With any craze, there comes a point when you need to stop and ask yourself, Why am I doing this again? For example, everyone in America standing in line in the hot, hot sun or the freezing cold for a measly cupcake should be asking themselves, Is this really worth 45 minutes of my life? Meanwhile, I am asking myself what is so great, really, about food trucks?
It’s a habit that is developed early in life and never seems to fade. From that first winter in Kindergarten (even though Kindergarten is fun, much more fun than a full-time job, and those kids have no right to complain), we learn to wish for the magic of a Snow Day. Some have a dance or a chant, while others rely on the power of prayer. “Oh my God, God, please don’t make me go to school tomorrow.” But for every flake of snow or drop of freezing rain that is forecast, we are united in the common hope that we can have one blissful day of sleeping in and wearing pajamas and not having talk to a single person.
And along with these habits of hoping come the rituals for compulsively checking if your dreams have come true. Thanks to the internet, you can easily check your status online, hitting refresh repeatedly until something changes. Or better yet, just wait for a text, tweet, or email alert. But back in my day there was a little more effort and stress involved. You could watch the news, hoping to see the name of your county scroll across the bottom of the screen – your breath catching in your chest as each new name appeared and your heart dropping when you saw one repeat, meaning the list had come and gone without your school on it. Or maybe you’d call the inclement weather hotline, which was faster, but still full of suspense. They always started with the date. Ok blablabla we know what day it is, cut to the chase! Then they’d state the county, “Montgomery County Schools are…” and you’d analyze the tone of the recorded voice. “Oh yeah she sounds like it’s serious, she is enunciating like she has really important information to convey, we are totally closed,” or “Oh no, she sounds so nonchalant and a little dismissive, like we are idiots to even be calling because obviously schools aren’t closed. Crap, we are so open.” And then there is that long pause right before the one part you really want to hear, like when Ryan Seacrest announces who didn’t get enough votes on American Idol, because I guess they are under the impression that people are patient and like to wait for things – because that is what America is about: delayed gratification. In any case, the moment of truth is upon you. “Schools are…”
And then finally, the verdict: Closed. And your heart soars, trumpets sound, confetti flies.
But not for everyone. Apparently there are people who couldn’t be bothered to check the weather and just show up to work on time every day like fools! Yesterday, my office had a two-hour delay due to snow. When I arrived at work, I overheard a woman explaining that she had no idea there was a delay and arrived first thing in the morning. My immediate reaction was,
No idea? Lady, when you wake up and see snow outside, you check for closings! Fact. That is the first thing you do. Even if you think, “No, they couldn’t possibly close for this!” Yes, yes they could. Are you new here? They have and they do and they will again. It doesn’t take much. That is the beauty of it. I mean, I didn’t even SLEEP that night because every 30 minutes I asked myself, Do you think they’ve decided yet, should I check now?? I basically lost 8 hours of sleep wondering if I’d be getting 2 extra. But I at least knew what was going on.
Then today, the forecast was for snow in the early morning. Like any sane person, I went to bed planning to wake up, check the internet, and go back to bed because obviously, everything would be closed. But my sweet snowy slumber was interrupted by a phone call from my boss letting me know that the office was closed. This was very nice, but buddy, when there is a day off of work at stake, I make it my business to know. I may have had grilled cheese for dinner every night for the past week, but this? I’m on top of it. I don’t mess around with Snow Days.
…to be forced into buying crappy gifts for people just to fulfill an obligation. Fa la la la la la la la.
Before you get your Santa suit in a twist, let me say, I love giving someone a gift I know they will enjoy and appreciate. What I hate is spending time and money to buy something…anything…for an acquaintance, even though they will probably hate it, because it is part of a “fun” gift exchange or because they are getting me something so now I have to get them something, only to be filled with the satisfaction and joy that their inevitable look of poorly stifled disappointment brings:
That just warms your heart.
My gut reaction to that look is, “Okay, fuck you then. You get nothing!” Although, I don’t entirely blame them. They are trying. It is just very, very difficult to pull off the perfect ‘I don’t like this at all but I am going to look so genuinely excited and grateful that you can’t tell’ face. You have to be quick on your feet – if you show even a flash of disappointment before painting on a smile, it’s over. But, in your rush to show excitement and appreciation, be careful not to overdo it – that is also an immediate tell. Your level of excitement must be proportionate to the gift. If someone buys you an ugly pair of Christmas socks, you can’t use excitement to cover up your true feelings. Saying, “Yes, socks! I can’t believe it, I love love love these, OMG this is amazing! I have to Instagram these right now,” could only be perceived as sarcasm.
Yes, there is a lot of thought and skill that goes into pulling off the perfect fake response. I myself can’t do it. I fight a constant battle between not wanting to be rude and not wanting to lie, and this internal conflict manifests in my face. The attempted smile is always pulled back by the ‘Yeah, I don’t want this crap’ face and it ends up looking like this:
How about, instead of buying each other shit we don’t want… we do nothing! Let’s just exchange season’s greetings and call it a day. How about you take the money you were going to spend on me, and buy something you actually want, and I’ll take my money, and buy what I want, which I’ve actually been doing all year, because I am self-sufficient and don’t depend on casual acquaintances to buy me things.
Some might argue that a gift card is a way around the gift exchange dilemma. But at that point, why bother? A gift card is almost like giving someone cash, but with the caveat that they can only spend it where you say so. So it is actually worse than giving someone cash because at best, you’ve exchanged bills out of your wallet, and at worst, you’ve exchanged those bills for a plastic card that you can’t use.
A friend of mine was forced into a gift exchange at work, specifically a gift card exchange. I consider this to be the height of stupid. They are literally going to stand in a circle and trade $25. Why is that fun? “You’ll never guess what I got at work today – after paying $25, I got $25 back!” You don’t even get to unwrap it, and we all know that is half the fun of presents. I did a lot of online shopping for myself last week and I’m very seriously considering wrapping that stuff up just to open it Christmas morning. Maybe taking this gamble with a gift card exchange is fun in the way that Russian Roulette is fun, but instead of not getting shot in the head, your rush of adrenaline comes from not getting the Olive Garden gift card.
I recently watched the Netflix original series Orange is the New Black and really enjoyed it. But, as is the case with most TV shows I watch, I left with a list of “give me a break” moments. One of them had to do with *mini spoiler alert* Piper getting put in solitary confinement, for like, a day. If that.
Now I don’t want to trivialize how awful that must be, having never been in solitary myself, but I feel like she overreacted. I have no doubt that solitary will drive you mad…eventually. But she was panicked, hysterical, and hallucinating pretty much immediately.
I mean look at her. Her first order of business was to sit on the floor and feel sorry for herself. There are so many things she could have done to occupy herself before resigning to hopelessness. She didn’t try at all!
For example, I can think of one thing most people do that kills 6-8 hours every day and it doesn’t require too much space: sleep! Take a fucking nap, Piper! You probably won’t notice you are in solitary if your eyes are closed and you are unconscious.
Not tired? Do a bunch of jumping jacks, push-ups, and squat thrusts until you get tired! Then sleep. Then repeat. You will kill loads of time, improve your mood by generating endorphins, and burn a ton of calories. It’s win-win-win.
Feeling lonely? Try talking to one of your neighbors. You could play 20 Questions or Would You Rather. Not within earshot of another human being? Seize this unique opportunity! I feel like I rarely have the privacy required for one of my favorite hobbies – singing and dancing like nobody’s watching! Belt out your favorite songs and have a dance party. Once again, your mood will be drastically improved, you will burn major calories, and you will be primed for another great nap.
Starting to get stressed out? Take some deep breaths, do some yoga, meditate. Think of solitary as a retreat. People pay good money to sit in silence for days at a time so they can just “allow themselves to BE.” You get to do it on the taxpayers’ dollar. Take advantage of this opportunity for introspection and self-reflection. You could use it, Piper, because you are kind of a bad person.
I think Piper’s dramatics bothered me so much because she could have done all the things I wish I could do at work every day. In theory you have the freedom to leave when you feel the walls closing in on you at work — which of course you don’t in solitary — but the catch of having a job is that you have to show up to keep it. So you may find yourself similarly confined to a small space for long periods of time. The unfortunate difference is, in solitary, you can do whatever the hell you want. Last time I checked you couldn’t take a nap, lay down into corpse pose, or belt out your favorite tunes at your desk. If anyone should be losing their mind, it’s us poor working stiffs.