Hanging In, Hanging On

Sunday, December 2, 2012

So, we all survived Thanksgiving, no one got salmonella, no one murdered anyone, and in fact, we all had a pretty good time.  Don't tell anyone, though, because then something weird might happen with the universe and the apocalypse may start, because my family NEVER has a good time at the holidays.  Our first Thanksgiving (yes, we have more than one), was Thursday and was actually at Levi's place... which was some combination of hysterical and bizarre. Hysterizarre.  Bizarrical.  Take your pick.  The turkey was remarkably good, considering it was the first time either Levi or his housemate Rick had roasted a turkey, but they used Alton Brown's recipe, so they had a pretty good head start.  Everything else was.... special.  Let's go with that.  Special.  Featuring prominently in my memory are the mashed potatoes, which were more the texture of wallpaper paste than anything remotely mashed potato-esque.  I believe the problem began when they decided to not let me make them, but aside from that, they used white, Idaho potatoes (wrong), boiled them whole (wrong again), and tried to use a small food processor to mash them (wrong yet again).  On top of that, Rick over-peppered them majorly.  No matter what Ken and I did to them, the potatoes staunchly refused to become any texture other than "wallpaper paste", but then somehow became runny AND gooey... it was bad.  The green beans were practically raw, and again, were way over-seasoned by Rick.  Also, they apparently have one (1) baking/roasting pan, and the turkey was in it, so I had to bring a 13x9 baking dish for the sweet potato casserole (which I took over and rescued, haha), and my mom had to bring her own baking sheet... and they also have exactly one (1) mixing bowl, so that was fun.  But hey, at least we had pie (I brought apple, my mom brought pumpkin), and at least I know what to get Levi for Christmas!

Second Thanksgiving, which was Saturday, was much better.  My mom cooked, and while that can be dangerous (especially if she's drinking), everything turned out really well.  I made the mashed potatoes (which more than redeemed the fail-potatoes on Thursday), and brought a cheesecake with a gluten-free crust (b/c my aunt has Celiac's).  It was my first experience making a graham cracker crust instead of buying one, and it went pretty well.  However, if you ever need to make one, do not think that you need extra.  I was concerned that I didn't have enough crust and so I added most crumb/butter mixture, but I ended up scraping most of that out after pre-baking the crust b/c it puffed up WAY too much and looked like a giant graham cookie.  Live and learn, I suppose.  I also learned that one can simply BUY a gluten-free, graham cracker crust... but I learned this AFTER having made my own.  Oh well.  So anyway, my mom made the turkey, stuffing, asparagus, and spinach, and I made the mashed potatoes, which were lovely. My two aunts from MD came up, and the one who is usually a giant pain in the ass was actually very pleasant and made me want to spend time with her.  My mom's cousin, who I had never met, was also there, and that was kind of weird, but she was nice.  Levi was obviously there, and my friend Kristian came down from Princeton to have dinner, which made the night even more fun.  It was a nice way to redeem the weirdness of Thursday, haha.

This past week was... fine?  I took a sick day on Thursday because I woke up at 5:30 feeling extremely nauseated and dizzy, and then got slammed with blinding head pain, so I assumed a migraine had arrived and wasn't going anywhere.  I slept for most of the day, then went to stupid class at night.  It was... stupid.  I'm so glad that there's only three weeks left of that nonsense.  Other annoyances this week were courtesy of my vehicle.  My car, which is usually AWESOME, decided to be a pain in the ass.  My front, driver's side tire was slowly leaking air and my brake lights decided to die, plus I needed an oil change, so last weekend I took the car to Pep Boys to get the oil changed and see what they said about the wheel and the lights.  They had "fixed" the wheel once, about a month ago, and said that the seal on the tire had gone bad in a spot, and that now, it was fine.  Obviously, that was not the case.  Shocking no one, it turns out that my rim is cracked (goddamn NJ roads), which means I need a new one (this is probably the 4th rim I've replaced on this car in almost 6 years... NOT okay).  The brake lights were neither a fuse nor bad bulbs, which I could have told you since both of them are out at the SAME time, and was described as "possibly being a brake light switch".  They wanted to do an electrical diagnostic, which I refused because I knew my regular mechanic wouldn't charge me for it.  The guy at Pep Boys then tried to tell me that I needed new front and rear struts, to the tune of nearly $800.  I've never heard of a car just NEEDING struts after a certain number of miles, especially when my car wasn't driving like it needed new struts.  Needless to say, I paid for my oil change and my new wipers and went home.

I dropped the car off at the regular mechanic, Eddie, on Thursday and on Friday, he said that yes, it was a brake light switch, but that it would cost $10 for the part and $30 for the labor, so yay there.  The wheel was, in fact, cracked, but he found me a new one for $195 (versus $338 for one from the dealer), so that is ALSO good.  He said my struts were fine and that replacing them would be a waste of money.  I knew that I needed to have my timing belt replaced because my car has recently hit 100,000 miles, but man, I was not prepared for the price tag with THAT one.  As it turns out, one simply does not replace the timing belt.  One also replaces the tensioner, serpentine belt, and water pump... and it takes about 4 hours.... which makes this thing cost around $800. Luckily, my mechanic is SANE and when I told him that I couldn't afford that, he said he'd try to make it work for me.  In the mean time, he replaced my brake light switch and ordered me the wheel, and I called various other shops to get prices for the timing belt.  Firestone was the cheapest, saying they'd replace all necessary parts (with labor, obviously) for $598, and luckily, my mother has a Firestone card that she lets me use and pay off.  When Eddie called back to tell me what was up with my car and the new timing belt price, I asked if he could match Firestone's price, and he said he'd be able to do the work for about $550... which is obviously better than $598 and WAY better than $800.  More fortunately, I can wait to replace the timing belt for a LITTLE while longer, because it's not physically wearing out in any particular places, and my car isn't going to explode on me (I hope).  So yayyy.

Now, back to this brake light switch.  I recently purchased an extended warranty plan for my car, so if something breaks or dies, I am not stuck with the repairs (since my factory warranty ended at 100K miles).  It covers... everything except wear and tear parts, effectively, so I thought that my brake light switch would be covered (as these things do not "wear out" generally).  When I called to find out, I was told that no, it was NOT covered.  Apparently, since it is not a switch that I physically TOUCH (like a window button or a turn signal), it's not part of the electrical system (excuse me?) and it is not part of the braking system (um, I'm pretty sure that's wrong, too), it isn't covered.  I tried to explain to the lady that technically, it IS a manual switch, as it lives under the brake pedal and when you press the brake pedal, the switch is pressed and your brake lights turn on (and no one rear ends you, yay).  This apparently did not compute for this lady, so I told her that I was very irritated, as I was paying over $100 a month for this warranty, and that this part wasn't listed as NOT covered, so therefore, it should be covered... and even though this was not her fault, that I was severely displeased on principles.  Once I found out that the part and labor were actually CHEAPER than my warranty deductible of $50, I was less annoyed, but still... PRINCIPLES!  I gave up and moved on.  Then Friday afternoon, I got a random phone call from a number I didn't know, but I answered it anyway and it turned out to be a Support Manager from CARCHEX, the company that sold me my warranty (but isn't actually the decider of what gets covered etc).  He had heard about my complaint (I hadn't even asked to speak to a manager or anything!) and he had reviewed my issue with his team of analysts.  They all thought that the switch should have been covered, even if the actual company thought that it shouldn't be.  He explained that the deductible would have been more than the actual claim, and I agreed and said that is why I hadn't taken it farther up the chain of command.  I was fully expecting him to tell me that "this is the way things are" and that I had no reason to be upset b/c my deductible was more than the work, blah blah blah... but instead, he totally shocked me by saying that CARCHEX was sending me a check for $45 to cover the repair of the brake light switch, simply to show that they are committed to customer service, even when the problem isn't their fault!  On top of that, he gave me his direct number and said any time I ever had a problem that I could call him directly.  MIND.  BLOWN.

So after all THAT, yesterday after work, I had dinner with Pam before getting on the Megabus to go to Pittsburgh to visit Karin.  I hadn't seen her since the wedding, and she's always come out to see me when she's coming home, so I figured... why the hell not?  I got into town around 1:15 in the morning, which was the expected time, but still really friggin' late.  Luckily, she (and her fiance) came to pick me up and we all went straight to bed when we got home.  I stayed up and read for a bit because I had napped on the bus, but I was asleep by 3.  I woke up at 10 today and after showering and hanging out, Karin and I went to Kohl's and the mall, then came home.  I uploaded eleventy-billion wedding photos (approximately), and wasted time on the internet.  Then tonight, we went to a bar near the house for food and hanging out... came home at a reasonable hour, and now it's a completely UNreasonable hour and I should be asleep.  Sigh.

In other news, I know that between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day, the engagement industry booms, but what is with all of the commercials lately that paint women as vapid, romance-obsessed, morons who ONLY want to get engaged and married?  I heard a radio commercial the other day that was for some jeweler, and it was voiced by what sounded like an overgrown frat-rat.  The gist was, "Get your girlfriend what she really wants... a giant diamond" but the tone was so degrading that Ken looked at me and said, "Man, just grow a pair and propose to your girlfriend, DUDE", mocking the commercial.  It really made me angry, because first of all, not every woman wants a giant diamond, and even if she does, not everyone thinks that it's THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD.  Second of all, the commercial was basically implying that if you were a man and you weren't giving your girlfriend an engagement ring, there was clearly something wrong with you, and you probably didn't have any balls.  Offensive.

THEN, I heard another radio commercial, for Honda!  This wasn't even ABOUT engagement rings!  It was about selling Civics!  It was voiced by what sounded like a very young woman, who was either on amphetamines, or a lot of caffeine (which is ALMOST an amphetamine, haha).  She was "reading" a letter that she had written to Honda, thanking them for giving her boyfriend such a good deal on a Civic, and that he had said that "now was a great time to buy a Civic" which to her meant that NOW WAS A GREAT TIME TO PROPOSE!  And thanks to all that money he saved, she was going to get a GIANT ROCK!  And then she "read" her signed name, only using her supposed boyfriend's last name, and adding "née Brown" to the end, because THE LISTENED COULD NOT HAVE POSSIBLY UNDERSTOOD THAT SHE WAS GOING TO GET MARRIED!  Really, Honda?  REALLY?  Let's not even talk about the fact that both of these commercials, as well as all OTHER proposal/engagement advertisements that I've seen are entirely focused on heterosexual couples.  I mean, we SHOULD talk about it, because, hi, it's wrong, but I can't get into that now b/c this blog will be 400 pages long and we'll never get to go to bed.

And all over the friggin' internet are stories of EPIC proposals.  Proposals that take all day and end with chandeliers in the trees, flash mobs, an entire part of Disney that's dedicated to proposals (I like how something is labeled as "Over the Top", when I'm pretty sure all of them fall under that category).  There is an entire blog dedicated to so-called epic proposals. No wonder girls (and guys!) have such complexes about getting engaged, getting married, and having weddings.   We're fed this line of bullshit about all of these things we need to get married. Giant rocks! Epic proposals! Couture wedding gowns that cost more than most people's cars! Flowers from a remote island off the coast of Asia! Linens spun by silk worms that only live during one month of the year when Mercury is in retrograde! (Ok, maybe not those last few.)  But still, a whole litany of things that the wedding industry feeds guys and girls that says we need x, y, and z to be happy... and really.... we don't.  I'm sure there are a few (crazy) people out there that "need" whatever the hell it is they think they need, but proposing, getting engaged, and getting married should not be giving people this much agida!  Having just gone through a wedding, preceded by 22 months of planning, I am entirely and acutely aware of how much bullshit there is, and even when you're aware of the bullshit and trying to actively AVOID said bullshit, it still somehow gets to you, and before you know it, you're DIY'ing so much your fiance and family are thinking about staging an intervention to take away your glue gun and they're passing out your picture at the local craft stores to tell them not to sell you anything.  Or, you spend your nights trying to figure out just HOW you can afford to have a photo booth, peonies when they're out of season, filet mignon, a champagne luge, a chocolate fountain, and monogrammed... EVERYTHING... and still pay your rent.  (Neither of those ACTUAL scenarios came to pass, but I did have quite a few things on my DIY list that got chucked along the way... which ended up being totally fine, haha).  Regardless, it pisses me off that the a sacred, beautiful, important moment of committing your life to another human being is often cheapened, or at the very least, overshadowed, by the STUFF and the THINGS.

Then I read this article, entitled, "Single People Should Get to Have Weddings, Too", subtitled, "Or some other kind of party that involves gifts, toasts, and lots of friends".  I nearly threw my computer against a wall.  The argument is that singletons want to feel celebrated too, and yes, everyone wants to be important and feel special and have their accomplishments celebrated... but there are about 937 things wrong with this premise.  How about... when you want to throw a party, you throw a goddamn party, for one?  How self-centered do you have to be to think that people should "celebrate you"???  I am all for telling people when they do a good job, or when they achieve a goal or a milestone, but as I've said before and will continue to say, you don't get a medal for simply doing what you're supposed to do, or doing a thing you set out to do.  If you get a promotion, graduate from a degree program, pay off a credit card, or simply go a year without a traffic violation, a parking ticket, or having to get a cavity filled... then yay you!  But I'm sorry, I'm not throwing you a party for any of those things (except maybe a graduation, but still).  And furthermore, since when is a wedding to celebrate "you"?  It's to celebrate the COUPLE (a word which generally means TWO).  It's to celebrate the COMMITMENT, not the person or people.  It's to celebrate love, joy, and the promises that two people make to each other on a single day in their lives.  It's not simply to have gifts, toasts, and a party... thankyouverymuch.  I'm not saying that single people should be PUNISHED for being single... but let's not go crazy here and throw you a party because you want to feel special like "those married people". Apparently, I wasn't the only person to be enraged by this insane article, as Slate ran a counter-article entitled, "Single People Should Not Get to Have Weddings, Too", which I think was a little lacking in the creativity department on their part.  I think my favorite part of the article is, "If you want a gold star for good behavior, you are destined for a life of loneliness. Train your cat to peel off stickers and shut-in now."  Essentially... yes.

And then I read THIS article, which just interesting and kind of confused me.  Thoughts?

Anyway, I'll put my soapbox away for now, if I must.  If Karin is feeling up to it, we're going to go to the outlets tomorrow, but I am doubting that will happen.  My guess is that we'll both sleep, then spend the rest of the day lounging around, and then I'll go to the bus for my 4:45 departure.  I could really use one more weekend day to get my life together, but that will just have to wait, unfortunately.  This week looks to be busy, as per usual.  Every day after work there is something.  Monday, teaching piano. Tuesday and Thursday, stupid class.  Wednesday, philharmonic rehearsal.  At least on Friday, I am having dinner with David, a friend from undergrad.  Then the weekend... I'm supposed to see my friend Pam on Saturday, but I did just see her and I kind of want an empty weekend... so I might reschedule.  Depends on how I am feeling.

As for right now, I am tired and going to go read for a few before going to sleep.  I'd also like to talk to Ken, who is in NY visiting the guys this weekend... so I don't know where they are or what they are doing, but I will try to call him anyway.  Hope that you are all having a good weekend!  Sleep well!

- A

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