Sunday, July 28, 2013

Re-post: Little Boxes

So, life is living the heck out of me lately (See: last post for explanation of that) and I haven't had time to write a new post so I'll post a random old one. Enjoy :)

(Originally posted July 23, 2011)

Little Boxes, On a Hillside....

I love the Malvina Reynolds song they play at the beginning of the show Weeds. It's basically about homogenized cultures - all the people getting put in boxes in college, getting spit out to get married and work and play golf. And to spend their lives in houses that all look the same.

In some ways, D.C. is extremely homogenized. Most people have jobs having something to do with Government, many are Type-A Go-Getters, arriving here with dreams of personal grandeur or of changing the world. (...or arriving here by accident because you lived in small towns your whole life and WHY NOT live in D.C. for a semester and see what happens?! - like me.)

But housing in D.C. is anything but normal or standardized. It's so expensive here that people resort to all sorts of creative living situations.

You saw my description of living with 5 other girls in a two bedroom apartment HERE. And of my Couch Dweller HERE. Those were just two of SEVERAL unorthodox enviroments I've encountered.

When I arrived in D.C., the most I ever spent for rent in college was $450 for a 3 bedroom townhouse. $450 that was split 3-ways between me and my roomates.

And we nearly didn't take that place because it was "a little too pricey."

I now live in a city where you spend $1000 to live like a mole in someone's basement with NO bedrooms and sometimes your shower is in your kitchen....

Here are some of my personal favorite housing adventures:

After ASP, a classmate and I decided to stay in D.C. She found a place while I was back home in Tennessee so I had no idea where it was. I still agreed to it, packed up whatever of my things I could fit IN A MUSTANG (so, like...a toothbrush) and headed back to start my new life.

On a cot.

In a room that was only big enough ...for the cot.

In a basement that used to be a dentist office.

In the ghetto.

There were literally bars on our windows - and bullet-proof glass on the stores in the neighborhood. When my friend came to visit and started to walk from the metro to our house, a local advised him to "walk quickly..." My roomate and I were not exactly welcomed in the neighborhood by all and that was unkindly pointed out to us on numerous occasions. I BROKE THE CLOSET because my clothes wouldn't fit, the place was clearly a fire hazzard, and there was mold in my roomate's room. BUT - you could park on the street without a permit, and rent was $800 total.

I stayed a year and a half.

After that, I moved into a 2-bedroom with TWO other girls because they had both been living in a STUDIO together (AKA No Bedrooms) so anything with a room was a step up for them, and anything where I didn't see my neighbors being handcuffed at 3am was a step up for me.

On our move into that place, one of the cushions from our couch FLEW OFF the truck on I395 and was run over by a passing truck. We kept it. Tire tracks and all.

After that, I subletted a friend's place in D.C. for 3 months while she travelled on the Bush Campaign. My car didn't have tags for that part of the city so I parked it on a random street a few miles away, left it there through the week, and metroed back to the house to live with her things: including a cat that woke me up at 7:30am by pawing my face.

After that, I looked online and found a random stranger to live with somewhere in Northern Virgina. She seemed normal enough....

Her lazy boyfriend ended up practically living in her room, nearly saw me naked one day when I didn't realize his sorry self was napping in there, and used our utilities without paying anything. She and I ended up having a SCREAMING fight and parting ways after a year. BUT that was all AFTER I first moved in:


I'm not even kidding. The girl who's room I was taking was a soldier who's deployment kept getting pushed back. But instead of just staying in the bedroom - she set up her own Army camp in our living room. Where she held awkward personal calls with a guy she was breaking up with. And tents don't create sound barriers....

After she left, we never got living room furniture and I just went straight to my room each day, avoiding the other girl and the boyfriend. I got out of there as soon as I could.

Which is when I moved into another 2-bedroom with 2 other people, including our Couch Dweller. Who informed us if we scared him by coming into the living room unnanounced, he might vomit in fear. And he broke out into spontaneous push-ups and yelled out "STRONG!" and kept his entire closet behind our couch. (Love you Bri Bri:)

I now live in a different place and things have been fairly normal for a few years. Here's hoping it stays that way.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Now, Life is Living You

During my Japan adventures earlier this year (recounted HERE), I remember riding in a taxi past a sign that I barely caught but the phrase on it stayed with me from then on:

Honestly, I likely took it wrong and I felt like it was a good thing, like it was telling me as the reader that I've somehow beaten Life at its own game and my life had now become so exciting that "Life" is now aspiring to live me.

After briefly researching what others thought of it, however, it more likely means something bad-

-like life is running me over.

Which, at times, definitely feels like the case in my life at least. And it's not like I'm trying to win some prize at being the busiest person in the world (because we all know that prize belongs to Ryan Seacrest), it's more that - again, as explained HERE - I just do what feels "normal" to me. And normal for me is about 100 miles an hour (just kidding, Virginia State Troopers! I don't do that...anymore..) But sometimes, it does take it's toll.

Take: This Week

Besides my normal full-time job, I'm also in the middle of the following:

-finishing up the last few weeks of my Master's program (where one class is fairly normal, and the other is taught by a man who just recently informed us that he helped overthrow an Asian government in the 80's...)

-putting out "feelers" in my company for my next project, which requires me to participate in the equivalent of Online Dating for career opportunities. "Hi! We don't know each other, but I have admirable qualities and love long walks on the beach. Would you like to talk on the telephone or perhaps grab casual coffee with me sometime and discuss why you should date hire me onto your client service team?" (and then I add a fake resume and a photo from 10 years ago where I'm 3 dress sizes smaller than I am...)

-researching and applying for a potential new "part-time" thing that I'll disclose later if it pans out. (because I secretly am trying to give Ryan Seacrest a run for his money. And days don't just fill themselves up....)

-beginning the process to become a public relations rep for the Red Cross during local disasters. (Do not underestimate my sick powers of masochistically taking on too much responsibility, oh ye of reasonable decision-making!)

-giving dating advice (Yes, it makes me laugh too) to one friend; blogging advice to another; media relations to another; and I've pulled together marketing language on the fly for various random (URGENT, dang it!) requests from colleagues back at my company that has nothing to do with my normal client project.

AND -- you ready for this?

-considering an invitation to join a cross-country relay race that I'd need a week of time off and Bruce Jenner's old legs to complete.

And that was all before the weekend.

Now it's Saturday, and you know what I'm planning for this evening?

Hitting up three events in D.C. Which, in itself, it's probably ambitious but you know me too well to think that's the only challenge.

The events require wardrobe changes.

And shuttling back and forth between only two locations.

That's right, I've somehow managed to be involved with a birthday event at one place, a rooftop party at another, and a cocktail attire fundraiser back at the first place.

There are about 796 million venues in this city, give or take, and I've managed to require a visit to the same one twice in one night.

And let's talk about outfits for a second.

My first event: BBQ fare at a concert on the lawn of the National Building Museum. Outside. In 67% humidity. I mean, let's go ahead and just apply mascara directly to my cheeks and blush to my jaw bone because that's how it's all gunna slide down anyway.

Second event? Rooftop party at a different location where I need to put on a good impression because it will include a lot of new people who I may want to date and write blog posts about become friends with.

Third? You guessed it, back to the National Building Museum. This time, inside. At a formal event.

Did you catch that my first two events are outside and will leave me smelling like Honey Boo Boo's life?

This will be interesting.

This is my life. Or, the life that Life is living through me as a joke.

But I still like to look at that quote as a little of both sentiments. At times, the life I've chosen does run me over.

But I hope it's nonetheless a life that Life would appreciate.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Getting Hazed at the Pentagon

I've mentioned that I'm often looking for new work projects, etc. This week my search took me to The World's Largest Office Building:

 The Pentagon.

I ended up heading to this massive symbol of our nation's defense capabilities not once but twice this week on my lunch break on back-to-back days to chat with people about potentially working with them. And my imagination took over as usual and I couldn't help but wonder if I was being tested beyond just interviews.

First test: Physical Endurance
My first meeting was with a nice female officer who picked me up in the lobby and quickly began to whisk me to the Subway restaurant inside the building:

For those of you who have never visited the Pentagon, there is a giant mall inside with everything from Starbucks' (yes, more than one) to clothing stores to dental offices. You literally could live there for days without ever leaving the building. Which is probably both a good and bad thing for those who work there. 

Up ramps, up stairs, down several hallways -- in my heels. All while getting asked questions.

I heard myself trying to answer while simultaneously gasping a little and immediately thought "she's testing me! I'm not in shape enough!"

Jump to the next day, when I'm slightly more prepared for the trek and I'm wearing worn-in heels (I'm sorry, I'm not wearing flats with my interview suit, even if the meeting is taking place is the dang Himalayas...) And that day I'm meeting two different people. So me and the first guy take off and start walking....and walking....forever...

Until finally he asks "do you want to sit or just keep walking?" And surprisingly my heels still feel fine so I bravely say "we can keep walking!"

And then I immediately regret that decision.

My feet start to kill me and we finally get to the next guy's office (up several floors) but he's not there. So the guy I'm with says "hmm, I wonder if he thought he was meeting you in the lobby?"

And that's when I died a little inside as I pictured the marathon distance between me and said lobby and how I was either going to have to crawl, or walk barefoot in the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense, to get back there.

Then thankfully the next guy finally walks in. Phew.

Second test: Being on time
Going back to the first day- knowing that there's a security process in order to get into this place, I arrive half an hour early for my meeting and proceed to feel smug when I get past the metal detectors and situate myself in the lobby well before my escort showed up.

That half-hour buffer failed me on the second day, however.

I arrive in time to see a line about, oh, 127 times the length of the line the day before and I walk up to join the end of it and hear people say "this is the worst I've ever seen security!"


Am I being tested? Punctuality seems like kind of a big deal to the military. I'm so getting judged for this...

Third test: Rank
I assume members of the military don't expect civilians to automatically understand rank but I try to fit into my surroundings regardless. This is extra confusing, however, because the men I'm meeting that day are also technically my colleagues. (They both work for my company but they also serve "part-time" in the Navy.)

So my first meeting was with a Navy lieutenant-commander and my meeting after that was with a Captain (which is a fairly high rank in the Navy, although it's not as high in the Army. Confused yet? Me too.) And to top it all off, both men are the same "rank" as I am at my consulting firm. But they just happened to be wearing their navy "hats" on this day, leaving me to wonder what "hat" I should wear - do I call you by your first name like I would at our company? Do I call you by your title? Do you say the full "lieutenant-commander" phrase or is it just "lieutenant?" Just "commander"? Should I shout out individual letters like I'm a rapper? "L -T- C! in the hooow-use!" (I did not choose that one)

(and before my military friends jump in to inform me, I now know it's just "commander.")

I went with just trying not to address them directly at all.

Yet another test.

Final test: Sound mind
In addition to worrying about what I look like, my punctuality, how heavily I'm breathing while walking, and whether or not I accidentally refer to someone as "Captain Joe Commander Lieutenant," I also start to notice things that make me feel like I'm being punk'd.

First, all my meetings were in random food areas -- does no one use conference rooms around here? Am I being watched?

Then, the first guy (during our ridiculously long walk that I foolishly agreed to) walks me all the way down to one of the Starbucks in the basement, then we find a table in a nice little corner of a food court area. Then, when we go all the way back up a couple floors to hand me off to the next man upstairs in his office, that next man immediately asks if I'd mind-

- if we go down to the food court.


So here I go again, and we go to the exact same Starbucks I was just at, and we go to - I kid you not - nearly the exact same table in the food court that I just sat at with the last guy. This place covers 583 acres, how the heck do I keep ending up in the exact same corner? Are they testing my observation skills? Is that particular corner bugged for interviews?

In the end, I'm sure all of this paranoia was in my own head and the only thing they likely judged me on was my personality and ability to sound halfway intelligent (which we can all agree should also cause me concern, but I digress) but it made for a fun break in the day in any case.

And of course any day I get to spend with men in uniform...

is clearly a good day to me, hazing or not.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

And then sometimes I spend my mornings playing in an old prison...

I mentioned HERE that I was considering playing a victim for a local disaster response drill.

After nearly changing my mind the morning of (pillows are so comfortable....) I got myself out of bed and headed out to :

An abandoned prison.

Did I mention that part? That this whole scene was taking place in an abandoned prison/former cold war bunker?

I'm already excited.

So I get there and join a line of people waiting to find out their fate - i.e. what injury their character is going to have. At one point we hear that today's excercise scenario is an earthquake. I start making friends with other people in line, and I near the registration table. And the man asks "how bad do ya wanna be?" and he gestures to signs listing: Red (serious), Yellow (less serious but still bad) and Green (not super serious).

I hear something about "impalement" from the person in front of me so I'm intrigued and just tell the guy that I'll do whatever they need (picturing myself hanging over some fence with a rod poking through my body until I'm found by the rescuers.)

He says he needs more Green people and my dreams of gnarly injuries are dashed.

Actually, first he looks me up and down and says "I'm not checking you out, just making sure you have on long pants and closed toes shoes."

Um, right.

Then he looks at my face, musing about my injury possibilities, and states "well you're too pretty to give you a black eye..."

Am I getting a role or a date out of this?....

And finally he hands me a card and sends me to "moulage" (the makeup area). And then - there's a ray of hope.

"Impaled glass." Excellent.

I walk into the moulage area which is a funny mix of people doing makeup, and people already made up noshing on bagels waiting for the drill to start.
Moulage area

My turn at the makeup table

Just hangin' out. You know, with terrible wounds.
So cheerful to have a giant nail hanging out of her shoulder blade....

We all look like extras from the Thriller video. And everyone's pretty happy. At one point, a lady called out to me "I like your glass!" nodding toward the broken piece jutting out of my arm. I returned with a "I like your hand!" gesturing towards what looked to be missing fingers.

The organizers finally call us together and explain a little bit about the day. The scene is taking place throughout several buildings so it could be hours before we are "found." We're told to be in character all we want when the responders are there but to please not egg it on otherwise as we'll get hoarse and "annoy the people around us."

Ha! Thank you for that, considering we could be listening to "victims" for hours.

My team is taken to our building (exactly what you'd expect when you hear "abandoned prison")and we start picking out our own cell to remain in until we're found.

Nice, right?

The cell I chose
I  started making friends with the victims down the hall as we awaited our rescue. "Oh HEY girl!"

And it feels weird to just be standing in a prison cell with nothing to do so of course I started taking photos of my injury and checking Facebook.

Awesome Gross, right?

And after awhile we are finally told that the responders are getting close. So we all shove back into our cells and I start hearing everyone down the halls start moaning and yelling. Which is awkward so I start laughing quietly and only offer an additional "help!" every now and then out my cell window.



No responders actually come in for quite awhile after this begins. So people fall into an almost predictable routine and I hear many rounds of the following:

"We're in here!"
"I'm trapped!"

all coming out of cells that I can't see from inside my own cell, so it feels like we are dogs aimlessly barking in a kennel together. I continue to occasionally offer my own barks of "help...?" out the window and the whole chorus repeats itself over and over.

"We're in here!"
"I'm trapped!"

I start chatting with some people about how they got involved with disaster response in between more rounds:

"We're in here!"
"I'm trapped!"

At one point, we hear "there's smoke at the end of hall, but don't worry, that's part of the scenario!"

Oh good, this is getting even creepier!

The rounds start to vary.

followed by a sad:
"they forgot about us...."
and at one point a:
"I rescind my offer of kittens!"
To which we all laugh and then go back into character.

I occasionally here yelling coming out of other buildings around ours and another guy working the drill walks by, looks in my cell and says "sheesh, what you really need to worry about is that toilet!":

So I change my routine and yell out "HELP! I USED THE TOILET!"

It made him laugh anyway.

Finally, our actual responders arrive. I get into character and start yelling for help and try to make it a bit of a challenge for the responders to "treat" me, because that's what we are there to do.

And I can tell one of the guys treating me is already a little out of his element. So then a deaf woman came into my cell trying desperately to distract the responders. The flustered guy holding my arm gets more uncomfortable until his safety glasses fell right off his face.

I start hoping I'm never actually in need of rescue from this guy....

They get me fixed up and slap a card on my wrist and a duct tape label on my shirt and send me on my way to the medical area set up outside.

And while outside, I notice more makeshift supplies include:

A box of feminine products that are being used as bandages.

Which, hey, in a real disaster, community volunteers use whatever is available. Still made me and another responder laugh though. And made me thankful my wound was already bound by cloth and not with whatever was in that bag....

I sit down and wait for the fireman to come.

Oh right! Another thing I forgot to mention. Actual hot responsible fireman participated in this drill with us.

After awhile of sitting in the "Green" area, a responder comes over and asks my group for a volunteer. Being curious, I raise my hand and we end up jogging over to the Red area.

Where I'm told to hold on to this guy:

That is a man who did get a card telling him he'd be completely impaled with a rod going through his abdomen.


So now me and another lady are supposed to keep him on his side by holding him. Awkward.

Finally, the fireman arrive and this whole thing is taking longer than we expected so people are slowly starting to break character. A plate of sandwiches comes around and even though the scene now looks real and scary like this:

"Victims" are now starting to happily chomp away at food as if they weren't impaled like this:

And I sit a little while longer to admire the fireman  to play my role but eventually the entire drill goes over the allotted time, and I decide to leave (I have homework calling, afterall). And "impaled man" and his family also decide to leave. And as we walk away from the carnage behind us, in our fake blood and torn clothes and duct tape, we pick up our sandwiches and complimentary reusable grocery bags, and go back to normal life.

Probably hoping harder than ever that we never have to actually be rescued in real life.

Unless, of course, it's by those fireman.