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I used to be friends with this guy, Brian, who was obsessed with his dogs.  He worked overnights at a hotel, his boyfriend managed a Taco Bell, and they lived in a trailer, but they had at least 4 purebred dogs.  Because these dogs were purebreds, they were incredibly breakable and prone to illness and indigestion.  One of them, an Italian greyhound, had broken both her front legs jumping off of the couch.  $600 later, she broke both her back legs the same way.  I’m not saying when your pet is broken you shouldn’t fix it, but don’t get such breakable pets maybe.

 After the dog mended, he snuck her into the café at Barnes&Noble so I could meet her.  She was very cute and little, but also painfully skinny, uptight-seeming, and shaking the whole time.  Whether the shaking was from the tension or cold, I don’t know—you just can’t ask a dog that.  I couldn’t really warm to this rigid and anxious dog despite Brian beaming at me, “Isn’t she beautiful?”

 There’s a kid who works at Stupid Pepsi who reminds me of that dog.  His legs aren’t broken, but he’s so tightly wound that you expect him to just keel over from the stress of existing.  He never wears a coat, but always looks like he’s freezing, and I don’t know if he actually does shiver, but I bet he really wants to.  I just want to run up behind him and scream  “relax!” but that would kill him.

 His sister also works at Stupid Pepsi; Kristie, the trainer, the girls with the most nasal voice I’ve ever heard in my life.  She also seems perpetually tense, though, not as bad as him.  They’re both painfully skinny with startled expressions.  Her smiles seem really forced. I’ve never seen him actually smile; his face would probably shatter. What the holidays must be like with that family. 

I punched in late at Stupid Pepsi this morning. The funny thing is, by the time I did punch in, I had been sitting at my desk for 3 minutes. Now, instead of using a timeclock, we have to punch in at our computers—our computers that are not turned on when we come in. For whatever reason, today, I sat down, pushed the on button, and waited. It didn’t turn on. I watched the clock on my phone flip to 8am, then 8:01. I pushed the button again, and then the computer turned on.

The screen to punch in popped up (eventually) asking for my username and password, which I did not know. I stood up in my cubicle and frantically craned my neck around for someone who might know the answer to my question. Finally I directed my query toward Marcus, who I really can’t stand, but I figured at least he’d know. I asked what my password would be set as, and he craned his head around to make sure I was actually talking to him before giving me the information I wanted. My punch in time was recorded at 8:02. Two minutes late is late. Period. Even if shitty software made it happen.

I immediately IMed my supervisor to tell her that it took 3 minutes to get punched in and wasn’t that a little unreasonable, then I pulled out my pocket mirror and began my morning ritual of fishing sleepy junk out of my eye.

She came scampering over to help me right when I was doing some major work cleaning out my right eye and said “It’s the first 2 letters of your last name and your employee ID number.” I couldn’t see her because I had my glasses off, but she sounded funny and also self-important even though she was answering a question I hadn’t asked. I just blinked at her, glanced at my fully operational computer and grabbed my glasses. The reason she sounded funny was because there were thin plastic bands stuck to her teeth. I just stared, wondering if they were some new braces like Tom Cruise had, or a retainer, or what. My experience with orthodontics is very limited and a long time ago, so I’m not sure what a lot of these things that people have in their mouths are. I speculated for entirely too long before I realized that she was waiting for some kind of gratitude.

“I figured it out.” I told her, “but my computer wouldn’t turn on, and then I didn’t know what you just told me, so by the time I did punch in I was 2 minutes late even though I got there on time.”

She looked puzzled, “But you have to get here early.”

“I was early.”

“You have to allow time to punch in.”

I could barely concentrate on the completely insane words she was saying because her voice sounded garbled and restrained like her mouth just didn’t want to let the words out. She sounded like a more gravelly version of Stan’s sister Shelly from South Park. After putting on my glasses, I realized that she had gotten clear braces and was also wearing some kind of new-fashioned retainer which made her impossible to understand.

We work in a call center.

“I got here early, but couldn’t punch in until I was late, does that seriously count?” I was starting to get really pissed off. In what kind of world do you have to get to work early because you have to allow for 3 minutes of punching in time?

“I think it’ll be okay.” she told me and flounced off to impart her limited and wet-sounding wisdom to some other poor sucker who had probably been struggling to punch in for 10 minutes.

I gave my two weeks notice at Stupid Pepsi last Monday.  After passing my drug screening, and receiving my copy of the background check that told me I am the most boring person who ever lived; I knew it was only a matter of time before I got the formal job offer from the job that will rid me forever of the phrase “I see you do very well with…”

 Finally, with 30 minutes left of my shift that fateful day, I got the voicemail offering me the job.  I did a ridiculous little hopping dance in the coatroom where I sneak off to check voicemails when I’m supposed to be working (no more!), and booked it out to the sales floor to make my leaving official and not just a beautiful dream.

 When I told my supervisor, the look of shock on her face was absolute.  Finally, after an incredibly awkward pause that I felt I should fill, but didn’t know with what since I’d said all I really had to say, she managed a completely incredulous, “Why?”  Considering that I had accidentally said to her about a week before that I needed to get a real job, I found her total surprise a little over-the-top.

 What I said was, “I found a new job.”  What I thought was, Do you not know that this job sucks?  Why would you be surprised that someone wants to leave?  Maybe she was surprised that I was actually giving notice instead of just not showing.  Maybe she’s a complete moron who actually thinks this is a good job for someone with a Master’s degree.  Maybe she likes what she does and wakes up in the morning without thinking: I can’t believe this is what I have to do all day.  I want to die.  Is anyone that simple?

 “I’m sorry.”  I told her.

“We’ll miss you.” she said as I walked back to my cubicle.

I was never one of those little kids who told lies.  Yes, I exaggerated (like all kids do), and I relayed false information, but that’s only because I was and am a naively trusting person.  Grown-ups kept accusing me of lying and that’s when I decided that I would never lie because then I wouldn’t get trapped and if accused, I could honestly said I never lied.  Like that works.

 I can’t remember for sure how old I was, let’s say 8, my dad brother and I had gone to the grocery store to pick up boxes for moving.  This was in Hallock, MN, a town where we lived in 4 different houses over the years.  This was not a major move for us, it was just the end of a 2-year period in one house. Tiemans are a nomadic people, even if it is only across town.  We were in the alley behind the grocery store going in the back door and grabbing boxes, which I thought was the coolest thing ever and must mean that we were in some kind of elite group.  Who else would be allowed in the back door?  I was waiting for my dad to come out with another load so I could help organize them in the truck of our Chrysler 5th Ave., when I saw a mouse run behind the spare tire.

 Barely able to contain myself, I yelped, “Dad there’s a mouse in the trunk!”

“No there’s not.” was his immediate answer.

“But there is,” I insisted, “It ran behind that round thing.”

“That’s the spare tire.” He stuck his head into the trunk and looked around while notions of what a spare tire must be rapid-fired through my brain.  I decided that it was like some kind of horse-drawn carriage wheel, and pictures our car rolling down the street with three normal wheels and one wooden one.  Then I started to wonder how such a big wheel could fit into our trunk.

 Boxes loaded, trunk slammed shut, and we made out way to the house we were soon leaving.  I told mom my news.  She looked at my dad for confirmation and he shrugged “I looked and didn’t see anything.”  I reminded him that it had gone around behind the spare tire and he hadn’t really looked there, besides wheels had middles and the mouse could have gone in there too.  I was dismissed as some kid who apparently has hallucinations, which really should have concerned them a little bit, but didn’t.

 A week later en route to my Aunt Corky’s house there was an unmistakable squeaking sound coming from the trunk.  Pulling over and checking more thoroughly confirmed that yes, there was a mouse in the trunk, and now it had given birth to a dozen pink, blind, and disgusting mouse babies.  My parents did what anyone would do, once we got to Corky’s, they scooped them out with a garden trowel and threw them under an evergreen to die.  As my cousins, brother and I played in the yard that day, we successfully dared each other to poke the mouse babies at least three times, the first time with a stick, but as we got bolder, our bare fingers.  All this fun was curtailed when Aunt Corky saw what we were doing and started yelling about rabies.  My protests that the mouse babies couldn’t have rabies, they’d never lived outside our trunk, were not noted at all.

There is a woman who works at Stupid Pepsi who has been pregnant since I started. The only problem is that I’ve been there for a year and a half.  I can’t decide if she’s pulling a Britney Spears, or if she just hasn’t lost the weight, or if she’s built in the weirdest way possible where all her weight settles into a bowling ball-sized lump in the middle of her torso.

 The entire time I’ve been aware of her, she has not changed size, but I think she disappeared for a while, during which time I assumed she’d given birth, now I don’t know.  I’ve got to know for sure.  It’s really bugging me (when I happen to see her, which isn’t very often, so she could have just been not gone when I though she had been gone, and rather, just not seen by me. I really don’t think about it otherwise, but I really have nothing else to think about at Stupid Pepsi)

Even if I haven’t completely freaked her out with my not-so-subtle puzzled glances, I don’t think I can weasel my way into her good graces and ask what the hell is going on with her stomach.  Plus, making friends even for the purpose of information extraction flies on the face of my quest to be left alone.  My plan right now is to find out when she takes break, and sit close enough to hear her.  I imagine that as soon as I do this she’ll immediately say something like, “Man! Am I glad that’s all over.  Now if I could just lose the damn weight that’s collected around my middle making me look like I’m still pregnant, I’d be happy.”

The woman who sits in the “suite” to my left hasn’t been to work for at least a month. I didn’t notice that she’d been gone until about 3 weeks passed, but to be fair, she’s very, very quiet. Darla, who sits across from me doesn’t know why this woman has been gone so long. Darla watches too many medical shows and suspects Munchausen syndrome because the woman said something about having to go to the ER all the time for seizures or something like that. It doesn’t seem plausible, apparently, that this woman could actually be having seizures, she must be making it up for attention.

So the woman has been gone, but now she’s back, which means I can’t help myself to her lotion anymore. That’s right, I don’t care about her health at all, I just want her lotion. I feel bad about helping myself to her stuff when I don’t even know her name, but my hands just get so dry! Plus she’s got the good non-greasy, but thick Jergens that really works. If I had the foresight to bring my own lotion, I’d probably share it with her, I mean, if she asked.

I now have 3 options:

1. I can make friends with her and ask to borrow the lotion, and maybe also find out what the hell is really wrong with her.

2. I can remember to bring my own lotion (which seems really unlike me).

3. I can wait until she goes on break, and sneak over and take it. I’m going with option 3, it’s just easier.

If she does have some serious medical malady maybe she’ll be gone again soon. She looks pink-cheeked and healthy, but I can hear pills rattling around followed by a wet-sounding coughing, so she can’t be 100%.

My brother said to me the other day, “You’re been different since you started working at Pepsi.” In the context of the conversation that meant “you’ve been supremely unhappy there, and I’m sorry for you;” maybe it also means “you’ve become a terrible person who wishes her co-workers ill because you can’t be bothered to bring in your own lotion.” Maybe I’m being too sensitive about this, I was probably always a terrible person.