Tuesday, March 27, 2012

a Russian Mary Kay story.

In the not-so-distant past, I lived in Minneapolis. I moved there for a number of reasons, the primary one being that I was too broke to stay in New Orleans. Relocating to Minneapolis would mean being closer to my family and friends, having affordable housing by moving in with James as he student-taught near the cities, and completing my third and final museum internship.

Upon my arrival in Minneapolis, I did have one job waiting for me: my incredibly handy clothing store job. Since I worked for a national chain, all I had to do was request a transfer from one store to the next. I had been hired in Denver and had transferred to New Orleans from there; then, from New Orleans to Minneapolis.

Unfortunately, my clothing store job in Minneapolis ended up being incredibly part-time. While in Denver, I had worked during back-to-school season; in New Orleans, it was Black Friday and Christmas shopping. However, it was January when I got to Minneapolis, and there were no big shopping events on the horizon. I was lucky to get one or two shifts a week. And let me tell you, one or two shifts a week on minimum wage just wasn’t going to cut it.

Feverishly, I searched for an additional job. This was a great deal harder than you might think: my internship required a minimum of twenty hours a week, so my new job had to be able to work around that. Most mainstream part-time jobs wouldn’t want to deal with that: jobs were scarce, and there were plenty of people with better availability than me. So I turned to the dark side.

And by the dark side, I mean Craigslist. Craigslist jobs tended to be a little on the odd side; not something you’d necessarily see in the Star Tribune classifieds. Frankly, that’s exactly what I needed: the more off-beat a job was, the more willing they would be to work with my schedule.

It didn’t take long before I got not one, not two, but THREE interviews for jobs I’d applied for on Craigslist. The first interview was at a facility that hosted consumer panels, and I was offered the job on the spot. They were not sure how many hours a week I would be working, so I forged ahead with the two other interviews. The second interview was at an interpreting agency where I would help recruit medical interpreters. I got this job as well (and would stay with this company for a year and a half). Even with three jobs and an internship, I thought that there may be room for one more. You can always use more money, right? That brings me to my final Craigslist interview (and what this story is ultimately about).

The first two job interviews had been in actual office buildings, which began to restore my faith in Craigslist after my New Orleans Craigslist landlord disaster. However, this last interview was a step backwards, to say the least. The title of the position was something like “customer service assistant,” and the Russian woman I spoke with on the phone was fairly vague about what the job actually was. The interview was on a Friday in February; there was a music educators’ convention that same weekend, so James and I going to head downtown immediately after my interview to meet our music teacher friends.

As James and I looked for this mysterious address, we found ourselves in the middle of residential suburbia: not a good sign. “Are you SURE you got the address right?” said James, wondering if he’d ever see me alive again. I was pretty sure I’d written it down correctly. We came to a stop in front of a shabby little house that matched the address on my scrap of paper. “What if you just skipped the interview?” said James hopefully. “You have three jobs already!” No, I had to go. It would be rude to stand the Russian lady up, after all. I had no idea how long the interview would last, so James said he’d come back in twenty minutes. “If you’re not out of that house in one hour, I’m coming in,” said James valiantly.

With that, I ascended the cracked concrete stairs up to the front door. Apprehensively, I rang the doorbell. Almost immediately, the door opened, and I was greeted by a heavily made-up Russian woman named Tatiana. She enthusiastically invited me into her house, which was incredibly warm and smelled of stew meat. Tatiana sat me down on her striped couch, and she propped her slippered feet up on the coffee table.  “Tell me all about yourself,” Tatiana directed in her heavy accent. I gave her a quick run-through of my education and my customer service-related work history. “Ok, ok,” she said impatiently. “Now tell me this: do you like makeup?” Do I like makeup? What kind of question was that for a job interview? I hesitantly answered, “Yes… ?” Tatiana looked pleased. “Good,” she said. After she went on for a while about the “transformative powers of makeup,” Tatiana said abruptly, “How much do you know about Mary Kay?”

It took nearly everything I have in me not to get up and leave right then. There was no way that I was going to sell Mary Kay. I’m sure the products are great, but I’ve never been an independent sales kind of gal. I told Tatiana that I’d never tried any Mary Kay products, nor had I ever sold any. Tatiana then launched into an epic tale about how she has a PhD in physics, but she was never TRULY happy until she quit her job as a professor and began selling Mary Kay.

That was all lovely, but finally, I had to ask: what exactly would my job BE? Tatiana explained that she had a list of brides-to-be, and I was to call them and tell them that they had “won” a facial and – lucky them! – they could bring as many friends as they would like. I quickly realized that it was just a thinly-veiled plot to scrape up some Mary Kay customers.

That was the end of part one of my interview. Yes: it was a two-parter. Tatiana asked me to meet her at a nursing home next week: she was hosting a Mary Kay get-together, and she would like to give me a “makeover” so I would know just what it was that I was pitching to the unsuspecting brides. Apparently, I had to “pass” the makeover to get the job. I didn’t particularly WANT the job, but without question, could make good use of the extra money. I agreed to get made-over the following week.

I informed James and my parents of my interview, and all of them were fairly certain that I was about to be sold into white slavery. I assured them that it was nothing like that; I was just helping out a busy Mary Kay woman. It would be fine.

The next week, I went to the nursing home to get my makeover. I was greeted by a very enthusiastic Tatiana, who sat me down and had me watch a video about Mary Kay herself. Let me tell you, it was captivating (insert sarcasm). When the video was over, I found that several other women had arrived. It turned out that Tatiana was the leader of some sort of sales team, and these women were the sales representatives. The arrival of these women heralded the beginning of my makeover, which mostly consisted of them squirting moisturizer on a paper plate and having me pick out eyeshadow samples. Believe it or not, the best was yet to come: Mary Kay trivia. Tatiana and her sales reps quizzed me on factoids from the documentary, and for every question I got right, I got a letter: if I got enough letters to spell “beautiful,” I won a fabulous prize. I lost the game (can you blame me?), but I still got a handful of consolation prizes: body spray, a makeup bag, and gold eyeliner. Classy.

Tatiana spent the rest of the evening trying to convince me to ditch this customer service job and become a member of the sales representative team instead. For just the cost of a sales starter kit, I could be well on my way to fame and fortune – and that elusive pink Cadillac. 
I politely declined, saying that I’d rather have the customer service job. Tatiana promptly asked me when I could start (but instructed me to keep the possibility of being a sales representative in mind).

So I had the job. All the work would be performed at her house, I learned on my first day. Tatiana asked me to work from 6pm to 9pm on my first day. I had to come straight from an eight-hour day at the museum, so I distinctly remember trying not to starve during this initial “shift.” This first shift was to be a training session, and I would find out exactly how shady this whole operation was.

Tatiana appeared with a multi-page spreadsheet of names, phone numbers, and locations. The names were of all the brides-to-be. I had to wonder where she had gotten all these names. Tatiana must’ve read my mind: all these brides had signed up on some sort of bridal registry, like David’s Bridal. Apparently, on the registration form, there’s some fine print that says the bride consents to be contacted by outside vendors if she does NOT check a certain box.

Right off the bat, this gave me sort of a bad feeling. My feeling worsened when I heard Tatiana go through the first call. She gave me an elaborate script so I could follow along. The whole thing was just disgusting. Tatiana’s written introduction went like this: “Have you ever won anything in your life?” Yes, I was supposed to ask this and be totally serious. Then, “How would you feel if I told you that you won a FREE BRIDAL FACIAL?!” At this point, most of the brides hung up (and I don’t blame them for a second). Every now and again, though, someone took the bait. If she did, it was up to me to schedule an appointment in Tatiana’s giant Mary Kay appointment book.

I spent those first three hours listening to Tatiana sweet talk potential customers. She didn’t book very many appointments, but I got the gist of it. During my next shift, Tatiana listened in on my phone calls to brides. I don’t remember if I got any appointments or not, but Tatiana was very pleased with my “phone personality.” She only listened in for an hour or so, and then she left me to myself. I flipped through the spreadsheet, making sure that there was no one I knew on the list. I was supposed to keep track of what day and what time I called and if I got a voicemail. If I spoke to a person, I needed to note what they said and if they were hostile. Tatiana had several other women doing the same tasks as me, and there were several notes saying things mostly along the lines of “called me a bitch and told me never to call again.” This was clearly a dream job.

Slowly, I made the calls, and I hated every second of it. By the time my next shift rolled around, I had already begun to leave fake voicemails (aka not actually call the person, but go through the voicemail script aloud to myself) and skim through large chunks of the page. On my first day, Tatiana had made it sound like I would be doing more than just phone calls: I’d help with inventory, mailings, and whatever else needed to be done. Unfortunately, it became clear that I would be doing phone calls, phone calls, and more phone calls. During my short tenure, there was one day when Tatiana had me spend half an hour rearranging her lipstick cabinet. I was almost enjoying myself when she screeched, “Enough! Time to get back to the phone.”

It took me about two shifts to decide that I needed to quit this job. I felt like such a slimeball trying to convince these women that they’d “won” something. Many of them reacted with mild confusion: “I never entered a drawing for anything.” I did have some swear at me, and I did book an appointment or two – but I definitely didn’t feel good about it. I know, it’s just Mary Kay: you actually can go to one of those facials and not have to buy anything. Even so, attempting to coerce unsuspecting women into the hands of Tatiana was not worth the eight dollars an hour.

I don’t remember how many shifts I completed for Tatiana: it couldn’t have been more than four. At the end of the week, she asked me when I could come in again. I told her I had a busy schedule (which was true) and that I’d get back to her. I never did. I know that it would’ve been the grown-up thing to just quit right then and there, but she was a lot bigger and scarier than me. If you were trapped in the house of a terrifying Russian woman with a temper (I often would hear her screaming at her husband while I made my phone calls), you’d cop out, too.

So that’s the story of my short-lived job as a Mary Kay cold-caller. I hope you gathered two things from this story: 1.) if you’re getting married, read the fine print, and 2.) never trust Craigslist. One of these times, I’ll tell you about my other two Minneapolis Craigslist jobs. In the meantime, if someone calls you and tells you you’ve won a free facial, hang up immediately.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

top ten Tuesday: ten songs for ten situations.

I don’t know about you, but I get a ton of songs stuck in my head. Every single morning, I wake up with some tune rattling around in my brain, and the only way to get rid of it is NPR.

It’s not just the mornings, though. I have songs stuck in my head all day, every day. I feel like a defective radio station. Many of these songs get stuck in my head at random; I haven’t heard some of them for years. Out of the blue, I’ll wake up one morning with some N’Sync song floating through my head. Who knows where that came from (frankly, in cases like that, I don’t WANT to know). However, there are a number of songs that pop up more often than others, and always in specific situations. Call them the Billboard Top 40 of my subconscious. These ten are the most frequent, probably because I find myself in triggering situations more often. Good luck not getting them stuck in YOUR head, as well.

The Rolling Stones: “She’s So Cold”
situation: when I get hit on at work
This is my favorite Rolling Stones song of all time: it’s so upbeat, and the lyrics are really funny. It’s about a man who is in love with a woman, but she won’t give him the time of day. My current job (and the job before it) is in public service. As a young, decent-looking person, I hear all sorts of comments. I’ve been asked for my phone number, told that my shoes were “hot,” and I’ve heard remarks like “I like your eyes.” Keep in mind, this is ALL in a professional setting, so it’s wildly inappropriate. So what am I supposed to do? Almost always, I simply ignore the commentator and go about my day, and “She’s So Cold” immediately pops into my head. Sure, I’m being cold, but it’s really the best thing to do. I don’t always ignore the statements, though: one time, I was actually asked on a date. I answered with a flat “no.” Stone, stone cold.

The Animaniacs: “50 States and Their Capitals”
Situation: traveling through state capitals
I honestly would not know all my state capitals if it were not for this song.  It’s sung to the tune of “Turkey in the Straw,” so it’s not only educational, but catchy as well. The Animaniacs are clearly genius. Every time I get near a state capital, I can’t help but think of this song. I once spent a week in Hartford once, and I couldn’t help think “Hartford in Connecticut, so pretty in the fall,” as that is the line in the song. Other state capitals that I have visited include Baton Rouge, Pierre, St Paul, Denver, Phoenix, Washington DC, and Jackson, and each and every time I visited one, I couldn’t help but think of The Animaniacs.

Commander Cody: “Hot Rod Lincoln”
Situation: riding in my parents’ Lincoln
“Hot Rod Lincoln” is about, you guessed it, a hot rod Lincoln. The guy races a Cadillac and wins, but ends up in jail for his efforts. My parents drive a Lincoln – it’s no hot rod, but it does ok. Whenever dad passes someone, he’ll hear the engine rev and say, “Come on, Lincoln!” (He has said this to all his cars; this is his first Lincoln, so it was usually “come on, Ford!”) That causes me to think immediately of the opening line of the song (especially if Dad is speeding): “You’re going to drive me to drinkin if you don’t stop driving that hot rod Lincoln.” I think I just enjoy being able to rhyme “drinkin” with “Lincoln.”

Queen: “Bicycle Race”
Situation: riding my bike or wearing my bicycle necklace
Spring is just around the corner, so that means it’s time to pump up my bike tires and hit the streets of Sioux Falls. I rarely rode my bike in Minneapolis; my neighborhood had incredibly narrow streets and no bike lanes. Riding on the sidewalks is illegal, so you were doomed to the street, which meant you were pretty much asking to get run over. Minneapolis did have some wonderful bike trails; I will give it that. My new Sioux Falls neighborhood has wider streets, and the bike trails aren’t too far away. Riding my bike is always accompanied by “Bicycle Race” stuck in my head. I get this same song in my head whenever I wear my penny-farthing necklace (which, by the way, is awesome).

Depeche Mode: “Enjoy the Silence”
Situation: left alone in my office
This is a fairly new situation, since I have never before worked somewhere that can get so quiet. Every now and again, I end up being the only one in my office area. As I work in a library, things are characteristically quiet already. When I’m left alone in the office, the silence is almost deafening. The phones rarely ring, and I’m far enough away from the rest of the offices that their noise doesn’t carry over. The only sounds are the quiet hum of the computers and my own typing. Though I don’t particularly enjoy the silence, this song gets into my head just the same. If only I could turn on the radio.

Elvis Presley: “Cold Kentucky Rain”
Situation: rainy road trips through small towns
Though I have never been to Kentucky, I have been in the cold rain. I’ll forever remember the day my friend Sarah introduced me to this song. We were sitting on the porch at my house, eating white chocolate pudding (yes, that is a thing), and it began to rain. Sarah started to sing the chorus of this sing, and she was stunned when I said I’d never heard it. We looked it up on the internet, and sure enough, it was a great song. I now think of it every time I’m driving through small towns in the rain (which, when I lived in Minneapolis and would drive home to visit my parents, was quite often).

Rubberbandits: “Horse Outside”
Situation: seeing a Honda Civic
This song is HILARIOUS. No, really. It’s about a guy who wants to hook up with a bridesmaid at a wedding, and she has a number of other offers from guys with mediocre cars: a Mitsubishi, a Honda, and a Subaru. When she asks our hero why she should go with him instead of the guys with the cars, he sings, “F**k your Honda Civic, I’ve a horse outside.” The song itself is wonderful, but it’s really the video that makes it great. I don’t know why the singers have plastic bags over their heads, but no matter: just watch the goofy dances they do. If you don’t mind a little profanity, I highly recommend you watch this video. So now, every time I see a Honda Civic, I think of that particular line in the song… especially if said Honda Civic cuts me off.

Kelly (aka some guy named Liam): “Shoes”
Situation: buying shoes (I bet you never would’ve guessed)
I don’t remember when I first heard this song, but I thought it was hysterical. The guy in the wig, the nasally voice, the absurd shoe lyrics… it all adds up to Internet gold. I don’t even have to be shopping for shoes, and I’ll get this song in my head. Just walking past a Payless is enough to get it started. It gets even better when I’m in a shoe store with someone who knows the song. We can go through the rows, stating, “These shoes rule. These shoes SUCK.” And really, is there a better way to classify shoes? I don’t think so.

Ritchie Valens: “Come On, Let’s Go”
Situation: on the verge of being late
I have never been the most punctual person in the world. I’m not usually late, but I’m not usually early, either. I have my morning schedule timed to near perfection. I know exactly how long it will take me to get ready in the morning, so I don’t get up a minute earlier. Every now and again, though, something won’t go quite right: there’s no hot water, my outfit looks dorky, or there’s a traffic jam on the way to work. A wrench is thrown into my plans, and I am no longer timed to the minute. Whenever this happens, Ritchie Valens comes sneaking into my head. This song is not about being late, but to me, it always will be.

The Rolling Stones: “Start Me Up”
Situation: starting my car in the winter
Winter can be a trying time here in the Midwest. We’re usually stuck with six months of snow and ice, and that means scraping windows and trying to persuade your car to start in negative temperatures. We got lucky this year; there was hardly any snow, and it seems like spring has arrived early. However, we’re normally wading through mounds of snow, trying to chip the half-inch of solid ice off of our windshields. And of course, to avoid completely destroying your car (and to expedite the ice removal process), you need to let it warm up for a bit. Whenever I’d have to start my car in the mornings, I would inevitably get “Start Me Up” stuck in my head. Thankfully, my car was always willing to start up on cold winter mornings. I can’t say as much for me.
So those are the top ten songs I get stuck in my head (and the specific situations that go with them). And to think, I didn’t even go into the name songs (example: “Gloria” by the Doors… of course, I think of it every time I encounter someone named Gloria). Stay tuned (pun intended) for next week’s exhilarating story!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

a cardboard boat story.

If your high school classes were anything like mine, you spent a lot of time doing projects. I wrote poetry for English class (poetry is the very loosest sense of the word –  mine consisted mostly of goofy rhymes like “spectacular” and “vernacular”), reproduced Starry Night for art class, and created an informative poster about the rhombus for geometry class. However, no project of mine will quite live up to the infamy that was the physics cardboard boat.

When I was a junior, I (along with a handful of other people) was more or less forced into physics because there were too many people in chemistry class. The juniors were required to take some sort of science course that year, and physics and chemistry were the only options. Given the meager choices, almost everyone signed up for chemistry, including me. The classroom was packed beyond capacity, so the principal had to convince some people to switch to physics. She picked out a few of us and took us aside to give us her pitch. “Oh, you wouldn’t enjoy chemistry anyway,” she said. “You’re all too smart for that. Physics will be right up your alley. It will be much more intellectually challenging. It’s much more appropriate for people as smart as you.” I am not making this up. Despite the thinly-veiled manipulation, a number of us reluctantly agreed to switch into physics class.

On the first day of class, I immediately began questioning my decision. The first thing our teacher did was give us an assignment: a team of three would have to build a boat out of cardboard and duct tape. Not only would we have to build this contraption, but it would have to float… while holding the entire team. NOT ONLY would we have to build it and make it seaworthy, we would have to race the other teams across the Arlington swimming pool.

My team consisted of my friend Allison and one other girl. Allison and I took the project head-on: our first move was, of course, to acquire some cardboard. As I’ve mentioned before, Brookings is the go-to place for Arlingtonites, so that’s where Allison and I began. Our first stop was a downtown furniture store, which ended up being incredibly lucrative (“lucrative” in the cardboard sense, anyway). The furniture we spoke to was certainly amused, and he kindly offered up as many boxes as our little hearts desired. He even gave us permission to pull the car into the alley behind the store so it would be easier to get at them.

As Allison and I were walking back to the car to move it into the alley, we were met by an old bearded man on a bike. He was pulling a little wagon full of cans behind him. The bearded man stopped his bike and said, "Hi girls." Being polite Midwesterners, Allison and I returned is greeting. He said cheerfully, "You know, I'm going to have to kill you sometime." Then, he calmly rode away. Our project was clearly off to a great start.

Allison and I loaded up the car with cardboard and headed back to Arlington, and construction on the boat began the very next day. The three of us congregated in Allison’s backyard and did the token “physics” part of the project (buoyancy calculations, etc). It took us the entire evening to build the body, and we spent the next evening duct-taping and waterproofing to the very best of our abilities.

Partway through our waterproofing, we realized that we’d need a way to propel our boat from point A to point B. Since cardboard and duct tape were the only permitted materials, the best idea we could come up with was to use two carpet tubes as gondolas. One small problem: we had no carpet tubes. Fortunately for us, it was a Thursday: downtown stores in Brookings stay open late on Thursdays. We called around, and sure enough, we found a furniture store in Brookings that was more than happy to donate their carpet tubes to a worthy cause.

Allison and I traveled to Brookings to retrieve our carpet tube (our third member had volunteered to stay behind and continue covering the boat in duct tape). Upon arrival at the furniture store, we were handed a fourteen-foot carpet tube! Thankfully, we had the foresight to bring along a hacksaw – you never know when you’ll need one. Alas, we did NOT have the foresight to bring along a tape measure, so our hacksawed carpet tube was a bit uneven. Oh well – we had our gondolas!

After picking up a final emergency roll of duct tape, we returned to Arlington to find that our third team member had gone home. Why? She had run out of tape. Good thing we’d picked up that last roll. Allison and I finished taping the boat by flashlight. Finally, our ship was complete.

Just in time, too: the very next day was race day. Allison’s dad delivered the boat to the school, and I showed up with a Jolly Roger flag taped to a yard stick. Our boat was christened the H.M.S. Minnow, as we were certain that she’d be lost by the end of the day. The race took place at the Arlington Pool shortly after lunch. It was a gorgeous early fall day, and some of the race participants had even opted to wear swimming suits. Our team did not: we put more faith in the Minnow than we should have.

We arrived at the pool, carrying our boats, to be met with a surprise: the ENTIRE school was there to watch us sink or swim. Not only that, but most of the town of Arlington was there, too (including my parents and a couple of cousins). Our physics teacher had even arranged for the pep band to play. It was quite an event.

With a wave of a red flag, the race began. It was time to set sail. Allison gingerly stepped in the front, but our third member (who was to be the last person in, so she was in charge of hanging onto the boat from the side of the pool) wasn’t hanging on tight enough. The Minnow began to escape. Allison couldn’t reach the gondola pole that we extended from the side of the pool, so the only option was for the two of us to jump in. (The only way to get a good grade on this project was for the entire team to be in the boat when it touched the other side.) So in we went. By the time we caught up to the boat, Allison was nearly to the finish line. I climbed in the boat easily, but our third member wasn’t so sure. Frustrated, Allison and I began to actually yell at her – after all that work, we weren’t about to lose out on an A now! Finally, our soggy team member leapt into the boat… but her leap wasn’t good enough. She crushed an entire side of the boat in her attempt to get in. After all that, though, we made it across the pool with all three members in the boat.

We slogged out of the pool, soaked to the very bone. The Minnow was reduced to a sopping pile of cardboard and duct tape, but she had served us well. We didn’t win the race that day, but that’s not what mattered. I could pretend like the take-away lesson from this project was that physics can be fun and that you can accomplish all sorts of things if you put your mind to it, but that wasn’t it. I can’t say I actually learned anything that day… but any day that involves spending half your school day in a swimming pool racing with cardboard boats is ok in my book.

Here we are, right before the race. Not shown: shipwreck.
(P.S. – We totally got an A.) 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

let's talk about fourth grade.

Everybody goes through an awkward phase in elementary school. Some would argue that all of elementary school (and for many, all of junior high) is an awkward phase. While that may be true, in my particular experience, one grade outshines them all in pure, unadulterated awkward: fourth grade.

I began the fourth grade in 1996 when I was nine years old. It was a weird time for me: I was on the verge of getting braces, and I had recently discovered that there was a life outside of The Lion King. The pressure was on to start being “cool,” and I had no idea where to begin. Clearly, neither did the rest of my classmates: we took all our cues from Clueless. Sure, we were nine-year-old Midwesterners comparing ourselves to teenage Californians with rich parents, but to our little fourth grade selves, it didn’t matter. We picked up two major things from Clueless: sassy terminology and feather pens.
Simpler times.
Before Clueless, none of us had been exposed to the phrases “as if” or “whatever.” After Clueless, hardly a sentence was uttered without containing one or both. I’m not even sure we knew what “as if” meant. No matter: we still used “as if” with gusto. We scrawled it on our notebooks along with that weird “smile” made out of bubble letters.

And oh, the feather pens. They were one of the strangest trends to ever hit Arlington Elementary School. A feather pen is exactly what it sounds like: a pen with a little marabou pouf on the end. For a good portion of fourth grade, I wanted nothing more than a feather pen. However, my lack of income made that a problem. You could only get feather pens in one place within a 30-mile radius of my house, and that was at Maurices in Brookings. Every time I visited my grandma in Brookings, I begged her to take me there. Maurices was THE store: if you got your clothes from Maurices, you were SOMEBODY (according to Arlington Elementary standards). I would gaze longingly at the feather pen display, wanting terribly to have one of my very own. Oddly enough, I never thought to actually TELL anyone that I wanted a feather pen. I’m pretty sure they were five dollars, and had she known, my grandma certainly would’ve purchased one for me. I have no idea how I thought I would get a feather pen without anyone being aware of my desire for one. ESP, probably.

For my tenth birthday, I had a sleepover at my house. We had pizza and listened to “MMMBop” on repeat: ten-year-old heaven. The time came, as it usually does when birthdays are involved, to open presents. When I saw a small cylindrical package, I immediately knew what was in it. I don’t remember who gave it to me, but in the package was a lime green feather pen. My life was complete.
Yes, after nearly fifteen years, I managed to find
my old feather pens. The middle one is, obviously, the
lime green birthday pen. The other two were purchased
by me with my very first Maurices gift card.
Life was good.
Lime green was THE color of 1996/1997. I have no idea why: it just was. Everything had to be lime green. When my grandma took me back-to-school shopping, I got her to buy me a pair of lime green overall shorts, a t-shirt with lime green flowers along the neck, and a pair of lime green Keds: you’d better believe I wore them all at once and ALL the time. 
Sadly, this is real.
When I got braces, my first set of rubber bands was lime green. I begged my parents to allow me to paint my room lime green (believe it or not, they declined). Anything and everything that could be lime green, was.

Along with the Clueless vernacular, a number of 1960s catchphrases made a bizarre comeback amongst the fourth grade crowd. We began to call things “groovy” and doodled little peace signs on our homework. Each and every one of us had grand plans to purchase a Volkswagen Beetle as soon as we had our learner’s permits. Yin yang signs were also big, even though I’m fairly certain no one knew what they meant: we just knew that they were easy to draw.

Looking back on the fourth grade, it’s almost pitiful. I thought I was the epitome of cool with my non-ironic John Lennon glasses and my lime green wardrobe. At that age, I was astonishingly easy to please. It only took a ridiculous feather pen to make me happy for months on end. Ah, simpler times. Now, instead of a feather pen I can’t live without, my tastes have gotten a little more expensive. I’m fairly certain I can’t live without a new car. However, unlike my desire for a feather pen, I have made my desire for a new car well known amongst my family and friends. Something tells me they stopped listening a long time ago, so maybe I will have to revert to the simple pleasures of my youth to fill the void (sigh). If only I could find my Tamagotchi…