An Electrical Storm Wrapped in a Tornado Concealed in a Tsunami: My First Day Back

After over a year of working from home, this past Thursday was my first day back in the office.

I was excited – a little bit anxious, but overall looking forward to the excuse to escape the house. Sorry house, you’re pretty great. We’re bros and stuff. (Err… I may be too old and the wrong gender to announce that, but there it is.) But you lack some things I need – namely co-workers or ANY people. (People – the often-overlooked base level in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Hey, don’t believe what you see on that pyramid graph – it was obviously created by artists who have an anti-relationship agenda. C’mon, food and water at the base level? Before people??? Are they kidding? Have they not heard of Soylent Green? People can and should be part of that base.)

I digress you say?

Let’s face it, my social interactions this past year have been limited to staring sadly out of the window eagerly hoping for trash day to come around again (why only the one day per week?) or bribing people to leave things at my door. (Dear Amazon, you didn’t need to send me notes or photos announcing a thing had been delivered. I knew. I really knew, but thank you – also, call me if you’d like some pro tips for composing more interesting photos – I feel your delivery team weren’t making any effort to create visually compelling package tableaus. Opportunities missed!)

Ahead of that first day, I called up my gym and renewed my membership. I have a well-established routine for going into the office that starts with a 5am stop at the gym. There I repeatedly step on things, push them, pull them, slam them, throw them, or pick them up and set them back down again before showering, fluffing, and heading off to work. Before that fateful return to work, I blissfully fantasized about all my choices. What would I choose? Were “all the things” an option? (Fast-forward: today my body is telling me that I did the things that make my glutes, quads, hamstrings, traps and lats excitedly scream, “You remembered us!!!! Hi, friend!!!” like a hyperactive attention-starved cheerleader.) I knew ultimately whatever I chose wouldn’t matter, I was just excited to go and see if anyone I knew was around and be in that space again. I even made a little post about it on Facebook ahead of going. Yay, gym! Celebrate with me!

That morning the alarm went off at 4am, which was quite rude and way too loud. (If someone could send me a sunrise alarm, that would be fantastic. I’d send a little thank you card and stuff.) I got up, threw on my gym clothes and loaded the car with various bags. (Actually, that part was a little out of control as I apparently thought “Why one bag, when MORE…. MANY MANY MORE would be even better!”)

Today was going to be the best day ever.

But before leaving the house, I had forgotten something….

I forgot that I live in (nay, star in) an ongoing, @#$!$^!-ing  I Love Lucy episode.

Y’see, I was nearly at the gym when I ran over something – something huge that I dragged along the highway – dragged an uncomfortable (and loud) amount of time (time can have sound levels – don’t judge). I exited, still heard it, although at some point it sounded “not quite as bad,” and I just sighed a bit. This was really not the way I wanted to start the day. I arrived in the gym parking lot, parked, looked underneath the car, saw nothing, and went inside. Here, I naively thought, “Whew, at least that’s over – probably dislodged the thing when I made that last corner. Good job me.” As I leave the gym, I think “Let’s get coffee! You deserve it! First day back!!” I drive the half block down the street to discover my Seattle’s Best coffee place is now called Jo’s and Jo clearly doesn’t believe people need coffee before 7am. Also, my car is still making that sound. I’m now in a dress and heels. I pull over, check the wheel wells, they look clear, then decide to look at the front end of the car. Obviously, the best way to do that in a dress and heels is to do a full plank in front of your car next to a busy street, because I’m hill folk and that’s how we do, I guess??? I discover the issue: a plastic piece is down (splash guard). I deduce it’s part of my car, because while in this plank I can’t rip it off despite giving it my all…multiple times. It’s a bit scuffed from being dragged around. I pulled myself off the ground (you’re welcome, Austin, Tx.) and made the decision to drag it a mile further to my mechanics. Hey, it’s not like it was going to get less scuffed.

I then confirmed my former boss wasn’t going into the office, then reached out to his deputy. These are the people who understand and accept that I live in the world’s longest sitcom and have grown accustom to my pre-7am “OMG! My world is on fire” calls that they rarely blink and are now desensitized to my morning dramatic upheavals. They’ve been there for some of my classic hits like calls where I state, “Hey, running late – forgot pants again” (because why would a person forget them only once?).

The call started off with a casual, calm Texas gal drawl, “Hi buddy, you in the office…?” then ramped into what my former boss (the one who likely later thanked the universe, Jesus and his mother, God rest her soul, that it was his telework day) describes as sounding like a “squeaky toy” when I become animated – and animated was an understatement that morning. In fact, marine biologists around the globe probably noted some strange behavior within dolphin pods as I squeaked out and rapid-fired the words that indicated I needed him to pick me up from the mechanics.

I was now in full-blown over-stimulated mode when I reached the office – pupils large, ears flattened and ready to pounce anyone who dared to say hello. Here’s where you need to show some pity for that first co-worker – a guy I hadn’t seen in over a year – a victim who only wanted to say, “Good morning.” Someone who’d probably forgotten what I was like with a much welcome absence of my verbal pattering and innocently thought, “This will be a normal exchange without event.” He was mistaken. I imagine he deeply regretted not bypassing my door before being forced to retreat to his office to avoid being sucked into the vortex of crazy I’d brought in. Sorry!  

As I reflected on the day, I lamented the dream I had of a calm/normal return to the workplace, then accepted that “calm” was never really an option for me. I was always going to roll in like an electrical storm wrapped in a tornado concealed in a tsunami that hid a kaiju monster on the hunt for a fresh city to level. It’s just my nature. I am the storm.

Hope your first days back were filled with an equal amount of sound and fury.

Space Angels

I like to pretend that I do not live in the world’s longest running I Love Lucy episode.  Pretending allows me to do things like go outside and interact with people. If I worried about the next pratfall or broad joke at my expense, I’d just rock in place and never leave the house giggling maniacally at things like cats landing in boxes on YouTube for hours on end. It would be safer.  Instead, I do my best to ignore the film crew and try to avoid the next joke they’ve got in store.  I don’t want them to cue the canned laughter, because I stupidly fell for another one of their tricks. It’s for the better.

Last night at 2am I had a brilliant idea.  I’d go to the store!  I mean honestly, how is shopping not fun at 2am, I ask you?  All of those wide empty aisles beckoning you over for a leisurely stroll.  No one there to elbow you or crowd you out from retrieving your favorite item or seeing what’s on sale at that colorful display that may need to leap into your basket.  Sadly though, there are only a few stores in the area that can accommodate a late night shopping fix and my preferred grocery store isn’t among them. That left me with a choice of three 24-hour Wal-Marts all within 5 miles of my house.  I know, how is that not living the dream?  (In oh so many ways, but at 2am, with about 2 hours of sleep it seemed, in that moment, like a mighty fine idea.  Remember, I don’t judge you when you’re punch drunk and in search of a store.)

I get there. I shop. I chat with one of the few clerks on the floor and then I head out with my purchases.  Pretty uneventful. I head to my car, pop the trunk, throw my Wal-Mart booty inside, put away my basket, and indulge an OCD moment of making sure all the baskets are properly pushed in and equally spaced apart, then I force myself to let it go and head back to my car.  I reach into my pocket and my keys are gone.  I dig through my purse, no keys.  I look under the car, no keys.  I walk back to the cart and look inside, no keys.  Clearly, my keys have to be in the trunk.

This is still not my I Love Lucy moment.

I dig through my brain searching for an easy solution.  No one is awake.  No one can get me to my spare key at home.  I’m on my own.  I don’t accept that I’ve thrown the key in the trunk, but clearly that’s the only thing that could have happened. My internal rolodex spins around and I decide to call Pop-A-Lock.  I call.  Then I sit on a bench in the entry way and people watch.  Lots of interesting people come into Wal-Mart at 3am.  I make up stories about a few as I try to entertain myself while waiting. What drove them here at this time?  From the women who look like they’ve just gotten off work to the guy who kept walking in and out in his pajamas.  I notice one guy keeps coming in and out with different groups of people.  We exchanged nods each time.  I think, “guy, if you’re going to do something in the Wal-Mart at 3am, please do me the courtesy of keeping it inside – I just want to go home.”

The Pop-A-Lock guy appears and after setting off my angry little car alarm we break into the trunk.  No key.  I dig through the bags, slinging items all over the trunk. No key. We retrace my steps.  No key.  We look under the car, carefully search the parking lot to where I stored the basket. No key.  We look around the baskets.  No key.  A disembodied voice says, “your key is over there.”  Weird.  We look.  No key. “No,  the other side.”  We look. No key.  “It’s right there.”  Where?  I look at the mini-van and all I see is the outline of a head in the tinted window.  Finally, the door opens and the young guy who had walked into Wal-Mart several times with different groups of folks appears.  “Right there.”  Sure enough, dangling from the bottom of the basket is my key.  I thank the guy and he smiles broadly.  “You’re the lady from the Wal-Mart.  You were stranded.”  Yes. He smiles as he’s figured out my story. His smile grows even bigger as he sees the Pop-A-Lock guy and he greets him like he’s just seen his favorite super hero appear and descend on the scene, “WOW!! You’re the Pop-A-Lock guy!!” Jake, my lock popping/key hunting hero beams back and says, “yes, I am.”  The young guy takes a step back as he stands in awe of Jake.  Meanwhile, I’m gushing thanks to everyone, because I get to go home.  The young guy finally recomposes himself and says, “let me give you my card.  I’m a musician and I’m also really good at finding things.” Jake gives him a pen and tells him he can keep it.  The look on the kid’s face is as if Superman is standing before him and just handed him a long lost Kryptonian artifact.  “If you ever need things found, here’s my email.”  I take his information and get the world’s biggest hug.

The mini-van door slides back again and another man joins us.  He hands me a flyer and encourages me to read it saying, “you can get more if you’re interested, just look inside.”  I agree to do that and then dash to my car practically hopping up and down in joy as I sing out my thanks to my parking lot heroes.

I get home and look at the flyer.

The actual flyer.

The actual flyer from last night.

I accept (though not truly embrace) the fact that since it’s me, it couldn’t be a normal “yeah, I got my car unlocked and drove home” kind of story.  So, with that I say…

Thank you for saving me, Space Angels!