Season’s Gratings

22 12 2010

My co-slaves in the corporation I work for are a generous bunch, people who can’t celebrate their birthdays without feeding everyone within a 1-mile radius of their office with rudimentary birthday grub. And when the Christmas season comes ’round, their propensity for generosity kicks into high gear, and I spend the two weeks prior to the 25th watching my desk disappear beneath a pile of presents. I literally just sit at my desk and get one gift after another, and while getting lots of free shit may seem awesome to some, it is quite bothersome for me since many of the gifts I get are neither that nice nor useful, and are from people I barely know.

Apart from the four other people I work with in my department, I barely interact with anyone else. Regardless, mere acquaintances still bother to grab some random trinket, wrap it in paper, write my name on a card, and have the whole thing sent to my little cubicle, which is so much more than I am willing to do for any them. I get stuff from people I’ve only spoken to less than five times the entire year. I get stuff from people I don’t even like. And the thing is, I am unwilling to blow my bonus on useless objects for utterly random humans in honor of the birth of someone who very likely never existed. However, the more I refuse to reciprocate, and the higher my gift pile gets, the more I look like an asshole.

I cannot see the cheer and goodwill in this mad rush to give near-strangers stuff they don’t really want, much less need. I can understand giving gifts to loved ones, whose tastes I am far more familiar with, and who, having spent significant chunks of their lives putting up with me, truly are deserving of a token of my gratitude regardless of the fact that Christmas is a hoax to begin with. But just because I work on the same floor as Person X doesn’t warrant my giving her a cheap bracelet she has barely a desire to wear, or a bar of organic soap that’ll petrify by her sink over the next few months.

I really think it’d be the greater gesture to not give anything: no wasting of packaging materials, no extra shit to lug with you on the commute home, no guilt feelings for not liking these people, and, well, no crappy gifts.

(Pic c/o


His Totally Excellency

16 03 2010

Am slated to interview the president of a country today. A freaking country! I’ve never interviewed a head of state before, and as I automatically devolve in specie in the face of formal discourse, I’m a little nervous.

My boss has told me to call him “His Excellency,” but I’ve never said that name to anyone, with or without irony, and I’m pretty sure I’d say it with a dumb grin on my face and the nagging urge to twirl and curtsey and salute, in that order. I’ve thus decided to call him “Mr. President,” which I’m guessing is perfectly respectful and will make me sound like the trusty aide in a natural disaster-apocalyptic action movie.

It’s also assignments like these that make me appraise the state of my fingernails. Today, they are chewed down to the quick, yet are also ragged enough to draw blood. My clothes also need proper brushing before I meet him, as I am usually sheathed in a film of Bread Pan bread crumbs after lunch. I basically need to not look like myself in order to look halfway presentable, and since this is wholly unfeasible at the moment, I will just have to hope that he’s a nice dude. Fortunately, he looks kind of like Kurt Vonnegut, at least based on what I could Google of him, which just might mean that it’s okay if I look haggard as long as I’m not fascist.

Amidst everything, though, my greatest weakness is my inability to look sincere, which applies to most of my interviews. I believe I am a good enough interviewer, but during those times when I express true delight or concern regarding my subject’s experiences, there are suddenly these clouds in my eyes and this twang in my voice that makes me seem all patronizing. It’s especially bad when my subjects start crying to me. It’s like I just glaze over. It’s probably a defense mechanism, but that doesn’t make it less annoying for anyone involved. I mean, I’ve gotten used to being generally dismissed as a cold bitch, but when I want to tell someone how sorry I am that their husband died and I can’t even say it right, it’s a huge problem. Hopefully, Mr. President doesn’t show me pictures of his grandkids.

UPDATE: Just got back from the interview. Interrupted him a couple of times because of my nerves, but that didn’t seem to faze him. I did feel yucky, however, when he mentioned how our government was so nice and I agreed too enthusiastically, as if tazered. Or briefly electrocuted by the huge, flashing neon sign above my head that read: LIAR LIAR LIAR LIAR.

Kaya Palaaaaaaaa

8 12 2009

The longer I work in a hospital, the more convinced I am that I was brought up all wrong. A few weeks ago, for instance, I was sitting in on an interview with a developmental pediatrician, and learned that parents should never, ever 1) scold their child often (and with vigor, physically or verbally), 2) allow their child to thumbsuck past 7 months of age, and 3) fight in front of their child. These acts would, more often than not, result in 1) the child’s equating parental attention (which he craves, even unwittingly) with his capacity for bad behavior (thus, the kid has a subconscious tendency to keep being an asshole), 2) an extreme sense of dependency on outside factors (e.g. money, achievements, thumbs), and 3) the child’s acceptance that hatred is the norm, respectively.

See? Now I know why I’m an insecure abusive delinquent!  

But seriously, this at least explains why I feel so inept in social situations. My folks have inadvertently primed me to dislike, or to feel uncomfortable with and untrusting of, myself. And thus, I can’t stand being around other people, because it is a most grueling exercise in projecting a positive self-image. It explains why I feel so physically beat after mingling in a crowd, or why tiny niceties sting like big, fat needle pricks. Again, it’s not that I don’t like the people I interact with; it’s the interacting that saps me. And this explains why I’ve been such a hermit for the past year, or why it seems like the best thing to do, once seen, is disappear.


18 11 2009

I should have been born British. Considering that most of the things I’ve obsessed over hail from way, way, way across the pond, I was highly likely a soot-stained Victorian urchin in a past life, begging for tuppence, thinking of pies. Every point in my development as a human bean involved British culture one way or another. Most of what I’ve read as a kid were by British authors or at least set in Britain — The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, every Roald Dahl story in existence. British bands were my music of choice — Oasis, Portishead, Blur, Suede, Massive Attack, Elastica, Radiohead, Pulp. Even my preferred TV drivel was British — Absolutely Fabulous,The Crystal Maze, Brittas Empire and, later on, Little Britain. I guess Mr. Belvedere counts too. I like my culture gloomy and twee, I like to appreciate things that are thickly glazed with an accent, I like that British people are such a lovely, perverse people.

So when I heard that MTV is currently developing an American version of Skins, I really wanted to punch somebody. Skins is the most awesome TV show about delinquent teenagers EVER. And it’s incredibly British in a heather-tinged, Topshop-clad, I-love-Hard-Fi kind of way. I’ve watched all three completed seasons on DVD over and over and over and am immensely impatient for the upcoming season. I am emotionally involved with 2/3 of all the characters to have ever appeared on the show. I cried like a bitch over Sid and Cassie, and Chris and Jal, and Effy and Cook. I don’t care if I’m not giving substantial background on the show right now; it’s best that you grab your own copy from your friendly (or ornery) neighborhood pirate.You can thank me after you’ve stopped convulsing from the first season’s finale. Skins is a delight and MTV’s plan to appropriate  it for a place that is not grey, nippy Bristol is — if I may borrow from the Brits’ sumptuous terminology — bollocks. Bollocks bollocks bollocks. Hairy, gritty, ungainly bollocks.

It was a miracle of the highest order that the Stateside version of The Office got it right. And that project was helmed by Steve Carell, who is a legitimate creative person. But MTV? The channel that got more and more tawdry the more it shed its beautiful, unorthodox past (Liquid Television! Alternative Nation! Aeon Flux! 90% of  airtime dedicated to full music videos!), emerging tanned, toned and like so totally set for Spring Break? They’ll just make something like The Hills, only poorer and exploitative of real social agendas. Granted the original Skins tackled chestnuts such as homosexuality and drug abuse, but there is a wry humor, or a quaintness, or yes, an actual intelligence to the rendering of these issues, and I highly doubt MTV can match the quality with a cast likely to compose of at least one wannabe rapper and at least one dude who still hangs on to Dashboard Confessional. God save the Queen.