Sunday, February 27, 2011

Why texts are the way to a girl's heart


Hey, how was the test? the message said.

Almost didn't make it, I replied. Roads are awful, took me almost two hours to get there and another two to get back. It's terrible out there!

Looks alright from my couch, he replied with a smiley face.

My phone beeped again. How was the test? it said. But it was from Luke, this time. I sighed. Were we really going to play the game where we pretend they weren't both texting me from the same apartment, and probably from the same room, if not holding their phones up in a side-to-side comparison of responses? Apparently, we were.

It was fine, once I got there. I replied. I think I did pretty well.

Congrats! he replied.

So how do you think you did on the test? Kevin said.

I sighed again. Pretty well, I think. I find out in about a month.

At this point, Luke seemed to drop out of the game, while Kevin stepped it up a notch or ten. So do you have roommates? he asked, which began an epic six-hour-long text messaging marathon of sorts, filled with the same kinds of questions and get-to-know-you banter typical of a first date. While normally I would prefer to have these kinds of conversations in person, and over an alcoholic beverage or three, I decided to go with it. After all, it couldn't hurt to know a little bit about him before we went out.

He asked if I had known anyone when I moved to Mythaca, or if I had moved here by myself. I told him I had moved here by myself, and that after moving to Boston and France on my own as well I supposed I was getting used to it, though it didn't always make it easier. He told me he had moved here by himself too, and to Michigan before that. I find it hard to meet people here, he said. It seems like everyone is already married with kids. I couldn't believe it--this guy was singing my song. So cute guys have trouble meeting people, too? I wondered to myself. Truly, the world was a baffling place.

Then he asked me how old I am. Not that it matters, he said; I'm just curious. I groaned. Earlier secret reconnaissance on my part revealed him to be a youthful twenty-seven years old, whereas I, of course, have passed the 3-0 mark. Living in this town full of college students has made me more sensitive about my age than I ever thought I would be, and so I wondered to myself if I should even answer his question. I decided that not answering would make me look even worse, and so with a sigh, I replied, Can you even ask a girl that? I'm thirty. 

How old do you think I am? he replied.

I'd say you're probably about twenty-seven, I said.

You're exactly right! he replied.

I guess I'm just good at guessing ages, I said with a smile. 

So, is a twenty-seven year-old with no cultural experience off your radar? he asked.
I blinked. Blink, blink. Wow. How could I respond to a question like that? And over text, no less? I replied the only way I knew how--I turned it into a joke. That depends, I said. Do you have any skills?

Well, I am really good with a bow staff, he replied back. 

See! I said. I can't handle a bow staff at all.

Sounds like you might need me, he replied.

At this point Luke made a brief resurgence, asking me about my plans for the day. Up until this point I had assumed that, given Kevin's initiative, Luke had served as a sort of wingman in this scenario, providing his shyer friend with encouragement and support, something along the lines of, "Just ask her out dude, it's not that hard. Look, I'll show you..." But now I wasn't sure. Although it seemed most likely that this was still the case, and he was just continuing to make polite conversation. I answered, and then returned the question. 

Just hanging out with Kev and some friends, he replied. Waiting for my brother to get here, and then we're going to get a late lunch.

Kev and friends? It was worse than I had thought. Not only were they both in the same room, as I had suspected, both tapping away on their phones to me, but now there were friends to witness the spectacle. Egad. 

Now it was Kevin's turn. So, are you just staying in tonight? he asked.

Maybe, I replied. Vacation just started so I think a lot of people from school may have left town already. (Oh, the lies of the friendless and unpopular!) 

Well I would invite you to come out with us tonight, he replied, but a few of my high school friends are visiting and they're a bit rough around the edges, and I wouldn't want you to judge me. 

I read and re-read his message, unsure of how to respond. Did he want me to come but needed to warn me about his friends, or was this actually an unvitation? I'm not sure how to respond to that, I said. Just because I speak French doesn't make me a snob!

No, I don't think you're a snob, he said. It's just, these guys make me blush sometimes, and I would be embarrassed to expose you to them.

I wasn't going to fight him on this one; it's not like I wanted to meet his high school friends at the same time that I was meeting him for the first time.

That's fine, have a good time with your wild boys, I told him. Sounds like you'll have a fun night. 

We continued the conversation for a while longer, discussing this and that. We joked and typed out smiley faces and bad puns until eventually the texts tapered off, and I assumed he had gone out for the night. Though we hadn't made any concrete plans, I felt fairly certain that I would be hearing from him again soon. And after that epic text conversation, how could I not? Though he didn't know I was leaving for Philly the next day, and I practiced my breezy response to what was sure to be his next text: Oh, I'm actually in Philly for a few days, but I'll be back Wednesday. Yeah, sure, let's definitely hang out then. 

Sunday came and went without a single text, and I didn't think anything of it. Then all of Monday passed, too, and I started to get a bit nervous. Then, on Tuesday morning at 9:30 a.m., my phone beeped. It was Luke.

Luke?!

Hi Rachel, the text said.

Hi Rachel? Seriously? 

To be continued... (again)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Why I come from the land of the ice and snow

The day of the Chili Fest dawned cold, snowy, and ungodly early. But before I could partake in any Chili Fest fun, I first had to get myself to Smyracuse, a cool sixty-some miles away, and be safe in my seat, registered and ready for test-taking, by 8:30 in the morning. I left my house at 6:45 a.m., which according to my calculations would get me there with roughly half an hour to spare. But before I had driven more than a few miles out of town, things started to go slightly...awry. You see, instead of driving the prescribed 65 mph on the highway, I found myself forced to drive much more slowly through unplowed snow, driving wind, and virtually zero visibility. And things only got worse from there.

At 7:15 I pulled over to call the school where the test would be held. Surely they couldn't expect people to drive more than sixty miles to take a test when the world was clearly ending? But, seeing as it was a Saturday, and blizzarding, there was no answer. With no other choice, I continued nervously on my way. At 7:30, and still not even halfway there, I pulled over again. There must be a way to figure out if the school is closed, before I die in a ditch trying to get there, I thought. The 411 lady connected me to the Smyracuse City School District, this time, which led me to yet another pre-recorded message inviting me to leave my name and number, if I so wished, but again, nothing about school closings or snow. I gritted my teeth and started out again, knowing that this time there was no turning back. I would get there if it killed me (and it was looking increasingly like it might). I kept my speed down and concentrated on staying inside of the quickly-fading tire tracks in front of me, which were the only signs that I was still on the road at all. But I soon realized that simply getting there might not be the issue. Having taken two of these certification tests before, I knew these people to be sticklers for punctuality. The test ticket "suggested" you arrive for registration at 7:45, which would be followed by testing beginning at 8:30 sharp, after which point no one else would be allowed in. At 7:45, I began calculating how many miles I had left to go. At 8:00, and still nowhere near the testing site, I started sweating. I pressed down on the accelerator and passed cars on the left. I clenched my hands on the steering wheel as I drove past slow-moving trucks in the right lane. I almost cheered when I finally reached my exit, and then sat through five whole miles of stoplights, and every one of them, I swear, red. I pulled into the parking lot of the high school and parked illegally at 8:25. I ran through the snow and ice to the front doors--victory! and pulled. Locked. I tried another door. Locked, too. A sign with an arrow pointed to the right--Please use side door, it said. Side door? What side door? I ran, slip-sliding through snow drifts in the direction indicated, halfway around the building now, trying less and less likely doors, and all of them were locked. Tears sprang to my eyes--no, not now! Not after all this! This can't be the way it ends! Peering through the next door I saw people sitting casually--oh, so casually!--around tables in what looked like a cafeteria. I pounded, trying to get their attention. One person saw me, and gestured, helpfully, towards the direction from which I had just come. I ran once again, frantic now, back towards the front doors of the building, and started pounding on the glass. I could see people inside, and not one of them looked up. I tried the door and--oh. It was...open. The only one I hadn't tried, apparently. I ran inside, flustered and out of breath from my circuit around the building, and threw my admission ticket and my driver's license at the woman inside. She hurried me upstairs, each person pointing me to the next down a series of long hallways, in a long relay race towards my assigned classroom. I collapsed in my seat at 8:30 on the dot, and then the test began.

By 10:45 I was done--mercifully, blessedly done--test taken and hopefully rocked. Take that, NY state French certification exam. My sense of relief was short-lived, however, as I still had to get back home, and conditions outside had not at all improved. In fact, if possible, they seemed even worse than before. But I had made it all the way here, I told myself, and now that I could take my time, getting home would be a breeze. Unfortunately, everyone else between points A and B seemed to be of the same take your time mindset, with some people seeing fit to drive between 5 and 15 mph in one, long, single lane of traffic, which would at times stop completely, as if the person at the front of the line had simply given up altogether. For sixty miles. I sighed and turned up the radio, and did my best not to gawk at the cars in ditches and emergency vehicles lining the road at more and more frequent intervals. "In other news, the Mythaca Chili Fest has been postponed due to snow and high winds," the dj said between songs. I sighed again. This day was turning out to be a complete waste. 

Two hours later I pulled into my own driveway, safe and sound, and determined to never leave my house again, if at all possible. Or at least for the next few hours. But the boys...What to do about the boys? I pondered. I suspected that, just maybe, they had both given me their phone numbers thinking that I would contact the one I was most interested in. Well, three can play at that game, I thought, and then texted them both at the same time: No chili fest today! What is with this crazy weather? But who would reply? I wondered. Or would they both reply? I didn't have to wait long to find out. About a minute later, my phone beeped. Kevin! It was Kevin! I smiled to myself, and started typing out my reply.

To be continued...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Why sometimes it pours

Recently, at the apartment complex where I work, I helped a resident who had acquired a roommate transfer from a one-bedroom to a two-bedroom apartment. I showed him the two-bedroom and worked with him and his new roommate at the lease signing. "That is one good-looking boy," my boss mentioned at the office one day after he came by with some forms. 

"Oh yes," I agreed. "That's true. But," and here I gave a small sigh of disappointment, "he's just a little too short." My boss, being shorter than I (and married), disagreed. "His roommate, on the other hand, is super tall," I continued. "It's like, together they're the perfect guy."

This got me thinking, though. Hypothetically, which is the more important quality in a guy? I mean, smart, kind, sense of humor, blah blah blah, but on a purely superficial level, does tall or cute matter more? I've always been of the opinion that tall covers a multitude of sins. But then again, cute covers a multitude of sins, too. And really, it was a ridiculous debate in the first place. I mean, how many times do you find yourself having to decide between two guys, let alone one tall guy and one cute guy. I mean, maybe you have, but it's happened to me--wait, let me count--never. And maybe that's why I allowed myself to dwell on the idea; because it was so preposterous.

Then last night towards the end of my shift at work, the office door opened. "Hello," someone called out from the entryway. "Honey, I'm home," another voice joked, and then there they were, standing in my office--tall and cute.

"Oh, hey guys," I said, smiling. "What can I do for you?"

 "We're here for the mail key," one said.

"Sure, I'll go get it for you," I said.

From the key closet, I heard a whispered consultation on the other side of the wall.

Then, "So, Rachel," one of them said, "are you going to Winter Fest tomorrow?" 

Casual. Nonchalant. Nothing to freak out about here. "What's Winter Fest?" I said, exiting the closet.

"There's a chili fest tomorrow on the Commons. They'll have food and stuff."

"Oh, Chili Fest," I said. "That's tomorrow, huh? I actually have a crazy day tomorrow. I have to get up at 5:30 and drive to Smyracuse to take a test."

"What's the test for?"

"Oh, to get certified to teach. French."

"You want to teach?" "You speak French?" They interrupted each other with their questions, both speaking at the same time. I tried and failed to stop the warmth from flushing into my face at this unexpected attention. 

"Umm, yeah, I'm doing my student teaching right now."

"Oh, where?" "What grade?" they both spoke again, their questions overlapping, competing with each other.

"Middle school," I said, smiling.

"How long is the test?" one asked.

"Hopefully not that long," I said. "So...maybe I'll come downtown after." An awkward pause ensued, and to end it I handed over the key I was still holding. It seemed that an abrupt and awkward exit would soon be in order if I didn't do something.

"Here, why don't you guys have a seat," I said, "and I'll make you a mailbox label." We sat and the tension eased immediately.

"All I know about chili fests is from that Simpsons episode," I said, typing out the label. "Where Homer eats the really hot chili pepper?"

"Oh right," the tall one said. "And he goes on like an acid trip and goes into the desert and talks to the fox."

"Yeah!" I said, laughing.

 The cute one had never seen it. "There's a Simpsons episode about the Mythaca Chili Fest?" he asked, confused.

"Um, no," the tall one explained. "Just...a chili fest."

"Oh," the cute one said. "Right."

"Here you go," I said, handing over the label. "So, maybe I'll see you tomorrow then. And you guys will just be...down there?"

"Yeah, we'll be down there," one said. "Well, here," the tall one said. "I'll just write down my phone number for you, and that way you can find us..."

 "Ok," I said, handing him a yellow sticky.

"Well, maybe I'll just write down my phone number too," the cute one said, smiling cutely. "Just in case..."

"Ok, great," I said, looking down at the yellow sticky in my hand. "Thanks."

 After they left and the door closed, I laughed out loud, and reached for my phone to send a text to my boss. Though she's married with kids, she is actually my age, and would appreciate something like this, I knew. "The thing is," I concluded, thumbs tapping, "I'm not actually sure who asked me out!"

I hit send and looked again at the yellow sticky on my desk. Kevin. Luke.

To be continued...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why all in all you're just another brick in the wall

So, faithful readers...knowing what you know about me based on the few, paltry personal details I reveal here on the this worldwide web (ha!), would you guess that I would be a Mean Teacher? or a Nice Teacher? More Glinda the Good Witch, or her wicked western nemesis? Just curious.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Why I need to go out more often

In case it hasn't already been made abundantly clear, I haven't been doing much of anything lately. When I am not at school, work, or my other work, I am hunkered down in my little hidey-hole, biding my time and thinking of the possibilities that await when I finally break out of here in August. Most of the friends and acquaintances I once knew here have drifted away, for one reason or another, leaving me with little social life to speak of. I have become resigned to this, and with lesson plans, stacks of grading, a semester-long research project, completely superfluous part-time job, the occasional and desperately needed yoga class, and not to mention a stacked Netflix queue at the ready, I have more than enough to keep me, if not entirely fulfilled, at least busily occupied until the summer. I have become resigned to Boring, is what I am trying to say. As a rule, if not entirely by choice, I do not tend to Go Out. (A brief survey of all the blog posts I have ever posted on a Friday or Saturday night will confirm this.) Thus, on the rare occasion that I do Go Out, I am invariably amazed and somewhat awestruck by the blast-from-the-past nature of running into everyone in Mythaca I know or once knew. Where everybody knows your name, indeed. So let's just call this post the Diary of Why--Where Are They Now? update edition. I hope you're ready for a whole bunch of archive-linking. Ready? Here we go.

At noon on Friday I found myself on the receiving end of a mass text message from Jimmy James, inviting an unidentified group of people to a bar that night to kick off the weekend. I did want to go, in a vague, half-interested sort of way, but I knew that, while he was mostly good-intentioned, I couldn't exactly rely on him or his friends for attention or positive social interaction. I decided I needed a backup plan. I sent out an APB on Facebook for the same bar, same time, hoping I would get at least a couple takers--the more the merrier, after all, and it never hurts to have a buffer zone. As it turns out, I got more than a couple takers, and at one point we had a table of about eight or nine people from my teaching program, all there from a combination of my Facebook invite and/or serendipitous happenstance. The first to respond to the invite was a guy I'll call Eric, though that is not his real name. Showing up at the bar with him served the dual purpose of establishing the afore-mentioned social buffer, and making Jimmy James wonder if we were dating. Score. After Jimmy J's initial greeting ("Hey! You made it!") and a very brief chit-chat, it also allowed me to exit, saying, "Some people I know have a table over there, so, um, I'll be back." When I did finally meander my way back, some time later: "Did you piggyback your party on top of mine? Did you really do that?" Jimmy James asked with that fucking adorable grin

"Well...yeah," I admitted, laughing. "I kind of did. It's just that, when I hang out with you guys, I tend to get...ignored. So, I just thought..."

"I did feel really bad about that one time," he said, serious now. "And you were just...and then you were gone. You just left."

"Yeah," I said, "that's true. I did." But moving on...

Further conversation revealed that one of his roommates, his friend Alvin, would soon be moving to another city over an hour away (let's call it "Smyracuse"), and the "other person" he was living with (aka his girlfriend) was also in the process of moving out. But that it was for the best. I couldn't help taking secret delight in the fact that his whirlwind long-distance-turned-live-in relationship with the (from all accounts, though I never met her personally) too young, not very bright waitress from out of town hadn't worked out. I also didn't feel at all bad about the text message exchange we had after I returned home, wherein he, drunk, attempted to finagle a late-night invitation to "hang out," and I, against all temptation, pleaded sleepy, and declined. "But give me a call tomorrow, if you want," I added, knowing he probably wouldn't.

Before this, though, before the texting and the should-know-betters, the night progressed and we moved on to the next bar. And who did I see on the way but everybody's favorite commitment-phobe; the gin-drinking, yoga-practicing, breaker of hearts, Andrew, himself. Winter hats and upturned collars notwithstanding, we still made eye contact from several meters away in the half-dark, him accompanied by a petite blonde, me by Eric, both of us mumbling barely audible heys as we passed. So, one more down. But who else would I run into on this night of nights? What other ghosts of Friday nights past?

It didn't take long to find out, as immediately upon entering the next bar, who did I spy standing head and shoulders above the crowd but my astonishingly inconsiderate former roommate, accompanied by his, let's just say, loudly uninhibited girlfriend. They spotted me as they made their way towards the exit, the girlfriend (who, occasional night-time yodeling aside, is actually a very nice person) giving me a hug and a kiss on the cheek, and I immediately regretted any late night and sleep-deprived ill wishes I had ever harbored towards her. "And you know who else is here?" her boyfriend said to me. "The old roommate," and here he fumbled for a name. "The girl...your friend." 

"Oh, you mean Y?" I asked, delighted. We had fallen out of touch since the summer, and I hadn't seen or heard from her since.

"Yeah," he replied, smirking a little. "And...she's here with her girlfriend."

"I knew it!" I shouted triumphantly. "I knew she was a lesbian!" Though this was not really such an impressive feat. I had harbored suspicions ever since spotting her in the dark corner of a bar one night last year, making out with a girl. Plus, though we weren't in touch any longer, I had watched her transformation on Facebook, her pictures showing that she had chopped off her chin-length hair in favor of a partially sheared head and a faux-hawk. I was glad to hear that she had decided to come out, and that she had found a girlfriend. I said goodbye to my former roommate and his girlfriend, and not even a minute later bumped into Y, herself. I didn't know how she would react, given that the last attempt at communication I had had with her was a steadily ignored stream of texts and Facebook messages on my part last summer, after which I finally took the hint and gave up. But she was friendly, happy to see me, and greeted me with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. We chatted briefly at the bar and then she pointed to where she was sitting, told me to stop by and talk some more if I wanted. I wasn't sure she actually meant it, but walking by her table later, she flagged me down. She introduced me to her girlfriend, who seemed lovely and very cool, and so I sat, and we tried to make ourselves heard over the ear drum-grating music. We talked about our obnoxious former roommate, "And, you know who else I see around all the time?" she said. "That big guy..."

"Andrew?" I said, as having just seen him, he was still fresh in my mind.

"No," she said. "That big guy..."

"Ohh," I said. "James? Ack, James-the-tool!" I wouldn't necessarily characterize him as "that big guy," but then I remembered that the one time Y had met him, despite his usual display of folksy friendliness and blue-eyed charm, she (and my sister) had formed an immediate and lasting dislike of him. (And if I ever need a judge of character I know just who to go to, 'cause those two are usually right on.) She quickly summed him up, referring to him alternately as "The Quarterback," or "The Frat Boy," despite the fact that he was a linguist with a PhD, and had never been in a fraternity or played football. Though raised in the Pacific Northwest, he had the broad-shouldered, corn-fed good looks of a mid-western, football-playing frat boy, and, Y managed to imply without actually saying it, the white bread personality and lack of depth to go with it. The last time I had seen him had been in yet another attempt at renewing a so-called "friendship," that I didn't even blog about at the time because it all seemed so predictable, and I could already practically hear the inevitable outrage and disappointment in my decision-making skills from you guys in the comments section. It ended in an awkward and abruptly-ended (by him) make-out session in my bedroom, after which, surprise surprise, I haven't heard from him since. I know. So totally predictable, right? Let us all pause for a brief moment of silent I-told-you-so. Moving on. 

"So you guys hooked up?" Y asked with what I was sure was disapproval in her eyes, after I briefly and stupidly mentioned this last detail.

"No, no," I said quickly, "we just made out a couple times. But it was stupid, and...yeah. He's a jerk." She nodded knowingly.

I quickly changed the subject. After this summer and Y's complete and total radio silence, I had wondered if perhaps she had grown tired of hearing about my stupid heterosexual boy problems, and phased me out in favor of her other friends, ones who didn't keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Maybe I just didn't fit in with her newly developing sexual identity. I don't know. I just knew that I was sorry she was gone, and that I missed her. Boys be damned. When we said goodbye, though I had trouble hearing her over the music, I saw her lips form the word "lunch." I nodded, "Yeah, definitely." I didn't know if she meant it, or if it's just something you say, but then as we were leaving she grabbed my arm. "Text me sometime," she said into my ear, so I could hear her, and I nodded. So maybe she did mean it, then. I hope so. Because, though I may spend most of my air time here rambling on about the males of the species, really, nothing is better than a good girlfriend.