Maybe I Shouldn’t Have Left the House

I had my first “freak out” at work yesterday morning. In the almost four years I’ve worked there (my god, has it been that long?) I have never cried at work from being angry, although I have shed the occasional tear when a couple of regulars have told me that their partners passed away. That’s always sad and disconcerting: “Hey, I haven’t seen you guys in a while! Where’s Joe?” “Oh, well, he passed away a couple of months ago. I haven’t been going out much.”

I don’t even know why it happened when it did because I’ve dealt with much more stressful situations at work, at other jobs, in life, and haven’t lost it. I don’t want to believe I’m this susceptible to suggestion, but I did just read a chapter in my week-by-week pregnancy book that states the third trimester can be an especially moody one for many women.

It all started Friday when Sarah and I were trying to determine how to cover Leticia’s morning shift because she was unable to come in. We’d known this for days, but hadn’t been able to find anyone to come in. Everyone was working at another store, an event, a different job, was out of town, or was already scheduled yesterday. The one person willing to work was a guy from a different store that I’ve never met. Sarah said our trainer vouched for him and said he was very capable.

But I still went in to work worried that we were going to be slammed and this guy wouldn’t be able to keep up. None of our other locations get as busy as we do and, on more than one occasion, someone has come over to fill in for us, only to return to their own store and tell their manager to never ask them to work at our store again.

When our usual Saturday morning rush was over, I was stressed out, but the kid had done a good job and I felt like I shouldn’t have worried so much. At one point, everyone in the store was standing around me. Charlie had come in to get a drink, Matt’s girlfriend was waiting on a bagel, the guy from the other store was handing me a drink order, and two customers were hovering in front of the bar.

One of them is a man known for being uber-cheap. He and his wife used to come in every day and, when we were much busier and had a higher turnover of employees, he was adept at sneaking around to get free refills (at the time he first did it to me, refills were eighty cents) by giving the new people the impression that he’d paid for it and was just waiting on their end of the bar. He made sure to do it when it was relatively busy and there could be some confusion.

His wife will stand in front of our newspaper rack and pull the papers apart, reading them for ten or fifteen minutes before she “decides” if she wants to buy it or not. Most of the time, they won’t buy the paper, but they’ll sit down with one, then put it back. And, more than once, she has snuck out the front door without paying for a Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. I’ve told the husband a few times that the college campus where he works offers several different newspapers for free.

His wife has been known to take money out of our tip jar — something that happens more often at the store than I would have imagined before working there — but not a few cents here and there the way some people do. She’ll pull out fifty cents or a dollar to pay for the paper and, when people have said something to her about it (“This is not a take-a-penny-leave-a-penny situation”) she’ll say, “I put money in there from time to time!” So I’ve made a habit of sliding the tip jar out of her reach whenever she comes up to the counter.

For a brief period of time, we had a suggestion box at the store. These two would fill out a comment card once every week or two. They wrote that we should not charge them for refills, and, in fact, they should not even be charged for coffee because they have been coming to and supporting the store since it first opened. When it became clear that no one was going to take their suggestions, they started bringing in styrofoam cups from the bank around the corner with the coffee the bank offered its customers for free. Eventually, that turned into them bringing in coffee mugs from home and filling those up with the bank’s coffee. They both (but the wife, especially), would smirk at us when they came in to use our cream and sugar, read our papers for free, and sit down for long periods of time, highly proud of how clever they were for working around our ridiculous policy of charging customers for a product.

A couple of customers feel sorry for them and buy them a cup of coffee here and there, but please don’t think they actually don’t have money. He’s a professor at a local university. They’re just incredibly cheap.

So, yesterday, I’m starting to make the drink he’s ordered – a small mocha in a mug for here, which surprised me because I’ve never known them to buy anything more expensive than a small decaf coffee. The new guy set down the mug for me and I made the drink and handed it over. The husband came up and said, “Oh, that’s not what I ordered. I paid for a big one!” My disbelief over this extravagant purchase, combined with the fact that I know he’s always trying to get something for nothing, caused me to snort, “Oh, did you, now?”

The new guy came around the corner apologizing and said the man had, in fact, ordered our larger size, and he had just given me the wrong cup. I was shocked. I said okay, and pulled down the next size up to make the drink over, when the cheap man started barking at me to just give him a refill later. And he said it over, and over, and over again while Matt’s girlfriend, Charlie, the new guy, Matt, and everyone and their brother was saying something to me at the same time. I’m trying to make this stupid mocha and the cheap man is going, “Just give me a refill later. Just give me a refill later. Just give me a free refill another time. Just make me another one later.”

My brain is working overtime to think of how to tell this guy off, like, hey, you don’t get a free refill on a f-ing four dollar mocha just because I made the wrong size, I’m almost done with it already, I am not going to give you anything for free, you thieving bastard . . .

Then Matt’s girlfriend starts saying my name over and over, and the new guy is asking me what kind of reffill the cheap man wants and I look over at Matt’s girlfriend and she’s going, “Courtney, he’s talking to you. Hey, Courtney, look,” and nodding at the cheap man and I just lost my shit. I threw up my hands in the middle of the bar area and shouted, “I heard! I HEARD EVERYBODY!” and went and slammed myself in the walk-in fridge where I started crying like a baby.

I was mad at myself for snapping at Matt’s girlfriend because it wasn’t really her I was mad at, and I was upset because I freaked out in front of the cheap bastard and his wife and the new guy, and all these people who probably thought I was a raving lunatic. I was upset because this cheap man is always looking for a way to get something for nothing, as are about 20% of our regular customers and I’m so sick of being put in this weird position of “Hey, you’re cool, right? Why don’t you just hand that to me and I won’t pay for it and we won’t tell anyone, okay?” Or all the people who come in that are friends with or acquaintances of or vaguely familiar with one employee or another and like to wander beyond the register, over to the pass-through side of the bar where they ask you to go ahead and make them the most expensive drink on the menu but don’t even bother to throw a buck in the tip jar, making sure to mention your co-worker who they don’t really know.

It was so stupid of me to get all bent out of shape, but it happened and there’s nothing I can do about it now. I came out of the walk-in after a couple of minutes, washed my face in the bathroom, and apologized to everyone. Matt’s girlfriend was already gone, but she added me to her friends on Facebook last week, so I sent her a message to say how sorry I was for snapping at her. When I went back out, though, the cheap man’s wife was giving me the stink eye for a good few minutes. I kept looking over at her and she kept glaring at me, so I finally made this face at her, the kind that clearly says, “WHAT, bitch?” and she looked away.

I wouldn’t be surprised if they emailed the owners to say I had been rude, although neither of them really got yelled at. Later on yesterday afternoon I had another crying fit when I got upset over our expensive stereo system not playing the iPod over this wireless speaker thingie. I’m going to go ahead and assume this is all related to the pregnancy. But I’m going to try not to freak out at work anymore. Only 6-8 more weeks and then I’ll be stressed out with a newborn, but at least I’ll only have one tough customer to deal with for a while.

It Could Always Be Worse

I feel like things are going pretty well for us right now, which makes me feel guilty. While friends are dealing with their parents’, their families’, their kids’, or even their own health issues, I’m getting my first official clean bill of health from the OB (she said at our appointment yesterday that we’re now “boring”), and Charlie’s finally being recognized for his hard work. He asked me not to say anything specific about it until it’s all in writing, but despite this place not being his ultimate career choice, he could do a lot worse than what’s being offered. He claims he wants to stick with it for a while, get things paid off, and utilize the difference in our schedules to take care of the kid while I’m at school or work for the time being.

Of course, don’t get me wrong; there’s no telling exactly when that will happen (promises have been made in the past at this job without any follow-through), there’s always the chance something could go wrong with the pregnancy, and I’m still paying on all of my medical bills. That glucose tolerance test? The one that turned out to be completely fine? The one I probably didn’t really need since I was barely on the high end of normal? That’s going to cost me somewhere around $800 after insurance pays its miniscule amount.

The bills will only get larger and larger while my paychecks get smaller and smaller. When I take off time after having the baby, I’ll probably have at least a few thousand in hospital bills — and that’s without anything unusual, including not having any drugs. Sarah from work had a totally natural childbirth and only went to the hospital because her mom demanded it. She was there for barely 36 hours altogether and went straight home as soon as they’d let her. So I have no idea what it will cost if something goes wrong, I need a C-section, I ask for drugs, or I actually use some of their soap.

Yeah, I’m uncomfortable and fat, I have a headache all the time and I can’t sleep, my activities every day are centered around how close something is to a bathroom, and I’m really burnt out at work (like, I can’t even look some people in the eye anymore because I’m so f-ing sick of them). But it could be worse. I just need an occasional perspective adjustment. For the most part, I think seeing what friends are going through right now is making me really appreciate what I have.

There is one thing, though . . . I’m not close to my mom’s family at all, so while this information is sad and shocking, I’m not sure what I can do about it.

One of my cousins (I only have two on that side. The other one, this guy’s brother, is in prison.) was in some sort of accident a couple of weeks ago that continues to perplex doctors and his mom. One late Friday night, my mom’s sister got a call from my cousin’s “friend,” saying he had fallen and hit his head. I believe what he was diagnosed with after a CAT scan was an epidural hematoma, and had to have surgery to remove it. Afterward, he had a violent reaction to the general anesthesia, was confused, and it took several days for him to understand where he was and what was going on. Right now, his latest memory is from over a month ago and the surgeon is saying it does not look like he just “fell down,” but it appears as if he was hit with a baseball bat.

Since he cannot recall anything that happened a couple of weeks ago when he was injured, there’s no way to know how he got hurt or if anyone else can be held accountable. My mom has kept me updated as things happen, but right now it looks like he’ll be heading to a rehab facility upon his release from the hospital, and he may or may not need some kind of care for the rest of his life. He’s only 28 years old.

Pregnancy Cramps

I woke up this morning at 4am with stabbing pains down my entire left thigh. Thus far, the sciatica has been limited to tingling, numbness, and an occasional sharp pain on my left side. This morning I stretched my leg to shift sides and it felt like the world’s worst charley horse in my thigh!

An hour later, twenty minutes before my alarm was to go off, I woke up again with a cramp in BOTH of my calves. I shrieked, “Help!” and Charlie sat straight up.

Needless to say, I was a mess at work this morning. I felt like I’d had no sleep and had just returned from running a marathon. My muscles were sore and my brain was like scrambled eggs. Sarah was in the same boat for other reasons. Namely, have a 12-week old at home and having to work 45 hours a week.

My Frozen Cutlet Friend

The other night I had a ridiculous dream. I was responsible for the care and maintenance of a girl named Ryan, with whom I’d attended high school, because during the winter she had chosen to be deep-frozen. Not to be confused with cryogenic freezing, this was merely deep freezing in a walk-in that was kept at zero degrees. It also happened to be in the freezer we have at work, which is why I’m guessing I was put in charge of her maintenance. She was stored on a very large metal cookie sheet, covered in plastic wrap.

At one point, I got really upset because someone wanted to visit her, so I was expected to wake her up, which was impossible. Although she was clearly alive throughout the whole thing, I was not supposed to try and rouse her while she was “hibernating.” I kept patting her face through the plastic wrap and repeating her name, but she wouldn’t respond.

Another time I checked on her in the freezer, I noticed a mouse wandering in and out of the shelves. I was horrified by that, but couldn’t get the mouse out of the walk-in.

And yet another time, she had been sliced up into a series of cutlets, like pork chops and ribs and things. I assumed this was to store her easier and make room for other things in the freezer. In the dream, I wasn’t frightened that she was being kept in pieces, because I knew she was fine. At some point when it warmed up, she’d be pushed back together and would thaw into her old self.

The Local Flavor: Let’s Harrass the Help

I haven’t yet been able to determine if today was one of the shittiest days I’ve ever had at work, or if I just had two of the shittiest customers.

It started at the beginning of my shift when, a good ten minutes till 6 (when we open), my opener called to say he was running late. As I was telling him that it was okay because no one would be there for a while yet, a car pulled up directly in front of the door, headlights on, and a couple sat inside their Toyota just staring at me. Although I’d arrived a few minutes early, I still had a lot to do. The guy who delivers our baked goods (well, we bake them every morning, but you know what I mean), was there the moment I walked in the door and I had to help him out before I could get anything else done.

During the last ten minutes I had before unlocking the door, I had to brew coffee, fill up the ice bin, count the money, and make our teas, not to mention filling out paperwork and bringing in the newspapers. I just did this when I took over the cream pitchers to our condiment stand, but I knew it was a mistake as soon as I opened the door because I didn’t even have a chance to stoop down and pick up the papers when the couple was bolting out of their car to get in.

I waved at them and said, “Oh, I’m just getting the newspapers. We don’t open till six!” They both stopped and glared at me, then turned to stand next to the car.

I sighed, thinking it would be nice if this perfectly healthy couple had at least offered to help me with my 30-pound haul of crappy news. I waddled back in to the store to finish up what I could and turn on the lights. I hadn’t gotten to the last switch before they were racing one another in. The husband stood at the register and the wife made a beeline for the bathroom, where she spent at least five minutes.

I rang up their drinks, waddled over to the bar, made the drinks, and handed them over the bar. At this point, the wife had come out of the bathroom and stood looking at me. I nodded at her latte and said it was hers and to enjoy. What she said was perhaps the most irritating thing to come out of a customer yet:

“We wanted to sit outside. Why don’t you have the tables and chairs outside?”
My mouth literally fell open and I had to collect myself. “I haven’t taken them out yet. I’ve been opening the store,” I responded, not knowing what else to say.
“Well,” she said, starting to sound testy. “Do you think you can take them out? We want to sit outside.”
At this point I lost my cool. I stepped back from the bar and pointed at my stomach. “Oh, I’m sorry!” I snapped. “I’m over seven months pregnant and we’ve only been open for five minutes, during which I was helping you.”

The husband came over in a rush, saying it’s okay, it’s okay, he could take out a table for the two of them. I was still really pissy about it, so I said that was fine with me and I went and slammed myself in the walk-in fridge.

It makes me grit my teeth to recount, so I’ll keep the second encounter simple. Essentially, a grown man set a really spectacular example for his teenage daughter by berating me for the names of our cup sizes. The first thing he said when he came up to the counter was “Oh, my god. Where do you people come up with these cup names?”

You know this is one of my biggest coffee shop pet peeves, but today was an exceptional one. It got to the point where my face and ears got really hot and red, and I told the guy several times to just say “small, medium or large,” or “twelve, sixteen, or twenty ounces.” I repeated myself a couple of times by telling him that I was perfectly capable of understanding what size he wanted, no matter what language he chose to use.

It ended with me giving him a history lesson in Starbucks, a brief overview of coffee culture and trademarks, and Americans’ desire for larger and larger portions. You know, there used to be just short, tall, and grande, then someone went and invented a Venti(TM) and no one else can use that word without paying Starbucks, so we use this other word instead, but it doesn’t matter because you can say small, medium, or large . . . and as I said all of this, my voice kept getting louder and higher-pitched and my face was burning hotter and redder.
At the end of this, he said, clearly completely oblivious to my boiling rage, “Okay. I’ll have a SMALL COFFEE, which you want me to call a TALL COFFEE.” I don’t think he realized just how close he was to getting slapped in his mouth.

In Praise of You Being Able to Say Stupid Stuff

I was flipping stations this afternoon and came across one of those religious television programs that was interviewing Dr. Laura Schlessinger about her new book In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms. I tolerated about two minutes of her going on about the neglect working moms make their children suffer by withholding love, support, fun, games, and hugs before I turned it. And  I don’t think we need to have a discussion here about 1.) the fact that most working moms find themselves getting no support or help from dead beat dads 2.) those women have no choice but to work, or 3.) conservatives encourage women to avoid birth control and tell us not have abortions, but 4.) don’t want any social programs or government assistance that could help the single gals out there who are having babies with no help from anyone else.

This issue is so old, I cannot believe people are still fighting about it. In 2009, I would have hoped we could realize that some women can afford and want to stay home with their kids. Some cannot afford it, but do it anyway. Some cannot afford it, so they work. Others utilize help from friends and family. Some work and really enjoy having a break from their kids. Why does anyone really give a rat’s ass? Shouldn’t our primary concern just be that human beings do what they can for one another? If a parent has their kid’s best interest at heart, what more can you ask for?

I was going to put quotes around the doctor part of Ms. Schlessinger’s name, but I decided to look up her qualifications and, as it turns out, she is, indeed, a doctor, and got her Ph.D from Colombia, plus some further education on family and marital counseling. Not that it makes that much of a difference, because she’s still a conservative misogynist with whom I agree on almost nothing.

Take, for example, a couple of other books Amazon.com recommends by her: Coming Out Straight: Understanding and Healing Homosexuality, and The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands. She also has a few that are cleverly disguised as feminist or empowering for women, but are really … well, not.

Amazon recommended some books by other authors: Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, a book by Steve Harvey that apparently encourages us to, you know, be a chef in the kitchen, a lady in the street, and a whore in the bedroom. Because it’s the only way you can really trap win a man.

Also, consider one of the subject lines of the book’s reviews: Did the Feminist Movement Really Give Us What We Wanted?

When a woman like Dr. Laura can make a shitload of money preaching to her conservative choir, or playing the nice, family-oriented version of Ann Coulter by stirring up old controversy, then I’d say the feminist movement has worked for you. When I hear a Vagina American say she doesn’t need feminism or that it hasn’t done anything for her, or that it’s hurt more than it’s helped, I want to ask her how I’m hearing her opinion, and who allowed her outside of the house in the first place?
Should she be expressing any opinion in a public forum? Or should she be barefoot, wearing nothing but an apron (okay, maybe some spiked heels), pregnant, and servicing her husband while simultaneously cleaning the house and baking his meatloaf?

Money; It’s a Gas

Charlie surprised me last week with a load of electronics, including a new digital camera and an iPod docking station that we can use at the hospital. So I’ve been busying myself this evening with creating playlists and downloading “soothing” music. Mostly, classical stuff that I don’t seem to have anywhere else. Studies show that women who listen to lyric-free music for several hours before the really nasty parts of labor start have an easier time relaxing. Studies also show this that and the other and I cannot keep straight everything I’ve read in the past few months.

I was trying to imagine what it would be like to be in the delivery room with each song playing in the background, and I imagined a lot of it just pissing me off. Even when I’m in the car or have my headset on, a song will come on and I’ll skip through it, then skip the next one, and then I don’t want to hear the one that’s on after that . . .

So I decided to just stick with one classical playlist, one rockin’ one, and one that’s semi-relaxing stuff.

I went to the hospital this morning for my three hour glucose test. It was awful (hungry, tired, nauseated, dizzy, headachey, bored), but I managed to keep myself busy. For the first hour, I read a Bill Bryson book on the history of the English language. For the second hour, I watched new episodes of “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” that I’d downloaded from iTunes. For the third hour, I passed out in a chair in the waiting room. Really. I was sitting there, listening to music, and next thing I know, it’s time for my fourth and final blood draw.

I’m not too worried that I actually have gestational diabetes. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but I would really be shocked to discover I had it. Seriously, though, what a waste of time and money.

Speaking of money, my scooter is officially sold. This kid offered me $100 more than I was asking for it on CraigsList, showed up Sunday on time, gave me cash, and left. I drew up a bill of sale for both of us so he could have in writing that I’ll get him the title upon payoff, plus we’re going to transfer the extended warranty to him. It makes me wish we’d just skipped the first kid altogether (who made us late for Jay’s birthday party, hemming and hawing in our front yard), and let this other guy get the scooter on Saturday. Since he picked it up Sunday, he had to drive it home in nasty, cold rain and I felt bad. But he’s young and resilient. He was fine, I’m sure.

I told Charlie I’m getting a Honda Rebel for my 35th birthday. He said okay.

Take That, Blood Sugar!

After complaining about having to drink the nasty syrup for my gestational diabetes test, is turns out my results were high. I have to go back in first thing Tuesday morning for a three-hour test; this time having fasted after midnight. Oh, yuck. Of course, the paranoid in me started looking up the worst things that can happen and now I’m all worried about the possibility that I may have it.

I admit I thought there wasn’t a chance because I haven’t gained that much weight, overall (20 pounds total, and I’m right at 29 weeks), and I was under the impression that gestational diabetes was just a cause of severe weight gain and eating like a pig. But I also know many women experience a higher-than-usual result during their first test and the follow-up usually comes back negative. So I don’t particularly care to spend three hours at the office on Tuesday.

But my results weren’t all that high — I think the nurse said 159 — and I’ve read that normal levels are between 70-150, which puts me slightly above the high end. And this is after some I had some Raisin Bran and a little coffee. They told me to just not overdo it with sweet stuff, so I didn’t.

I guess my iron was really low, too, though, so I might have to take an additional supplement. That’s not a big deal. I just don’t want to pile on any more worries.

Also, have you seen these awful Schick “Trim Style” razor commercials? Offensive, to say the least.