference. Meanwhile, because the train was so packed and there was nowhere to move, I had no choice but to just stand like right on top of her, unable to look away, in agony. "Again," I said a minute later, "I'm just so sorry. You know how it is with... coffee?" (Correct, that question makes NO SENSE.) She did not respond.

A few seconds later the train stopped short and I realized in that instant that the only thing worse than blatantly spilling coffee onto a girl's lap on a subway would be if I did it TWICE. Like the pro athlete I am, I jerked the cup in my direction... and the resulting (not insignificant) spillage landed on my coat. Knit Bag looked up at me and my soiled coat and my disgusting coffee cup and unshaven face and dangling headphones and she somehow made her frown look even more judgmental which made me feel like some kind of Russell Brand-esque monster (don't ask). And then she returned to "The Road."

Friday, January 22, 2010

the ghost of hannah

In a surprising number of my long-time friendships, there is one person, one "friend" from our past, that always gets brought up every time we get together.

You're through the calamari and you're finishing a story about your brother and then there's a pause and your friend will say "So... have you heard anything about Hannah lately?" and, of course, neither of you has heard a thing about Hannah -- neither of you has talked to her since the summer you guys spent at camp together, or since the last semester of college, or since that time she visited New York and you guys all got drinks and she showed up an hour late -- but you both still laugh uproariously when she gets brought up.

"We never did figure out who that guy was she brought to California Pizza Kitchen, did we?" (you ask that question every time). And then your friend will mention a Facebook album of posed pics Hannah took in front of a mirror a year ago ("OMG, that wig!"). And you dwell on Hannah for a bit, like always, and then the entrees come and you move on (maybe one of you offers a nostalgic "It would be so funny to see her again sometime"). Like asking about a boyfriend or a crazy coworker that's always up to something weird, bringing up Hannah is simply mandatory. She's such an easy, familiar target, sure, but there's also a sense of reverence or even hurt about it, a hint that underneath the jabs about her annoying laugh or that one time she lied at Kevin's party, that maybe - though you'd never admit it or say it out loud - you kind of miss when she used to be at dinner, too.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

situations in which i'm never sure if i should speak up

1. Whenever someone asks me if she can "borrow" a piece of gum (or some other item that obv can't be returned), it illogically really irritates me (maybe it's because of the faux-niceness of it all, this sense that you think you are causing me such great trouble that "borrow" instead of "have" is really necessary). I always feel like delivering some really obvious and snarky zinger to call her out on the misguided word choice like "Only if you return it when you're done..." (my zingers are so biting!)... but of course I never do, and just smile and offer a piece.

2. Occasionally (this happens more in e-mails than IRL, actually), someone will refer to something that he for whatever reason assumes I'm not aware of, and will launch into some kind of overwrought explanation ("It's this movie that he was in before he really got famous... with Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver" or "It's this kind of fruit that's sort of like a tangerine but not"). There is a part of me that really itches to assert myself and be like "I obviously know 'The Ice Storm,'" but this impulse is always tempered by the hypothetical uncomfortable combativeness of being like "Um, I know" and the person stopping mid-sentence and kind of stammering.

3. Every once in a while, you'll e-mail back and forth with someone about plans and then for some reason it just doesn't end up panning out. Someone doesn't respond to the chain, lunch never happens, you both move on. I can deal with the awkwardness of that (what a trouper I am!) -- but it's when you then run into the person at some later point that things get weird. I tend to just avoid the topic of The Dinner That Never Happened if I can and, like, ask about the person's job or roommate and get the interaction over as quickly as possible. Once though I ran into a guy who never followed through on plans for drinks and he was like "I'm so sorry about drinks not happening, I've just been so busy," totally overdoing it, as if I had been like writing vengeful diary entries about him ever since (which I, uh, would of course never do...) and then he was like "We should totally try and make that happen next month." Neither of us ever tried to "make it happen."

Friday, January 15, 2010


You're just trying to be nice. You only came to this loud (and strangely bright?) bar to say hi to Erica. . . but she's off talking to that friend of hers from work with whom you have absolutely nothing to talk about but still kiss on the cheek every time you see. So you've found yourself stuck talking to Kara. Kara is FINE (she's Erica's old roommate, or current hook-up, Erica's something) and she's nice and cheery and you're always seeing her and she always remembers you're from Boston which is a nice touch, but you're like "Why am I talking to Kara at 12:37a.m. on a Saturday night in this loud and bright bar?!"

You're talking to Kara (you have stopped ordering drinks at this point just because) and she introduces you to her friend Mallory. Mallory is from Austin and is visiting New York for a week and she and Kara are best friends and before you know it, Kara (KEEP UP WITH ME, YOU GUYS) has left for the bathroom or has flitted off to gossip in the corner with some dude. Suddenly you have found yourself drinkless, you have totally lost sight of Erica (= the whole reason you are there in the first place!), and you can't leave poor Mallory NOW because she has no one else to talk to in the bar... so you take a deep breath, and decide to ask Mallory if there are good restaurants in Austin.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

david and the ice queen

Saturday night, my friend Allison and I arrived obscenely early to a showing of "Youth in Revolt" (we are just the biggest Steve Buscemi fans). We made note of the 8 or 10 other cool cats hovering around the door and then took a spot waiting by a pillar. A few minutes later, this guy who looked like a cross between "Confessions of a Shopoholic" Hugh Dancy and Asperger's "Adam" Hugh Dancy came bounding over to us. He was dressed like an American Eagle ad.

"Hey, uh, this is 'Youth in Revolt,' right?" We nodded. "So... where do you guys like to sit in the theater?" Not what I was expecting as a follow-up! Speechless, and salivating at all of the awkward avenues this nascent convo might take, I deferred to Allison.

"The middle of the back?" she said, in that interrogative tone you use with people who fall into this "it is too early to tell if you are either overly friendly or sociopathic" category.

"Well, I'm waiting for my date... and - I know this is a lot to ask - but would you guys be willing to... uh... save a seat for us? I want to head down to wait since I'm here so much earlier."

It immediately dawned on me that saving a seat for Dancy and his date would mean sitting next to them the entire movie, which probably would have weirded me out way more if he hadn't looked like a relative of Nate Archibald. Allison and I shared a quick look and I was vaguely reminded of that queasy feeling you get when a homeless person accosts you in an enclosed space.

But we said "sure." He shook our hands ("I'm David!") and wiped his brow, but he stopped short right before taking off. He reached into his pocket and pulled out... a $20 bill. "Can I give this to you guys for being so nice?" Sort of incredulous at the overly generous offer, we quickly shook our heads. He persisted: "You're sure I can't get you guys like a Diet Coke or popcorn?" As tempted as we (read: me) were, we said "no" again (we are madddd moral)... But as soon as he rounded the corner, we burst into breathless hypothesizing. Why was David so much earlier than his date?! What would his date look like?! (Would it be a guy or a girl?!) Should we have taken the money?! I felt like I was at a commercial break during "Gossip Girl" waiting impatiently to see who would be coming out of the limo to take Serena to the cotillion. (Yikes, my "Less Gossip Girl references" New Year's resolution AIN'T GOING SO WELL.)

About twenty minutes later, we were waiting in the line that had formed to get into the movie... and Allison spotted David approaching! His date, clad in a leather jacket and legit PAINTED with makeup, looked like Megan Fox crossed with a Russian gymnast. David, smiley as ever, led her to Allison and me in line. "Hey, so, uh, can we join you guys?"

"You know them?" Fox sneered, smacking her gum.

"Yeah," David said. "Josh and Allison!" The fact that he remembered our names almost made up for the fact that I felt like his date could potentially be a vampire angling to eat me. When we got into the theater, they sat across the aisle from us. Of course, as I am an Us Weekly gossip columnist at heart (slash in my fantasies), I was almost as captivated by David and his Ice Queen as I was by the movie. She never took off her leather jacket and didn't so much as offer more than a glance at her kind companion. He laughed nervously at every Michael Cera quip and kept his hands nervously on his knees throughout. At one point, overly caught up in their dynamic, I pulled out my Blackberry to take a picture of them. . . when I realized that Ice Queen would probably see me and get me arrested or something. And, uh, also: THERE IS SOMETHING SRSLY WRONG WITH ME I WANTED TO TAKE A PICTURE OF THEM.

I was ensconced in their drama, wondering how they had met, if this was their first date, if there was a scorned Jennifer Aniston somewhere in the mix. When the movie ended and I turned to my left, they were already gone. And I couldn't help but feel both deflated and elated at once. Michael Cera always ends up getting the Quirky Girl; what's exciting is what you can't predict and what you'll never know.

Friday, January 8, 2010

mark as unread

The social protocol concerning how long one should take before responding to an e-mail amuses me. It's a given that we all read all e-mails within minutes of receiving them, wherever we may be, but yet it is still considered SUPER LAME to respond right away. If you're dealing with a five-paragraph, witty, "catching up" e-mail, a 24-hour waiting period is pretty necessary; reply any sooner and you are just TOO EAGER (= the worst thing to be ever). I guess if it's a standard "dinner Friday?" kind of e-mail, waiting more than 30 minutes to reply is generally OK. Though of course, making a sender wait five hours in response to an e-mailed New York Times link or a "what're planz this weekend?" missive is like the best way there is to show you are "casual cool."

Keep in mind that taking "casual coolness" advice from me would be like taking lessons in decorum from Snooki.

Monday, January 4, 2010

winter break takeaways

1) In so many movies and TV shows (sometimes it seems like it happens in all of 'em), everyone tells a character that he "looks awful." But the character in question NEVER LOOKS "AWFUL" and, in fact, he generally looks exactly the same as always. It's as if the writers think that if they have every character say it, you'll believe it.

2) There are few things I find more uncomfortable than the 15-30 seconds spent standing in close proximity to someone at a party/bar in silence after the small talk you've participated in has run its course.

3) For some reason (habit? oldest sibling syndrome? Judi Dench worship?) I'm always saying "Do we really have to talk about that while we're eating?" in this like haughty tone whenEVER someone brings up anything at all "gross" at the dinner table. Honestly, I don't think it makes a difference to me (or to anyone) but yet I persist with the automatic retort.

4) No one wants to commit to doing something on New Year's Eve. Even your most commitment-y/OCD friends. It's like 11:14pm and people are still responding to texts with "not sure maybs, figuring out my plans, are u goign?"

5) Even though it seems like it's going to be this impossible deficit to overcome and you feel all panicky about it, it is astounding how easy it is to maintain a conversation with someone whose name you have forgotten.