Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Greatest Senior Citizen Versus Computer Story Ever Told*

[Back in the day, when I used to bring dead fish to my office. Let's just say it was an odd time in my life. Also, it was the only photo I had on hand with a computer in it.]

*This story was relayed to me by my poor brother Topher, who was unfortunately sent to our grandparents' house yesterday to "fix the computer."


On a regular basis, I receive mid-day phone calls from my grandparents regarding inexplicable computer problems. My neighboring coworkers have been privy to strange conversations in which I explain, in a whisper, that "no, 'The Facebook' is not broken, Grandpa. I just logged into your profile, so yes, that is the right password."

I have printed out screenshots with arrows and instructions and taped them to the walls of my grandparents' home office. I have sat next to my grandmother and clarified, for what seems like the hundredth time, that she must log out of my grandfather's email account before she can access her own.

When she finally was able to log into her account, she complained that all she had was spam from a yarn company. "Well grandma, that's because no one else has sent you any email," I said.

"Oh," she replied. But I could tell that she didn't really understand what the hell I was talking about.

For my grandparents, the Internet is a terrifying place with no rules. Only a few months ago was I able to make them understand that each website has an "address" and the only thing they needed to do to get to a website was type its address into the white URL bar at the top of the browser.

Prior to that, my grandfather had been accessing Facebook by logging into his email account, locating the email from Facebook congratulating him on starting a profile, and clicking on the link in the message.

"Oh dear god," I moaned when I found out. "Could you make this any more complicated for yourself?"

On one occasion, my grandfather demanded I come over to teach him how to use his "new email program." I had no idea what that program could possibly be, but I came over anyway.

When I asked him to show me what he was talking about, my grandfather proudly clicked on the W icon on his desktop and opened up a blank Microsoft Word document.

"Grandpa," I said. "You realize this is a word processor, right?"

"Ah! That explains why your aunt didn't get my email!" he exclaimed.

When my grandparents actually do manage to send email, it's often from the wrong account (they still don't understand why they have to log out of one to access another) and it is also very odd.

While I was abroad in Spain in November, my grandfather sent me this:

I've forgotten what youth is all about. I sit here in my condo all alone none to talk with, listening to your Grandmother sing Xmas carrols in an off key. Life is swell.

Spain must be a wonderful place and I pray that you will bring me a beautiful senorita when you return.

Love, Grandpa

In Which My Grandfather Destroys The Computer

Yesterday, my unfortunate brother called me and begged that I come to our grandparents' house with him for dinner.

"They want me to fix their computer again," he lamented. "But it doesn't need to be fixed! I can't take it anymore!"

I declined, as I had a zumba class to get to. "You have fun now!"

Hours later, he called me again to tell me "a really amazing story."

So, he began, I went over to our grandparents' house to help grandma log out of her email account.

"Oh, of course," I said.

"It gets better," he replied.

I had already logged her out and was trying to help them with some other stuff, when I noticed something weird. I had thought it was part of the desktop image, but...it stayed on the screen when I opened other windows.

Honestly, at this point, I had no idea where my brother's story was going.

So I called grandpa over and I said, "Grandpa, what's on your screen?" He told me that someone had sent him some documents to sign.

"Wait," I said. "What?!"

Someone had sent him an email attachment that he was supposed to sign. So...get this...he opened the attachment, got a ballpoint pen, and signed and dated his monitor.

"No fucking way, dude."

"Brittany, our grandparents' computer monitor now has our grandfather's signature and March 13, 2012 written across it in black ink."

"Are you kidding me?! I mean, he realized that didn't work right?"

"Honestly, I have no idea. I bet someone out there is wondering why the hell our grandfather emailed him a blank document," my brother said. "Grandpa just laughed."

And that, my friends, is potentially the greatest senior citizen computer fail in the history of the world.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

‘Shit My Dad Says’: The Jack Donaghy Doppelgänger Edition

One of the many reasons I love 30 Rock is the character Jack Donaghy. Everything that comes out of his mouth reminds me of my own father, who has spent 20+ years trying to turn me into a cunning financial maven with nerves of steel. I guess that would make me Liz Lemon?

Whether it was the ill-conceived “stock game,” in which my fourth grade self was instructed to monitor the daily fluctuations of the stock market (“No Brittany! You may not invest all your pretend money in Disney! You must diversify!”) or the extremely stressful public speaking lessons (re: my father towering over me in his custom British suit, shouting, “ANNUNCIATE BRITTANY! Pear-shaped tones!”), my dad certainly knew how to how make an impact. I mean, sometimes, I still hear that voice in the back of my head telling me that a used 12-cylinder Jaguar really is a great deal, or that I’m not allowed to order a good cut of steak anything more than rare.

So, when my father and I met for our bi-annual dinner last night, I took copious notes. Here are some of the highlights:

My Father, The Professor

“I told my students what I told you when you decided to major in Asian Studies – ‘You only have to learn one phrase for your future as a liberal arts graduate: Would you like fries with that?’ But, really sweetie, I’m pleasantly surprised about how your career is turning out.”

My Father On Celebrities

“[Wife Number Four (or Five)]’s intern just married Ringo Star’s manager. One of The Monkees was at the ceremony – I wanted to ask him if he came in the Monkeemobile, but my wife wouldn’t let me.”

My Father, The Republican

“It’s going to take a fucking miracle for Obama to get reelected. Wait, you’re not a Republican? So…how do you feel about Mitt Romney being president? Because it’s going to happen.”

My Father On My Love Life

“What have you been up to lately?” “Well, I’ve been taking a cardio dance class…” “No boyfriend yet, huh?”

My Father On Friendship

“My golf partner is 82-years-old. He just survived pancreatic cancer, because he’s too fucking mean to die.”

My Father On Marriage

“You remember my friend Bob? He wanted a new Jaguar. But his wife wanted an Infinity. He’s a damn pussy, so he bought the Infinity. I found him an almost new Jag for practically nothing; then I told him to give his wife the Infinity and trade in their SUV for the Jag. I mean, she wanted the stupid Infinity! I know how this shit works, I used to be married to your mother.”

My Father On Former Bond Girls

"I met Barbara Bach. She’s still hot."

My Father On His Relationship With His Brother

“I talked your uncle into buying a new Corvette. He told me it was the best advice I’ve ever given him. I pointed out it was the only goddamn advice of mine he’s ever taken.”

My Father On Ohio

“Cincinnati is a shit hole. I flew over it once. The stewardess told us to turn our watches back 20 years.”

My Father On Politics

“The only people who still think abortions are an issue in this country are the feminazis.”

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Relationship PTSD: I'm Pretty Sure That's a Real Thing

[I should really just stay home with my cat.]

I realized there was something terribly wrong with me around 7:30 a.m. on a Thursday morning in January.

You see, I had wrapped myself up in my sheets like a burrito and started hyperventilating because a guy who, in all likelihood, is very nice and reasonable offered to buy me a sandwich via early morning text message.


When I relayed this episode to my friends, wild hand gestures and all, they pointed out that I might have been a little bit dramatic. And when I cancelled on another totally likeable dude because I "needed to clean my turtle tank," they pointed out that I was really being a bit lazy and awful.

I wasn't really sure what was wrong with me. Didn't I want attention? A free sandwich? Booze? Concert tickets? Didn't I want to enter into a weird, temporary social contract with someone I barely knew, in which there was an implied possibility of sex and/or a future monogamous relationship?

As it turned out, not really.

One of the amazing upsides to being single is that you can do whatever the fuck you want. There are no compromises. No expectations. Nobody asks you to drive to Studio City alone in a cargo van full of subwoofers the day after your grandma dies. Nobody leaves you 30 coked-out voicemails about how you don't love them enough. Nobody expects you to take them to the hospital when they're coughing up blood. Nobody calls you from jail. Nobody asks you to help sell their old pick up truck while they leave the state. Nobody calls you from a hospital in Wales after desecrating a tomb, and runs up your phone bill. Nobody asks you for money. Nobody drunkenly calls 12 times in a row looking for phone sex while you're at a family party. Nobody leaves you stranded in a motel during a snowstorm. (These are not all from one person, by the way. I don't want you to think I'd previously been in a relationship with the worst person on earth or anything.)

Anyway, I think I might have Relationship Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Which means, if you're asking me out, my brain is translating that to: I WANT TO STEAL ALL YOUR FREEDOM AND MAKE YOU COMPLETE UNREASONABLE TASKS TO OBTAIN MY LOVE.

Which, I'll admit, is not a reasonable translation at all.

But, instead of staying home to avoid the pitfalls and emotional turmoil of casual dating, I've thrown myself into the fray. This, I theorized, would keep me from getting rusty. Because, well, someday I might want to complete unreasonable tasks to obtain someone's love? Maybe?

The problem is, people who actually want to date, like, try to be good at it. I show up and say whatever the fuck I feel like saying, which can make for an awkward time.


Date Number One [in which an unsuspecting guy asks me about my family.]

Dude: Wait, so, you're the child of your father's....third wife?

Me [probably on beer number 12]: Or fourth. I'm actually not sure.

Dude: Okay. So you have half siblings?

Me: I had a half sibling.

Dude: Oh...oh crap, I'm so sorry.

Me: Nah, man, it's totally cool. I didn't event know the guy.

Dude: ...Oh...okay....

Date Number Two [in which I make things much worse.]

Me: Man, I'm sorry about springing that thing on you about my brother shooting himself in the face last time! That wasn't appropriate.

Dude: Oh my god, you didn't say he shot himself!


The weird thing was, my date seemed to think that my incredibly non-nonchalant attitude toward my brother's suicide was super hot, and this exchange was immediately followed by him attacking my face. If the situation had been reversed, I probably would have tried to give the phone number of a reputable therapist.

Then, today, Sandwich Guy texts me about a follow up date to the one in which I got so drunk on champagne I nearly fell asleep in the middle of an orchestral performance. I decided to be truthful and tell him that his pursuit of me was almost literally giving me panic attacks.

He did not respond to this as expected. Instead, he insisted that we could move slowly, and that everything would be just peachy. Like, really. We could move slow. He doesn't want a girlfriend! I don't need to panic about that! He'll make it up to me! With booze!

Once again, had the situation been reversed, and my pursuit of him was causing panic attacks, I'd probably give him the phone number of a reputable therapist. But what the hell do I know?

The only thing I can really conclude from this is that men really do like crazy women.

Also, I should probably just stay at home with my cat.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Text Message Du Jour: Violating Vampires' Constitutional Rights

My brother and I like to keep updated by texting each other breaking news:

Most random thing ever: Christopher Meloni from Law & Order SUV will be a regular cast member in True Blood season five.

Topher: Whhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaa?! Elliot?!

Me: YUP.

Topher: I have a feeling a few vampires are getting punched.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Adventures in España, Part 2: And Now, a Reflection on My Love/Hate Relationship With Ham


Dear jamón, jamón ibérico, bacon, jamón serrano, jamón–flavored potato chips and any other forms of pig meat product available in Spain,

When I was much younger, there was one unfortunate Christmas season when everyone miscommunicated and no less than three different people showed up to the same party with a honey baked ham.

After everyone had finished pigging out (pun intended), there was still enough ham left over to feed a family of four for a month. And surprise! My family of four volunteered to load all that ham in our Jeep Cherokee and take it back to our house to finish it off.

Thus began “Hamageddon.” My younger brother and I were served ham and eggs for breakfast, ham sandwiches for lunch and ham slice with a side of creamed spinach for dinner every day until our arteries exploded from the excessive sodium intake.

This hamtastrophe stuck with me for years and haunted every form of ham that presented itself in my life. But now, years later, I was finally over it.

That is, until I traveled to Spain.

The conclusion I have drawn, which, it should be noted, is not based on any kind of actual knowledge or scientific fact, is that Spain must be overrun by wild pigs. Never in my life, with the exception of Hamageddon, have I see so much ham. Ham in Spain is an acceptable breakfast, lunch, and dinner food. It is also a snack flavoring and topping for various tapas.


[Spanish nativity scene, complete with wild boars.]

Screw the Flower Arrangements, Let’s Use Ham!

Let me make a wild generalization about Spaniards as a whole: they think the leg of a dead pig makes for an awesome table centerpiece.

I’m not sure why, but shops and various eateries have taken to displaying dead pig legs on wood plaques or hanging them from the ceiling by rope. Then, supposedly, if you were in the mood for some ham (and who isn’t?) the shopkeeper could easily grab a pork-carving machete and slice you a hunk directly from a preserved pig leg, hoof and all.


I’m Just Going to Give Up on Romance and Marry Some Ham Flavoring

I’m not going to lie; I only have room for two true loves in my life: my cat, and any and all types of potato chips (no one is going to be particularly surprised when I die alone, are they?).

While traveling in Southeast Asia during college, I made it a personal goal to sample as many potato chip flavors as possible. Some personal favorites were nori seaweed, spicy chili squid, and seafood and mayonnaise.

However, nothing could prepare me for the incredible array of ham-based potato chip flavors in Spain.

My travel companion Blonde Beyonce looked on in disgust while I made it a personal mission to consume every ham-related potato chip flavor I could get my hands on. This was a simple task, as most markets and movie theaters offered Ruffle’s jamón chips as a mainstay. I also stuffed my face with ham and cheese-flavored Lays and BBQ ham chips (fuck yeah, let’s throw some ham slices on the BBQ!).

I'll Take a Big Mac Jamón, Please

Well, duh, McDonald's in Spain offers a burger topped with jamón ibérico. Was that even a question?

And Then I Considered Buying Everyone a Bottle Opener Shaped Like a Disembodied Animal

Spaniards are well aware that the prevalence of ham in their country borders on absurd. If they weren't, they wouldn’t offer ham-themed souvenirs to tourists.

Not only did I encounter a bottle opener shaped like a dead pig’s leg, I also found the same disgusting animal product in magnet and key chain form. While I was tempted to buy them, it occurred to me that nobody else back home would understand why it was hilarious that my keys were now attached to the hoof, leg, and thigh of a dead pig.

I Don’t Think This Qualifies as Breakfast

One morning, I ordered the “breakfast special” and received thinly sliced ham on a baguette doused in olive oil, and a cup of coffee. Well, obviously that would be the breakfast special.

And Then it Became Clear I Knew Nothing About Where I Was

“Boy, it’d be hard to be Kosher in this country,” I said. “There’s nothing to eat but ham!”

Blonde Beyonce consulted her guide book briefly. “Well, I doubt that’s a serious problem, because King Ferdinand expelled all the Jewish people in the 1400s.”


Well, that explains a lot.

Monday, December 5, 2011

My Adventures in España, Part 1: So Many Future Husbands, So Little Time


[C'mon now, what man wouldn't love this?]

My ability to select appropriate romantic companions has been in question since that time Soldier Boy picked me up from the airport wearing guyliner and a fedora, an unfortunate fashion decision which kept my mother laughing for three days straight. After she was able to properly breathe again, she suggested I attend therapy – as I possibly had “man issues.” (This coming from a woman who only enters into relationships with men at least 15 years her senior – and I’m the one with “man issues”?)

Prior to my departure for Spain, my hair stylist/psychoanalyst informed me that I seem to need to date men who are like my father, re: emotionally unavailable, high maintenance and prone to various forms of insanity. I then immediately threw myself off a bridge, because no self-respecting young woman wants to hear that she is trying to date her own father. Because, oh god, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.


So I went to Spain for a wedding, and watching the flawless bride and groom kiss under a shower of bubbles and rose petals outside a 14th century cathedral made my ovaries go all whack and threw me into a romantic comedy-esk frenzy, obviously. Blonde Beyonce and I then decided that the only logical course of action was to fall head-over-heels in love with some unsuspecting – and handsome – victim, er, man, and live happily ever after.

Future Husband No. 1: The Catholic Boy

Blonde Beyonce reasoned that the easiest way to marry me off and ensure her own future happiness would be to throw me in the path of her cousin (because, hello, I would make the best in-law of all time).

Her sales pitch included the following points:

1. He is going to be a lawyer.

2. He is incredibly sweet and would totally “take care of me.”

3. No, really, he would take of me. Like, forever. FOREVER!

4. He used to be a model! Isn’t he beautiful?!

5. Unfortunately he lives on the other side of the country, but that’s not important when it comes to true love, right? Right?!


All of these things seemed enticing; however, dearest Blonde Beyonce neglected to mention until later that her cousin was, adorably, extremely Catholic, and therefore was guaranteed to be completely terrified of me and my persistently inappropriate behavior.

Most romantic moment: After the wedding reception, Blonde Beyonce’s extremely Catholic cousin had had too much to drink and was completely mortified by this fact. My story about puking off a balcony earlier in the night while under the care of the groom’s father did not seem to make him feel any better about his predicament (in fact, this probably convinced him once and for all that there was something terribly wrong with my moral fiber). However, he was extremely thankful that I kept him from puking on the bus (although, once he got off of the bus, it was a different story) and that I kept him company in the lobby of his apartment building while he avoided his extremely Catholic grandmother, who was upstairs threating to beat him with her bare hands.


Future Husband No. 2: The Flamenco Dancer

While in Barcelona, I met the man of my dreams. Well, when I say “met,” I really mean “saw,” and when I say “man of my dreams,” I really mean “man that I would have one passionate night with in a cheap hotel next to the Mediterranean.”

I and about 60 other women had this exact same revelation at the exact same time as Antonio (probably not his real name) shook his head like an angry stallion and threw sweat all over his adoring audience while he danced on stage in his bright red flamenco shoes.

Blonde Beyonce and I turned to each other, clasped hands and squealed like 12-year-olds at a Back Street Boys’ concert in 1999, and all the panties in the room went flying. Antonio (still probably not his real name) was that sexy. I downed my glass of sangria in one gulp and ordered another, lest I become parched while basking in the presence of his manliness.

Most romantic moment: Me yelling, “I’LL TAKE HIM” at the top of my lungs, and immediately being drowned out by the sound of 60 other wailing women who, it seems, would gladly throw Antonio down on the floor of the basement theater and have their way with him. Upon realizing Antonio was sporting a wedding ring, I confided in Blonde Beyonce that I simply didn’t care, and I would gladly become his second – or third? – or fourth?! − wife.


[Our Barcelona apartment, site of many a drunken declaration of love.]

Future Husband No. 3: The Los Angeles Local

Sometime during the wedding rehearsal, Blonde Beyonce very slyly left me in the company of a man from my home town who was miraculously good looking, available, and hilarious. As it turns out, my execution was fucking flawless, because I managed to A) get his phone number, B) bond with his awesome sister and C) meet his parents (yes, we basically reached month three of dating in one evening).

However, my over-blown confidence about the situation became obvious about the time I was drunkenly stumbling back to my Barcelona apartment with the bride and Blonde Beyonce. “I’M GOING TO MARRY HIM!” I said. “I LOVE HIM!” I said. I was then forced to throw all these sentiments out the window at the reception when I discovered my potential future husband doesn’t fucking dance. Ladies, that’s a deal breaker.

Most romantic moment: The one extremely short text message exchange we’ve had since returning to the states, which went something like this:

Me: “I hope you had a good trip home!”

Future Husband: “Yeah, I did. But now I’m depressed that I’m home.”

Me: “Me too.”

This is the stuff romance novels are made of, yes?

Future Husband No. 4: The Mac Daddy

Upon reaching Seville, my romantic expectations were low and my need to sleep for 3 days straight to recover from the wedding was high. But somehow, Blonde Beyonce and I found ourselves at a sidewalk café near the Alcázar, downing sangria.

Despite reassurances that this was just a “snack,” we ate an entire pan of paella and a plate of French fries; additionally, we each consumed a whole pitcher of sangria. Needless to say, we were slammered. We were so drunk, in fact, that the building next door caught fire and neither of us noticed until a fire truck nearly ran over our table and 30 firefighters paraded by.

After the fire, upon returning to the hostel, we paid 15 to consume unlimited alcohol as part of the hostel’s nightly pub crawl. This turned out to be a particularly terrible idea. At some point, Blonde Beyonce was puking in a pub bathroom, I was on my third caramel vodka shot, and some guy inexplicably nicknamed “Mac Daddy” had started courting me.

Sadly, while Mac Daddy did dance, he was only capable of performing the few moves needed to properly swing dance, à la seventh grade cotillion. When this became frustrating (around the tenth time he’d done it during a stream of electronica), I threw him off by dancing like Techno Viking. He then ran away very quickly.

For your viewing pleasure, Techno Viking:

[Fast forward to the 1:20 mark for instant techno viking.]

Most romantic moment:
Waking up in the hostel room we were both staying in and realizing we had played tonsil hockey the night before. I managed to make it as awkward as possible by giving him a one-armed hug, saying “It was nice to meet you,” and then forgetting to ask his real name.