Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Laugh, Cry or Die

Told you how the BFF "B" had a good laugh at my expense yesterday. I'm pretty sure she read the  post (probably to make sure I put in the INXS song) because she called me back to see if I was okay. We ended up talking about some of the crazy crap we went through during all those years at the clearance hub.

B started at the hub when I was already about 4 years in. She was very smart and quick on her feet so, of course, she promoted up fast. By the time she and I were working together, things were so crazy there that stuff could change from one day to the next. B got nervous when Treasury made us ramp up and automate a bunch of tasks. We literally went from handwriting and having entries keyed in to getting them into the data system as soon as they came off the planes. This is just before we got to the point of pre-clearing all the Hong Kong freight and most of the Japan stuff. Pre-clearance required so much direct contact with Customs and was so nerve-wracking that our GM rotated people through the job. If you got the assignment, you were stuck for a two-week rotation. It was sort of okay if you got along with the guys in Customs, but if even one of them didn't like you, you'd be miserable. B got added to the group of us who did pre-clearance. That was because she didn't panic easy under pressure. Good, right? Yep, except for some unknown reason, one of the main Customs officials just hated her. He didn't like her from the minute he met her. Our GM noticed and offered B an easy out of the assignment, no penalty, but she wasn't backing down. Good for her. Of course, she was all sick to her stomach at the thought of screwing up any little tiny thing.

Another guy and I had done the rotations long enough that nothing really fazed us. Most of the Customs guys were cool with us, and the hard-ass that gave B a hard time was just mildly rude to us We - me and the other guy - decided to pep-talk B through her first rotation. We told her how to just keep a polite but blank face and how to imagine "Scary Guy" as a Barney Fife character just to keep herself steady. She survived. She made a few mistakes - one of them cost our brokerage a huge fine, but, hey, she never made that same mistake.

Later on, she told me and our other co-worker that she'd made it through every single challenge at the hub by using a sense of humor. We ended up being a little crew of pranksters. We pranked each other mostly, but if we really liked someone, we'd prank them. When we worked night shift in the winters, we would steal someone's keys and go move their car. When they got ready to leave work, they'd think they had missed a snow-removal notice from Maintenance and had their car towed. Once we went so far as to dismantle someone's desk so that it just collapsed when they sat down and went to pull their chair in close. My favorite prank was when we had this one co-worker who always came back late from lunches. We worked nights and there were only about 20 of us present on the Broker side. We really depended on each other to be on time. To teach this person a lesson, we just weren't there when they got back from lunch one night. Security was in on it with us. When the person went all over the building looking for us, Security told them that there had been an evacuation and employees had been sent home at end of the last lunch break. Actually, we were all just hiding out in one of the Freight side offices for a few minutes.

B said that she probably would not have lasted so long at the hub if it hadn't been for the fun we managed to have. I don't think I would have lasted either. It was too stressful otherwise.

Last night, she and were walking that little path of our memories. B remembers almost everything except the name of that Customs guy who gave her such a hard time. I think his name was Stan, but I'm not sure. Anyway, just talking about some of those days made us remember a lot of the funny stuff that happened.

One time, one of our friends damn near slid down half the stairs that ran along one of the ramps. One minute she was standing there, watching one of the planes being loaded, the next, she slipped and was literally just sliding down those metal steps. It was like something out of Merrie Melodies. That was so damn hilarious that just thinking of it makes me and B crack up right now. Not that we are cruel or anything. The chick turned out to be okay, but they damn near had to shut down the hub because of the whole thing. Another time, I got busted by security cameras putting on pantyhose in my car. Had ripped my hose on the way to work with no time to change. Grabbed an extra pair and when I got to work, I just did the whole shimmy-shimmy change-over in the car. Got inside and had a bunch of smart-ass guards applauding my antics. That was so embarrassing.

Another time, when I became a Trainer, I was sick with a virus or something that we called the "Creeping Crud" at the same time that I had a huge class session going. The class was for managers and supervisors from both freight and broker sides so re-scheduling would have been a nightmare. I also had reps from FDA and Fish and Wildlife sitting in. The whole thing was 10 or 12 days or something and just so tightly scheduled that there was no way out. The other trainer was in Newark doing training. Okay. I go ahead with the class and made it almost all the way through without dying. I'd get up around 5am, go in and set up PCs and materials and be ready for those guys at 7. Lunch at around noon, I'd go in the office and lay on the floor and just want to die in peace. By the time three o'clock came, I'd revive long enough to drive home and just go to bed, watch TV and pass out to sleep between coughing fits. It all worked out until the last three or four days. I just didn't think I was going to make it. I didn't have a regular doctor then, but our training office was in Spenard and just around the corner there was a clinic. I had gone there a couple of times for minor stuff, so I went over to see what they could do for my misery. I can't remember exactly what kind of bug I had, but the doctor gave me antibiotics and some cough syrup with codeine in it. Great. The cough syrup let me get a good night sleep and I thought I'd be better at work. Let me tell you something about me and narcotics. Apparently, as with liquor, I'm a lightweight. The cough syrup that I took at around 6 or 7 at night was still in my system all the next day. I barely managed to stay awake through class. Then, to top it all off, I started getting nauseous. I'd do 10 or 15 minutes of class and go to the bathroom to throw up. Still not as bad as it got. As bad as it got is when I just vomited all over the floor in the middle of the class. I don't know where it came from. There was no warning heave or anything. It was a mess. We all took a break while Janitorial came in and cleaned things up. I am to this very day SO proud of myself. I bulldozed my way through to the end of that class. I think it was a month later that I had my one and only bout with pneumonia. About a month after that,  fractured a rib sneezing... Crazy. One lady from Customs that I kept in touch with for years after would mention that class every time we ran into each other.

On a lighter side, B remembered the time that she spent half a shift at work with a big old blue or pink Conair hot curler in the back of her head. This is a woman who was always turned out so nice for work. She said that she kept feeling weight against her back... The really messed up thing - and this tells you something about what bitches we women can be - is that it was a guy who told her when he spotted the curler. Now, you know that women check each other out head to freaking toe. You know that a woman saw that curler and just thought, "Heh heh."

One time when I just knew I was cute to death,  I had to go up where the pilots's lounge was. That hardly ever happened and I can't remember if I had a legitimate reason to go there or what. At any rate, of course, we all loved those guys in their sexy uniforms. Face it, a guy can look like Flavor Flav, but stick him in an outfit with epaulets and a hat... Boom! Sex-ay, right? Anyway, I get myself to the area and I guess, did what I was there to do. I end up passing the lounge just right before I hear some of the pilots coming out and down the hall behind me. Let me tell you something, I had on this cute outfit that I wore so much that it was dang near my signature. It was a cropped duster jacket/short skirt suit that at least covered my butt. Mostly. (The company eventually banned the style saying we needed to look like professionals and not the cast of "Knots Landing." Damn, I'm old!) I know I had on stilt-heels because that's all I ever wore then. And I am working that walk. When you are young, thin and cute, you walk like you own the idea of "hot." Yeah, well, I did my thing and did it well until I got to the elevators and the pilots had gone on their way. When I get back to the Broker floor, I stop in the ladies room. I damn near wanted to die when I see in the mirror that I've been tramping around with my hem tucked under my waistband, leaving my behind just hanging all out. Oh. My. Damn. Really? If I hadn't been so busy being "hot," I might have felt a breeze or something.

Yeah. That is one of B's favorite stories. The other one has to do with the time I drug half a roll of toilet tissue from the bathroom, down the hall and into the Admin office...

I'm not the only one who did stupid and embarrassing stuff. One time this really sweet guy named Evander had a super-cringe moment. He was one of the nicest guys I'd ever met (B remembers because she told me last night that she had a mild crush on him) and he was really shy. He worked in our Tech department doing whatever Tech guys do. ~shrug~ Evander had a crush on our GM's executive assistant. I can't think of her name now, but I know she was really nice. Smart. She was going to be leaving for college to study something amazing like molecular physics or something I can barely spell. Anyway, Evander had crushed on her for forever, and we all could tell she kind of crushed back. But you can't hem and haw and make goo-goo eyes forever when one of you is planning to go away. Finally, I guess Evander got the nerve to say something to this girl when a bunch of us were in the GM's office officially for a meeting/unofficially killing time at the end of a really long day. The GM always kept a really nice coffee and dessert table ready. At some point Evander and this girl were standing there together and you could just see he was going to go for it and say something. The only problem is, poor Evander had a booger about to fall out of his nose. Oh,  damn, right? I think it was my friend V who noticed and started trying to throw hand signals or gang signs or something to warn Evander. Long story probably not short enough: The booger didn't fall, but I guess it was a turn off. Those two coulda-beens never happened. The girl went away without hooking up with Evander.  If that was because of the booger, well, too bad for her. She and Evander could have ended up having a funny story to tell their kids. Well, maybe they could have changed the part about the booger to something else. (I wonder what the heck ever happened to Evander?)

And if you think having a booger on your face is embarrassing, I once farted in a meeting. Totally wanted to breathe my last and just go on to Heaven from that very spot. It wasn't a stinky fart or anything, but - oh, horror, horror, nightmare was it kind of loud. B was in that meeting. At the time, she reassured me that it wasn't that loud and that probably no one noticed. Last night, that lying shit told me that it had sounded like a car backfiring. (Notice how convenient her memory is... ) It's not like I was raised with no home-training; it's that I had been a little sick that week. I had been burping and passing gas for a couple of days. Let me tell you something about myself. I embarrass easily. I was taught that it is just not ladylike to do certain things outside the bathroom - such blow your nose, "poot" (as we called farting) or belch really loud. When we were kids, if me or my sister or brothers did any of this in public, our parents would look at us as if we'd signed a pact with Satan and say, "Have you gone and lost your manners?" ("Losing your manners" is also another way to say "farted.") Can you imagine how hard it was for me not to run out of that meeting, jump in my car and just drive off to somewhere like, say, Mars? Thank goodness for the politeness of other people. I got a look or two, but no one broke out laughing. Everyone mostly pretended like nothing happened. Oh, the shame! LOL (I almost didn't even put that story in here, except for my thing about being so open in this blog.)

B did tell me that she recently broke wind in public. She said she was at the store and thought she was alone on an aisle. Said her tummy had been bothering her so she just cut loose to get some relief. Of course, as soon as she did, here come a couple of people. She said they walked right into that cloud of funk. I asked how she handled it and she said she looked right at one of the people and made a can-you-believe-someone-did-that? face. That's my friend, B!

Wow. I still cannot believe I put some of this stuff in here. B and I had such a good time laughing about all of this though. Sometimes it's just good not to take yourself so seriously, I guess.

I think it was an auntie of mine who once told me about life's little embarrassments. "You laugh, cry or die." I guess we should just learn to laugh at it all.

Peace
--Free

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