Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Disgruntled ramblings

"Corporate America" drives me bloody batty sometimes. The Barn is back on their big dress code kick, posting missives about business casual. The reality is that this part-time retail job requires that I dress nicer* than my full-time job that pays the bills. While I meet their dress code requirements most of the time**, I don't appreciate being told what I can and cannot put on my body. I also find it ludicrous that this particular store is choosing to come up with its own interpretation of the company's dress code policy and expanding upon the employee handbook that I signed when I started.

I'm most angry right now at how this is playing out for other folks. Manager X has a particular style that doesn't sit well with the latest store manager. While she technically meets the dress code according to the handbook, her clothes are baggier than they'd like, and if they're being honest with themselves, probably a bit manlier than they are comfortable with. Recently, they sat her down with a copy of What Not to Wear. I find this a tad hypocritical since the same store manager was known to bare her midriff during the warmer months. If no one counseled an older woman on whether or not she should really be dressing like her teen daughter, what right does she have to girlify another manager not comfortable in tight clothes? I don't particularly like Manager X's clothes, but the fact of the matter is that her clothes and style are her own. Her look offends no one and shouldn't be up for corporate debate.

*with the exception of any important meetings
**flipflops in the summer are my big exception

Monday, January 22, 2007

Too "nonprofit"

An email in my inbox this morning brought the past rushing back. The old public affairs group from my first post-college job is having a happy hour reunion at some old school DC establishment later this month. Immediately I was reminded of all the lessons I learned in the "big 5" PR world and of all of the characters I met. It's place where I learned that who you know really does matter. At the same time, I also learned that hard work pays off (sometimes). Profit and billable hours were my lingo, and even my idealism couldn't protect me from clients who were willing to shell out the big bucks for my pimping services. Three years of being worn down drove me to non-profit sector and a place where idealism is coddled. That said, the people I worked with had staying power. Most were good people who would have your back in a minute. Dare I show at happy hour? Am I too crunchy, liberal to even roll with the big boys anymore?

Friday, January 19, 2007


Tonight our bookclub meets and discusses Cunt. I knew the selection of this title would cause quite a stir, but I didn't really think it would go as far as it has.

I should start by saying that, while this is not my favorite word, it doesn't offend me any more than any other word. It's just a word, and I firmly believe we give words power by making them so verboten*. A good friend challenged me to use it continually over the course of one day, and it totally desensitized me to it. In choosing this month's title, I thought it might give more positive ammunition in fighting the stigma of the word.

Turns out choosing a book called Cunt** for a Barnes & Noble (officially sanctioned) bookclub raises more than a few eyebrows. List it on the store's community events calendar? Give it the signage normal bookclub books get? Are you kidding me?! Haha. All of the marketing materials were actually printed before one of the store's printers got so concerned they contacted corporate headquarters in NYC. The big bosses up in NY evidently got their panties in such a wad that they called down to the store our bookclub is housed out of to ask what was up. Oh my...can't say I was disappointed in attracting the attention of corporate. I was, however, disappointed that Barnes & Noble is ok with selling and earning a profit from a book but not promoting it. Notice I said disappointed...not surprised. None of this is shocking.

The only thing that has shocked me at all is my discovery that I basically have no freedom of speech rights in the workplace. Perhaps it was a bit Pollyanna of me to think I had some kind of legal legs to stand on. Well, for the record, I do not. The courts have definitely not defined freedom of speech as an absolute. In the private sector, the First Amendment freedom of speech criteria (generalizing here...there are some instances where they may be applied) do not apply.

*I'm a bit of a hypocrite and will readily admit it. While I do believe we have also empowered the n* word, I would never say nor condone saying it.
**I can't say I was all that impressed with the actual book.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

tickling itchy feet

It's what the Lonely Planet site has on the header of their WorldGuide, and it's a syndrome that I chronically suffer from. What do you do when you've got an itch? I don't know about you, but I'm a chronic scratcher. Today's top 5 is a list of random towns I want to visit soon.

1. Kutna Hora, Czech Republic
2. San Cristobal, Chiapas
3. Iceland (anywhere now that I've seen the amazing Flickr photos)
4. Bangalore, India
5. Lesotho, Africa

In other news, my trip to the airport late yesterday proved fruitful. After waiting in line at the American counter for 30 minutes, I finally had answers to the questions the Internet could not solve for me and the automated phone system refused to help with. Turns out my the return ticket I didn't use from San Angelo to BWI can be used anytime before December 27 as long as I pay the $100 change fee. I also learned that I can use my voucher pretty much however I want. Talk about a conundrum. I was left wondering whether I should go somewhere exotic alone or get two tickets to somewhere in the states and take a friend. I really want to share Austin with these two but think plans for a quick trip might need to be put on hold. One thing is certain; a jaunt around the globe will happen sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Flashbacks and other such nonsense

Sometimes I think I'm two different people fighting it out in one body. There is the easy going, laid back Serena who truly is flexible and can roll with the punches. On the flip side of the coin, you have super sensitive Serena who gets her feelings hurt if the wind blows too hard and whose temper can't be blamed on her red hair.

That said, some of the stories I carried back from my holiday travels shouldn't be so surprising. Our first night on the road, we left Austin around 3:30 pm determined to get as close to the Texas border as possible. Roughly eight hours later, we rolled into a desolate* town of Van Horn, Texas. Tired from having spent the morning packing up a two bedroom apartment and driving (or in my case staring at the back of) a UHaul for hours on end, we decided grab a room in one of the 10 or so roadside motels. Who would have guessed that every single person driving I-10 had the same idea. Ten hotels and no vacancies. If I had been pregnant, I would have felt like Mary.

The car was low on gas, so we decide to head to the nearest gas station (re: truck stop) to fill up. Time for a game plan. My traveling partner reminded me that I had mentioned camping and that we could find a place to park the vehicles and camp out in them. No problem. My easy going self was totally fine with that. While I have my high maintenance moments, I'm not a total diva who demands a hotel room and a shower**. The problem arose when I misheard something my friend said. Let's just say I thought he was sending me off to sleep in the vast truck stop parking lot all by myself. Can you imagine? I've seen way too many movies where bad things happen to people in truck stop parking lots****. I was furious and terribly upset***. I'm sobbing and searching for a place to park a Honda Civic next to these gargantuan trucks. The walkie talkie beside me crackles, and I can only manage to sob, "leave me alone." Sobbing still, I wonder how I got myself into this mess and how I'm ever going to sleep parked next to all of these trucks.

Can you see where this is going? The easy going, laid back me is fine sleeping in a car and adjusting to the roadblocks of life. However, there's also the part of me that gets worked up so easily. I was devastated and angry at the way I thought I was being treated all at the same time. The story continues, but you get the drift. Needless to say, we talked the next morning, and I had misheard his original statement. Being so sensitive led me to take what I thought I heard and turn it into this huge THING.

*Not desolate enough, since we soon determined the town was FULL.
**OMG, how I wanted a shower after the sweating involved in loading a UHaul!
***I'm also stubborn and didn't bother to stop and clarify his statement.
****Joy Ride, Thelma & Louise, etc.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Set location

Have you ever been searching for that perfect thing only to find that, at the time you needed it most, it doesn’t appear to exist? We needed a coffee shop; however, not just any coffee shop will do. Two camera-toting adventurers needed the right amount of ambiance, right amount of lighting and a noise level you could easily talk over. Setting out, I couldn’t imagine how finding a coffee shop in Austin, Texas would be difficult. Seventeen coffee shops later, and I was singing a different tune. If there was lighting we could work with, then the music would be too loud. If there was atmosphere we could work with, then we had to contend with staff taking issue with video* being shot in their shop. Looking for that perfect place does get you a unique tour of Austin, the ability to combine Google and GPS while on the road, and a chance to talk to different people in an effort to find their perfect place for coffee in Austin. Looking for coffee in Austin? Try one of the ones with the double stars (**).

Tazza Fresca
Amy’s Ice Cream
The Hideout
Austin Java House (2)**
Jo’s Coffee House**
It’s a Grind
Freddie’s Place
Quack’s Bakery
Dulce Vita Espresso Bar

What do I regret? Not getting a coffee at each establishment, so I could write a proper review ; )

*Saying you're working on an indie documentary goes a long way toward getting you permission to shoot in Austin.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

I make noises when I sleep, evidently quite a bit depending on the night. I have been told I moan, snore, whimper and many other things. I was told last week that I screamed. Truthfully, I've always had sleep issues. When I was little I used to walk in my sleep, even going so far as out the front door. As I got older, I walked less and talked more. I also remember having terrible nightmares and never wanting to go to sleep. Someone once told me they think my sleep issues are psychologically based. Isn't that a frightening thought?!

Last night I decided to do something about my noises...or something to start doing something. I decided to videotape myself sleeping. I figure I need to at least hear what other people are experiencing. The downside is that I only had about 55 minutes of tape to spare, so I only caught the first hour of sleep. Here's a recap of what I heard: shift, shift, heavy breathing, couple of light snorts, a moan at minute 18:18, heavy breathing, and some soft snoring. Last night must have been an easy night. I think I'm going to record myself every night this week to see if it changes. Maybe I'll even vary my sleep position. At the very least it's an interesting experiment.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Laugh lines

I never understood the huge to-do made about transitioning from one year to the next, but I do appreciate the opportunity it offers for introspection. 2006 was filled with the ups and downs that generally constitute life, and maybe when I clear the fog that has taken up residence in my brain, I'll record them here. Somehow, though, I feel like I've lived a lifetime in the past two and half weeks. I feel older and wiser for having endured the emotional rollercoaster that was my winter break. I cried A LOT, laughed A LOT, and bonded A LOT. I need to write my "what I did over my holiday break" essay soon, so I don't forget all the little things that were both maddening and sweet.

However, until I manage to do that, I leave you with a meme* I was tagged for by Neil.

5 things you don't know about me:

(1) I've been bungee jumping....twice.

(2) I was kicked out of the capitol building in Texas for impersonating a state representative.

(3) I made up my first boyfriend in 1st grade.

(4) There were drive-by shootings at my house growing up in Texas.

(5) I've sold two paintings (yes, people really do lack taste).

*Remember that I hate memes only do them for the special.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Taking stock of Eddie Bauer

I don't envy men and the limited range of clothing that is deemed acceptable for them. Having spent Saturday afternoon buried in the closet of one of the male species I feel like I'm an expert in male closetology. As I hung up shirt after shirt, I found myself wondering if I could draw any psychological conclusions about a man from the kinds of clothes he bought for himself or the way he packed them away. This particular specimen seems to have a fondness for Eddie Bauer. In fact, every time I pulled a new shirt out of the army bag and discovered it to be Eddie Bauer, I began to wonder exactly how many marginally different kinds of shirts Eddie Bauer could make. Wearing Eddie Bauer could mean the individual is comfortable in his rugged outdoor self. Or maybe not. If the image Eddie Bauer wishes to portray conflicts with its actual corporate practices, couldn't the same hold true for the wearer?*

Delving deeper into the makings of a man's closet, what are we to make of a smattering of Kenneth Cole and a couple of Calvin Klein thrown in for good measure? Someone who cares about their appearance or personal style? A few things bought for them by a woman? Looking beyond labels, there is color and fabric to take stock of. Is a cotton/cotton-blend man with no exotic colors to be considered stable, a safe bet? What if you discover an errant tropical shirt** like I did? If I had found cords, would I have thought him professorial?

Moving on to the chest of drawers and the keeper of male knickers, what are we to think of the baller***? This one is fairly simple. It's probably a psychological plus compared to the man who feels the need to iron his knickers and sort them by color. The baller (ha!) is potentially a man in a hurry, who can't be bothered with actually folding something very few**** will actually see.

Really, I'm not sure examining the contents of a man's closet can really tell you anything. I don't necessarily believe that the clothes make the man...more the facade of a man but not the man. Obviously this is someone comfortable enough in who he is that he doesn't mind a woman arranging his closet and analyzing its contents.

*I don't think this is the case here, but the question should be pondered for the sake of closetology.
**Rumor has it that it was purchased for a themed party but never worn.
***Balls up the boxers and just shoves them in a drawer.
****Not that you won't be getting any...just saying.