Friday, July 29, 2005

Be afraid... be very afraid

My dog Alex, during Wednesday night's thunderstorm.
Poor wittle guy.
Must you take pictures when there is a monster lurking outside?
Put the camera down and let's run for our lives!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

True Stories From the Reference Desk

Young male patron: What’s it called when one part of your body grows suddenly?

Me: (wondering: dirty joke?) Can you elaborate a little?

Young male patron: (shows me a scar on his finger) See this? I cut myself and my skin grew over the cut.

Me: It looks like it healed nicely.

Young male patron: (slaps forehead) Healed! That’s it! You’re a genius.


---------------------------


Man: Quick, I’ve got to get my hands on one of those baby name books. I have to find out what the name Erica means.

Me: (leading him to the appropriate section) Oh, are you trying to decide on a name?

Man: We already had the baby, yesterday.

Me: Congratulations!

Man: And the baby is already named Erica.

Me: ?

Man: I have to pick up my mother-in-law in half an hour, and she wanted the baby to have her name.

Me: What’s her name?

Man: Bertha.

Me: Oh.

Man: And she is gonna be pissed when she finds out the baby’s name is Erica, because that’s my ex-girlfriend’s name.

Me: Oh?

Man: So I have to find something that says that ‘Erica’ means noble, or strong, or smart, so I can say that’s why I picked out the name!

Me: So why did you really pick it?

Man: My ex-girlfriend was hot, man.

Me: Oh…

I *Heart* Little Fountain Cafe

The Little Fountain Cafe is a charming little restaurant in Northwest DC that I would recommend to anyone visiting the area. It's tiny, cozy, below street level, and exactly the place to go when you want romance or comfort.

Little Fountain makes a chocolate chip bread pudding that I adore and think about on at least a weekly basis. I have considered begging their pastry chef for the recipe, because it is that good, but guess what I discovered yesterday? Bon Appetit published the recipe back in 2003!

I am ecstatic. Here it is:

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding with Cinnamon-Rum Sauce (12-14 servings):

Bread pudding:

1 1-pound loaf brioche or egg bread with crust, cut into 1-inch cubes
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 1/2 cups half and half
1 cup sugar
6 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Place bread in large bowl; pour 8 tablespoons melted butter over bread and toss to coat. Add chocolate chips and toss to combine. Transfer mixture to prepared dish.
Whisk half and half, 1 cup sugar, eggs, egg yolks, vanilla extract, and salt in large bowl to blend. Pour over bread cubes in dish. Let stand 30 minutes, occasionally pressing bread cubes into custard. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Drizzle remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter over pudding; sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake bread pudding until puffed, brown, and set in center, about 1 hour. Serve warm with Cinnamon-Rum Sauce.

--------------------------------------------
Cinnamon-rum sauce:

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dark rum
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Melt unsalted butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add dark brown sugar, ground cinnamon, and salt and whisk until sugar is dissolved and mixture is bubbling and smooth, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in dark rum and vanilla extract. Serve warm.
(Cinnamon-Rum Sauce can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over low heat, whisking occasionally, before serving.)


Thank you Epicurious, my favorite cooking site.

And I love you, Little Fountain. Will you marry me?

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Here Comes the Sun

Last night the DC area was hit by a mother of a thunderstorm. When I got home from the gym I found my dog hiding under our bed. Poor little guy. I know that lots of dogs are scared of thunder, but he's fearful of so many things. We're not sure of his life before we adopted him, but most likely he experienced some kind of trauma. The longer he's with us, the braver he gets, but fireworks and thunder still reduce him to jell-o. He shook and shivered all night long, and could only be coaxed out of his hiding place when I showed him his doggie brush. He loves him some brushin'. I took a picture of him all wide-eyed that I'll try to post tomorrow.

The beautiful result of all the rain is that my little yard and all my plants are very happy now. I think my basil grew another 3 inches overnight, and my pepper plants are popping those suckers out like nobody's business. Soon we'll harvest them and make something really good (can you tell I yearn to live on a farm?). This morning the air could actually be described as pleasant, and I found myself wishing that I could skip work and go for a hike.

AND. I have some VERY exciting information to share. You'll only have to wait a couple of hours, I promise!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

What I'm Reading Now...

The Wonder Spot
by Melissa Bank

An entertaining read that follows middle child Sophie Applebaum as she tries to find her place in the world over a period of 25 years, from pre-adolescence to adulthood. Reading this one is as easy as cutting into a delicious lemon meringue pie. Bank also wrote The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing.


And I am STILL listening to Bubba ramble on about his political career. Congratulate me: I have made it to disc 22. Only 26 to go!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Brought to You by the Letters U and V




Look who stopped to say hello last night? My little friend Fred. He usually darts off before I can get his picture.








And here are the promised pictures from the very dangerous Scrabble game we played the other night. We were ridiculously proud that we used every single tile. Do you think we could get into Harvard if I sent them this picture?




The only thing we weren't sure of was "UV". This abbreviation was not in my dictionary. However, we both wanted to feel like we kicked Scrabble's ass, so we had to get rid of the pesky U and V somehow. My husband was therefore agreeable to a slight violation of the rules.




Here is my adorable dog, the wise and revered Keeper of the Tenth Edition Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. If you wanted to steal it I have a feeling he wouldn't try very hard to stop you.





"You guys are total cheaters. 'UV' is SO not in here."



"My owners are pathetic."

Monday, July 25, 2005

Black and Blue and Red All Over

Okay, I never claimed to be Ginger Rogers, but neither did I think that I was a complete klutz. However, multiple physical injuries, all recent and mostly self-inflicted, have lead me to believe otherwise. My husband is to the point where he fears being accused of recreational wife beating.


Injuries I Have Sustained This Month:

1) Huge bruise on inside of left knee. I am terribly embarrassed to admit that I did not get this playing rugby or tackle Frisbee, but during a game of SCRABBLE. I stood up to get the dictionary and practically impaled my knee on the sharp edge of the game table. PAIN PAIN OH THE PAIN. I took some pictures of the board because we were so proud that we used every single tile in the bag. Will try to post this week.

2) I now have a matching bruise on the other side of the same knee because I ran into the toilet last night. I wasn’t even drinking or anything!

3) Gash on big toe. Was walking the dog and minding my own business when out of nowhere this piece of rogue mulch flies into my sandal, jams itself under the strap and pierces my tender toe. I was BLEEDING, and my dog didn’t even go for help. He just sat there adorably, like, “What do you want me to do? I’m not an effing Saint Bernard.”

4) Two bruises on right arm. One is from getting blood drawn, so that’s not my fault. The other is of unidentified origin. Most likely I whacked it on a TV tray. I’m starting to think that I should stay away from all things wood, including mulch and small tables.

5) Pink spot on forehead. Also not my fault, but it adds to my overall pitiful appearance. Last month I had to have a couple of spots taken off my forehead with liquid nitrogen because the doctor said they were pre-cancerous. And I don’t even try to tan! And I’m young! So let this be a lesson to you: if you don’t want to suffer, do not show your doctor any suspicious looking spots on you skin. KIDDING! You should OF COURSE show your doctor, and wear SPF 658 sunscreen whenever you are outside or even THINKING about going near a window. Or a skylight. Or the peephole in your front door.

6) Curling iron burn on right temple. How can a split-second of contact produce such excruciating pain? If I had any pre-cancerous skin there it has been charred to oblivion. Thanks anyway, Doc! It’s all under control! I’m a big believer in home remedies!


All this makes me nostalgic for injuries of yore, such as the one that I suffered one day last year when I was making the bed. My adorable dog barreled into the room, totally in the thick of one of his I'M HYPER fits, and would have leapt from the doorway onto the mattress if my face hadn’t stopped him. Yeah, my FACE.

hard puppy skull + my nose + (speed = 3 feet/ 1 second) = Fractured Nose


I’m planning to stop at Target on the way home so I can purchase a helmet and some of that gear that hockey goalies wear. Will it look more professional if I buy all black?

Friday, July 22, 2005

Requiem for a Basil Plant

So last night I was talking in my sleep. I have been known to do this. It usually results in me scaring the crap out of whomever I am sleeping with, and then deep embarrassment on my part when “whomever” stops having heart palpitations and starts listening to my rambling. Naturally, I don’t feel any embarrassment in the moment. I am blissfully unaware. The embarrassment comes the next morning, when Whomever says, “You will never believe what YOU said last night!”

Now relax. Some of you are undoubtedly thinking, isn’t this girl married? And yes, I am. And I am a loving and faithful wife and will be until death do us part. Amen.

I say “whomever” because sometimes you might sleep with friends or family members, or even co-workers (if nodding off at your desk if something you are wont to do). And by “sleep with” I mean “sleeping in the same ROOM with”, so you can chuck those fantasies you were having about my sister and me. Because REALLY.

Here’s what I reportedly said last night:

So what do you want to do now?

And that was all my husband could make out. Apparently, mumbling is common.

“So was I asking it like I was at a carnival, like whee!, or like I was in a torture chamber, with evil intentions?”

Hubby replied with his best guess, a scenario that I will not repeat here.

So now I am left to wonder what I was dreaming about when I uttered those words last night. Dreams are usually inspired by thoughts, feelings, and experiences, so I tried to think through the previous day to see if I could put it together.

Liz’s Thursday:

1) Had salad with fresh basil. Was delicious. Thought about making something basil-y this weekend since my plant at home is growing to monstrous proportions.

2) A student returned the DVD of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds to my library. I remembered watching it five years ago and how shortly thereafter, I woke up from a nap on the couch to see a HUGE BLACK BIRD hurl his body into the window above my head. Major freak-out ensued.

3) I read Snarkywood during lunch, which snarked mightily on celebrity Scientology.

4) Walking to my car last night I was breathing the muggy air and daydreaming about fall, when the air will be crisp and it’ll be prime time for apple picking and hiking.

5) Saw more bad news about bombs in London on 11:00 news. Wished everyone would listen to Rodney and “just get along.”

6) Right before going to sleep last night I laughed at my husband, who was lying on his back with his hands crossed over his chest. I said he looked like a vampire.


Possible Dream, based on above exhibits:

I am nearing the end of the Billy Goat Trail, scaling a large rock wall with a huge basil plant strapped to my back and a string of garlic around my neck. The air is crisp and clean. My husband is at the top of cliff with a bottle of olive oil. Many, many important things, such as WORLD PEACE, depend on us making pesto at the top of this cliff, and I am determined to get there.

But just as I am reaching for my next foothold, my toe makes contact with fresh bird droppings and I am slipping, SLIPPING, FALLING TO MY DEATH, when miraculously I catch hold of a little overhang and dangle there by one arm, a-la-Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible.

I breathe a sigh of relief, but then I hear a rustling behind me. BIRDS! A big bird with beady black eyes is pecking and pulling at my basil plant and I scream, because he is also dangerously close to my eyeballs. I use my free hand to swat at him and in doing so knock the basil plant off my back.

It seems to fall in slow motion, leaves waving goodbyeeeee! as the wind rushes through them, and when it hits the Potomac River below a snakehead fish snaps it up and darts away. All that is left is the sound of millions of hearts breaking all over the world as our chance for world peace is digested in the belly of a
damn ugly fish. And the smell of garlic, my GOD, the SMELL!

My arm is getting awfully tired.

I sigh and look up at my husband.

“So what do you want to do now?”

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Loving & Hating

Loving:
My salad. Baby spinach, red leaf, fresh basil, baby portobello mushrooms, grape tomatoes, cucumber, and balsamic vinaigrette. Mmm.

Hating:
That I also want a Snickers bar. And Snickers? There are none.


Loving:
The book I'm reading: Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class

Hating:
That I am only on CD #14 out of 48 (48!!!) in the book-on-CD edition of Bill Clinton's autobiography, My Life. He is very verbose. And it is due back to the library tomorrow. Get to the point, Bubba. Please.


Loving:
That we are going to see my favorite hypnotist comedian this weekend.

Hating:
Last time I thought I was getting hypnotized, but it was really just that I'd had two huge Long Island Iced Teas.


Loving:
The new reality show So You Think You Can Dance.

Hating:
I don't think I can dance.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Hi, my name is Satan

For a while I was getting emails from someone I don't know. A stranger.

I know, you're thinking, duh. Hate to break it to you Liz, but you aren't special. Everyone gets that-- it's called SPAM.

But this wasn't spam. These emails were from someone named Michelle, and they were written as though she really thought I was a personal friend of hers. She'd forward jokes to me, send her horoscope once a week. She also sends them to her other friends who, judging from the email addresses, are named Char, Andrew, Tommy, Beverly, ilovemykids4ever, and Big Pappa.

Once she even sent me a picture of herself at work, from which I determined that she is a nurse or medical technician of some sort. AND she once sent me directions to her workplace, because apparently we were supposed to meet some people for happy hour.

In Wisconsin.

So I hope she understood why I couldn't make it, although it would have been awesome to show up at the TGIFridays and see the looks on their faces.

Me: Hey everyone! Michelle, you are looking good, babe! Much better in person.

Them: What the...??????

Me: I LUV happy hour, y'all! Can you pass the pretzels? Who's buying?

ilovemykids4ever: Do we know you?

Me: You guys, always kidding around! I totally have my invitation, right here.

Andrew: I think you're confused...

Me: Are you Big Pappa? Let me tell ya, I've been anxious to meet you...


Most of Michelle's emails had religious content. You know, nothing of the fire-and-brimstone sort, but little stories about God's love and miracles happen and Bible verses and stuff. I'm not religious, so I would politely glance at the content and click Delete.

So most people would ask, why didn't you just email her and tell her she had the wrong email address? And you would be totally right! Most sane people would totally do that! But I have a very active imagination, and I started to think that maybe Michelle was some kind of Internet predator who would suck me in, get me saved, get herself invited for dinner, and then kidnap my dog.

Or something.

Plus I figured that unless this woman was totally brainless, she should have figured out by now that she had the WRONG ADDRESS. Or she should have sent an angry email to me, demanding to know why I never forwarded her chain emails to 12 people, damning her to BAD LUCK for FIFTY YEARS.

So one day, after getting another "God loves you!" hearts n' rainbows email, I decided to Do It. I put Michelle on my blocked senders list.

And it pained me to do so. I mean, she invited me to happy hour! And she has to wear sensible white shoes to work every single day!

But apparently, Michelle has God on her side. Lo, in my inbox last night was an email FROM HER with this subject line:


VERY SPECIAL DELIVERY


With trembling fingers I clicked Open.

The message said:


VERY SPECIAL DELIVERY

May the Lord open up the windows of heaven
and pour you a blessing
that you will not have room enough to receive it all.
May the Lord bless you exceedingly and abundantly
above all you could ever hope for.
May the Lord bless you that you may walk in a financial overflow and
May you fall in love with him
for the rest of your days in the Name of Jesus.
Amen!


And at the end:

LET'S JUST SEE SATAN TRY TO STOP THIS ONE!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Desk drawer revealed!

I was just searching for something in my desk drawer when I was struck by the strange assortment of items I have amassed. Something tells me that I would be embarrassed if I died suddenly and someone had to clean out my desk for me.

Here is what I've unearthed so far (of course, significant amounts of cash are nowhere to be found):

1) Workplace telephone directory (good)

2) Directories from the past two years (questionable)

3) One tube Dove hand lotion

4) One box Good Earth Original tea bags
Number used: 4

5) One baggie unidentified tea bags
Smells like: chamomile?

6) Two bottles of generic pain reliever
Number remaining: 98 and 4, respectively

7) One bottle Excederin Migraine
Number remaining: 6

8) Yes, I get a lot of headaches

9) 3 pennies (years 1980, 1994, and 1979)

10) 13 tampons

11) 1 can Campbell's Select "Chef-Inspired Soup"
Flavor: Tomato Garden
Taste: Chef-Rejected
Quality of journal entries: awesome

13) One small notebook that says "Very Important Notes"
Notes written: None

14) A Post-It note that says, "Shredded: cross. Counter??? SUPPLIES."
Meaning: Unknown

15) 1 box business cards

16) 2 sticks Extra Polar Ice gum

17) 13 Post-It pads
Colors: assorted fluorescent

18) 6 Sugar in the Raw packets

19) 2 unused stir sticks from Starbucks
Drink mostly likely to be used in: Soy caramel macchiato

20) 3 pages of rules and instructions for using fancy phone system
Number of times read: 0

21) 1 pencil that says, "Librarians Do It By The Book!"
Evidence of pencil-biting: plentiful

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Friday, July 15, 2005

Traffic Haiku

Traffic. Driving in
My car, the phrase ‘You be nice’
Becomes my mantra.

Some of you may be shocked to find out that it takes me 45 minutes to an hour to get to work each day. If you are not shocked, you might be from DC, or you used to live here, or you visited once. Or maybe you live someplace where the traffic is even worse (shout out to NY and LA!).

So let’s calculate, shall we? Let’s say, conservatively, that it takes exactly 45 minutes each way. That’s 90 minutes a day. Multiplying that times 5 days a week gives us 450 minutes a week.

So how many weeks in a year? Thanks Google, that would be 52. So multiply 450 minutes by 52 weeks, and egads... I spend approximately 23,400 minutes in my car for WORK purposes each and every year. Which, thanks again, equates to 390 hours. WHICH equals 16.25 days.
DAYS!

So as you can see, I have a lot of time to observe other drivers. And a lot of time to fight, fight, fight becoming one of them.

The thing about DC drivers is that many of us are very rude. We see our cars as extensions of ourselves, and we do things in them that we would never do in "real" life. We all are Important people with Important places to be and obviously, each one of us has a right to get there faster than anyone else. ANYWHERE. ON THE ENTIRE PLANET. So pity the fool who goes the speed limit, or (gasp!) rides the left lane going anything less than 100 mph, or who actually uses those clicky, flashing light things. Wha?

Oh yeah, BLINKERS.

I swear, once I saw the president's motorcade going down 14th street and people STILL looked pissed that they had to let someone pass them.

Or maybe they were democrats.

Anyhow, through the years I have learned that it's really much healthier to sit back, mind my own business, and let the jerks be jerks. Except the other day? I was driving home after a long day, and I was tired. And a little sad. And I was glad I was heading home.

I needed to get over to the left lane. I looked and saw that there was plenty of space for me to move over, but being a safe and considerate driver, I put my blinker on first, and started the move to the left.

All of a sudden I had to swerve back into the right lane, because the minivan that was previously MILES away apparently saw me put my blinker on and FLOORED it so I couldn't get over.

And the guy in front of me whose bumper sticker said "Horn broken-- watch for finger!" widened his eyes in the rearview mirror at me as if to say, Damn! That was rude.

So what did I do?

I cried.

sob sob sob why are people so MEAN? sob sob sob sob sob

But that was just one moment of weakness. I don't have time to get upset over every slight, both perceived and real, that I encounter on the road. Because after 390 hours commuting, 2,900 hours sleeping, and 2,200 hours working each year, I want to spend those precious remaining hours on being happy.

Plus, there are at least 52,821 angry drivers here. And they will NEVER let you merge.


Blinker goes ignored
I breathe deep and say thanks, I
Think I'll stay right here.

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Meet my new Trapper Keeper

Thank you, Cole, for alerting me to a vintage Trapper Keeper on eBay. Great minds think alike. You will not believe this, but a few days ago I became the proud owner of this:












I know. You are astounded. Isn't eBay great? And can you believe that I use it to buy used school supplies?

And can you believe that some of these Trapper Keepers go for $30 and up? I was bidding on one with kittens on it and finally, dejectedly came to my senses when someone bid $37.

Huh? I cringe when I have to fork over a $20 co-pay at my doctor's office for life-saving medical treatment, but I might drop twice that amount on a dirty binder? Clearly I need a vacation.

Interesting day when my eBay prize arrived in the mail. To put a twist on one of my favorite American Beauty scenes, it played out like this:

Husband: Whose old Trapper Keeper is that on the table?

Me: Mine. 1982 Hearts n' Stream Trapper Keeper. The notebook I always wanted and now I have it. I rule!

Husband: Hoo-kaaaay....

Thursday, July 14, 2005

We're Not Afraid

Monday, July 11, 2005

Here Comes the Bride (right on time)

My husband and I were supposed to attend a wedding on Saturday. It was supposed to be only a thirty minute drive from we live. We were supposed to be waaaay early, since the ceremony started at 11:00 a.m. and we left our house at 9:45 a.m.

Well. Any of you from the DC area know that we are FOOLS to have thought that we could take a reasonable travel time estimate, tack on 45 minutes, and arrive early. Pathetic, pathetic fools.

We were still on the Interstate at 11:00. We were still miles from our destination. Because my husband is a smart man and more relaxed than I am, I tried to follow his lead and chant to myself, “We can’t control the traffic! Getting upset will not help us get there any faster!”

And? I have to say I did fairly well. I would be cheerfully singing along with the radio, tapping my toes against the windshield, totally ignoring my watch, and maybe once or twice at the most I had a teensy, weensy outburst. But only for really, truly good reasons. Like all the people who had to slow down to see a car that had pulled off the road and had its hazard lights flashing (and since we weren’t going more than 25 mph anyways, this meant that they were pretty much STOPPING their cars on the INTERSTATE).

Whee! Look at the pretty flashing lights! We’d better go EVEN SLOWER so we can mentally record every detail of this scene! You know, because someone in that Camry could end up on America’s Most Wanted! Or maybe we’re just effing nosy!

Sheesh.

So we were clinging to the hope that even though the invitation said 11:00, they were really planning to start at 11:15. You know, because of late losers like us.

We got to the historic town and found a parking space at 11:30. Then we hiked 3 blocks uphill, in 3 ½ inch heels (mine, not his), and finally arrived panting at the church. My husband wanted to go right in. I, on the other hand, worried that the doors opened directly into the chapel and envisioned us bursting in and interrupting the ceremony and offending everyone with our labored breathing and sweaty faces. I made him look through the keyholes to see if there was a vestibule. Does the keyhole thing really work? I have no idea, but I have to say that having a Nancy Drew moment pleased me immensely.

After sleuthing we determined that there was indeed a vestibule. As we were opening the doors and walking in, the chapel doors across the hall flew open and the bride and groom came floating out on the sound of organ music and 100 people clapping and cheering. So what did we do? Clapped. Smiled hugely. And turned right back around and walked out with all the other guests like we had been there all along.

Then, of course, we had to tell at least 50 people at the reception how awful the traffic was, and how we left AN HOUR AND FIFTEEN MINUTES EARLY, to no avail, just so people wouldn’t think we’d only shown up for the open bar.

So if you ever get invited to a DC wedding? I recommend that you multiply the estimated travel time by at least a double digit number. And if you still get there late and happen to miss the cocktail hour, don’t worry--- we’ll buy you a drink when we get there, as soon as we’re done sketching the passengers in that broken-down Camry.

Friday, July 08, 2005

What I'm Reading Now...

1. The Working Poor: Invisible in America
by David K. Shipler

Who are the invisible poor? Working Americans who barely make enough to survive. I'm interested in poverty studies so when I read the rave reviews I picked up a copy. Shipler is a past Pulitzer Prize winner. If you liked Nickle and Dimed, you'll probably like this.


2. The J.A.P. Chronicles
by Isabel Rose

And for a complete departure from the serious title above, I present this cake of a book. It's an entertaining, easy read about seven former bunkmates at an exclusive summer camp who come together for a reunion. One of them decides to make a documentary about her bunkmates and finds that there's much more to each of them than meets the eye. (wondering what the heck "J.A.P." is? Here's someone who claims to be one.)

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Losing it at the dance

This is the true story of how I bought my car last summer.

I had a dream last night in which I was freaking out about something, and that reminded me of this experience. Not to say that I always freak out about things, but suffice it to say that I am a little more tightly wound than my husband in certain situations. Remind me sometime and I will tell you about said situations, and also about the dream, which seemed very real. I woke up sobbing because I thought I was really going to have to pay for some very expensive, broken plates.

Anyway.

My old car was 12 years old, tiny, and a very unsafe to be driving here in Hummer land, so we decided to buy me a new car last summer. MAJOR STRESS. Because? Idea of haggling with slick car dealership men is a major turn-off. Being a librarian, I had of course completely researched which make, model, color and trim I wanted, and the invoice, the MSRP, and what would be considered a fair price for my area. I read articles up the wazoo about how to negotiate. But the idea of wasting time with this game playing? Made me sick.

So I turned to my financial institution, which offers a free negotiation service. You find the car you want, give your negotiator the VIN, and they call and do the haggling for you. Cool, right? And if you don’t like the price they get, you can walk away.

Well, I was very happy with the price my guy got. SOLD! Thank you very much, Super Negotiator. All I had to do was call the dealership and set up a time to come in and sign the papers.

I think our appointment was at 2:00 on a Saturday. That morning, a sales person from the dealership called to confirm the details.

“Uh, okay,” he said. “So we’re talking about the blue one, last five digits of the VIN are blah-blah-blah?”

“No,” I said. “The numbers are correct, but it is supposed to be silver, not blue.”

“Uh...right, right.”

“So we’re all set? For the silver one?”

“Uh, yeah, yeah. See you this afternoon.”


Well, after I hung up I started to Worry. Why did he say blue? Why did he sound confused? Why does he say “uh” so much? I knew this wasn’t going to go smoothly, I knew it!

Wait, breathe. Just call back and confirm everything again, you dope.

(ring, ring)

Me: Hi, Chris. This is Liz again. Listen, I just wanted to call and confirm that we are both talking about the same car here. It’s the silver one, VIN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.”

Chris: Uh, well, the paperwork says it’s a blue one, not silver.

Me: I gave Super Negotiator the VIN for the silver one. I’m POSITIVE.

Chris: Yeah, yeah—must have just gotten the VIN mixed up. Yes, we have the silver one on the lot. No problem.

Me: SILVER.

Chris: See you at 2:00!

Me: SILVER!

Click.

So, reassured, hubby and I drive to the dealership. First we pulled up at the wrong place, a lot where they sell used cars. Before we could get the doors open a horde of salesmen with dollar signs in their eyes descended on our car.


Me: Oh my God! (pulls door shut and avoids eye contact)

Hubby: (calm, friendly) “Yes, we have an appointment with Chris?”

Vultures: “Over there!” (already walking away, gesturing vaguely to another lot across the street).


So finally we get to the right place, go inside, and wait for Chris to come out. I listen to a salesman negotiating with a young couple, just a couple of kids, really, punching the keys on his calculator and sighing dramatically.

“This is the MOST I can give you for your trade-in, buddy! And man, my kids won’t be getting any Christmas presents this year, but I’m willing to do this for you. I just have to convince my manager!”

And off he stomps to do what I call “the sales dance” with the manager. There is of course a window that looks conveniently into the manager’s office, so you can catch every drop of dramatic goodness.

I’m watching this, feeling sorry for the couple that is getting screwed, glad that I have brilliantly avoided the whole mess by relying on Super Negotiator. Then Chris appears, shakes hands with us like a good salesman.

“So!” he says. “Let’s go have a look at her!”

So we got out to the lot and my heart sinks like a Mafia corpse when I see that we are in fact heading towards a BLUE car.

“No,” I say. “No no no no no no no no.”

Chris starts to open the door of the car and says over his shoulder,

“Yeah, the paperwork specifies that it’s this car.”

Damn, do I still have to do the dance? I thought I was skipping the dance! DAMMIT DAMMIT DAMMIT.

It is an ugly blue that I hate. And it’s it doesn’t have the trim I wanted! THEY ARE TRYING TO GIVE ME A CHEAPER, UGLIER CAR.

Hubby is eyeing me. I warn him with my eyes not to say anything. I’ll finesse this bastard.

“Well, Chris,” I say sweetly, “That’s why I confirmed TWICE this morning that we were talking about the silver one with the moon roof.”

Chris looks uncomfortable.

I walk up and look through the windshield at the VIN.

“This VIN does not match the one we negotiated for.”

Chris looks even more uncomfortable.

“Uh, maybe we should go inside and talk with my manager.”

DAMMIT DAMMIT DAMMIT. But fine. I’m here, and you’re forcing me to dance. Bring it on, Michael Flatley!

We go in and are seated at a desk which, I notice right away, is directly in front of the window that looks into Manager’s Theater. That means that we have a perfect view, as though we were sitting in front of the tube at home.

Chris ambles back and we see him talking to the manager, gesturing with his arms and pointing out at the lot. Manager strikes the Thoughtful Pose, crossing his arms and stroking his chin. Finally, manager nods and comes out.

He shakes hands with us like a good sales manager.

“How are you folks doing? I’m Rick.”

Hubby: Nice to meet you.

Me: (stony silence)

Rick: See, here’s the issue. Let me put it all out on the table for you.

Rick goes into a condescending explanation, which sounds like this:

“BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH... wrong car... BLAH BLAH BLAH... silver one is actually $4,000 more... BLAH BLAH chuckle chuckle... here’s what I’m willing to do for you...BLAH BLAH.”

OH MY GOD. I am witnessing an honest-to-God bait-and-switch attempt! BASTARDS!

I smile at Rick, and very patiently say, “But I talked to your associate, Chris, TWICE this morning to confirm that we were coming here today to get that silver car. I even read him the entire VIN.”

Rick: BLAH BLAH BLAH stupid blonde BLAH BLAH

Me: (calmly, placing index finger firmly on the folder in front of me) We have our down payment and loan papers arranged today for the price that we were given over the phone.

Rick: (flippantly) Well, this is what I can offer you.

I suck in my breath and lean over the desk towards him. Hubby puts his hand on my leg.

Me: (slowly, assertively) Hi, Rick. My old car is still running JUST FINE, and we will have NO PROBLEM walking away from this RIGHT. NOW.

On cue, Rick slammed his hands down on the desk and stood up to leave. I leapt out of my chair and stormed towards the door. But not before I got one last comment in.

“NICE CUSTOMER SERVICE!” I yelled, probably scaring the crap out of the timid blonde who was sitting at one of the sales desks.

Hubby wrangles me to the car and I get in and slam the door, seething. After a moment I decide I haven’t told Rick enough of what’s on my mind, and I would have stalked back in there if hubby weren’t so damn quick with that child-proof door lock.

So, did I end up getting my car? Yes. The very one I wanted. Turns out that when Super Negotiator and Rick were haggling, they only used the last few digits of the VIN. It would normally be HIGHLY unusual for TWO CARS on the SAME LOT to have the SAME LAST 5 DIGITS. So guess what happened in this case?

You got it. My beautiful silver car had the same last 5 VIN digits as the ugly blue one. The entire negotiation had been done for a car I hated.

Super Negotiator, who has since been demoted to mere sidekick status, convinced us to go back and buy the car from them after all, at a slightly higher but still very fair price.

My instinct said NO, but did I listen?

Nah.

I wanted it over with, so we went and bought it. I went in all ready to make nice, but chickenshit Rick didn’t come out of his office the whole time, even though I know he saw me. A good sales manager would have apologized and thanked me for giving them my business after all, don’t you think?

Anyhow, I still regret going back there, because I think I should have stuck to my guns and rewarded a place that would treat me well.

So a couple of weeks ago when I got a card in the mail, I ripped it open and couldn’t believe my eyes. It was a birthday card. For my CAR.

“Happy birthday! Your car is one year old! We look forward to celebrating many more years with you.”

And it was signed:

Best wishes,
Rick


I showed my husband and he sucked in his breath.

“Oh no he didn’t!”

"Oh yes, he did."

We stared at the card for a minute, and then there was only one thing left to say.

“NICE CUSTOMER SERVICE!”