Empty Robot Promises

The story I’m about to tell you is kind of weird. Kind of like when I got pulled over for being a tired driver and a passing car full of hot-boxers made the officer question whether my husband is a drug dealer. Except, this story doesn’t involve drugs. That I know of.

The scene is a parking garage beneath the medical office where I’ve just received a shot of synthetic joint fluid. My knee is sore and all I want to do is go home. I take my parking ticket to the lobby of the building, where one of those automated machines is supposed to take my money and validate my ticket so I can leave the parking garage.

Bummer for me, the machine isn’t working. The credit card processor is offline, so I’m advised by the repair man to just pay the lady in the kiosk on my way out of the garage.

I limp my way to my car and drive up to the exit only to see that there is no lady in the kiosk. There is, however, a guy in front of me in line who is likewise waiting for the nonexistent lady to let us out. While we wait, car after car queues up behind us until there is a line of idling cars stretching down the parking lot exit ramp as far as I can see.

At this point, it’s been five minutes and still no lady. I turn off my car and start reading an article on my phone. The guy in front of me pushes the Call for Help button on the malfunctioning ticket validator and a loud alert starts booming out of a small speaker: PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED.

I roll up my window and keep reading. It has now been ten minutes. Still, the voice booms: PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. Over and over again like the waves of a tension headache.

Behind us, horns are honking and people are starting to yell. The guy behind me uses his truck to hop the curb and drive around the metal arm trapping us in the garage, sideswiping his mirror against a dumpster on his way out.

Fifteen minutes have passed. Horns are more persistent, almost loud enough to drown out PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. Still no kiosk lady. My ears hurt.

Tired of sitting there with my sore knee, I start calling everyone I can think of who might be able to let us out. I call the front desk of the medical office I was just seen in, and they give me the number for building security and promise to do whatever else they can. I call building security and let them know we’re trapped. I call the main hospital security desk and bring them in as well.

Twenty minutes have passed, and I’m about to call the National Guard when a building security guys walks in and surveys the scene with shock. While he fiddles about with the validating machine (useless), the kiosk lady finally returns with a carrier full of Starbucks drinks in one hand and a rolled-up magazine in her other hand. She is likewise shocked and asks the guy in front of me why we didn’t just pay at the lobby. I’m surprised he doesn’t shoot her.

After he’s let loose, I roll up and she tries to charge me extra for the time I spent sitting in front of her extra kiosk. I let her know in no uncertain terms that I will only be paying the amount I would have paid had I not gotten trapped in this stupid garage. She huffs but capitulates, likely because she can sense she’ll find little no mercy among the dozens of motorists who have been held captive to her coffee break.

Finally free, I zoom home with my ears still ringing with the empty promise of a robotic voice screaming PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED.

I hear it in my dreams, sometimes. It’s the haunting sound of futility, the embodiment of knowing you’re trapped by a thin metal arm all because you’re not willing to scratch up the front of your car in an effort to escape.

If given another twenty minutes of that racket, I might have.

Handling the Unexpected

So Monday was interesting…

It was the kids’ first day back to real life after the holidays and, much to my surprise, I managed to clear out the cobwebs and get everyone out the door on time. After dropping my son off at school, I was driving my daughter to music class when traffic slowed to a crawl. There was a car accident up ahead, and everyone was slowing down to pass with care.

I resisted the urge to rubberneck when it was my turn to pass the nasty wreck and was happily on my way down the hill when my car started acting a little…funny. Like, wobbly and pulling to one side and is that a weird flupping sound I hear coming from my car? And oh, hey, there’s the tire pressure indicator light on my dashboard! Fantastic.

Before I even finished pulling into a parking lot off the busy road, I called Wes and, when he answered, I said, “Feel like teaching your wife how to change a tire today?”

Wes changing tireWhile I waited for Wes to saddle up his trusty Camry and ride to my rescue, I pulled out ye olde owner’s manual and got as much stuff ready for the tire change as I could. By the time Wes rolled up, I had the tools out and just needed his help undoing a wing bolt so we could liberate the donut spare from its hiding place in the most inaccessible reaches of my rather capacious car.

Now, I should mention that the weather was terrible on Monday. The temperature was in the low 40’s, it was pouring rain, and there were strong, steady winds that blew rain into our faces almost the entire time.

So there we were, two goofballs with a two-year old and a flat tire. It took us about forty-five minutes start to finish, and I dare say we did a darn good job. Good enough to get me to the tire shop less than a mile away, at least, where I had the frustrating honor of shelling out $350 on tires that I’ll only be driving on for three more months until my lease runs out in April. Boo.

The good news is, we had a blast. Sure, we were soaked through practically to the bone by the time we were done, my hands are all scratched up from the cruddy jack lever, and I’m still annoyed at the unanticipated expense, but you guys? We frigging HANDLED that flat tire. And I was able to lift it into the back of my car without help, which I feel pretty proud of.

Maybe next time I’ll manage to pull over to a spot that has a wide awning, space heaters, and a waiter who brings me hot chocolate while I change my tire. That’d be just about perfect.


Pie for Absolutely No Reason

Usually, we’re a two Thanksgiving dinner family. We host a big Thanksgiving dinner at our house for my side of the family, and then have dinner with Wes’s family on Thanksgiving day. We’ve always been quite fortunate that my family is not particular when it comes to which exact date we get together to feast. So long as I save my mom a turkey leg and my step dad brings sweet potato pie, we all get along just fine regardless of what day of the week it is.

This year, however, my mom and step dad are on an RV trip until next May so no pre-Thanksgiving feast for us this year. That means I have a curious excess of holiday energy prior to the big day. Normally, I’m so tired from grocery shopping, meal planning, house cleaning, cooking, baking, hosting, cleaning dishes, and cleaning the house again I have very little to put into Thanksgiving day proper. Not a big deal, usually, because my mother in law cooks most everything and I just have to show up and wash dishes. Easy peasy.

So here we are, the day before Thanksgiving 2014 and I’m not sick of my kitchen yet. So what do I do? Bake a pie from scratch for absolutely no reason at all. Pumpkin pie, in case you’re curious. Why for no reason? Well, my mother in law, the inarguable Queen of Perfect Pies, is baking a pumpkin pie for dessert tomorrow. My pie is GUARANTEED to be less delicious than hers, and yet? I felt like baking pie while I baked rolls today so I threw a pie together for no reason.

But then, because no Erika Tries to Cook story would be complete without some kind of failure, this happened:

The last ingredient, by the way? Was sour cream. The pie crust turned out okay in texture, I think, but was extra sticky and difficult to wrestle into the pie tin. And who knows how it’ll taste? But, you know, the pie looks like a pie and I’m sure it’ll taste like a pie. Maybe just a sort of Russian-y hybrid pie because of all the extra sour cream.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! Here’s wishing you hot food, sober relatives, and non-weird pie!

Heading Out Into the Great Blue Yonder

Posting might be light this week, as Wes and I are strapping the kids into the car for a four-hour drive down to the Oregon coast, a trip during which, hopefully, none of the following will happen:

  • Vehicle breakdown. Not likely, but would definitely be a bummer should it happen. I can think of many things I would rather do than try to help Wes fix the car on the side of the road by fanning his face and answering what would surely be the millions of questions asked by our four-year old son.
  • Multi-state tantrum. Please God, no. Let them sleep. Does Dramamine believe in you if you believe in it?
  • Realizing I forgot something crucial once we’re too far away to turn back.
  • Natural disaster. That’d be kind of a downer on our first-ever family vacation. It happened to my family once when I was growing up, though. We were camping in the middle of BFE, way past nowhere and square in the middle of no-one-can-hear-you-scream. One night, my parents woke me and my brother and told us to hustle everything back in the truck because there was a forest fire coming right toward us. We broke camp and hauled ass out of there, driving the one-lane road back to civilization past burning hillsides while my brother and I scarcely contained our excitement over how cool it was. I think we even stuck our heads out the window to better see the flames as we drove past. We were not smart.
  • Injuries of any kind. We’ve had a rather expensive year when it comes to medical expenses. It’d be really great if all of us could avoid breaking, straining, injuring, and/or scraping anything. Especially given that Wes broke his leg during a trip to the Oregon coast as a kid when he visited with his family.

In making our lists for the trip, Wes and I compared essentials. Can you guess which list is Wes’s and which one is mine?

  • Bacon, steak, Pringles, rum, fruit juice to mix with said rum, beach chairs
  • Chocolate covered macadamia nuts, brownie mix, chocolate-covered peanut butter cups, vodka, lazy beach read books

Wish us luck and fun as we embark on what will hopefully be a fun adventure. My kids have never seen an actual beach with actual waves before. As a former Californian who spent much of her childhood on the beach, getting road rash from wiping out on the beach after boogie boarding and inhaling oodles of sea water from looking the wrong way when a wave came to clobber her, this is inexcusable to me. My children need waves in order to be well-rounded human beings!

See you on the flip side, my friends.

Two Lids, One Pot

500-100094945-847__1I was at Costco with my kids yesterday, stocking up on quintessential Costco items (you know those ones. The ones you’re out of and would like more of eventually but their absence isn’t pressing enough for you to go replenish them immediately so you just make a list and then every other month or so you go out and buy a whole bunch of mismatched stuff all at once?) when we came across the kids clothing section.

We’ve had some strange weather this summer up here in the Pacific Northwest, from record-breaking heat to record-breaking summer cold, all within the same week (and with the thunderstorms to prove it). As I wheeled my relatively-empty cart past the kids clothes, I realized it might be a good idea to buy my kids some pants. After all, Winter Is Coming, so why not stock up on warm clothes while the deals are good?

So I reached over to rifle through the selections, my nimble fingers maneuvering around the different colors and sizes in search of ones that would work, and that’s when everything went wrong.

You see, they were offering those three-piece selections, where it’s something like $14.99 for two long-sleeve shirts and one pair of matching pants. A great deal, right? But also? SIGNIFICANT KINK IN ERIKA’S BRAIN.

Why? Because it’s two shirts to go with a single pair of pants, that’s why. I like to buy my kids clothes as such: I buy them five pairs of pants or shorts, five shirts, four sets of jammies. I run laundry twice a week, and every day each child gets a clean outfit and a clean pair of jammies. Laundry pile never gets too formidable, all the clothes I buy get worn, bing bang boom.

The whole two-shirts-one-pants thing mucks all that up, man. Because if I buy those, then I have to take a separate trip to buy ancillary pants. If I’m going to spend twenty minutes sorting through the nonsensical arrangement of sizes and colors at Costco in an effort to solve my whole my-kids-have-no-winter-clothes problem, why on Earth would I voluntarily force myself to have to go to another store to make up for the arbitrary decision to package clothes in sets of three?

I have no idea why this gums up my gears so much, but apparently it does. I was so baffled by the whole three-item-deal thing that I couldn’t even buy the kids jammies from Costco because why buy half the clothes we need when I can just go to a different store at a later date and get everything done all at once?

I’m sure somewhere, somehow, the whole three-items thing makes marketing sense. It might even be a better fiscal decision that way. Who knows? What I do know is, I have no intention of buying 75% of what I need when I could buy 100% of what I need elsewhere.

It’s like buying two pan lids and one pot. Who would do that? What am I supposed to do with a lid that has no corresponding pot?! IT’S CHAOS, I TELL YOU.

People like me are why pharmaceutical companies developed Xanax, aren’t they?