July 2008

So my name, as we once discussed a loooong time ago, is not uncommon.  I am not named “Moon Unit” or “Pilot Inspektor” or “Maddox/Pax/Knox/Maalox”.  I have a normal, common, everyday name.  Which is fine.  This post is not about complaining about being one of 3 Emilys in my elementary school classes or anything.  (Although that did play a role in my decision to keep my name when I got married- since I’d always been called Emilylastname all in a rush to distinguish me from the other Emilys, it was hard to imagine giving up the last name part of it.)

No, this is a post about what happens when someone confuses you for another person who shares your name.

I got in on the gmail game pretty early, as we had friends who were working for the company and doling out invites to gmail back when you still needed invites.  As a result, I was lucky enough to get MyfirstnameMylastname@gmail.com as my gmail address.  And now, as a result of that, I get email for pretty much every Myfirstname Mylastname in the universe whose friends don’t know their email address and just make a guess.

For a while I was getting emails for a Myfirstname Mylastname who was a bridesmaid in someone’s wedding, and despite my repeated attempts to tell the bride “I’m pretty sure I’m not in your wedding because I’ve never  met you, and by the way, requiring your bridesmaids to get fake nails for the occasion is TOTALLY RIDICULOUS,” I never got off that list.  (Most recent missive: “honeymoon pics for everyone!!!”)

Normally, I don’t realize it’s come to the wrong person until after I’ve opened it, so I just reply to the email briefly, saying “I think you have the wrong Myfirstname Mylastname, hope you’re able to find a correct email address for the intended recipient!”

But today was a first:  today, I got an email for Myfirstname Mylastname with the subject line: Thank you for joining [Name of Small Winery’s] Wine of the month club!  Password enclosed!

PASSWORD ENCLOSED? You mean, I could, if I wanted to, go into this person’s wine club account, change her addy, and whee, free wine!

Except obviously I’m not going to do that.  In fact, I’m so freaked out by the idea of accidentally seeing someone else’s password that I’m afraid to open the email.  I mean, I know opening someone’s U.S. Mail is a crime, and while email is perhaps not so serious it nonetheless seems ill-advised to be opening other people’s private stuff.

So which is worse: allowing the wine club to continue thinking they have the correct email address and potentially depriving the real purchaser of the wine from her online access to her wine club account, or opening the email with the password enclosed and replying back to tell the wine club people that they have the wrong person?


Okay, folks, we’re about to talk about something serious.  We’re going to talk about gangs.

Specifically, we’re going to talk about the Latin Kings street gang, about which the Chicago Tribune is currently running a lead story, complete with graphic, in its online edition.

The story is about a high-ranking king who turned informant in a government case against a higher-ranking king.  But it is not a story about the choices that people make when they enter a gang, or the situation in which this person found himself that made him decide it was worth the certain risk to his life to turn on his fellow gang members.  No, the Trib wants to tell you about the “unprecedented” understanding this has given prosecutors and police officers about the structure of the gang.  To wit:

Waitwaitwait.  Let me get this straight.  Gangs, which are essentially in the business of making lots and lots of money off of the sale of drugs, are structured like  businesses? Who knew?!  How DID those street kids figure out such a complex, hierarchical system, wherein junior people report to more senior people, who in turn report to even more senior people?  It boggles the mind!

Everyone in my office is taking at least one week off in August.

Except me.

It’s turning me into a total grumplehead.

I know, I know, I got to go on a sweet vacation back in March.  And it was lovely.  But with only 10 vacation days for the year, I have to save up the rest of them for the Obligatory Family Christmas Trip to Los Angeles (also known as “the least Christmas-y place in the universe, where they are forced to put twinkle lights on PALM TREES”).  But March feels like a long time ago, and it sucks to hear your coworkers chat at lunch about finding a new bathing suit and really pushing to get their work done so they can bask on the beach for two weeks because I WANT TO BASK!  WHY DO I NOT GET TO BASK?


So as it happens, there will be a full week in August where the only people in the office are me and one other junior person, who is a good friend.  And of course I fully intend to be productive, to use the time wisely, to advance some long-term projects that usually get pushed to the back burner, etc etc.  But I don’t have to be ALL good, do I?  Which leads to my question:  what should we do to take advantage of the total lack of supervision in some relatively minor, but still fun, way?  Two-hour lunches featuring a glass of wine?  Official shifting of the office hours from 9-6 to more like 730-4, to allow us to take full advantage of the long summer nights?

Inspire me here, people.  If I don’t get to bask, at least I can engage in some low-grade rebellion.

When I was a teacher, I had an allotment of 10 sick days and 10 vacation days per year.  That was a lot, given that I also had two and a half months of flexible work from home time called “summer” built into that schedule.  I took one sick day my second year of teaching when I woke up with a fever and then while I was in the bathroom taking my temperature, I threw up three times.  Calling in sick seemed like the prudent thing to do.  But except for that time, I didn’t call in sick, ever.  If I had called in every time I had a sore throat, or minor body aches, or a screaming headache, I would have been out sick for most of my first year of teaching, when I caught every strain of pestilence that my precious little 5th grade disease incubators brought into the classroom.

Never took a sick day, that is, except for the one time I played hooky.  I had been close to the edge of a breakdown for weeks, feeling overwhelmed and ineffective and depressed, and it was two weeks before Christmas and I hadn’t done any Christmas shopping yet and I decided to call in for one day, planned well in advance, to take a day to sleep in, shop for Christmas presents, and eat peanut butter off a spoon while watching daytime tv in my pajamas.  A personal day, if you will.

On the appointed day, of course, I woke up with a raging fever and a complete inability to get out of bed.  “Typical,” I thought.  “God is punishing me for fibbing about a sick day.  Typical.”

I know that all of the magazines implore us to actually stay home when we’re sick, because our coworkers would really rather pick up our slack for a day or two than be subjected to the flu themselves.  I also know that I have a really hard time convincing myself that I’m “sick enough” to “deserve” a day off.

So this morning, when I woke up feeling like I’d been run over, and John said “call in,” I hemmed and hawed, because I really just felt worn out, not acutely ill, and who calls in just because she’s tired?  But then I thought “what the heck, I have a dozen sick days that don’t roll over and I’m never going to use them all.  Plus I have no meetings or appointments today that it would be a problem to miss, and I have a HUGE meeting tomorrow where I’ll really need to bring my A game so I should probably rest up.  Might as well.” I called in, rolled over, and went back to sleep.

What happened next?  I promptly developed an unidentified tummy ailment. OF COURSE.

I am not really a cutting edge gal. I got my first cell phone in 2002, after I’d graduated college, years after most of my friends had gotten one. I was kind of a smug judgmental jerkface about it, actually. (“Oh, you have a cell phone? I can’t imagine being tied down like that- I mean I’m not the kind of person who thinks I am SO IMPORTANT that my friends can’t leave a message on an answering machine and wait a few hours, right?”) (Of course, now I not only write a blog, I just signed up for twitter. Self-important, party of one! Although I am apparently the last person on all of the internet to join twitter, so at least I’m still behind the curve.)

When macs started getting really cool again and everyone, not just artsy types, started using them, I clung to my little dell and insisted that pcs were the way to go. (Now I sit and type this from a MacBook.) I opted for a traditional film photographer at our wedding even though everyone (correctly) pointed out that digital had come a long way and was the most more cost-efficient option. This character trait is not limited to techie stuff- when boot cut jeans came back into vogue when I was in middle school, I doggedly kept pegging my jeans until an 8th grader pulled me aside and said (no joke) “you really look ugly and everyone is making fun of you behind your back.” (She was right. I have since seen the light and am a fan of the boot cut. I’m also very sensitive to people whispering, and tend to jump to the conclusion they’re whispering unkind things about me. See “self-important,” above.)

The point is- I’m always a little late to the party. Frankly, I’m usually pretty happy that way. I don’t want to be a victim of the 2008 version of the betamax. I don’t make major purchases all that often and I have the worst buyer’s remorse syndrome in the world, so I like to know I’ve really thought about it and be really comfortable with my decision before I plonk down hard-earned dollars on some newfangled thing.

I tell you all this so you can appreciate how out of character the following is:

I just went out and bought an iphone.

In a way it’s not that risky, because after all, iphones aren’t new- this is just a new version. But I’m still staring at it, totally terrified that I’m going to break it or smudge it or otherwise demonstrate that I am not to be trusted with such a shiny, pretty thing.

In an effort to be more disciplined about working out, I’ve started doing most of my exercising in the morning, before I have a chance to get to tired, or distracted, or something comes up at work, or a friend calls and wants to go to happy hour, etc.  (Although that last one never happens.  What’s up with that, friends?  Why no happy hours?  Are you all off secretly drinking margaritas somewhere without me?  WHAT’S THE DEAL?)

So working out in the morning is not my most favoritest thing ever, but I don’t really mind it. I’m a morning person, I get my exercise out of the way first thing so I can feel smug and virtuous all day, and I have been much more consistent about it since I started this latest kick.

There’s only one problem:  I am not a delicate flower.  When I exercise, I don’t glow, I sweat.  Like, a lot.  I get all red faced and panty and it often takes my body several hours to fully calm back down to regular temperature.  This makes getting ready and looking presentable for work kind of a challenge.  Sure, I can take a cold shower, but the subsequent getting dressed and (god, I’m sweating even typing this) blow drying my hair (or at least the cowlick in front) causes me to become all, um, damp with sweat all over again.  The red-sweaty-damp face combo makes makeup impossible because it just melts and leaves me looking like the Sunday morning after an all night Saturday dance party.

So, do women who work out in the morning and manage to look perfectly polished and lovely at work just sweat less than I do?  Or is there some secret for calming my skin and internal body temperature the fuck down so I can get to work looking like a normal person instead of a victim of some horrible broken-air-conditioning-during-a-heatwave incident?

It is hard not to feel guilty when you have asked a wonderful, thoughtful group of people to trust you, to follow your advice, because you think they can actually win this thing, and then to lose, spectacularly.  It is rough to have to tell them that it is over, rough to apologize to them for having asked them to hang in through seven months of negotiations and insults and drama and sleepless nights all to end up right back where they started, which is jobless and panicky.

It is cold comfort to finally get to tell the wrongdoers to shove it.  There is no joy in being proved right about just how disinterested in the well being of children these folks are.  It gives you no pleasure to hear the other side’s Smuggy McSmuggpants lawyer say “you did better than I expected for such a young lawyer.”

But I suspect, despite all of this, that it would have felt worse to just roll over and not fight at all.

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