A Dying Whale

People are the worst.

Okay, I don’t really mean that. I love people. I really do. But some days (like today), it just really feels like people are the worst, everything hurts, and I’m dying.

everything hurts

I was just walking down the hallway at work (apparently looking dejected), and some young man (stranger danger!) called out to me in an overly perky voice: “Cheer up! Life ain’t so bad!”

April Ludgate bonding

Do I know you? No.

Was I talking to you? No.

Do you know anything that’s going on in my life? No.

Do you actually know that anything is wrong? Do you know that this isn’t just how my face looks?!?! The answer is still NO!

Grumpy Cat No

I just moaned at him. Like a dying person. Or a whale. Or a dying whale.

It was a beautiful sound. And although I didn’t win any Academy Awards for it, at least I didn’t make any new friendships.

April-ludgate

Authentically Aurora

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Elevator Speech

Elevator

I get asked out all the time – at least once a week. Ladies, I’m told the secret to my unintentional success is that I am both pretty and approachable.

I say “unintentional success” because I generally try to look as unapproachable as possible. Like Ron Swanson, I call my coworkers my “work proximity associates”. I occasionally intentionally call people the wrong name if they start to get too chummy with me. As I type this, I am wearing a shirt that says, “I didn’t choose the grumpy life. The grumpy life chose me.”

I’m not sure how my perpetual scowl and look of disdain are mistaken for being welcoming. Maybe that’s why none of my dates work out. I only attract utterly imperceptive men who think that my grimace secretly means “take me, I’m yours!”

In any case, historically, I’ve been asked on dates by complete strangers at the most random of places, among them the yogurt aisle in the grocery store, the gas station and the sci-fi section of a Barnes and Noble. Now I can add to the list: an elevator.

The first week of the year, fresh from my commitment not to date for a while, I was invited to a party at a friend’s apartment. I’d never been to this particular apartment before, so only when I showed up did I realize that it is a veritable fortress.

There were multiple towers – Tower A and Tower B (“The Two Towers,” I thought to myself… See why I got asked out in an aisle of sci-fi books?!) – and a huge lobby with multiple elevator banks protected by armed security guards. I’ve learned over the years that no one questions you if you look confident, so I strutted past the security guards like I lived in the place, and I made it to the first set of elevators.

A cluster of residents was exiting an elevator just as I arrived, so I snuck in before the door closed. Sighing in relief at how easy that had been, I pushed the button for floor 7. But nothing happened. I tried again. Nothing. So I tried pushing floors 6 and 8. Still nothing.

Eventually the doors opened back up to the lobby, and, puzzled, I got out. Just then, I spotted one of my girl friends across the lobby on the other side of the security guard’s post. I waved her over, but she’s not as bold as I am. She shyly shook her head, so I went to her where she stood in the safety of the public area of the fortress.

As I started to explain to her my difficulty getting to the 7th floor (the hostess also wasn’t answering her phone), I spotted an attractive young man returning to the lobby from walking his dog outside. Assuming he was probably a resident, I said loudly enough for him to hear, “Well he looks like a nice guy. I bet he’ll help us.”

My friend looked horrified at my widely-heard proclamation, but it did the trick. The young man turned to look over his shoulder at me, and I smiled winningly as I strode forward.

“Hi!” I lowered my voice so the nearby security guard wouldn’t be able to hear. In my experience, security types like this tend to either have big egos or inferiority complexes. In either case, they are more trouble than help. “My friend and I are trying to get to the 7th floor for a party, but we’re having trouble with the security system in the elevator.” I batted my eyelashes for good measure. “Do you live here?”

I saw the dog owner looking down at my left hand. I followed his gaze down to the six-pack of beer I’d forgotten I was holding. “Do you want one? I’ll owe you a beer if you can help us out.”

“What? Oh.. uh, yeah. I’m… uh, I’m on the 8th floor.” Clearing his throat, the young man straightened his shoulders and explained importantly, “You have to have a key card to operate the elevators. Come with me!”

Thanking him profusely, I winked at my friend to follow. We waltzed past the security guards and got onto the elevator. Sure enough, our guide slid a badge in front of a card reader, and he was able to push both 7 and 8 for us. “I’m Trevor, by the way,” he told me, reaching out to shake my hand.

Like the frog from Harry Potter? I thought. Then I inwardly rebuked myself for that being my first reaction to his introduction. “Nice to meet you, Trevor. I’m Aurora. Which beer would you like?” I extended the sampler pack to him so he could choose one. Shiner. Good choice.

We were almost to the 7th floor when Trevor handed his phone to me. “Let me get your number,” he said as I took the phone from his hand. “After all, I owe you for this beer.”

Ugh. I wasn’t supposed to be dating, but I didn’t want to reject him in front of the other people in the elevator. I typed in my number and figured I could explain myself later.

Within an hour, I already had a text message from Trevor: “So at 100% interest a day, we need to get drinks real soon. I might not have went to Harvard, but I know all about compound interest.”

I thought his compound interest comment was charming (yes, I’m a nerd), but I was confused about his random reference to Harvard until I glanced down and realized I was wearing my ex-fiance’s sweatshirt. Classic.

I figured we could go for one round of drinks, I’d explain that I’m not dating, we would end up going dutch, and that would be that. So I asked when he was free. His response? “I’m always free. This is America.” And with that comment… my brothers would love him. 

We went to a wine dive a few days later. Typically, my first date mindset is: Ask all the hard questions – premarital sex, politics, family dynamics, religion. If he has potential, he’ll stand up under it and give all the answers I hope for. If he’s weak sauce, I use the Socratic method to challenge his thinking and make a positive difference in his character before exiting his life forever. Of course, now that I’m not dating, there is no former option; just the latter, which – while satisfying – is significantly less exciting.

Trevor ended up identifying as a Christian who never reads his bible and has yet to find a home church in this city where he’s lived for the past three years. (Disclaimer: Going to church and reading your bible are not necessary to go to heaven. We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, not by being a “good person”. But reading the bible and being involved in a church are evidences of someone who takes their faith seriously and is actually living it out. Disclaimer over.)

As predicted, I gave my “I’m not dating” speech, Trevor agreed to split the check, and I haven’t heard from him since. I guess that’s one less frog I have to kiss before I find my prince. This whole “fasting from dating” thing is a breeze.

Authentically Aurora

Government Bittercrats

LemonsWhen life gives you lemons, ask the government to make it into lemonade for you. After they have racked up expenses (to the detriment of the self-starters who made their own damn lemonade), the government will ignorantly gift you with bleach-laced lemonade, and as you lay dying in agony, you can surely find a way to blame your fate on those blasted self-starters with work ethic.


 This post is dedicated to Bitter Ben.

I got a speeding ticket last month. I was going with the flow of traffic, which happens to be 15 mph over the speed limit on the highways where I live. That’s what I get for driving a shiny new car.

As my last (and only other) ticket was seven years ago, I made the cop talk me through my options. The very next day, I mailed in my $114 check and the perforated slip indicating that I plead “no contest” and request defensive driving. I read through all of the documentation provided to me, but nowhere did it indicate if I had to complete defensive driving prior to my court date, so I stayed up late last night finishing the online course because my court date is scheduled for tomorrow, and I wanted to be sure I could overnight my certificate of completion if needed.

In reading through all of the ticket documentation, I understood that I did not have to appear in court since I mailed in my response ahead of time, but I called the court clerk just to make sure. After waiting on hold for what felt like an eternity, the clerk looked up my ticket number and informed me that they had never received anything from me in the mail. She also informed me that if I didn’t show up for court the next day, a warrant would be issued for my arrest.

Ron 2I asked the clerk how often municipal courts fail to receive their mail. The clerk sighed and admitted that she gets calls like mine all day. Considering that I used the provided governmental pre-addressed envelope to send in my forms via the United States Postal Service, I was floored.

A government employee wrote me a ticket and provided me with a governmental envelope, which I mailed via the governmental postal service to the local government courthouse, and somehow I was the one threatened with a warrant for my arrest! Also, the provided envelope was hot pink. How does the US Postal Service lose a freaking hot pink envelope?!?!?!

Ron 1I work downtown just blocks from the municipal courthouse, so the clerk advised me to stop by on my lunch break and ask to see an annex judge. I debated walking, but it was on the other side of a highway, so I decided to drive the five minutes over to the court building.

When I arrived, I discovered that I had to pay $5 for parking. Annoyed, I swiped my AmEx card. The machine wouldn’t take it, even though it clearly indicated that it accepts American Express. So I slipped in a $10 bill. My receipt printed, but no change came. I mashed a bunch of buttons, and still no change came. Seething at this point, I stormed between clusters of seedy characters lining the stone steps up to the courthouse door.

I walked through a metal detector, asked the woman at the information booth to see an annex judge, was directed down a stairwell to the musty basement where I found Court 99. After I checked in, I was asked to sit in a certain spot on a certain pew partway back in the courtroom.

I started to check my phone, but I saw a sign indicating “No Cell Phones”. I figured I would entertain myself the old fashioned way by reading a book. Then I saw the sign that said “No Reading of Books”. Sighing to myself at the idiotic controls of my local government, I was about to start a conversation with the gentleman sitting beside me when I spotted the sign that read, “No talking”.

Wow. No phones, no reading, no talking, no food or drink, no breathing or scratching your nose… just exist. Sit there and think about what you’ve done. No thanks. I talked to the man beside me anyway. Nobody’s gonna call this girl a Rule Follower.

When it was finally my turn to speak with the judge, I started to explain how I’d mailed in my check and plea, but I just found out they hadn’t been received —

The judge interrupted me. “And did you send it certified mail?” I stared at her blankly. Why should I have to pay extra money to send a government-issued envelope to a government building via the governmental postal service?

“No,” I told her. She rolled her eyes and looked at me like I was a moron.

“Did your check clear?”

“No.” This was not going the way I had envisioned. I started to explain that I had already taken the defensive driving course, when she interrupted me again.

“You didn’t have approval to take the defensive driving course. We never received your paperwork, so we never approved it. Do you even know if it was a T.E.A. approved course?”

“I don’t know what T.E.A. stands for,” I told her, starting to get frustrated all over again.

Here I was, trying to be proactive, having sent in my payment the day after I got the ticket; then taking the initiative to go ahead and enroll in the defensive driving course and now standing in court a day early because I bothered to call ahead and discovered that I needed to show up in person to handle things. The government was the one who lost my paperwork, and yet I was being made to feel stupid because I didn’t follow their bitter bureaucratic process, which – by the way – was not clearly outlined anywhere! I know, because I looked long and hard for some semblance of guidance on how to navigate their bureaucracy!

My irritation must have shown on my face because the judge put on a face of superiority and said with steel in her voice, “You look like you are angry with me.” It was a challenge. Her face said with deadly silence, “Girrrl [insert Z-snap here], don’t you know I have power over you? I hold yo’ fate in these here hands. You best be showin’ some respect!”

There were lots of things I wanted to say in response to that – comments about the governmental parking meter outside, the cop who gave me the ticket, the unclear nature of their process, inefficiency of their system, the incompetence of USPS and the government in general… but instead, I gritted my teeth and said, “I am not angry with you.”

I am now to print off my $27 driving record, wait to receive my $25 (+ $35) certificate of completion from my defensive driving course, and return to the municipal court by the end of August to have the ticket dismissed… because I answered correctly by acknowledging my incompetence and inferiority to the Judge, The Man and The System.

Ron 3
Speeding ticket: $114
Defensive Driving course cost: $25
Driving record cost: $27
Notary fee: $6
Overnight certificate mailing fee: $35
Municipal Court parking fee: $10
The Speeding Ticket Experience: Priceless

Acerbic Aurora