Monthly Archives: March 2015

Good-bye, My Sweet Princess Tooth

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Dear Sweet Princess Tooth,

We said our final good-by today, and I know we’ll never see one another again. I’m sorry I had to cut you out of my life, but the pain you were causing me was more than I could continue to bear.

We had a good run…over 40 years. I thought we’d be together until death did us part (and that you’d be faithful to me even some years after my death), but it was not meant to be.

I know the fault is ultimately mine. I ignored you for too long. I didn’t give you the love and attention and care you certainly deserved. I thought you’d always be there for me, no matter how I treated you.

When I realized I could lose you, I jumped in with every possible solution available to me. I spent time and money trying to save our relationship. I worried and begged the Universe to let us stay together. Unfortunately, everything I did was too little, too late.

Now you are gone, and I not only must I imagine life without you, I must actually live life without you. There’s no turning back. I can only go forward.

I love you. I always have. I always will. But I will learn to go on without you in my life. I know the pain will linger. There will always be a hole in my life where you once firmly stood. But I know the pain will slowly lessen. One day the pain of you will be gone, and I’ll be able to live normally again.

Thank you for all you did for me. I know I didn’t say thank you enough. You were a solid partner for so many years, and I do appreciate everything you did to help me.

I’ll never forget you. How could I? If the memories of you start to fade, I’ll only have to gaze upon your golden crown and remember you again.

Farewell,

Me

Hoover Dam

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We’d been in Vegas.

By “we,” I mean me, Mr. Carolina, Sweet L, Robbie, the Fighting Couple, and their two dogs. By Vegas, I mean Las Vegas, as in Nevada. We’d left New Mexico and were heading to Mesquite, NV, where there was supposed to be a Rainbow Gathering.

It had been my first time in Vegas. We pulled in around 11pm, and to my amazement, easily found a free parking spot. The Fighting Couple stayed in the van with the dogs, allegedly sleeping, but probably bickering too. Mr. Carolina, Sweet L, Robbie, and I spent a few hours on The Strip, spending no money and marveling at the insanity of Las Vegas casinos. (At least I was marveling. That place is over-the-top extravagant, and we were only seeing the first layer of opulence.)

It was around two in the morning when the boys and I got back to the van. Mr. Carolina drove us out of town and into the darkness of the desert.

Concrete Road Under Calm Body of Water Above Clear Sky at DaytimeSuddenly, out of the darkness was much light. We were at the Hoover Dam. Of course we wanted to see it, even if it was the middle of the night, and apparently we could. There is a parking/observation area that is open to visitors 24/7.

Mr. Carolina nosed the van toward the security checkpoint at the entrance, but Mr. Fighting Couple saw a sign saying vehicles were subject to search. He had illegal drugs on his person and freaked out. He told Mr. Carolin to turn around, Turn Around, TURN AROUND, so Mr. Carolina made a U-turn in the nighttime empty road.

Sweet L started talking reasonably. We were already there. Didn’t we want to see the dam? The security guards weren’t going to search the whole van in the middle of the night. Didn’t we want to see the dam?

I, for one, did want to see the dam. It was right there, and we were right here, and maybe I’d never get another chance to see it. I voted to visit. And maybe I had extra sway because it was my van.

So Mr. Carolina made another U-turn. All of this U-turning was happening in view of the security checkpoint, and we must have looked hella suspicious.

We pulled up to the security checkpoint and stopped. The guards eyed the van and all of us within it with skepticism. They said they wanted to look in the back of the van, asked us to open the back doors. I jumped out, ran around to the back, opened the doors. One of the guards joined me behind the van. He took a perfunctory look inside, made sure we were not blatantly transporting bombs. We were sent on our way with the stern warning, You CANNOT sleep here. I couldn’t even be outraged because, yes, we did look like the type who would try to camp illegally at the Hoover Dam.

After all that, the dam itself was a bit anti-climatic. Sure, it was big, in a sort of H.P. Lovecraft giant monster scary sort of way. I was glad to see it, but it was just a dam, after all.

The Hoover Dam is is #97 on the Jen Reviews list of 100 Best Things to Do in Las Vegas.

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/concrete-road-under-calm-body-of-water-above-clear-sky-at-daytime-179078/.

 

GiftRocket

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I was going to write about GiftRocket, but before I had a chance, I got an offer from the company. If I wrote a post about my experience with their company, they would send a $10 GiftRocket to the person of my choice. Why not? I’ll take $10 sent to a friend in return for something I was going to do anyway.

I was selling jewelry and shiny rocks at a music and healing festival. A young man and woman couple liked my work and wanted to get a few things, but didn’t have any cash. I told them I’d take PayPal if they could send it from a phone, but there were problems: low battery, no service, PayPal saying the credit card needed to be updated. We agreed they’d send a PayPal payment once they got home, and I’d meet them with their merchandise after I received their payment.

I hadn’t heard from them, so I called the woman the next evening. She was having some trouble with PayPal; they said she owed $30 and she didn’t want to have to have to spend that extra money right then to be able to pay me. (I don’t know how one can get in debt to PayPal, but that’s between her and the corporation.)

She asked me if I did GiftRocket.

I told her I’d never even heard of GiftRocket.

She explained that she could send me money through GiftRocket, and I could have it transferred to my PayPal account. I told her that I’d look at the website. If I thought it looked good I would sign up, then text her to let her know to send the funds. She said she didn’t think I had to sign up, but to go ahead and take a look at the GiftRocket site, then let her know what I wanted to do.

I went to the GiftRocket website, https://www.giftrocket.com/. Here’s how GiftRocket explains what they do:

A GiftRocket is an ecard accompanied by a cash gift and a suggestion of how to use it.

It’s the intention of a gift card without the hassle. Suggest a business they’d love and write a nice note. We’ll deliver it and send them the cash. They’ll fulfill the intention of your gift, but if they want to use it elsewhere, no big deal.

Rocket globe

I went to the FAQ to find out more on how I would be able to spend the money. I didn’t want my payment from the couple tied up on a gift card to some store I didn’t really want to shop at.

The answers to the following two questions set my mind at ease.

What happens when I redeem a GiftRocket?

When you redeem, you get the gift money right away. Then you can go spend it at the business suggested on your gift and write the sender a thank you. There’s no certificate to carry around, and no cash stranded on a card in your drawer.

How do I receive the money?

We can transfer to your bank account, deposit into your PayPal account, or mail you a check.

At that point, I felt comfortable receiving payment through a GiftRocket gift card. And the woman was right: I didn’t have to sign up for any sort of account through GiftRocket. All a sender/giver needs to give a gift card through GiftRocket is the receiver’s email address.

I texted the woman and told her to go ahead with the GiftRocket gift card. It didn’t take long for me to get confirmation that the gift card had been sent to me. I met the man half of the couple at the corner store down the street, and the transaction was complete. I had the gift card money transferred to my PayPal account, and in a day or two, it was there.

I had a great experience receiving money through GiftRocket. I like the option of GiftRocket for people who don’t want to send cash, but don’t want to deal with PayPal. I also like knowing that if I receive a gift card through GiftRocket, I have the option of having that money transferred directly to my bank account.

Yippee GiftRocket!

Appointments

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After waiting two days for the office manager at my dentist’s office to call me back, I called her first thing yesterday morning. (By “first thing,” I mean before 8:30.) The dental assistant answered the phone. She is an adequate dental assistant, but I don’t think she’s the brightest bulb in the chandelier. First, when I tried to explain who I was and give some information about my situation, she told me she thought I had the wrong number. Then, when I said the office manager was supposed to call me back yesterday and hadn’t, she said that yes, the office manager had called me. I pointed out to her that my phone had never rung, no voice mail had been left, and my phone didn’t show a missed call. Then I just forged in with, “in any case,” and asked if I should call back later when the office manager was in. Oh, she assured me, the office manager was in. (Why she didn’t immediately pass the phone to the office manager, we’ll never know.)

The office manager got on the phone and told me she had received the report from Dr. Endo. She just had to print it she said, then the dentist would look at it and decide if she could remove the tooth. She told me she was printing the report as we spoke, and would call me back as soon as the dentist had read it.

She actually did call me back a few minutes later. The dentist would not do the extraction. The tooth was too close to the impacted wisdom tooth. She was afraid of “messing something up.” However, she did refer me once again to the possible bargain dentist (Dr. Jay) who’d said she couldn’t do a root canal because of my curved roots.

I called Dr. Jay. She said she would do the extraction. I reminded her about my curving roots, but she was not deterred. She said she can do just about any extraction. So I have an appointment with her next week. The extraction will cost $150.

Then I called the mechanic and made an appointment to bring in the van on Wednesday. He said he was going to call me back before the end of the day, but he didn’t. I am going to forgive him because I know he is super busy. I expect I’ll hear from him Monday. He said he should have all the work done in one day, but if something went wrong (such as being sold incorrect parts), it might take two days. I’m hoping the van will be ready for me to pick up on Wednesday, because on Thursday I am supposed to move into my new (temporary) home.

Let’s all keep our fingers crossed for good dental and vehicular news.

Avenue of the Giants

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We were traveling north from Laytonville, California to drop off the young French Canadian man who needed to go to Redding to catch a bus to Oregon. Mr. Carolina was driving my van, and we’d just left Garberville.

The young French Canadian man (whom I’ll call Pierre to protect his privacy and because I can’t remember his real name) had been doing trim work in Northern California. (For those who don’t know, folks get paid to trim the leaves off marijuana buds. Lots of folks travel to Northern California during harvest season in hopes of getting lucrative employment trimming weed.)

Mr. Carolina and I had met Pierre the night before in Laytonville while waiting to hear from Sweet L’s dad. Mr. Carolina was on a mission to return a hand-carved pipe to Sweet L’s dad; my van was the transport vessel, and I was honored to be along for the ride. While waiting in a parking lot, we were eating the cheese I’d acquired by standing in front of the tiny town’s one grocery store panhandling, (quite literally) asking shoppers, Spare change for cheese? A kind woman handed me a $10 bill, and I promptly went inside and bought a block of cheddar. As Mr. Carolina and I were partaking of the cheesy goodness, Pierre strolled by the van, and I invited him to our cheese party.

It turned out he was trying to get to Redding to catch the aforementioned bus. He had money (thanks to the aforementioned trim job, I presume) to catch a bus in some little town before Redding, but said he’d rather travel with us and would help pay for gas.

Mr. Carolina didn’t have anything planned after he completed his pipe returning mission. He’d been talking about the magical Mt. Shasta, and I wanted to see it, but we hadn’t made any decisions. I wanted to stay with him as long as possible, so I was down with going to Redding. A trip to Redding would not only prolong my time with Mr. Carolina, but it would get us closer to Mt. Shasta.

We spent the night at the nearest rest area, me in my bed, Mr. Carolina on the van’s floor, and Pierre in his tent, set up a little way into the wooded area surrounding the parking spots and restrooms. We hit the road in the morning and headed to Garberville to gas up and decide how to proceed.

There were traveler kids everywhere in Garberville, and Pierre found some French Canadians with whom to speak his native tongue. I went into a hemp store, and the woman working there (the proprietor?) was downright rude to me. We didn’t linger in the town, but were soon back on Highway 101.

With Mr. Carolina at the wheel, I was free to sit in a middle seat and munch almonds. Suddenly I saw an exit labeled “Avenue of the Giants.” Can we go there? I asked. Please. Let’s go there!

During our travels, Mr. Carolina often asked me what I wanted to do, but I seldom had a strong preference and was usually content to go along with the whims of others. I can only assume Mr. Carolina was pleased to help me fulfill a definite desire.

He took the exit, and we soon found ourselves traveling a narrow road rimmed with the tallest, most majestic trees I had ever seen: The Redwoods.

I’d heard of the redwoods, or course, and seen photos, but this was my first time among them. The golden light filtered in through the leaves above us, and I thought maybe we’d crossed through a portal and into a magical dreamland.

Without warning, Mr. Carolina pulled off the road into a spot barely big enough for the van. We jumped out, and Mr. Carolina led us across the narrow highway to a giant redwood that had been uprooted and was lying on its side. Mr. Carolina showed me I could enter the tree from the end that was once in the earth. I crawled inside and sat quietly inside the tree. I felt surrounded by purity. The air was clean and moist and felt good to breathe. I took deep breaths and within a few minutes felt like I was tripping on acid. I honestly felt as if my reality was altered, as if I were experiencing a higher state of clarity, a higher state of awareness. I felt absolutely blessed by the sheer beauty I was experiencing and began to cry with joy.

I knew in my deepest heart that if the boys took the van and left me there, that I would be ok, that I’d be nourished by the air, and I’d live a clean, pure life unencumbered by the trappings of Babylon.

(It’s ok if you need to pause a moment and shake your head and sneer hippie.)

Of course, the boys didn’t take my van and leave me there. The came back to me after they’d finished their explorations, and we departed together.

I did a little research, and according to http://www.roadtripamerica.com/GettingOutThere/Avenue-of-the-Giants.htm,

[t]he Avenue of the Giants is a thirty-two mile scenic byway that parallels US-101 about thirty-five miles south of Eureka, California. The road was originally built as a stagecoach and wagon road in the 1880s and roughly follows the South Fork of the Eel River…The road meanders through the Humboldt Redwoods State Park, a redwood preserve of nearly 52,000 acres that includes over 17,000 acres of “old growth” (never been logged) coast redwood trees.

Better Van News

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After a routine oil change resulted in a laundry list of supposedly needed repairs that were going to cost upwards of $2,000, the Lady of the House gave me the name and number of a mechanic her family (and her friend’s family) have used in the past. The Lady thinks the guy does good work and believes him to be very honest. I called him before the weekend and made arrangements to bring the van in to his shop early on Wednesday morning.

Our phone conversation was very enlightening. He seemed surprised by how high many of the prices given by the first garage were. He asked me how long the “check engine” light had been on. When I said it wasn’t on, he wondered how the first garage knew about a certain problem if it wasn’t because of the “check engine light.” He asked how much oil was ending up on the ground; when I told him I didn’t see any oil on the ground, he wondered why the first garage would recommend one of the repairs if hardly any oil was leaking. Before he even looked at the van, I felt reassured that maybe the van wasn’t in as bad a state as I had been led to believe.

I arrived at the garage bright and early on Wednesday morning. The mechanic remembered me and our phone conversation. He took the van into one of the bays to look it over. I didn’t wait long before he came back.

He said that yes, there were small oil and coolant leaks. However, the leaks were so small that no fluid was hitting the ground. He said he wouldn’t even worry about these leaks unless they got worse. He said to be sure to check the fluids regularly. I told him that the guy at the other garage said I should check the oil and coolant every other day. The second opinion mechanic said I should check the fluid once a month, or if I wanted to be super cautious, every two weeks.

Obviously those other guys were trying to scare me into having work done that isn’t even currently necessary.

The second opinion mechanic did say I need some front end work. The thing is, when you start taking things apart up there, it’s better to change as many parts as possible because you only want to pay labor once. So to get the front end tiptop, it will cost about $700, which I’ll be able to do once I get my first paycheck from the soon to start temp job.

I feel better about the van.

In tooth news, I called the my dentist’s office and explained to the office manager what happened at the endodontist’s office. The office manager said that the endodontist had not sent the report, but that she would call his office and ask for it, show it to the dentist, and call me back. She never called back. I guess I have to add that to my list of things to do.

Murphy’s Law of the Mouth

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I went in for my root canal. The first thing the dental assistant did was take some x-rays of Princess Tooth and her surrounding tooth friends.

The endodontist, Dr. Endo came in next. He was younger than I expected, but very nice. I liked him, and more importantly, I trusted him.

He said he’d looked at the x-rays of my mouth and asked if I’d cracked the tooth. My x-rays (newfangled x-rays taken with a computer) were up on a screen to my left, and Dr. Endo pointed out the large abscess (ugh!), as well as some slight bone loss. Then he said the remainder of the tooth was cracked, and he wasn’t sure if the root canal was going to save the tooth. He said he wouldn’t be able to tell until he got in there with a microscope, but warned me that if the crack went too far down, the root canal had a 100% chance of failure and there was no sense continuing.

Dr.  Endo left the room and his lovely (friendly, caring) assistant put numbing gel in two areas in my mouth, behind and on the side of Princess Tooth. Once the gel had numbed me, Dr. Endo came back into the room and told me to close my eyes if I didn’t want to see the needle. I decided it was best if I didn’t see the needle, so I squeezed my eyes shut. Needles hurt, even when I can’t see them.

The assistant came back into the room with a beige square in her hands. She showed the square to me and asked, Are you familiar with dental dams? I wanted to say, Only as a safer sex technique for cunnilingus, but I kept that to myself and just said no.

She told me the dental dam would isolate my tooth during the procedure. She told me I’d feel pressure when she put it over my tooth, but to let her know if it poked or pinched.

She put it in my mouth and said, Do you feel the pressure? I didn’t feel a dang thing, so I shook my head no. She said, Oh, you’re good and numb. Oh yeah, I was numb all right. Swallowing felt weird, and I wondered if I was actually having problems breathing or it just felt that way because I couldn’t feel anything in the back of my mouth.

Then the assistant left the room again. I was in the room alone, leaned all the way back in the chair, with mouth wide open and a piece of latex over it while I wondered if I was going to continue to be able to breathe. It was not my happiest moment.

Finally (finally!) Dr. Endo and the lovely assistant came back into the room and started working in my mouth. Dr. Endo was drilling, and I could hear the loud hum of the drill in my head, but I couldn’t feel a thing. Oh blessed numbness!

Dr. Endo didn’t work in my mouth very long before he gave me the bad news. The tooth was way cracked and there was no saving it. Doing a root canal on it would be a waste of time and money. The Princess Tooth must be pulled.

I didn’t even cry about it. There’s only so much crying a person can do over one tooth. (Besides, my van has an appointment with a new mechanic , so I better keep some tears in reserve for that verdict.)

Dr. Endo said he’d write a report on my tooth and send it to the dentist who put on the crown. I’ll have to see her again, and we can decide if I’ll get an implant after the tooth is pulled. (Unless extraction + implant = < $1,100, the answer to the implant questions will be no.)

Dr. Endo said I should get the tooth extracted within a month. The abscess is still there and won’t go away until the tooth is out. Dr. Endo said to call his office if the tooth becomes painful or swollen (or painfully swollen, I presume), and he’ll write another prescription for antibiotics for me.

The cost to find out that my $900 crown is worthless and my tooth needs to be pulled? $400.

 

Oil Change Revisited

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Last we left the oil change saga, I had gone to a locally owned auto repair shop that turned out a little sketchy. After that encounter, I got online and found a shop with really good reviews. People said they were honest, did good work, didn’t do work that wasn’t necessary. It all sounded fine, so I called in the morning to find out when I could come in.

The main who answered the phone had the swoon-worthy voice of a radio announcer. This man was smooth. He said an oil change for the van would cost $19.99. He told me to come on in, and they’d take care of me.

When I arrived, there were already several people sitting in the clean waiting area. The big television was playing a morning news show. After checking in and meeting Mr. Swoon, I settled in with my book, confident that I would soon be happily back on the road.

After some time, another worker called me up to the desk and told me that they’d found some problems. Every time he’d name a problem, I’d say, What does that mean? After two problems, he called Mr. Swoon from the back to deal with me.

Mr. Swoon was very nice and patiently explained everything to me in language I could (almost) understand. I had already told him I didn’t have any money, mentioned the new crown and the root canal that I still need. When he finished listing everything wrong with the van, I asked him how much it would all cost. He said about $2,000. That’s when I started to cry.

Here’s a list of the things wrong with my van and how much the repair will cost.

Lower intake manifold gasket leaking ($825.50)

Transmission mount ($165.50)

Upper ball joints ($385.50)

Inner and outer tie rod ends ($416.50)

Rear main seal leaking ($650)

Upper and lower radiator hoses ($149.95)

Fuel injection service ($109.95)

Fuel filter ($85.50)

Shocks ($289.95 x 2)

Of course, some of these repairs aren’t urgent. Shocks? I’ve never had a van with decent shocks. Aren’t shocks just about comfort? I’d rather spend money on my air conditioner instead of buying shocks.

And I could probably buy parts online or at an auto parts store and save money that way. I didn’t ask, but I’ve done that before when I was having Sears work on one of my vans. (I don’t trust Sears any more because workers at a Sears in Ohio straight up lied about what was wrong with my vehicle.)

We all know that if I buy the parts myself and get an individual to work on my van in his/her backyard, I could save myself a lot of money. The problem is that the person I trust to do this kind of work is in another state, and I don’t know who to trust where I am.

So I started crying. Not sobbing, just tearing up, but then the tears started to fall. I tried to dry my eyes on the sleeve of my shirt. I apologized, and Mr. Swoon got really flustered. He told me he’d finish the paperwork, so I sat down. I quit crying pretty quickly. Crying’s not going to help, so why keep doing it?

When Mr. Swoon finished writing up the recommendations, he called me up to the counter. He asked me if I was ok, and told me they’d take care of me. He even grabbed my hand and gave it a squeeze.

As soon as I got back to van and into the driver’s seat, I received a phone call about a potential job. I was taking that call when I saw Mr. Swoon walk out of the office and head towards me. I thought he probably had some business with the vehicle next to me, but he came right over to my open door and asked me again if I were ok. I had to ask the temp job recruiter on the phone to hold on, then assure Mr. Swoon that I was indeed ok. He seemed really worried about me.

I wondered again later to the Lady of the House why more people aren’t bursting into tears when they hear bad news while sitting in the chair at the dentist’s office or when the guy behind the desk at the auto repair shop tells them the work their vehicle needs will cost more than what they paid for the vehicle in the first place. We decided most people are just numbed out, either by the day-to-day struggle to survive or by the drugs (marijuana, meth, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds, pain killers, whatever) they are using to help them get through the day. The Lady wondered if fewer people would need drugs if they allowed themselves to cry in front of the mechanic or dentist or whoever is asking for more money than they possess.

I don’t doubt the van needs work. It’s a 1992. I just don’t know if it needs everything this place says it needs, and I don’t know what can wait and for how long. So now I have to start the process of finding a garage to give me a second opinion.

And the $19.95 oil change? It cost me $24.45. That’s a lot of tax, I thought, but found when I looked at the receipt that the tax as only $1.30. However, there’s also a $1.20 charge for “supplies” (on top of the $13.95 I paid for parts), and a “hazmat” charge of $2. What are these supplies? And if every oil change results in a hazmat charge, why not just add that to the advertised price? I’m tired of surprises.

Too Fat to Slide

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I saw a post on Craigslist (where else?) with the subject line, “Airplane Evacuation Slide testing.” The body of the ad read,

60 positions open for a 2 day project testing aerospace equipment.
Must not be afraid of heights
Must be able to commit to both days

I’ve found that on Craigslist, the less information given, the more likely an ad is to be fake. (Although why someone would want to fake airplane evacuation slide testing, I cannot imagine.) I sent an email anyway, in the event the job was real. I’ve never slid down an airplane evacuation slide, so getting paid to do so would give me another good story in the “crazy things I’ve done for money” category.

I replied by email late on Monday night, and didn’t receive a response until late Friday morning. By that time, I’d mostly forgotten about the ad and my reply, so when I received the call, it took me several seconds to figure out what the guy on the other end of the line was talking about.

The young man I was talking to was a recruiter for a temp agency that specializes in the needs of airlines. I had no idea such a temp agency existed.

The fellow went over some information with me: when (6am on two days at the end of the month), where (at a test site not too far from the host family’s place), how much ($15 an hour plus free lunch). He told me that the company was recruiting 60 people, although only 50 were needed. He said if all 60 people showed up, 50 would be picked and the extras sent home with a minimum of four hours pay. Those who stayed would actually be sliding down slides. He assured me there would be plenty of padding all around the slide, in the event anyone jumped too high and missed the slide and ended up on the ground. Also, one part of the test would be a rain simulation where all of the participants would get wet. Was I still interested?

Sure, I was still interested. He asked me some questions about my general health, then said I’d have to go to their office with my driver’s license and social security card or birth certificate to prove I was eligible to work. I’d also have to get checked by a nurse and attend an orientation. Conveniently I could complete all three tasks that very afternoon. I was going to that part of the world anyway, to show my driver’s license and social security card to the human resources folks at the test scoring facility, so why not get everything done at one time?

I found the office building and parked in a spot for two hour visitors. I went into the swanky lobby complete with a security officer dressed like a guard, but acting more like a tour guide. She directed me to the third floor, and I asked where I could find a restroom.

There was a guy going to the same place as I was. He was standing next to me, and when he heard me inquire about a restroom, he told me I shouldn’t use the restroom because they were going to drug test us. I had been asked by the recruiter if I would submit to a drug test, and I’d said yes. I don’t like drug tests, but I can pass them, and I’ve done them before for employment. However, I thought it rather rude for this stranger to tell me not to pee. It was still twenty minutes before I’d been told I’d see the nurse, and I drink enough water to basically pee on demand (TMI? Sorry.) Strangers should pretty much mind their own business.

I accidentally got off on the wrong floor. When the elevator doors opened, I assumed we were on the third floor. I bolted, mostly to escape from Mr. Not Minding His Own Business. After using the restroom (I do what I want, mister!) I went into what I thought was the correct office. (In my defense, there was a big sign with the name of the company I was looking for on the wall.) Turns out I was at the corporate office, but I needed to be at the human resources office. Oh. Embarrassing!

So I got back on the elevator and went up one floor. I found the right office, thanks to the big sign with the company name on the wall. I handed over my driver’s license and social security card for photocopying. Once they were returned, I was ushered into a conference room and given a medical intake form to complete.

The nurse came into the room right at one o’clock and started looking at each potential slider’s medical form. The nurse was an older lady, but not a sweet and cuddly grandma type. She was more of a rough and cocky biker chick type, the kind of woman who might wear a t-shirt announcing that she’s nobody’s old lady. She started eliminating people left and right. One man got really mad at her (his face got really red) because she eliminated him for something he’d told the recruiter about over the phone. She just shrugged and said, People get hurt doing this. Yes, that caused me to have some second thoughts.

Luckily, I’m pretty healthy and I’ve never had any broken bones, so the nurse didn’t find a reason to eliminate me on my medical intake form.

Next on the agenda were the one-on-one meetings with the nurse. I was the last of the group to go.

I followed the nurse down a long hallway and into a tiny room with a table and two chairs. I told her I didn’t know my weight, that I’d only guessed on the form, so she pulled out her scale. I took off my boots and stepped on. On the form, I’d written my weight as 178 pounds. I don’t know why I picked that number. The last time I was on a scale was last September while at my yearly woman’s exam, and I have no recollection of what my weight was then. The nurse’s scale said my weight was 164.8. Hey! That’s like losing 14 pounds in one second!

As I pulled my boots on, the nurse consulted her BMI chart. She told me she’d just remembered to take it out, meaning she’d not checked the BMI of any of the other potential sliders. Upon consulting her chart, she saw that the cutoff weight for someone of my height was 162 pounds. I am 2.8 pounds too fat to test airline evacuation slides!

The nurse shuffled through the other medical intake forms (right in front of me, where I could see people’s names and weight, if not complete medical history), and found at least a couple more people with BMI’s that were too high.

I asked her if I should stay for the orientation. She asked me if they were paying me for it. I said no. I told her that if she was going to eliminate me anyway, I wasn’t going to sit through the orientation. She said she couldn’t pass me, but would call (her superiors, I guess) and find out if they could take people over the current weight limits.

I talked to the recruiter who told me there would be more orientations the next week, so I could come in later if the nurse got the ok.

I wonder if I am better off not doing this job. Sure, the money is good, but the nurse made it sound like the potential for getting hurt is fairly high. If the recruiter calls again, I will probably take the job (and hope I get cut within an hour so I can collect $60 for doing practically nothing), but I’m not going to call the recruiter.

St. Joseph’s Day

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If you’re not Catholic or from New Orleans (or a Catholic from New Orleans), you probably haven’t heard about St. Joseph’s Day. St. Patrick tends to get all the glory two days earlier, but if you have ties to New Orleans, you probably know that St. Joseph’s Day is a big deal in the Crescent City, at least in certain communities.

I didn’t know enough about St. Joseph’s day to write about it with much authority off the top of my head, so I did a Google search. I found much information about the Sicilian American traditions in New Orleans so I’ll be doing a lot of cutting and pasting from that site. (Unless I state otherwise, assume information about the Sicilian American traditions is coming from that site.)

March 19th marks the Catholic celebration of St.Josephs [sic] Day where Catholic New Orleanians construct elaborate altars in honor of this saint. The tradition, commemorating the relief St. Joseph provided during a famine in Sicily, began in the late 1800’s when Sicilian immigrants settled in New Orleans.

St. Joseph altars, representing the Holy Trinity, are divided into three sections with a statue of St. Joseph at the head.

The devout place candles, figurines, flowers, medals and other items around the alter creating a beautiful, lush and overflowing effect. Since the altars thank St. Joseph for relieving hunger, offerings of food are essential. Cookies, cakes and breads, often in the form of shell fish, are common decorations for alatars [sic]. Fava beans, or “lucky beans” are particularly associated with St. Joseph because they sustained the Sicilians throughout famine.

Traditionally, the altar is broken up on St. Joseph’s day with a ceremony of costumed children, pretending to look for shelter, finding sustenance at the altar. Food and donations are then distributed to the poor.

Hosted by the American Italian Marching club, one of the largest ethnic group organizations in the southeast, the annual St. Joseph’s day parade in the French Quarter is a local favorite. The evening begins with food, wine and Italian music followed by marchers dressed in black tuxedos proceeding to parade until dark.

If you happen to be in New Orleans today, you can visit one or more St. Joseph altars. Altars are found at local New Orleans churches, especially those with strong Italian roots, but they are also constructed in private homes, halls, Italian restaurants, and public spaces in different communities throughout the city. The Times Picayune, a local newspaper, usually reveals a week in advance where the archdiocese of New Orleans will host altars with visiting hours and food services. Some popular places for a guaranteed look include the St. Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square and the St. Joseph church on Tulane Avenue by the Italian Renaissance Museum. And if you happen to see a fresh green branch over a local’s doorway, it means you’re invited to participate in the ceremony and to share the food.

Mardi Gras Indians also have a connection to St. Joseph’s Day. According to http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/supersunday.html,

Nobody is completely certain when the tradition of Mardi Gras Indians “masking” on St. Joseph’s night began. However, there have been reports of Indians on St. Joseph’s night dating back to before World War I. The custom seems to have come about simply because it was a good opportunity. With all of the Catholic Italians celebrating this holiday in the streets, the Indians were able to blend in and celebrate as well.

 

Before 1969, the Indians celebrated by coming out at night to meet and greet other “gangs”. In 1969, the first parade was created and rolled through town at night. In 1970, it was switched to a day parade on Sunday afternoon, and has continued in that tradition to this day.

Aside from Mardi Gras Day, the most significant day for the Mardi Gras Indians is their Super Sunday. The New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian Council always has their Indian Sunday on the third Sunday of March, around St. Joseph’s Day. Their festivities begin at noon in A.L. Davis Park (at Washington & LaSalle Streets) where the Mardi Gras Indians once again dress in their feathers and suits and take to the streets to meet other “gangs”.

If you want to visit New Orleans, but don’t want to deal with the crowds of Mardi Gras or Jazz Fest, I recommend you travel to the Crescent City in mid-March. The weather is still cool (by New Orleans standards, at least), and if you time it right, you can see Mardi Gras Indians and St. Joseph’s altars.

 

Since I am neither African American nor Sicilian American, I did not grow up with any of these St. Joseph’s Day traditions. I’ve been to the Mardi Gras Indians’ Super Sunday festivities once, and I visited a St. Joseph’s Day altar once.