Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bad Tenant

My landlord, Dr. Wang, frequently assumes that I have done things that I haven't. These things typically have to do with the trash, the mail, or some other matter of mutual household use. He usually catches me as I'm arriving home and runs out of his acupuncture office on the ground floor of the building to tell me what it is that I shouldn't be doing. This is by no means a daily occurrence, but it happens frequently enough that whenever I see him, I do my best to smile, wave, and get the key in the door as fast as possible to avoid such encounters.

For example: one day a pile of trash bags and recycling containers mysteriously appeared on our doorstep and remained there for several days. A few evenings after their appearance, Dr. Wang ran out to talk to me. "Kate," he said, pointing at the mess. "Don't put trash on the doorstep." I looked at the bags from an Asian supermarket I had never heard of, filled with things I had never seen, and said, "Ok, I won't."

The awkwardness of these interactions is compounded by the fact that Dr. Wang, who is from China, speaks English with a very strong accent, and I speak, well, no Chinese. Sometimes I just cannot understand what he is telling me not to do. Recently, very soon after having returned from a weeklong trip to Spain, I was coming home from work when Dr. Wang accosted me at the doorway and said ... something. I felt like I could put together a string of words that he was saying, but the words didn't make any sense. So I repeated to him exactly what I thought he had said: "Don't put chest out back."

"Yes!" he said, excited that I seemed to get it.

"I have no idea what that means," I said.

Dr. Wang motioned for me to follow him and led me through his office until we were looking out of the back window into the tiny concrete space between our building and the ones surrounding it. He pointed at three full plastic trash bags lying in the middle of the dismal courtyard. "Don't put trash out back," he said. "The lady next door. She says she saw you throw trash out the window. Don't do that."

Let's examine the reasons that this could not possibly be true:
  • 1) I didn't even really know this concrete space existed or that it was underneath any of my windows. I mean, I guess if pressed I would have imagined that a space like this existed, or at least admitted that it was logical for a space like this to exist, but only after a lot of thought.
  • 2) I don't really know how to get the screens out of any of my windows. I suppose I should figure this out before I die in a building fire.
  • 3) I am far too lazy to overcome either of these thought hurdles in order to figure out how to throw trash out my window. Relatedly: I don't think I am creative enough to even come up with the idea of throwing trash out of my window in the first place.
  • 4) Did I mention I had spent the past week in Spain?

I didn't try to reason with Dr. Wang. I simply said, "I didn't do that." He looked at me, dumbfounded. "But the lady says she saw you," he said.

"I don't know what to tell you. I didn't do it."

"Ok," he said, but it was clear that Dr. Wang did not trust my word over the word of The Lady. (Side note: I'm interested in just how The Lady conveyed to Dr. Wang that the guilty one was I and not one of the other two 20-something girls who live in my building.) We seemed to be at an impasse, and so I returned home to my apartment and continued to not throw trash out of my window.

In conclusion, whoever is doing mildly deviant things around my apartment building, please don't do that. Because I'm probably going to get blamed for it.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Recent news regarding my hair

Until about three weeks ago, I hadn’t washed my hair in seven years. Well, that’s not entirely true. It had been washed, but only about three times a year when I had it dyed, and even then it was just an unfortunate requirement of hair dying and certainly not a voluntary choice. After a washing, it would take seriously a week for me to like it again, which is an unacceptably long time for a modern girl who’s just trying to make it in this world while looking good and feeling good. Sometimes super-short hair is just better dirty.

When I would admit my lack of hair-washing in conversation (it comes up!), the most common reaction would be casual incredulity. “So, you just, like, use conditioner on it?” No. “What, you just rinse it every day?” No, not really. “You don’t wash it as in you just wash it once a week or something?” No, I don’t wash it as in I don’t own shampoo.

The only people from whom I ever cared to hide my hair habits were certain gentlemen who might have run their fingers through it or nuzzled their faces into it. I worried they would be horrified. But if they found out, and they sometimes did, they never seemed to care. (Side note: thank you, straight boys, for being so low-maint.)

But recently, I’ve been growing my hair out, and an earth-shattering thing has happened: it looks better when I wash it sometimes. The past couple weeks, I’ve been washing it every few days! I’ve been using a tiny bottle of shampoo/conditioner called Tulipan that I took from my hotel in Mexico City, but I think it smells like nothing like tulips and a whole lot like Cherry Robitussin. (Do Mexicans like this smell? No entiendo.) And so, for the first time in years, I am ready to buy a bottle of shampoo. I am inordinantly excited about this, but I am also stymied by indecision. In the shampoo aisle of the drug store, I can do nothing but stare, dumbfounded, at the variety of available shampoos. It’s like that scene in Hurt Locker where Evangeline Lilly sends Jeremy Renner to get cereal and he just can’t process all the basically same-looking cereals in the grocery aisle.

So you guys, what kind of shampoo should I get? Should I get something with “bio-” in the name? Should I get this kind called Fruitopia out of nostalgia for the the now-defunct mid-90s beverage of same name? Should I get my childhood favorite, The Body Shop’s Ice Blue shampoo? (It makes your head feel all tingly!) I can totally get down with chemicals, so it needn’t be Whole Foods worthy. Suggestions welcome.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Things I learned about Bermuda while in Bermuda

1. If you arrive in the country without yet knowing know where you’ll be staying during your trip and you unwittingly admit this to the customs agents by leaving the “Where are you staying during your trip?” section of your customs form blank, you will not be allowed to leave the Bermuda airport until you can prove that you have procured a hotel reservation. You will be sent to the immigration office, where a very friendly immigration officer will act as your personal travel agent and call around the island to find you a room. He may even give you his cell number and invite you for a drink later, an action that would surely get him fired were he an American immigration official.

2. Relatedly: if you try and book a hotel room at the last minute during high season, you will have a very hard time finding one. The available ones will be exceedingly expensive, even those that are in quaint but ramshackle bed & breakfasts where the floors creak and the bathroom doors don’t fully shut. You’re frugal, you say? You want to stay at a hostel? Too bad. There aren’t any. Want to pitch a tent and camp? Too bad. You’re not allowed.

4. Bermudian money is just like American money, only pretter. Also, they have lots of $2 bills.

Bermuda's public buses:
a) Are blue and pink. Who wouldn’t want to ride on such a festive bus?
b) Seem to have no way of tracking fares. Upon boarding, passengers drop money, tokens, or tickets into a non-computerized cylindrical container while the drivers seem to pay little attention. I think you just could drop your grocery list in there and no one would be the wiser.
c) Are designed for Lilliputians. Squeezing down the aisle is a comedy of errors, even if you are a normal-sized human who should theoretically be able to walk down a bus aisle with ease.

6. In every post office you will find an Internet kiosk that you can use -- for free! Also, you will not find an Internet kiosk anywhere else on the island.

7. There is only one fast-food chain on the island. It is a KFC. At this KFC, you can get a 125-piece barrel of chicken nuggets for $60.75 and an accompanying barrel of coleslaw for $38.95.

8. Barritt’s in a can tastes better than Barritt’s in a bottle.

9. The heat and humidity cause ice melt very fast, making for watered-down dark & stormies. I suggest to local establishments that they use larger chunks of ice for slower melting. Bermudian bars, call me.

Friday, June 24, 2011

For a strange reason,* over the past year I have taken several trips to the Main Line Center for Laser Surgery in Ardmore, PA, to get a tattoo removed from my upper arm. For those unfamiliar with Ardmore, it’s a cute and snooty little moneyed town about 20 minutes outside Philadelphia. It’s the kind of place where the high schoolers play lacrosse, and where you should only go into the Starbucks if you’re prepared to hold the door for the four Lululemoned 30-something moms pushing Bugaboos who will inevitably come in right behind you. There is a Lily Pulitzer shop. There is a dog store called the Bark Avenue Boutique that sells homemade dog treats. There is a local-organic-sustainable fast food place called Sweetgreen but not a Burger King. Money Magazine put it on its list of Best Places for the Rich and Single.

The Main Line Center for Laser Surgery is in Suburban Square, the outdoor shopping center in the middle of the town. In addition to eradicating tattoos, it will help you rid yourself of dermatological insecurities such as sunspots, freckles, spider veins, rosacea, acne, and hair. At its helm is a doctor who appears regularly on local television news and in women’s magazines, and for good reason. The man is unflaggingly, almost off-puttingly animated, as if every moment of his day were the most exciting of his life. He shows a perplexing amount of interest in his patients’ jobs, lives, and hobbies, which I’m sure is very appealing to people who like talking about themselves but is horrible for those of us who would far rather divert attention back to our host than face the terrifying prospect of trying to string together articulate and interesting sentences about ourselves. Nevertheless, I find it very difficult not to like him, and when he tells me how tough I am because I sit calmly -- without the aid of numbing agents -- while he sears my skin with a laser, I always feel a little warm and fuzzy inside.

Those interested in learning more about the services available at the Main Line Center for Laser Surgery can pick up one of the 19-page glossy brochures sitting on a side table in the office’s waiting room (where you can also pick up a Werther’s Original and a Wintergreen Lifesaver). The brochure details different types of laser treatments and illustrates them with a combination of in-house before-and-after photos and stock images. Fittingly, my favorite such image is on the tattoo-removal page. Look at the picture in the bottom left-hand corner. The first sentence of the accompanying text reads, “We all make mistakes.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I'm pretty sure that in most cases people don't get all the way to half sleeves as part of a mistake.

*I was part of a study for a company that was developing a new type of tattoo ink. The idea was that they’d put tattoos on me and then laser them off. No one believes me when I cop to this. I don’t know why they’d think that I’d make it up -- I find it pretty embarrassing.