The Isolation Age: The Great Toilet Paper Relay Edition

Four texts, three people and a truck, for eight rolls. And after all that, it turned out I didn’t need them that badly after all.

Allow me to explain.

My employer values company culture very highly – we help each other out, we have each other’s backs. So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by what happened when, during a twice a week video “coffee chat” I mentioned in passing that I was a little worried about running out of a certain “essential” item. I’m just inside the gate of the “higher risk” age group, but that only means I do what everyone is supposed to do – I go out only to fill critical needs like food, prescriptions, cabin-fever busting, socially-distant walks around the block, and to obtain – um, paper goods.

The dynamo who organized that morning’s video chat jumped on my remark right away. “We got you!” she said. I stuttered and stammered, “oh, that’s really nice, you don’t have to do that, I have to go to the store tomorrow anyway – I’ll go during “senior hours” and they said a truck is coming tonight…” She lives at least thirty miles away from me, and I really didn’t want anyone to go that far out of their way.

But before I finished my text telling her it wasn’t necessary, she texted me that the first guy she was going to send had been switched out for another guy, and that she had dropped off a supply at his house – my boss’s boss’s house, and he was already on his way. Within the hour, eight rolls of the precious commodity were deposited on the little end table on my front porch for receiving deliveries. I put a laminated sign on it that says, “please put deliveries here, thank you!” with a really dreadful (I’m sure) Spanish translation and an apology, “lo siento, mi Espanol es de internet!” I barely got the chance to wave a thank you to my team lead’s leader before his truck was leaving my driveway.

I gratefully took the shopping bag inside, to sort out its contents the way I ordinarily do, doling out this many rolls for downstairs and this many for upstairs. I went to pick up the plastic wrapper of the previous supply to throw it out. It was crumpled and deflated and just sitting there in the breezeway.

That’s when I discovered there were still 7 rolls bundled down in the bottom of that package.

So, three colleagues had gone out of their way at 5 p.m. on a weeknight to get me some TP that, as it turned out, I didn’t really need.

Cue full-blown OCD meltdown.

“What if one of them gets sick because of this? GAAAAA! What’ll I do???”

Confess. Face the music. Take the responsibility and accept the blame.

The next morning, the first thing I did was send the two of them a chat promising to spend the rest of my days wearing a hairshirt and flogging myself bloody if either of them got sick.

Predictably, the response was along the lines of “no problem! happy to help!” I rationalized that their kindness will keep me from venturing out on a multi-store scavenger hunt, possibly all the way to April 30, which is as long as our present stay-at-home order is in place.

I meant it when I said I had to go to the store – we were running out of other stuff that I forgot to get last week. I got home and spent half an hour unpacking groceries – and discovered I still forgot something – this time because I didn’t put it on my list in the first place. But we’ll be just fine without that particular type of tea, and I can cook the rack of lamb that has been in the freezer since last year for Easter next Sunday. Angelic Daughter will want something else, anyway.

Now that we’re finally all supposed to be wearing non-medical masks outside, I took some inspiration from YouTube and made myself one out of an old t-shirt. Before I went to the store, I knotted my new droplet-distribution prevention device around my neck and at the top of my head.

And then, I kid you not, I actually thought for a few seconds about what shirt would best coordinate with my mask.

Hoping your masks are colorful, coordinated, stylish but most of all, effective (mine is not), I remain,

Your I-have-never-spent-that-much-money-in-one-trip-to-the-grocery-store-in-my-life, purple-t-shirt mask and absurdly color-coordinated purple turtleneck and sweater wearing, trying to maintain a good attitude while staying at home and staying out of the way, technically at higher risk,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by lyperzyt from Pixabay

We Interrupt This Blog for a Brief Paroxysm of Panic

The lower the wage, the longer the employer spends explaining all the ways I could die on the job.

They spend even more time explaining all the things I’m not supposed to say. A bunch of rules that are perilously easy for a speak-before-I-think-trained-to-be-uncensored-in-the-moment-who-likes-to-make-people-laugh improvisor to violate, in our increasingly no-sense-of-humor-allowed workplaces.

So, within the first week, I’ve been confronted with a litany of ways to screw up and lose the new low-paying job I’m starting to wonder why I accepted in the first place.

After watching one of the innumerable terrifying training videos I am required to watch to preserve the privilege of awakening at 4 a.m. to work 4 to 8 hours less per week than I thought I was promised, I took down my immediate past post, “Survivor,” because I panicked that I might have said something I shouldn’t have, according to all those rules I was exposed to in all those videos.

Right after I trashed that post, the manager walked by.

Opportunity! Confess!

Seizing upon a policy I had just learned about open communication (I think? I was having an anxiety attack, ok?) I told him that I had a blog and that I was worried about something I had written, and that I took the post down. I mentioned how many followers I have (he thinks 129 is a lot – how sweet!) and got the “oh, that’s OK, that’s not a problem.”

Never one to quit while I’m ahead, I also blurted out that while I had never been formally diagnosed, I worry a lot and I’m definitely in the (mild) OCD ballpark. (A doctor did once tell me that, actually. Right before she mentioned Prozac, and I left.)

I was not required to, and didn’t, disclose this little, um, personality difference, during the hiring process, which process I described with gratitude in the blog post I took down because of the panic attack about saying too much about the hiring process.

Round and round she goes! Where the anxiety stops, nobody knows!

But wait, there’s MORE!

I also blurted out that I had written a book that I am now shopping around to literary agents, in which my employer (for how much longer I’m not sure) plays a minor role as the setting for a scene intended to make fun primarily of me.

The net effect of which was that a manager I had just met, who had been very welcoming, after telling me that it was all OK (and, God forbid, that he’d like to read my blog – “Oh, it’s just chick stuff, really!” meaning “please don’t read my blog, manager dude”) was looking at me strangely and, I’m sure, planning to review his own multiple scary training videos about how to deal with employees who have over-shared.

I always feel a lot better after dumping my irrational fears on unwitting colleagues sharing with a coworker, even though this manager was obviously in a big hurry to get the hell away from me back to work.

So, long story long, I panicked about something I didn’t need to panic about, overshared to a manager who really didn’t need to hear it, and was reminded of why I am Obviously Completely Displaced in corporate environments.

Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned about corporate environments, it’s that they can’t handle my personality.

Primarily because I have one.

Why did I do this to myself? And for so little money?

Just because it was easy?

Maybe.

Also probably because I knew there might be a few good stories in it. If I can overcome my panic about telling them.

And because of the probability of proximity to Men Who Know How To Do Stuff that comes with the job.

What could possibly go wrong?

I’d get fired from a job that pays too little and wreaks havoc with my sleep pattern? For being a little too attentive to Men Who Know How to Do Stuff the customer? Or because my probable OCD irritating tendency to overthink and worry about everything drives everyone nuts?

But I’m the Queen of Worst Case Scenarios! I can take it way beyond just getting fired.

Let’s hold off on that for the time being.

I’m going to revise “Survivor” and re-publish it. The part about the hiring process was incidental, anyway.

I got up at 4 am today and had an OK time at work. Stayed in my lane and didn’t go looking for other stuff to worry about. Got got some fresh air and exercise. Yay me.

So, preferring chamomile tea (or other forms of legal self-medication, which I couldn’t have last night, because I HAD TO GET UP AT 4 AM) to Prozac or CBD or whatever the latest anti-obsessive/anxiety balm may be, I remain,

Your panicky, oversharing, life’s-too-short-for-this-crap-but-running-out-of-money-fast-oh-shit-I-actually-need-this-job,

Ridiculouswoman

Survivor

(This is an edited version of a previously published post. Why edited? Panic. Anyway, it still makes my point, although it is shorter now; but shorter is better in a blog post, don’t you think?)

“Survived by his wife.”

This was the punchline of a famous routine by a great comedian, Alan King.

Incidentally, King was “survived by his wife.”

King fails to note the male habit of marrying younger women, and addresses every woman he approaches as “dear,” a term I now employ solely to demean and diminutize (safely from inside my car) drivers who have done something stupid, or failed to do something required: “Oh, nice move, dear! Ever heard of a blinker? You know, that little stick on the side of your steering wheel that pushes down to flash “blinkablinkablinka” for left and up for right? But it’s not your fault, right? Because you were raised blonde? DEAR?

But I digress – the routine is still really funny and worth watching, start to finish. There’s even a quick blonde joke. HA! Dear.

Anyway, so what’s with the boots again? And what does the Alan King routine have to do with anything?

I have accepted employment at yet another place where boots are appropriate; nay, even necessary.

It is temporary and part-time, which means no benefits. After taxes, I might almost bring home barely enough to pay for health insurance.

A finger in the dam of the rapidly draining reservoir, no more.

I got dinged on the only two interviews I’ve been granted in the last six months. And, despite a long, and I believe impressive, resume, no one else, including several recruiters who (apparently accidentally?) have viewed my profile on LinkedIn, has contacted me.

Ageism, anyone? Ya think?

But a funny thing happens on the way to rejection: when I have to reiterate my entire 34 year work history, even though the job poster already has it in my uploaded resume, I realize:

I have survived several of my former employers, both human and corporate.

Bankruptcy or merger has taken a few of those corporate “persons” (don’t get me started).

Human former supervisors were taken by the usual things – age and disease.

One of the applications I had been trying to complete required me to reiterate all 34 years of jobs, as well as all the education that preceded them, which no doubt causes the HR bots to drop me like a hot potato when they see that I hold a law degree  (AUGH! Run for the hills!) and that I left law practice after just three years, because…hmm, let’s see – how shall I put this? Because I realized law practice was a soul-crushing, closed system of enrichment for white males willing to have their souls crushed in exchange for (a lot of) money?  Or maybe, because I preferred solving problems to perpetuating them?

Or, maybe just because I hated conflict.

Plus, I hadn’t considered that law is a really bad career choice for a person with OCD, especially when she doesn’t yet realize that she probably has OCD. (“I’m not obsessive! I’m DETAIL ORIENTED!!!”)

This new job will keep me on my feet for a few hours several days a week, require me to work outside, and will put me in proximity to Men Who Know How To Do Stuff (yeah, yeah, women too, but I’m on the “I like men” team, remember? Is that OKAY? Is that ALLOWED? Call me cis (honestly I’m having a hard time keeping up with the lingo for all this – help, Steve Goodman!), straight and naive, but I like men. I believe nice ones exist. Some. Somewhere.)

I’ll have to curb my Betty White oggling tendencies. But still.

I’ll have to get up at 4 a.m.

I could apply for that Bar Bingo host job – three times the money for half the hours. I’m sure they’ll hire a woman as funny, engaging…and old…as me. HA! But my roots and my boobs are my own, dammit!

Meanwhile, somewhere, there must a full-time job and a nice man for me. With benefits.  Both. HA!

Until then, I remain,

Your underemployed again but surviving,

Ridiculouswoman