Sunday, December 9, 2007

Free Fare Friday

Maine is doing this great thing between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day where all local public transportation in the state is free. Totally free, no trick, no limitations, just trying to reduce some carbon emissions, and get people hooked on public transportation. Personally, I'm trying to use it to get a good grasp on how the whole bus thing works while it's free. Things are a lot less intimidating once you've experienced them once, I only wish I had more time on Fridays to take free rides.

This week I decided to take the #5 bus out to South Portland and explore the mall area. I really needed a trip to the dollar store more than anything else, but used my free rides to dart around town and get a tiny bit of shopping done. I mostly just wondered around the mall, trying to avoid all of the people in the kiosks trying to sell me countless objects that I did not need. (Isn't that all the mall is really?)

I ended up walking down to JC Penney on a quest for some new socks (I'm a sock snob, don't judge me). On my way I was approached by an older lady, who was giving out brochures on pool installations, I said no thank you and kept walking, and as I did the women yelled out "I hope you have a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!" I turned back and said "You too," but I was sort of amazed that this woman was so chipper, doing what I would consider a crappy job, amongst all these shoppers.

I went into JC Penney, delighted that my socks were on sale, picked up a couple other things, and went outside to wait for my free ride home. As I sat there I found myself irritated by all the other people outside waiting for a bus. The 20-somethings smoking DIRECTLY in front of the No Smoking sign, the teenagers with their runny nose kids, the man smoking something (I believe of the illegal nature) only a few feet away. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse this extremely overweight woman came and stood about 6 inches from me (I was sitting on the bench) and began to fart, loudly, and remarkably close to my face...I kid you not. When I looked up at her she said only "It's a cruel world" I decided it was time to put on my iPod before any of these people tried talking to me. I had this fleeting thought about how I should try harder to love all people, but I just couldn't bring myself to engage.

The beauty of headphones is that they do not even have to be playing anything in order for people to THINK you are out of commission, I use this opportunity sometimes to "accidentally overhear" other people's conversations. Soon another woman, carrying two Hannaford bags came out and began speaking to the first woman (the unfortunate one with Friday Night Flatulence). They were making small talk, and it became clear that these women had taken the bus together before. The first women thanked the second for "the card" and mentioned that she still had it, and had written a reflection on the back, after their meeting. I really didn't think anything of this at the time.

Just then the bus pulled up. I picked a seat about half way back, and the lady with the bags came on right after me. She asked me if the seat next to me was taken. I got slightly irritated, since she had already proved herself to be a chatty woman, and there were plenty of empty seats on the bus, but I said no, and moved my bags aside.

Sure enough, the woman asked me a question, looked at me, and immediately apologized for disturbing me while I was listening to my music. It was then I began to soften. I pulled off one ear bud, and answered her question, fully expecting, to put it right back in. But instead, I found myself asking her questions, and before I knew it we were engaged in a full fledge conversation. I soon found out that she was the woman who was handing out pool fliers in the mall earlier that night. I figured if all else failed, talking to her would be my "good deed" for the day, after all, she probably needed someone to talk to.

During our 20 minute ride we talked about many things.
I found out that she lived alone, with her cat, Rebel. She had been married 3 times, her last husband was abusive, and she didn't have any kids. Both of her parents had passed away, and any random cousins she had were living in the South, she keeps in touch with only a few of them. We talked about books, and the library. I told her how she could check her e-mail at the library. We talked about siblings, and genealogy and the appropriate ways to discipline a child. We talked about pets, and Christmas trees, and dancing. We talked about my work, and she went on and on about how great that was, and how proud I should be about myself.

I found myself actually enjoying talking to this woman (something that VERY rarely happens to me), and as we got onto Park Avenue I realized I would have to leave soon, and I didn't even know her name, and so I asked. Her name was Linda, her friends called her "Jo." I told her my name, and that I hoped I ran into her around town someday. She said that if that happened she would bring me back to her apartment to meet her cat. She then said to me "You're going to think I'm crazy, but I really like making new friends, and I really like Christmas, so I'd like to give you something." She reached into her crumpled grocery bag and handed me a card, I opened it and there was a cartoon drawing of a silly reindeer (Linda said he'd dipped into too much egg nog), on the inside of the card it said "Hope your Holidays are the Best" and scrawled underneath in red pen "Merry Christmas, Jo."

I seriously almost started to cry. I'm not generally moved by things, but something about the connection I had with this woman was remarkable to me. As I went to get off the bus I had this strange desire to stay with her, or at least to find out how I could get in contact with her later on, if for no other reason than to return her kindness. I didn't though, I just said goodbye and left.

And so my friends, another story that started out with what I thought was a good deed, talking to a poor lonely old lady. However, I think I was the poor one in this situation, thinking I was better than everyone else, not wanting to hear what was going on around me. Now that I think about it, I think that's probably the most full conversation I've had in quite sometime with anyone, and it didn't revolve around all the terrible things that are happening in my life and in the world. It's amazing how nice it is to be able to have a conversation with someone, and just be able to talk, without any barriers (after all chances are you'll never see them again). Lately, I've been feeling kind of crummy, and have been giving weird elusive answers to simple questions like "how are you." I want everyone to know, I'm not actually that great, but I don't want to get into a conversation about it...unless you REALLY want to. It's amazing how when given the opportunity to focus on the joys, the challenges seem to drift away.

It seems as though Linda ,"Jo," has been spreading Christmas cheer to lots of people, and maybe she won't ever remember me, but I think it'll be a long time before I forget the gift that she gave to me.

Later, and probably less sappy days,

Monday, December 3, 2007

Breaking an Entering

It all started with a good deed (doesn't it always?) My friend and ex-roommate was house sitting for her sisters in Portland off Washington Ave this week while they were in Mexico. However, she had to work Friday night, so I agreed to go out there and check on the animals and stay the night. I had Friday off work because the furnace in my building had a hole in it, so I decided to go out in the afternoon when it was light out...probably a REALLY good thing I did.

So I got to the house with no trouble, unlocked the door and went inside. I debated rather or not I should lock the door behind me, but since I was in an unfamiliar place, I decided it couldn't hurt.

I went into the dining room, put my bag down, and took off my coat and hat and placed them in a chair. I then went to find the dog. I put on her collar, and headed to the back door, opened it, stepped out, and realized immediately that the door locked behind me. The keys and my cell phone were in my jacket, in the chair, inside the house. It was NOT warm outside. Let's just say I used a lot of words that are not appropriate for children....

I let the dog do her business while I thought about what to do. First I went around and checked all the doors twice, hoping that maybe they weren't REALLY locked, no luck. They had this deck that was several feet off the ground I had to pull myself onto to check the sliding glass door, which of course, was locked. I checked the door to the basement, still no luck.

Then I remembered that my friend said there was an extra key somewhere, I figured it couldn't be too hard to find. So I began looking in all the little nooks and crannies around the house. I even got a stick and ran it along all the tops of all doorways and places I couldn't reach in hopes that the extra key would magically fall down. I crawled onto the deck again to check the doors, I even took the cover off the grill in hopes that maybe the key would be hiding in there. Nope.

I check all of the doors one more time, and as I walked by the side of the house, I saw my jacket sitting there right by the window. I realized that if I could get the window open even just a little bit, I could slide my coat out and be warm, and have the keys. So I began my quest to pop the screen off the window. I couldn't get my fingers underneath the screen so I ended up using sticks and rocks to pry the 5 foot screen off the window. Next I pushed up on the window, and it wouldn't budge. So I got a chair off the deck to stand in, hoping that the extra height would give me the leverage to open the window. Turns out, the window was locked too.

Did I mention that the entire time I was doing this I was holding onto the leash of the 60 pound husky. I would have hooked her up somewhere but apparently she had been lost earlier in the week and they had to call animal control, so I didn't want to risk losing the dog on top of my other problems.

At this time I decided that I probably wasn't going to be able to break into the house, so I did the only other thing I could think of, which was going door to door to the neighbors in hopes that one of them could help me. I knocked on the door of the next door neighbor, who took forever to answer, I tried to explain the situation to her, and asked if I could use her phone. She was on her way out, and began making phone calls on her cell phone to explain to people why she would be late. All conversations began with "well there's this girl in my house..."

The problem, at this point, was that I couldn't remember anyone's phone number. I finally remembered the number for the Administrative Assistant on campus, I figured she could help me SOMEHOW, except that she wasn't in. The only other number I could remember was for the old Circle K adviser, who happens to be the partner of the Hall Director in the building where my friend was working. So I called and the person who answered was the ONLY person in the office who didn't know who I was, and therefore was not eager to help me, or give out any phone numbers. Finally I convinced her to give me the phone number to Residential Life. When I called Res. Life a work study student answered, who gave me the WRONG number, and not actually a USM number at all. So I called Res. Life back (good thing I wrote the number down), and someone answered who I knew, and said "You're in luck, Erica, Danielle is right here" I WIN!!

So she told me where the key was and proceeded to ask me a bunch of questions, but I didn't want to get into it at that point, because I was still in the lady's house. So, I went and got the keys, and went to grab the dog (who I tied up, and BEGGED not to move) because I didn't think the neighbors would appreciate her company. So I untied the dog, and started walking, and accidentally dropped the leash, and she started running. So I chased her down, and luckily caught her before she got too far. I let her into the house, and went back to tell the nice lady I got in, because she told me she wouldn't leave until she knew I was safe.

What a day. Luckily, it was early in the day, otherwise, it would have been colder, darker, and I have NO IDEA how I would have gotten a hold of Danielle, because all the offices would have been closed. AND turns out the nice lady next door is the aunt of Norman Thombs, Mechuwana Camp Director. The next house down is Cliff and Jane Ives who I know from when Cliff was serving at Green St. UMC. In the words of Danielle "the street is full of Methodists"....I guess I was pretty safe after all!

Later Days,

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Does Elmo Need a Ticket?

Last weekend I took a bus to Vermont to visit a friend. I love the bus, because what is a 3 hour car ride becomes a 7 hour bus ride. AND, when riding the sketchy bus (the Greyhound) there are no movies to pass the time, the only entertainment they provide are the passengers themselves, and trust me, most of the time that is worth more than a movie rental.

When I boarded the bus in Boston on Monday and watched this middle aged lady sitting across from me stuff all of her belongings into the overhead compartment. Everything, that is except for a small plastic GAP bag with a tie on the top. She took that bag and stood it up right in the seat next to her very carefully. She was treating that bag with such care, I suspected she would buckle the bag in, if she was given the chance.

Anyway, I was busy playing this game where I pretend to be unfriendly, so that no one else will sit with me. I had my stuff spread all out, my headphones were on (to make it look like I was listening to my iPod even though my battery had died), I was fiddling with my cell phone. Everyone else had just about settled in when I heard this strange high pitched voice. I didn't sound human, I looked around, and the only kid on the bus was a 4 year old playing with a toy gun. No muppet-ish voices coming from that direction.

So I sat back down, and heard it again, this time in the form of an evil laughter "hahahaha". I look around again to see where it was coming from, this time the lady with the GAP bag looks at me and smiles. At that point I started to wonder what in the world was going on. So watched the lady. She was just sitting there, not touching anything and the voice goes off for a third time. I must have had a strange look on my face, because she turned, and looked at me and said "Don't worry dear, it's just my Elmo," as she motioned to the bag. WHAT??

Apparently, she had a talking Elmo doll in the GAP bag, she offered no other explanation, and the thing kept talking through our journey, but I didn't question it again.

The question of the day is...Does Elmo need a ticket to ride the greyhound? Something to ponder.

Later Days,

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Think Before You Act

When I was in college I developed a lot of strange habits, and rituals around a lot of different things. Some of them I have broken out of, and some I do instinctively, even a year and a half later. One of which involved elevators. Every where I went I seemed to be surrounded by them. My sociology professors always encouraged us to to strange things in elevators and watch how people behave differently when someone in society breaks out of the social norms (we did a great class experiment on this....but that is a story for a different time).

Anyway. Somewhere in this mix I got this brilliant idea to stand really close to the door, when inside the elevator and practically press my nose against the crack where the two sides of the door meet. I then focus my eyes really closely on the crack in the door. The best part is, when the door opens (and it ALWAYS opens) your eyes go totally haywire...because they don't know what to do. It's really an interesting thing, really, I'm not just a big weirdo. Generally speaking I only did this when I was either alone in the elevator, or when it was so crowded that no one noticed I was doing what I was doing. In the chance that there were people on the other side of it was almost alway certain that they were chatting or looking at fliers on the wall...or something, and didn't notice my little trick. Whereas, people on the inside of the elevator are ALWAYS facing out, toward the door, ready to escape in mass exodus form (this will come into play later).

So tonight I was in the new hall with Maria waiting for the elevator to take us downstairs, and for some reason I decided that I should press my nose against the OUTSIDE of the door while we waited for it to come up and retrieve us. I clearly wasn't thinking....because here comes the elevator and sure enough their are people inside. Several people, all staring at the elevator doors, ready to leave. I was really embarrassed and in the way of their departure and didn't know what to do at that point. So I just ran into the elevator and faced the wall (not the door) until they all got out, so I wouldn't have to see them. Maria, who didn't notice the nose to the door thing, just thought it was strange that I barreled by them all to get in, without letting them leave first.

Just imagine for a moment what you would think if you were inside the elevator, and when the doors open there was a person standing DIRECTLY on the other side of the door...right in the middle.

Oooooh, proper etiquette, generally not my strong suit.

Later days (but hopefully not later nights, it's already past my bed time.)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Stille Nacht

So I spent the majority of the day cleaning, doing laundry, and running errands. Around 5 I decided to take a break and run to Rite-Aid to pick up some Halloween candy. It was so nice outside, a real fall day. I shuffled through the leaves, and took deep breaths of cold air. I rocked out to my iPod. When I got to the store I hit the pause button on my iPod, as I usually do, finding it difficult to concentrate on too many things at the same time. Plus, the store was playing Fergie's Big Girls Don't Cry....and I couldn't help but divert my attention to that.

So I'm wandering around the store, looking for the best deals, and peanut butter M&M's (which they apparently don't sell ANYWHERE), when I get really confused. I SWEAR I can hear Silent Night playing in the store (along with Fergie). I assume it's my iPod and hit pause once again, and it disappears. I keep looking around picking up two-eight packs of delicious Halloween goodness and AGAIN hear Silent Night. This is when I realize that either I'm totally insane, or I'm incapable of hitting the pause button, so I inspect the iPod. Turns out the device was on "hold" so I was hitting pause but it wasn't doing anything, and the volume was just low enough that I couldn't hear it most of the time. Ok...crisis averted.

Fast forward a couple minutes, and picture it: I am walking down Congress Street, back to my apartment, with a bit of a spring in my step, because I am enjoying the day. I am wearing my Life is Good Pumpkin hat, and swinging a bag full of candy from side to side as I shuffle through the crunchy leaves that have fallen onto the sidewalk. I turn the iPod back on, and start the last played song over again, so I can hear it from the beginning. I continue down the street and notice people giving me weird looks, but I'm not sure why...until...I realize that I am singing Silent Night, German, as I go. Apparently, this is an unusual occurrence....who knew.

I guess I become totally oblivious when I turn the iPod on...

Reason number 523 not to use it when I ride my bike. I think I would get hurt.

Later Days,

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Dangers of Making Dinner

So Monday Night I decided to make some dinner, not just the regular pasta/veggie burger classic, but an actual dinner. I decided to make stir fry. Seems easy enough right? Well...not for Erica.

It all starts with my chicken phobia. This irrational fear extends itself to all meats, but chicken is the only one I ever eat. (I was a vegetarian for a long time, and though I now like the taste of chicken, I don't like the very thought of it, before it's cooked and on my plate). Anyway, I generally buy a package of chicken, and split it into 3 parts when I get home, and put them in separate baggies, in the freezer. That way, it's all ready to go when I want to cook one little piece. But for some reason, when I bought this package (sometime near the first of August) I just threw it in the freezer. I've been procrastinating cooking this chicken because I knew that it would require some work to get the frozen pieces apart, since I still only wanted to cook one section.

So I take the meat out of the freezer, cut open the package, tear off the disgusting blood catching pad and attempt to use my kitchen scissors to cut the frozen chunks apart. (I ALWAYS use kitchen scissors when dealing chicken because it's quick and easy...something about cutting through the flesh with a knife, makes me unable to eat it afterwards). Of course, the scissors don't work. So I try my second best effort...grabbing the 1.27 pounds of meat, with my bare hands and banging it as hard as I can against the counter repeatedly. After a few really hard bangs, and an all out throw against the counter, one piece breaks away from the other two. I continue banging for a while, and then realize, on piece is all I need. I'll deal with the rest later, and I returned them to the freezer. This is just the beginning.

At this point my hands are freezing, literally, so I begin what I think is a good warming technique...rubbing them together. Do you know what happens next? Take a guess.
All that chicken goop that was on my hands goes flying up and sprays my entire face. I almost got sick....Thank God I have glasses.

Somehow I manage to recover from all of this, I put a pot of water on to boil some rice, I put the chicken in the microwave to defrost, I've got my iPod on, and I'm working on some dishes....and then I start to smell something....smells like burning.

I automatically assume its the microwave, go closer, don't smell anything, check out the toaster, nothing. I go back to doing the dishes, and it gets worse. So I stop the microwave, and inspect the plate, and the chicken, and NOTHING. At this point I think maybe it's coming from another apartment, so I go back to the dishes.

And then I remember the rice, now boiling like mad...I look, and sure enough...flaming pot holder on the stove. So, again, I do what I think is best, shake the pot holder (to extinguish the flame), and put it out the window (so I don't set off the smoke alarm). That thing seriously smoked for 20 minutes before it went out. Sure I could have put it in the sink full of water, but who thinks of that?

WOW! Now is time to start the stir fry. I'll spare you the dramatics and just tell you, that I turned on the wrong burner and lighted a paper towel on fire. My question is..why was there so much crap on the stove? And how did I manage to start two fires before cooking anything.
(By the way, I've been cooking my whole life, for my whole family, it's not like I'm incompetent, I guess I've just had a lot on my mind, and I never have been so great at multitasking!)

I finally get the whole thing under control, everything is cooking happily, I taste the chicken, and decide it's really quite chewy. I can't tell if that's because it had been in the freezer a long time, or because I defrosted it too long in the microwave and it got partially cooked and therefore bad. I decide I went through WAY too much effort at this point to let it ruin my dinner.

I go to put everything together and realize that the "MINUTE RICE" is still crunchy after 30 minutes of cooking. That stuff makes me sooo mad. I follow the directions EVERYTIME, and I always have to add more water and cook it for like an hour. Stupid brown rice.

Anyway, in the end everything turns out great. I have a great stir fry, that I just finished tonight, after three nights of eating it. Still.... I think next time I might invest in some spaghettios!

That's all for now.
Later Days,

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Repaying the Gift

So I had been thinking about creating one of these "blogs" for quite some time now, as a place to relay my thoughts, ideas, ramblings, funny stories etc. to the world. I do not intend to use this as a recitation of every activity and interaction I have, because really, no one needs to know, and I don't have the time for it. Anyway, the same day I was contemplating the creation of this site a good pal sent me a message strongly urging me to do the same. The coincidence was too strong...and I can't say no. So here it is.

You may wonder why I would name a blog "repaying the gift" so I will tell you. Many of you know that I use the internet as a means to keep up to date (some may say "stalk") with people who have been, are, or will someday be, in my life. I thank the internet for giving me that opportunity, and here I will repay that gift, by allowing others to "keep up to date" with me. I am also repaying the gift to said "good pal" who's blog I have been following for years. Though I am not sure anyone will read this with the dedication that I have read hers, I hope that it provides her (and the rest of you) with a few laughs, some mild entertainment, and if all else fails, a good way to waste a few minutes during the day.

I could take this whole "repaying the gift" thing to another level. In a way, I look at my life and realize all the good in it. I'm healthy, I have a job, food, and a nice place to live. I have people that care about me. I am safe, and warm. I have more books than I have time to read them. I have more shoes than is reasonable. I have more gadgets than necessary. I would like to repay the world for all the good (and in many cases, luxuries) that I have, but I have no money. So, I dedicate myself to helping others, to repaying the gift. I'm sure I'll talk about that, in the days to come, because's what I do.

In the meantime, enjoy. Share the page with anyone who would care to read it. If you have insight as to who these things (blogs) work, let me know, I'd love the help.

Oh, and I take requests, you know, if you want to hear my opinion on something let me know. I'll write about it. Already on the list are: washcloths, the story of me saving the child from a burning building, and of course, anytime I hurt myself. I also want to ask questions of the readers and see what kind of responses I get. Let's make this fun! Ok, that's all for now.

Later Days,