Sunday, November 30, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! I know it’s a little late an’ all. It just takes me time to process, analyze and digest. I’m not sure what “Happy Thanksgiving” really means. The most I can make out is that some people arrived here (USA) on a boat called the Mayflower. These people were called pilgrims (distant relatives of John Wayne). They established a colony and celebrated with a big dinner. And I do know that I don’t need to be offended by this one since, unlike the 4th, it’s not about sticking it to the British.

Thanksgiving was a difficult day for me. Despite appearances to the contrary, I have a hard time with new people. With like-minded people I can be outgoing and fun.However, if I can’t talk about fast cars and tell the strip club story I’m, um, a little boring I guess. Suz thinks that without her I’d be a bit of a hermit. She’s probably right.

Suz had arranged for us to have lunch with the neighbors and their 3 kids. I tried to conjure up an excuse not to go. I didn’t have a headache and I didn’t have to work. Bollocks! Plus, I promised Suz that I’d make an effort. So I did. We arrived, as invited, at 12. Lunch was at 4. The time in the middle was spent kid wrangling, waiting and worrying. By 2 my head was pounding and I could have eaten a small dog – like the family Pug, for example.

Doug and Jenny are very nice people. They were accommodating and welcoming. They gave me good beer and crackers and cheese. Jenny even attempted a Yorkshire pudding. It was such a nice thought that I felt obliged to eat four or five thick pudding poofs with gravy. No matter how nice they tasted, manners comes first. I fear that it will take weeks for them to pass. In the meantime, I’ll have to continue to walk with a wobble.

In truth, I didn’t really enjoy myself at all. I just wanted to eat and go home. I found five kids too much. The thought of my kids trashing their immaculate house gave me a headache. Conversation was limited at best. My gracious hosts were either examining the food with sigh and exasperation or kid wrangling with me. The highlight of my afternoon was holding their baby while staring menacingly at Jake trashing their kid’s room with a stick and an evil grin. He knew I couldn’t shout at him with the baby sleeping in my arms… He’s such a lil stinker that it make me smile.

Dinner was over pretty quickly. It was the usual assortment of odd American foods like candied yams, potato sludge and such. I helped clean up as best I could, bundled the kids up and headed home. I was satiated with 1000mg of Tylenol and a cup of Italian dark roast. Thanksgiving is about offering thanks and I was thankful to be home.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Calling a call center

I know for sure that blind rage is not what most people experience when they call customer service. I do. I have taken great care in lumping all of my unsatisfactory call center experiences into two broad categories; lazy and the unhelpful.

Lazy, arrogant ass wipes can usually be found in call centers here in the US of A. They are the ones that ask me to speak slowly and calm down. They are also the ones that put me hold for 30 minutes and hang-up. They are the ones where I can spend the better half of a day “putting things right” with the call center supervisor. These people often play a song in my head (a fav of mine by Kevin Wilson). It goes like this,

“I said… Stick that fuckin fone, up yor fuckin arse
You're supposed to fuckin help, not make it fuckin hard
I only want to make a call and you keep acting smart
So you can stick that fuckin fone up yor fuckin arse”

My other unsatisfactory call center experiences come from offshore call centers. These people are usually very polite and genuinely try not to be as helpful as a fart in an elevator. I especially hate a lady named Helen Smith from Mumbai that asked me to speak “rational English” or she “would be forced to disconnect from this conversation”. Rational English? WTF? And why pick a fake name like Helen Smith when you could have Jenna Jameson? See? No sense of service AND no sense of humor.

My modem didn’t work that day I met Helen. She suggested that I turn it off and on again. I pretended that I did since I knew that the problem was with some obscure public key encryption setting. I continued to show her how little she knew by lecturing her on the finer points of transport protocols, bandwidth and DHCP. She continued to expound the obvious. I continued to ignore her.

After I accidentally hung up by repeatedly hitting my forehead with the phone, I decided to power down the surge protector. It was then that I noticed that the modem was actually unplugged. OK, OK, I know what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong because, well, um, Helen is a stupid name anyway…

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pooping at the museum

Yesterday the kids and I spent the day at Jasmine Moran Children’s museum in Seminole. It’s a trek, but it’s worth it. Mommy was grouchy as hell and pretty hung-over from a night on the town. The drive there was uneventful until we passed the National Shrine for Infant Jesus of Prague, which I thought was hilarious. I couldn’t get Talladega Nights “baby Jesus in his golden diaper” out of my head. I must have giggled for 20 miles straight just thinking about it! Anyway, we arrived in one piece and continued to all have a great day. There was the bed of nails (yes, really!), crazy mirrors, kid-TV, dinosaur excavation, skeleton cycle, marble roller coaster, bubbles factory, fun, fun, fun, and then there was the maze.

It was a little chilly yesterday so we had to cover up to venture outside; past the train, over the footbridge and through kid town to get there. Castle maze is a plastic maze with a plastic castle fa├žade and a big plastic slide in the middle that you can use to shortcut from the start to half way through. We were having a great time. Wookie and Jake lead me through the most indirect route possible to the center of the maze. And that’s when things started getting frantic. We started off walking, then jogging and finally sprinting… The transition started with one “I gotta poop” to all three “I gotta poop… now”!

Parenthood is covered with poop. Sometimes metaphorically and other times quite literally. From my very first experience with the dreaded “black tar poop” diaper, I knew my poop-perception would never be the same. I’ve cleaned up so much poop in 5 years that I could list poop cleaner on my resume as a second occupation. I’ve cleaned poop off stinky butts, underpants, carpets and even walls! I’ve even lived to tell the tale of brown torpedoes… twice! This is undoubtedly the most horrific of all experiences. Just imagine for a second that you’re in the tub with your little angel. You’re both wearing bubble hats and playing with Diego Super Boat Rescue Pack. It’s all giggles and smiles until you spot the dark destroyer staring up at you from the depths of the tub. First comes the question, “what toy is that?”. Then there’s the realization that the brown torpedo from the rescue pack isn’t actually part of the rescue pack. It’s blind panic. A frantic cry for help, “Suz, helpPPP!!!…” followed by capture and disposal of the floater…. It doesn’t get much scarier than that. I’m sure if I looked it up, I could find parents suffering from PTSD from exposure to that situation alone. It really is that bad… But that was all a long time ago. Now the kids are older. I thought my poop-scapades we well and truly over. Boy was I wrong!

So back in the maze we found ourselves sprinting. We crawled under walls to get to the other side often only to arrive at yet another dead end. Poop was coming whether we liked it or not. I was avoiding sharp movements for fear of sharting. The worst case was a very smelly hour and a half ride home. The best case was to make it back to the museum before the turtles left their shells. It was manic! We all had to go. We all had to go right then and there.

Perhaps it’s because we’d been blessed by baby Jesus’s golden diaper on the way, but we made it back to the museum just in time. I didn’t know what state we were in, poopy vs clean, but we made it!

Now public restrooms with a kid can be tricky. It’s stressful, but you can get through it with a healthy supply of tissue, lots of patience and a double stall. It gets harder when you add more kids and/or poop. Yesterday’s turmoil came from the following equation,

Panic = 3 y/old poop+ 5 y/old poop + own poop + single stall

There were two stalls free. Jake took the first. Wookie and I took the second. I practically ripped Wookies pants and undies off and threw him on the toilet. I clenched my cheeks and waited as Wookie, sharted, farted and squirted more poop than one would have thought his little body could contain. Next door I heard Jake shouting “daddy, I dropped a big ‘un… wanna see? Do I get candy for the MASSIVE POOP?”… I took relative comfort in the fact that I could, if the looks came upon me after this, ask in a puzzled way “who’s kid is this?” then walk away. He'd find me later, I'm sure.

No sooner had Wookie finished pooping than I pushed him off the pot and shat my brains out. Jake was now crawling under the door. Wookie was wiping his little bum with his little hand and not the huge wad of paper that he had in his other hand. I heard the guy in the other stall leave the bathroom. Flush, rustle, open door, close door, no washing of hands, gone: all in less than 10 seconds! I was shouting at the kids to do that, don’t do that, stay there, move, wipe here, not there, etc. But none of that mattered. The threat of bacteria, germ infested, and disease-ridden children was nothing compared to the feeling that I had just left my sphincter in the pot. And that was nothing compared to the overwhelming feeling of relief that we’d made it. Sure, there’d be lots of cleaning up – but we made it!

One of the lessons that I learned from team building this week at work is that some of the most satisfying experiences are often on the back of adversity. Yesterday at the Children’s museum we beat poop to the pot! We wiped butts, washed hands and even did a coordinated high-5 to congratulate ourselves! We had made it! We got through it! Daddy, Wookie, Jake – Team Wheatley! What a team!