Sunday, January 23, 2011

Do you have 4-wheel drive?

During my college days, when we went to the dancehall we all piled into one of my guy friends' quad-cab pick-ups. It worked well because we could all fit relatively comfortably; and it also worked well because occasionally when we pulled in the parking lot we were asked "do you have 4-wheel drive?" When we replied that we did (because of course all of the guys had 4-wheel drive) we were directed to the back parking lot--the mud lot. Had we been in my 4-cylinder 2-wheel drive car, we would never have been directed to the mud lot.

See, once I moved out of the small town and into the city I switched from a pick-up to a car. Generally it works out ok. However, when I hang out with my other country friends and drive to country places I sometimes wish I had a truck again.

At one of my closest friend's rehearsal dinner we were all hanging out at the barn when I overheard someone say "does anyone know who drives a black Honda?" Crap. That's never a good question. I interrupted the conversation to let them know that I was the driver and see what the problem was. It had been raining that night, and when I pulled into the mud lot (the only available lot) I had a sinking suspicion that getting out might be a little more difficult that I originally anticipated. So as it turns out, the person parked next to me was stuck in the mud and when they tried to back out their truck was sliding toward my car. "Can you move your car?" they asked me. Sure--except that I was stuck too. So some of my dear friends waded out to where I was parked, one got inside and steered, and the others pushed the car out of the mud (while I, clad in heels and a dress, stood by and watched).

Fast forward a year and the friend who was getting married has a baby. I'm the Godmother. The days before and of the baptism are a little rainy, and the church only has, you guessed it, a dirt parking lot. It looks ok though, and I'm running a bit late, so I pull my little car into the lot and run into the church. After Mass I come out and back up--no problem. Only when I try to go forward to I realize that I'm digging ruts. So I back up a little more and try to go forward again. No such luck. Stuck. Some of the same poor guys in their same Sunday best got out of their cars and pushed me out of the mud.

Let's just say that at this kid's first communion, I'm bringing 4-wheel drive.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

An Alarming Incident

A few weeks after beginning my new job I went to "alarm system training" for the building where one of my programs is housed. I got my personal alarm code to our section of the building, took the cheat sheet about what to do in the event that it gets set off, and went my merry way.

Shortly thereafter, I hosted an event in our section of the building on a Saturday. I arrived early, unlocked the door, punched in my code ("beep beep beep beep") and was in ("disarmed, ready to arm"). No problem. The next time I saw the building manager she congratulated me on a successful entry, but admitted her surprise at my success. Really? How hard is it? Punch in the code, turn on the alarm. Punch in the code and set it to away, exit the building. In the few weeks that followed I became quite competent in using the alarm, successfully letting myself in and out of the building as needed (minus the one time I locked my keys inside).

The alarm for the rest of the building is just like the one for our program office, except it requires a different code. Based on my success using our alarm, I didn't bat an eye when I was asked to host a meeting in the board room on a Saturday. I got the necessary code and arrived early to the building to allow time to disarm the entire alarm and prepare our meeting space.

I first opened the door to our office, punched in the code ("beep beep beep beep") and was in ("disarmed, ready to arm"). With a bit of a nervous feeling I used my outside door key to the rest of the building and punched in my code. Silence. Uh oh. No recognition of my code, no announcement that the alarm was disarmed, but a definite recognition of me in the building meaning that I had exactly 1 minute to disarm before it would notify the alarm company and they would send out a police officer. I punched in my code...silence. I remembered that if the alarm was tripped, the security company would call the main phone line to see if an employee answered who could give an assurance (a code) that the alarm was false before dispatching the cops. Unfortunately, the telephone that would ring was in another section of the building in another security zone. For me to get there would require setting off another alarm.

I remembered that another option was to call the security company within the allotted time and tell them what happened. Luckily I got through, assured them that I was supposed to have access to the building, and the operator overwrote the alarm for the door I had entered. Having bought some time, she said that if I would walk back around to the keypad she would walk me through. When I walked outside from my office to the other entrance, I saw the group of women I was hosting waiting outside the gate. However, my priority was definitely to get the building disarmed so that we could use the boardroom for the meeting. I expected to quickly resolve the alarm issue so that I could get let them in. However, nothing worked. I tried various codes and various ways of entering them. Nothing. The system operator asked if I wanted her to disarm the door for the day, but that would be no help since the board room is in another alarm zone so I told her to go ahead and arm it. I finally thanked the woman for her time, hung up, and went to meet the group. As I opened the gate and they walked through my cell phone rang. It was my boss calling to see if I was at the building because one of the ladies I was meeting called her when the gate wasn't open. I'm pretty sure they were early.

I explained to them the whole situation and it was decided that we would meet in our much smaller office space since that was the part of the building that I had disarmed. It was a tight fit but it worked.

Mid meeting there was a knock at the inside door. It was another staff member (young, cute single guy) letting me know he was in the building too. I stupidly told him that I set off the alarm. Bimbo points for me.

After the meeting I decided that I would let him know that I was leaving and that way I could be sure that he would arm the alarm (since he had successfully entered the building). I wasn't sure what part of the building he was in and I didn't want to take a chance wandering around into an armed section of the building so I tried calling his extension. I thought the phones there were the same as in my regular office, but not quite. The phone didn't ring on the other end, and sometimes the front desk will just page us through the phone so I decided to try that route. I hung up and pressed "page" and the other 2 phones in the office started beeping. I realized that I was paging the entire building, so I hung up. After hanging up on him twice I pressed page, announced that I was leaving and hoped that he would call me back so that we could figure out the alarm. Recognizing that I was a dunce at the phone system in addition to the alarm, he came and knocked on the door and assured me he would take care of it. Whew!

A few days later I saw the building manager who had been surprised at my initial success. First words from her mouth? "Do you want to tell me about it?" I retold the sequence of events, and she told me that there's a special way to clear off the alarm panel once someone sets it off, and I didn't do that so the group that was meeting later that night was not able to arm the system that night. And they got locked in the gate. Way to go, me.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Miss Allison, how many chil'ens do you have?

I was asked this question one summer when I worked at a camp. My response was that I wasn't old enough to have any "chil'ens," even though I realized that I was only a year or two years younger than the parents of the seven-year-olds.

Recently, I've begun to receive similar question all the more frequently. Perhaps it that every Wednesday morning I can be seen leaving Wal-Mart with one or maybe 2 carts full of diapers, wipes, bouncers, bassinets, playpens, strollers, you name it. On my 2-cart days I especially draw a lot of looks. "How many kids do you have?" people will ask. "Are you stocking up for a year?" "Do you have twins?" "Triplets?"

It really would be the perfect opportunity to respond with some snarky comment, but instead I use it as a time to talk up the ministry I work with, the Gabriel Project Life Center.

A priest that I used to work with, however, took advantage of a similar opportunity to have some fun. He retold this story at lunch one day to 4 nuns and me:

"When I was the president of the high school, we always kept extra uniform parts on hand in case the kids arrived to school for any reason without their uniforms. One day Shoe Carnival was having a great sale, so I went and bought about 30 pair of shoes to keep on hand at the school. As I was loading them into my car, there was this teenage boy watching. Now, I was dressed as I am now, wearing my collar, black shirt, black pants--certainly identifiable as a priest. The boy watched for a bit until he finally asked 'who are all those shoes for?'

'They're for my kids,' I said.

He chewed on this for a minute...'How many kids do you have?' he asked.

'I have 136' (the number of kids at the school).

...he thought for a minute...and finally asked 'Are you a pimp?'

At this point in the lunch, I exploded into laughter, while 3 of the 4 nuns tentatively smiled, and the 4th, who had yet to crack a smile, said "I do not know what that word means," to which I laughed even harder. The priest, caught off guard, didn't have a particularly great explanation to offer to the nun, completedly dodged the bullet and finally offered "Allison can probably explain it better than I can."

Now, I'm not sure what sort of image I had given to this priest or these nuns to make them think that I would be any sort of expert on the subject, and I really had no intention of diving into an explanation. After some hesitation on my part, the nun conceded with "I can use my imagination." Whew!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Hard to Say Goodbye

Because the loss of a dear friend is still too fresh to reflect upon without a tearful breakdown, I'd like to recount a memory of this friend that I've often laughed at in recent years, although at the time I surely must have been humiliated:

I must have been about 15. At least I hope that I was 15 because although this memory seems more recent than that, I would have been dating my high school boyfriend at ages 16 or 17, and this entire thing would be completely inappropriate. Think of me what you will...

One evening in my religious ed class, as teenagers were apt to do, we started talking about "who liked who." I have no idea what I said or if I even took part in the conversation. I do, however, distinctly remember one of my friends saying "I know who Matthew likes!" and then looking at me and saying "Hi Allison." Then, as luck would not have it, we broke up into 2 smaller groups and my group went into another building to hold class. I never had the opportunity to see his reaction to this revelation, and I never found out if it was true. I wasn't sure how I felt so I thought it best just to pretend that the whole situation never happened (although you can bet I replayed it in my mind, reflected on any hints that he might have given beforehand, yadda yadda being a girl).

Fast forward a week or two: I had reflected on the idea that this boy might actually like me and decided he was someone who I could like in return. Being a silly high school girl, of course I didn't put my feelings into words; I decided to flirt and gauge his reponse. My flirting method of choice? Steal his cap and wear it the rest of the night (along with, I'm sure, general teenage girl silliness). We must have also broken up into the 2 small groups that night and I must have been in his group, because when he and I and some others walked back into the classroom at the end of the evening, I noticed him sitting beside a new girl. You can imagine my shock when she was introduced as his girlfriend! Oh I was sooo embarrassed, gave the cap back, and never thought about acting on that situation again (ok, well so maybe I thought about it...)! Fortunately this story had a happy ending in that he and (surprisingly) the girlfriend didn't seem upset by the situation at all and I remained friends with them both.

May your soul spend its eternity in Heaven, dear friend.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Just say no to...hugs?

I think it's safe to say that physical affection is NOT my love language. Growing up, I remember thinking that my school teacher mom was a bit odd because she openly stated that she didn't particularly enjoy receiving hugs from her students. "Who doesn't like hugs?" I thought.

Fast forward a few years and I understand where she was coming from.

I see hugging as an activity reserved for specific circumstances or individuals:


  • Immediate family members

  • Significant others


  • I have not seen the person for an extended period of time preceding the hug.

  • I will not see the person for and extended period of time following the hugs.

  • The person or I have done something admirable and am being congratulated/thanked.

  • Someone has died.

  • We are extending the sign of peace at Mass (reserved for individuals in my speed dial).

Unfortunately for me, I tend to find myself in situations of excessive hugging. My boss, for example, must think that hugging is one of my favorite things to do (right up there with singing children's camp songs). I am greeted each morning with a hug, hugged during the sign of peace at daily Mass (boss is not in my speed dial), and hugged at the end of the day before going home (15 hours does not fall under my definition of "an extended period of time"). That's 3 hugs per day. About 2.873 hugs over my daily quota. That's on a good day.

We recently finished hosting a 2 1/2 week volunteer training. 14 volunteers+2 aspirants+2 nuns=18 people not including me. We began the morning with Mass, and let me just say, this was a very huggy group. I'd say I definitely ended up hugging the people sitting on either side of me, then maybe averaged 2 more either in the row in front of or behind me.That's 4 hugs, but still only 1 more than I have learned to tolerate. But it didn't stop there. Every evening we ended with a sign of peace. Which meant that I was forced to hug EACH other person. Count them, 18 MORE hugs, bringing our grand total to 22 hugs each day. I always hoped that our little goodnight hugging ritual would somehow be overlooked, and a couple of times we came so close! Until someone would exclaim "we forgot the sign of peace!" and hugs would begin all around. One night the ritual began when we were all going inside for the night and I hoped to be able to sneak inside before anyone realized that they only had 17 instead of 18 goodnight hugs. Wouldn't you know that I was locked outside until the whole thing was finished (and I was forced to take part)?

Recently I've been working on subtle ways to avoid some of my daily hugs, and occasionally I even succeed. Moral of the story: Just say no to hugs!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I drive a hearse!

There was a guy in my old apartment complex who drove a hearse. This is no joke about PT Cruisers or other similarly hideous automobiles--he literally drove a hearse complete with curtains and a skull dangling in the back window. Creepy, right? Little did I know...

I recently had my first rental car experience. I was rear-ended, and while my beautiful car was getting repaired, the insurance company paid for my rental car. Unfortunately, they booked my car at the Enterprise down the street instead of the one next to the body shop, so I had to take whatever they had in stock. Fortunatly for most people, insurance is supposed to cover a "comparable" vehicle.

I usually drive this:

Unfortunately, since it's a sportier version of a family car, I qualified for the "standard" size car. This is what I got:

Comparable? I think not. Besides looking like a funeral director, it was hard to see out of and my coffee cup didn't even fit in the cup holder. Granted, I did not have a skull hanging in the back window, but still my friends got a good laugh seeing me driving around in the thing--even people I don't know too well thought it was a riot. And wouldn't you know, I had to parallel park the thing in a narrow, muddy alley with a couple of guys watching. That's hot. Luckily, the body shop got me fixed up in just a couple of days.

Soon thereafter, I made my first independent business trip and again had a rental car. Fortunately, this one turned out much better:

Ironically, I had the Beetle when I was making a mission appeal. The deacon of the church already gave me a hard time because the other mission speakers in the area were priests or religious from foreign missions, and they got me: a 25-year old Texas girl. And instead of looking like a missionary, I pulled up in my little red Beetle wearing giant sunglasses and high heels. Ok, so I didn't actually wear the heels for this very reason, but it paints a better picture to imagine them. I enjoyed this car very much despite the Louisiana roads that live up to their reputation--much better than driving a hearse!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Who needs a dentist, anyway?

Most of you who would be reading my blog know that I have a false tooth (if you've known me long, you may remember when the tooth was affixed to my retainer and I could pop it out. I loved the people who would worriedly tell me that my tooth came out--as if I wouldn't have noticed). Around 12 years ago I got a bridge that was supposed to last around 8 years. However, as the saying goes, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." 4 years past the "expiration date," I could tell that the bridge was getting looser and looser and that I would need to do something soon. I scheduled a dentist appointment for just a few weeks in the future--and since the bridge just took a turn for the worse, I've been counting down the days that it would have to last.

I should probably mention that I'm writing this blog entry from New Jersey. I'm staying here while I'm at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York City. When I say that I was counting down the days that the bridge had to last, I was really counting down the days until my UN conference is over--because losing my bridge before that would be the worst timing ever (and's lasted 12 years. What are the odds?)

I arrived to NJ on Saturday afternoon, and sure enough, while I was brushing my teeth Saturday night I noticed that it was no longer attached, and it came out in my hand. I ran to one of the Sisters (I'm staying in a convent) nearly in tears and poor thing I don't think she knew what to do with me. She said that you couldn't even see it, but it's right on the front and I knew that I just looked like a hillbilly (which is not entirely inappropriate for a girl from the sticks who somehow found her way to the United Nations). I also called my parents almost hysterical, even though I knew that there wasn't much they could do for me either.

I was much calmer the next morning. My dad first suggested that I call a family friend who is a dentist. Unfortunately, I left my phone in Jersey when we went sight-seeing in Manhattan so I didn't have a chance immediately. In the meantime, my dad talked to another friend who is a dental tech who specifically works on bridges. He mentioned that possibly I could super-glue it. I had actually thought about using super glue, but worried about using something toxic in my mouth. I called the family friend dentist who said that he wouldn't use super glue exactly, but recommended emergency dental adhesive. So Monday while we were waiting in line to register at the UN, my companion here held my place and I went to CVS and bought a denture repair kit (because I am obviously 90 years old). It looked like exactly what I would need, so I bought 2 to make sure I had enough to last the entire 2 weeks. When I got back to the UN I went to the restroom to try to do a little dental repair.

When I opened the box I found that there were powder and liquid adhesive that needed to be mixed together. So there I am in the UN bathroom with a white powdery substance and some adhesive that smelled like a nail salon (and for all of you ladies who have set foot in a nail salon, you recognize that that's hardly something that should be used in one's mouth--probably worse than super glue). I know that I looked quite suspicious--especially when I pulled the baggie out of my purse that held my tooth. Seriously, a baggie and white powder that could have been cocaine, anthrax (wasn't that the stuff?), anything! (And to make matters worse, I dropped the tooth in my purse so I had to dig around for it.) I knew that the nail-salon smelling adhesive couldn't be good for me (when I opened the box I realized that you're supposed to use it in a well ventilated area and NOT in your mouth), but I tried anyway. Fail. I put the tooth back in the baggie and continued the day toothless. (I should also mention that I had to get my official UN photo ID made directly after that. I obviously went for the closed-mouth smile, which makes my eyes look abnormally large and the camera was much higher than my face, making my chin look pointy so that I resemble an alien in the photo.)

So after we had lunch, we had a bit of time to kill but didn't have enough time to go to any more meetings. I went back to CVS and returned the 2nd dental repair kit and bought something called Dentemp for caps and fillings, as well as some good-ole' Fixodent. That night I re-opened my dental shop in my room and glued my tooth back using the Dentemp. Then for good measure I squirted a bunch of Fixodent to affix the tooth to my gums as well as the bridge. So far it's holding up, but we'll see. I plan to re-apply the Fixodent daily for good measure, which I've found that as a bonus glues my upper lip right to my gums.