Sunday, November 26, 2006

Telling It Like It Is

I was returning from the local bodega when I passed a young man who was talking on a cell phone. He was leaving a message for his lucky girlfriend -- or boyfriend.

SWAIN: HEY! Pick up or I'll shove the phone up your ass when I see you!

Now how can one resist such a lothario, yeah?

Not too long ago, a woman I don't really know was showing off her engagement ring to a group of friends. At some point during the evening, she came over to me and stuck out her left hand for me to admire her ring. It was lovely. However, the man she is marrying is not. They always seem to be arguing. Furiously. Violently. Long-termly. But, I murmured the proper words that included congratulations, so happy, lucky you, at last, and run for your life! No, those last four words were not uttered--aloud, anyway. After all, it was best not to tell her the truth of the matter because, as Oscar Wilde once wrote, A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.

I looked around for the husband-to-be. She saw this and told me that he had stayed home while she went out to celebrate her engagment with her girlfriends.

BRIDE-TO-BE: He's so cute! He was so nervous that he had to drink-- a whole lot-- and get into a big fight with me before he got the nerve to ask me. He got down on one knee and when I said yes, he jumped up and fell over. He banged his head on the table and knocked himself out. So he's home sleeping it off.

Now that is the most romantic proposal I have ever heard.

Bride-to-be then asked me several questions:

1. Do I have to wear the ring every day?
2. Do I have to return it if I don't marry him?
3. It's too big. Should I go have it fixed?
4. Can I just stay engaged? Forever?

Hmm. This is a woman in love. So, I offered advice.

1. Yes.
2. Yes.
3. Uh, yeah.
4. Yes. No. Maybe.

Bride-To-Be's best friend then told me that for her wedding, she wanted The Women to get really dressed up in beautiful 1940's-type dresses.

ALICE: Oh, of course. When are you getting married?
BEST FRIEND: Well, I don't have a man in my life, yet. I'm just thinking ahead. So remember to keep the date open.
ALICE: Date? When is it?
BEST FRIEND: Well, one year after I get engaged.
ALICE: But you just said you don't even have a boyfriend, let alone a fiance.

She walked away and left me with Bride-to-Be, who was still asking questions.

BRIDE-TO-BE: But, Alice, why should I give the ring back if we don't get married?
ALICE: Because. It's a promise that you made when you accepted...
BRIDE-TO-BE: Excuse me, I didn't promise him nothing, okay?
ALICE: Well, not in words, but in action. You took his ring and...
BRIDE-TO-BE: It's not his. It's mine. He gave it to me.

I realized that this group had been drinking for too long before I came along so it was best to just tell her what she wanted to hear.

The truth. It is rarely pure and never simple. That's what Oscar would have said had he been there. Actually, that's what he did say. Once.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Perchance to Dream

"That he's mad, 'tis true, 'tis true 'tis pity,
And pity 'tis 'tis true."

--From Hamlet

Eddie called me up to say goodbye. Goodbye? Wherever are you going? That's what I asked. It turned out that he and some friends were driving to Virginia where they were going to skydive -- his very first time. His father had tried to lure him away from this folly. Money. A trip to Europe. A tantrum. A faked heart attack. Nothing swayed Eddie. He was going to throw himself from a plane while attached to an experienced jumper. So he was saying goodbye to case, you know?

ALICE: Well, Eddie, you have called me before...when you were going bungee jumping, when you were going to run with the bulls in Pamplona, when you were going spelunking, and when you were going to learn how to scuba dive in Egypt. When does this end?
EDDIE: Don't worry, I thought long and hard about this and I had a plan to back out of it, if I needed to do that.
ALICE: What plan?
EDDIE: Well, when I went to sleep last night I promised myself that if I had a dream of Calpurnia urging Caesar to stay away from the Curia, then I wouldn't go.
ALICE: THAT was your plan?
EDDIE: Yes, because had Caesar listened to the little woman, he wouldn't have been stabbed all those times. He should've listened.
ALICE: THAT was your plan?
EDDIE: Yes. But, I didn't have that dream, so here I go. And it isn't March 15th so that's good, too, right?
ALICE: What does your girlfriend have to say about this?
EDDIE: Oh, she's right here! She's doing this too.
GIRLFRIEND: Hi! Isn't this exciting?
ALICE: Incredibly. Did you also have an "exit" plan for this outing?
GIRLFRIEND: Oh, yes! You know that pillow crease on the cheek that one wakes up with some mornings?
ALICE: Uh, yeah.
GIRLFRIEND: Well, if I woke up with one today, then I would have insisted that Eddie and I stay home.
ALICE: THAT was your plan?
GIRLFRIEND: Yeah, because every time I wake up with that line on my face, something bad happens to me.

So unlined Girlfriend and Calpurnia-free Eddie jumped, and lived to tell the tale.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


On my way to work, I stopped to pick up a green tea latte at a shop. There were three people ahead of me. Three women. Friends. They were discussing someone named Mitch.

1ST WOMAN: Oh, he's so much fun! I love him!
2ND WOMAN: YEAH! I do, too.
3RD WOMAN: He's wonderful! He's gay, you know.
1ST WOMAN: Gay? He's not gay. You think he's gay?
3RD WOMAN: Yeah. I do. In fact, I know it.
2ND WOMAN: He's not gay! He's just ... peppy.

As I was walking to the office, I saw a man--a rather disheveled man--coming toward me. He was singing. Loudly. Joyfully. These are some of the words: AMERICA IS GREAT! NEW YORK IS THE BEST PLACE! Actually they were the only words.

He sang these, er, lyrics three more times before he reached me. Then, still singing, he leaned over me and pretended to be biting my left shoulder. He incorporated this gnawing at me into the song, which now went: AMERICA IS GREAT! NEW YORK IS THE BEST PLACE! NYAH, NYAH, NYUM!

As I reached the front door, my cell phone rang. It was Harry. I love hearing from Harry. He's wonderful.

He's friend.

Just a sample morning in the world of Alice.

An author doesn't necessarily understand the meaning of his own story better than anyone else.

--Alice in Wonderland

Monday, November 13, 2006

'Keep your temper,' said the Caterpillar.

After several days away from the office, I returned to find that the phones weren't working. That is, incoming calls weren't getting through, though we could call people if we wanted. I didn't. I liked that the phones weren't ringing off the hook. I liked that we could catch up on all the work without interruption.

What I didn't like was that the doctors wanted us to listen to the messages. There were seventy of them. Yes. And this was before the afternoon. Seventy people with questions, complaints and garbled messages. Those that weren't incomprehensible were strident.

PHONE CALLER: I want to make an appointment. Where are you people? Don't you know how to answer the phone? Anyway, I'm feeling tired and I think I need a blood test. I expect to be called back! I mean it! It's a workday, so why aren't you answering the phone?

My office mate told me to disregard the cranky voice because it belonged to a woman who was a hypochondriac.

OFFICE MATE: And, she also drinks her urine.
ALICE: What?
OFFICE MATE: Yeah, we have a number of patients who drink their urine.

I had no words.

A very nervous patient, who calls all the time, left a message that he had an appointment tomorrow, but wanted to be called back to talk about another possible date to come in.

NERVOUS PATIENT: BUT DON'T CANCEL MY APPOINTMENT! I'm not asking you to cancel. I just want you to call back and tell me if there are other times. DON'T CANCEL!

A few minutes later, a fax comes through. It's from the nervous patient. It said: DON'T CANCEL MY APPOINTMENT! CALL ME BACK!

So, that's what I do. Nervous Patient says he is so happy to hear from someone because he wasn't sure if we would get the message. Oh, we got the message alright. Calls, faxes...I was surprised the guy didn't owl us with the news.

ALICE: So, how can I help you?
NERVOUS PATIENT: Does the doctor have another day and time when he sees patients?
ALICE: Yes. Next week?
NERVOUS PATIENT: Great! I'll take it!
ALICE: So, you were calling because you wanted to cancel your appointment and reschedule?
NERVOUS PATIENT: No, that's not what I wanted. But since you offered, I might as well take it.

His call was number three. I had sixty-seven more to go.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

No Room...No Room!

I was invited to dinner with family friends who were visiting New York City. I was to meet them at an Italian restaurant in the Village. When I arrived, expecting to see only two people seated at a small table, I was shown to a large one where seven were sitting and polishing off a second bottle of wine.

FAMILY FRIENDS: Ah! Alice! Sit, sit, sit!

I managed to squeeze into a chair at the end of the long table. One of the men at the table looked at me and asked, Who are you? It's a good thing we weren't at a hookah bar, that's all I'm saying.

FAMILY FRIENDS: Everyone! This is...Alice. Alice, this is...everyone!
ALICE: Well, this does make it easier to remember your names.
EVERYONE: Hello! How are you! Happy to meet you!

They spoke as one and I was marvelling at my first encounter with synchronized speech. Then they returned to the conversation I had interrupted. Now, they spoke one at a time. It concerned losing bone mass as one ages. Well, I've heard worse dinner conversations.

FAMILY FRIEND #1: Well, I know that I have shrunk at least two inches in height since I was a teenager.
FAMILY FRIEND #2: You always say that! But I think you're wrong.
FAMILY FRIEND #1: No, I'm not! I'm not as tall as I was. You can't tell me it's not true.
FAMILY FRIEND #2: It isn't! You're just walking humped over like some old thing. You're not old yet, so stand up straight, for fuck's sake!

The women at the table agreed with Family Friend #1. They said they also have noticed they aren't as tall as they once were. The men scoffed and laughed at their wives. I had nothing to say on the matter because I was still trying to figure out who these people were, and I'm still the height I was...forever. The battle raged on.

FAMILY FRIEND #1: And just think, in twenty years, I'll probably shrink even more.
FAMILY FRIEND #2: Yeah. It's called decomposing!

One of the men at the table looked at me and saw that I wasn't drinking.

MAN: Do you want more wine?
ALICE: More? Well, I haven't had any yet.

He seemed to lose interest in me then and turned back to the others and added his two cents to the osteo-centric conversation.

I ordered lamb chops, as did the man who offered me the non-existent wine. Everyone else ordered osso bucco. Yeah. They did.

MAN: What! We both ordered the same dish? Why, we have a bond!
ALICE: Er...o.k.
FAMILY FRIEND #1: See? I knew that you two would get along!

The dinner lasted two hours, and at one point I felt that Family Friend #2 might suddenly announce, Clean glass, clean glass, move one seat down! Yup. It was that kind of night.

And, I never did get any wine.

'I've had nothing yet,' Alice replied in an offended tone, 'so I can't take more.'
"'You mean you ca'n't take less,' said the Hatter, 'it's very easy to take more than nothing.'

-- Alice in Wonderland

Monday, November 06, 2006

Running Around

So many people who are members of my local gym, seem to have been in the crowd running in the NYC Marathon on Sunday. And they were proud--as they should be. One man walked in and shouted, 3:51, baby! Someone had to clue me in about the number being the time it took him to run the full length of the marathon.

I am impressed. I was running on the treadmill and I wanted to stop after three minutes. Killer Trainer said no, keep running. I said something like, MAKE ME...and she did. Two minutes more. Yep, I amaze myself at how I exceed expections! I think I'm getting the hang of this gym business...

So all the talk of running reminded me of something I had read about last year. It seems that a female track star from Zimbabwe, who had won a gold medal from a competition that had been held in Botswana, was a MAN. Named Samukaliso Sithole.

One of female friends was told about this by another friend who knew the truth, and she freaked. She went to court and Sithole was chared with crimen injuria, or psychological offense. The former friend complained that her sexuality and dignity was compromised because she had told Sithole secrets, even feeling comfortable enough to be talking and walking naked around her. Er, him.

Sithole defended himself by telling the judge that he was born congenitally deformed and that his family had taken him to a witchdoctor, who gave him “female status” through a spell. But the spell didn’t work because Sithole’s family didn’t pay the full fee. I hate when that happens.

So Sithole, still thinking he was pulling off being a girl, was getting ready to travel with a group of women to a track meet in the city of Bulawayo, when the jig was up. Police were summoned. S/he decided to make a run from the police but was caught. The police then checked his bits, and bob’s yer uncle!

So, these things come to mind:

1. I have several female friends that I trust enough to tell them secrets--of sorts. But would I actually prance around in front of them naked, all the while chatting about this and that? Umm. NO!

2. So Sithole was a track virtuoso. But he sprinted from the train station and the police CAUGHT him. Easily. Man, how fast is considered fast in Zimbabwe? That gold medal must be sh*t.

3. Can’t shake the feeling that the dude’s name is missing a letter.

4. Jeez. The Sithole family should have saved their money. That witchdoctor sucked. Maybe they should have gone to Harry Potter. Now, he knows about spells!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Paper Covers Rock

Adele had been away on business for two days. As soon as she returned from Connecticut last night, she came over to the apartment. Deacon, his girlfriend, and I were watching a movie…at least Deacon and Girlfriend were because I was lying on the couch wiped out from staying out very late the night before, getting up early, and getting pummeled by the trainer at the gym. So I was watching and snoozing.

Adele looked quite pulled together, wearing charcoal trousers, grey sweater, and polished three-inch boots. I summon non-existent energy to get up and greet her.

ADELE: I have decided that I am now in my looking for a husband mode.
ALICE: Again?
ADELE: Well…yes. I go in cycles, you know. Adele cycles.
ALICE: So, we are back to the beginning.
ADELE: Yeah, when I first met you, I told you I was looking for a husband. Now, this minute, I’m doing the same thing.

Deacon and his girlfriend each rush off to different parts of the apartment. They are very familiar with this cycle of Adele-ness, and just don’t want to talk about it. Again. Adele then tells me all the reasons she wants a husband. I am so tired – it is midnight – and I really am trying to give her all my attention. But, I apparently fall asleep while she is talking, though she doesn’t notice because she is still talking when I wake up. I nod and make all the proper noises that a person who is keenly following someone’s discussion makes.

ADELE: So, after hearing all this, what do you think?
ALICE: Well. Um. Hey! Are you hungry? Do you want to get some samosas?
ADELE: Oh, god, yes. I would love some!

I know my Adele. Yes, there is her looking-for-a-husband cycle. But the I love samosas probably more than I love looking for a husband trumps it. Every time.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

One, Two, Three...OW!

This morning was my first meeting with a trainer at my local gym. She turned out to be amusing, charming, and helpful. Oh, yes. She also did not listen to me when I told her that I wanted to go very slowly with this exercising business. So she is also a KILLER.

Just sit on this bike for a little bit, she said. The little bit was not little. Just lie on this mat for a few little movements, just to get you started, she said. They were not a few little anythings, and I wanted to get ended!

After crunches, squats using a Swiss ball, and lifting humongo weights--o.k. they were only three pounds, but still--she made me lie down on a slab and began a few minutes of stretching me. Now I can imagine what people in the Middle Ages felt when they were sentenced to the rack.

TRAINER: O.k. Alice. Can you feel this stretching here?
TRAINER: Great! How about here?
TRAINER: Excellent! What about this? And this? Oh, and here?

When it was all over, Trainer walked me to the front door, gave me a big hug, and told me that I was to meet with her three times a week. Yeah, sure.

TRAINER: Oh, Alice?
TRAINER: So, just want to let you know that today I was being real nice and going real slow because you're new at this, but from now on, it's gonna be hard work, baby! No more mercy for you!

A killer. And I get to pay her for it, too.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

"We're All Mad Here"

When I arrived at work, I found out that I was to spend the day working without my two office colleagues. One of the doctors had decided not to hire a temp for the day because, as he told me, It won't be too busy today. We can handle it without extra help.

Yes, yes, of course. I knew right then that we would have a Who Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest type of day.

All the phone numbers were ringing at the same time. There were so many patients, we ran out of chairs. Well, how about that. We really hadn't needed a temp...we should have hired a beefy bouncer named...oh, I don't know...Bruno, to stand at the door and make decisions about who came in or not.

And then there were The Questions. Oy!

A PATIENT: How long before the doctor finishes talking to the patient that's in there? How many minutes? I'm impatient.
ALICE: Oh, sorry, have you been waiting long?
A PATIENT: No, I'm early for my appointment.
ALICE: Oh? What time is your appointment.
A PATIENT: Three o'clock.
ALICE: But, it's one o'clock.
A PATIENT: Yeah, I know. I don't have anything better to do.

A Phone call:

CALLER: I want to see the doctor. I'm a new patient. It has to be next week-- on a Tuesday -- and it's gotta be at noon, you know?

When I told this caller that there were no appointments open until December, he didn't speak for a few seconds.

CALLER: Nah, nope, can't wait that long. So what do I have to do to get this appointment? I'm a busy man so I need fast action. Who do I talk to about getting it?
ALICE: Well, I guess you could talk to Bruno.

Then someone came in who only spoke Korean.

Enough said.

Finally, toward the end of the day, a patient calls and says that she is scheduled for blood tests tomorrow and was told that she couldn't have any tylenol.

PATIENT: You know, I have a BIG headache. Could you ask the doctor if I could take anything else, like morphine or opium. Or should I not take anything and just writhe all night?

At last, an intriguing question.

I researched this...which meant asking the doctor. Then I called her back.

ALICE: Hi! Does your boyfriend live with you?
PATIENT: Yeah, why?
ALICE: Well, so that it shouldn't be a total waste...