Archive for the 'paranoia' Category

The sky is falling

Perhaps it’s my affinity for Discovery Channel alarmist pseudoscientific docudramas affecting my perception, but I’m pretty sure the world is coming to an end. Or at the very least, having a cataclysmic episode of PMS. 

Supervolcano. 2012. The Day After Tomorrow. Armageddon. Deep Impact. Perfectly entertaining end-of-days films, but they all make the rather silly assumption that one single devastating event will ruin us. In reality, 2010 has seen a series of bizarre and terrifying goings-on around the world this year that my carefully tuned sense of paranoia has cobbled together to build a pretty strong case that the planet is really, really pissed right now. 

  1. Snow.

    North Capitol St. during round 2 (or 3?)

    It snowed like the frickin dickens on the East Coast this year. One BILLION feet between 20 and 40 inches of snow blanketed the Mid-Atlantic area in one weekend (Feb 5-6) this year, and blizzard conditions created drifts several feet high. I didn’t see my car, let alone drive it, for three weeks. I mean, Wikipedia has THREE ENTRIES for “North American Blizzard of 2010”! Because there were THREE BLIZZARDS just in 2010! To say nothing of the massive snowfall we got the weekend before Christmas, 2009. 

  2. It’s hot. Fortunately, it got really warm, really quickly after the snow stopped falling. I mean, it’s not like the Fenty Administration was going to be even remotely effective in clearing the roads in DC, so God smiled on us in the form of sunny 50-degree days starting in early March; we got to an average high temperature of 80 degrees weeks before even the first day of summer. Since, hardly a day has gone by without the mercury hitting 90 or higher.
  3. Thunderbumpers.  The warm temps across most of the United States yielded insanely gorgeous tree blossoms, foliage, and flowers, but they also create the perfect storm for, well, the perfect storm. Summer thunderstorms have always fascinated me: Violent systems blow through, sticking around for only a few minutes but causing untold damage. The smell of the air before a storm is foreboding, and the landscape after it’s gone stands vivid and resilient. But. I am terrified of lightning. My dog can’t handle the sound of thunder (which, actually is really cute because he gets all sadpuppyface and snuggles up under me for protection). I’ve had to wade through my fair share of flash floods, and lost my fair share of umbrellas to gale-force winds. And this season has been particularly destructive. Just two storms this week have felled thousands of trees, caused widespread power outages, and endangered the lives of at least seven people whose mother I had to reassure from my powerless position in front of a computer. But these storms are nothing compared to
  4. Hurricanes. NOAA expects a very active Atlantic hurricane season (June-November), with 12-20 named storms, including 8-12 hurricanes of which 4-6 could be major. Plus there’s La Niña, which I never understood. When I was a kid I thought Hurricane Hugo was King Kong, which perhaps you can imagine was wildly damaging to a 4-year-old’s perception of natural disasters. I’m over that now, and quite frankly I really want to chase hurricanes for the television news, but hurricanes tend to come at really inopportune times:
  5. Gulf Oil Spill.

    Most of that is oil.

    BP has evidently successfully fixed the problem, but it took them 87 days to get there. After throwing shit at the wall and seeing what stuck, BP finally figured out how to stop the damn thing from leaking (that, or the reservoir finally emptied, which… depressing). But not before 4.9 million barrels (which is one BILLION  some crazy high number of gallons) of crude spilled into the Gulf. There’s not much else to say about the spill that hasn’t already been said, except for that when the Deepwater Horizon exploded, it sure did distract us from 

  6. Eyjafjallajökull.

    This guy kicked some ash.

    Remember that? When a tiny part of the world exploded and choked the entire European continent? Airplanes were grounded from April 14-23, then again from May 4-5, and then AGAIN from May 16-17. His inability to get a flight home allowed Rolling Stone freelancer Michael Hastings extra time with Gen. Stanley McChrystal in Afghanistan, extra time that probably yielded extra damning quotes. Eyjafjallajökull therefore earned the nickname “THE DOOMBRINGER.” Actually, pretty sure that’s a direct translation from the original Icelandic. 

  7. Russia is burning down. And not in the ironic way either.
  8. Pakistan is drowning.
  9. So is Poland. Speaking of which,
  10. Waterworld. The polar ice caps are evidently actually melting now.
  11. Tiger’s losing his stripes. Perhaps it isn’t quite a natural disaster, but nevertheless, pretty indicative of a world changing not for the better. Yes, he’s a philandering asshole. But he’s still supposed to be the best golfer known to man. And this isn’t what usually happens to the best golfer ever.

    Tiger Woods dropped his club after playing his approach shot from the fairway on the 18th hole at Firestone.

    Losing his grip.

So. There’s probably more I’m forgetting, since I’ve thrown my hands up and screamed “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!?!” more times than I can count in the last 8 months, but I should probably keep my “Signs of Doom” list trim enough to fit on a sandwich board. But don’t expect me to wear aluminum foil on my head and prance around Times Square. It’s too damn hot.

I will never sneeze into my elbow

https://i0.wp.com/newsday.today.com/files/2009/09/artelmo_flu_gi_.jpgAt the risk of sounding like an old woman who yells at her TV, I offer this direct response to Kathleen Sebelius and Elmo, and everyone else who advises the public to do impractical and potentially dangerous things: I will never sneeze into my elbow.

Remember when we were kids, and, to our mothers’ horror, we would wipe our runny noses on our sleeves, from elbow all the way to wrist and sometimes fingertips if we were wearing gloves? It was after washing that umpteenth snot-encrusted sweater that mom thrust a box of Kleenex into our hands and taught us to blow our noses. Tissues go in the trash, where their nasty germ-filled contents are destined for a gruesome incinerated death. And that fact gives me comfort.

Advance 20 years. We live in an age of bird, swine, beef, ground lamb, and Cornish game hen flu, and it’s best not to spread that sort of thing around. As the Secretary of Health and Human Services, that wonderful catch-all department that’s supposed to be most in tune with the Public Interest but really only in the event of an epidemic, Kathleen Sebelius was charged with the responsibility to keep all those foreign animal influenzas from breaching our shores and mixing with our women infecting the American population. For the better part of 2009, this job consisted of holding regular press conferences to tell us just how fast the H1N1 was spreading, and when we should expect to have to start wearing surgical masks and burning anyone who coughed or scratched their nose. But when FLU SEASON started, Sebelius took it upon herself to re-teach all of America how to sneeze.

Evidently, we’d been doing it wrong (though those incorrigible folks who sneeze openly into the air to shoot their 45-mile-per-hour spit droplets onto everyone and everything around them always do it wrong). Rather than sneeze into our hands, then proceed directly to the sink to wash said hands or OCD apply hand sanitizer as a stop-gap, she told us to sneeze into our elbows. Sneeze all that grossness into our bare (gross) or beshirted (GROSS) elbows, then sit around with a wet spot on our arm until it dries and all the germs turn into spores and… sorry, I’m gagging.

I was horrified when I first heard this cockamamie advice, and promptly decided to ignore it. But today I was watching PBS (full disclosure, I enjoy watching Arthur and have ever since… well, high school), and there appeared some old guy and Elmo to feed this nonsense to children! They’re undermining mom’s stern guidance to instead teach kids to sneeze onto their clothes, and by extension each others’ clothes, until every Kindergarten across this great nation devolves into one massive snotty sticky mess (well, more so than they already were). This is worse than the corn lobby’s ministrations against people who spurn high-fructose corn syrup, because it’s “nutritionally the same as sugar and fine in moderation.” (They leave out that pesky little detail that HFCS is so dirt cheap that food manufacturers may as well put it in everything, everywhere. As a general rule, any ad or congressman that advises you to “get the facts” is probably lying to you.) Because the idea of sneeze-laden shirtsleeves is just SO GROSS.

No amount of elbow grease can out those damn spots.

We are the bodyscanners

You know what I like more than keeping my skivvies to myself? Not getting blown up.

Every now and then, the ACLU finds itself in agreement with some core conservative principles–personal property, opposition to government intrusion in personal lives, privacy. So it comes as only a mild surprise that the ACLU has come out in opposition to the use of electronic scanners as an additional measure of airport security. “Full body scanners present serious threats to personal privacy and are of unclear effectiveness,” their statement reads. While I agree that the effectiveness of such devices should be thoroughly evaluated and improved, the degree of threat to my personal privacy is highly dubious.

For one thing, the only secret I keep in my bra is some pretty great BioFit technology… but that’s just for show. I try not to walk around with high explosives strapped to my body, so I don’t mind in the slightest if someone takes a look-see to make sure. If it catches the guy next to me who does have more to hide than a flat chest, then I’m glad to have done my part.

Second, have you ever used one of those body scanners? Moderate claustrophobia aside, those things are pretty neat. Like a 5 second open MRI, shaken, not stirred.

“Body scanners produce strikingly graphic images, creating pictures of virtually naked bodies that reveal not only sexual organs but also intimate medical details such as colostomy bags and mastectomy scars,” the ACLU statement continues. Anyone who’s ever gotten a bikini wax has shared more with total strangers than these body scans reveal. But for more private people, I understand how someone looking at your virtual hoo-hah isn’t the most pleasant of ideas. Some pervy security workers might get a jolly from looking at these bizarre alien-like images, but one can only hope that if the system works as it is intended to work, they’ll be looking for–and will catch–bombs.

I’m sure the argument was raised when x-ray scanners were improved so TSA workers could see more than vague shapes inside your carry-on bags. “They don’t need to know I’m carrying a box of tampons with me!” “That’s bottle of pain pills is MY business!” But we’ve gradually learned to leave a little dignity at the airport doors in the years since 9/11, along with cans of mace and pipe bombs. We’ve learned to react not with fear and sorrow over terrorist efforts, but rather, as did the heroic citizens on board Northwest 253 Christmas Day, with outrage and hardened determination not to become statistics in a tragedy. Of course the fear of a slippery slope is legitimate, but if it’s one thing we can do to keep our travels safer, we should embrace it, however begrudgingly. After all, there is less revealed in a fleeting body scan image than your personal information on Facebook–and that stays public forever.

That one time I ran into another car

Starting a blog was one of a sparse handful of productive things I did today. Smashing the light housing or whatever gearhead thing it’s called on my car driving home was measurably more destructive.

Add to the file of idiot things people in DC don’t know how to do: drive in the remnants of a tropical storm at night while probably drunk. To be clear, the crash was not my fault. I wasn’t speeding (shocker, cos I normally speed in a felony kind of way), and I did notice that this lady was pulling out of her street parking spot on Connecticut Ave. in enough time to stop (on a dry road and with a car that isn’t 14 years old…) had I actually wanted to stop and let her in. But alas, crunch.


(Don’t mind the preexisting condition of the fender… that was a consequence of parking in an alley in Georgetown for 5 years)

Now here’s the miracle part: After honking profusely to get her to stop and write me a check for the damage, we exited our cars to exchange insurance information that I by a stroke of luck put in my glove box just last week. And I said, “You cut me off. You totally cut me off, and now I have damage.” And she admitted she was wrong and offered to pay for the broken light! This display of human sensibility kind of defeats the purpose of writing a blog to say the things I should have said were I a more confrontational person. In the extreme likelihood that I’ll wind up lacking the followthrough to keep writing this blog, it’s good to know that in situations that call for it, speaking up can be a boon.

The flying squirrel

I just came back inside from a building-wide fire alarm that evidently my office caused. Unlike in middle school–when you’d pray for a fire alarm to get you out of taking a test that you will invariably go back and finish taking in ten minutes after the poor custodian finds and flushes the stink bomb that prompted the alarm, which anyway is not enough time to study the notes that you forgot to smuggle outside (which is probably the reason why teachers ingrain in us that we are not to take ANYTHING with us during a fire drill)–fire alarms during live television are incredibly inconvenient. But not for me, because I have no clearly defined role to fill today, so I’m starting a blog!

Trouble is, I’m not especially clever. I like to think I am, but enough tortured souls have poured their hearts and clever, clever minds out into blogs in the past decade that I feel as though I am in saturated company. So this is what I would write if I were actually clever. And, revisionist history aside, what I should have retorted in so many situations but was too paralyzed by fear of confrontation to actually say.

So without further ado…

I saw this dress. I try to look impeccable every time I step foot out the door, when I’m not trudging into work on weekends at least. A constant paranoia that others are harshly judging me, combined with an inability to leave for work without checking myself in the mirror forty-seven times, sees to that. So I figured, I’m dripping with disposable income like everyone else in this country right now, so why not order it online and try to make it work.

Beyond the excitement of seeing that little “YOU’VE GOT A PACKAGE!!!!” key in my mailbox, getting things from Banana Republic has become such a ritualistic joy in my life. Because I don’t see the point in paying $7 for shipping without buying several unnecessary articles of clothing and accessories, I had a few other garments to try on to build up suspense before the piece de resistance. Normally this is done in private (see “Judgmentphobia,” above), but roommate #1 was home–tough but fair and rational, we’ll call her the Ego–so I decided to model for her the lovely things I purchased.

Until we got to the Flying Squirrel dress. So named because, unlike the chic voluminous silhouette and flattering banded bottom you see on the model (who is admittedly the size of my pinkie finger), this sack looked like a cashmere cross between a 1987-era sweatshirt–exposed shoulder seams and all–and a marshmallow. “Dolman sleeve” is an outright lie, and Banana Republic should be ashamed… is what I would have said had I not wanted to make it work SO BADLY.

The biggest mistake was letting roommate #2–we’ll call her the Id… or, just for today, Snidely Whiplash–try the dress on, which proved that even 5’11” skinny pretty blonde girls couldn’t make it work and that, given the opportunity, good friends will sooner tie you to a railroad track themselves than let you commit fashion suicide. Despite my protestations and assertions that the dress is no longer in my possession, and I’m $65 richer because of it, the Flying Squirrel dress is enduring proof that the risk one takes in fashion is not that people won’t understand your style goals, but rather that you won’t be able to win a battle when your indefensible position is made of marshmallows.

Chew on that, psyche.


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