Saturday, December 30, 2006

Winge-ing, Whine-ing Blog Posts

I started to write this yesterday, when all I could do was winge and whine. Today I'm better, so maybe I'll write about it.

I hate myself when I get all drooly, drippy, moany on paper. I have kept journals for most of my adult life and they are, in the main, a partial record of my depressions, bad moods, story ideas, and rage at who- or what-ever. I still have most of them, scattered here and there, in leather-backed books (when it seemed like posterity might beckon), three-ring binders, legal tablets, school notebooks, and loose, just floating around scraps of paper.

I say they're a partial record because I've never made it through an entire year. In fact, safe to say, I never made it much past February or March. The weight of all that angst would get to me after a while and I would have to abandon my intention to document my life, moment by moment, as it happened. Sometimes I was frugal (or lazy or damning posterity) and continued from one year to the next in the same book. Like this one, first dated January 3, 1972; last entry November 20, 1979. It goes from the London to the LA-I years; from married to not-married; from bravely unhappy to unhappily brave. Winge-ing and Whine-ing, but whistling a happy tune.

It might be interesting to go through them all and see what, say, January 7th brought me from year to year. Might be interesting; might be boring; might be incredibly depressing, I suspect, to see how little my inner life has changed. Oooops, there I am drifting down into a winge.

Because I hate how I sound in this state, I don't often post in my blog when I'm down. I know there are whole blogs devoted to depression and that they're seen by readers as being incredibly helpful. I dunno. I'll tell you all about it person-to-person, but in a public forum, the best you'll get is my dancing around the subject. Which is what I'm doing here, obviously. Pirouette, plie, grande jete, pas de chat....

I don't even have a label for depression. And that, suddenly, strikes me as dishonest. So here I am, ripping off the costume, shedding the mask, dropping the pose. I'm depressed, bummed, pissed off at my life. There, I said it. And now I want to get off the stage as fast as I can...

Friday, December 29, 2006

Sadaam's Death

  • I want to say murder, because I believe that is what execution is.
  • I didn't think it would actually happen. I thought sane minds would prevail.
  • I fear for the world. Something awful will come of this, of that I have no doubt.
  • Some day an American leader will be captured by an enemy country and we will watch him/her be killed, because we did it first.
  • If I, an American, am so horror-struck, what must those Iraqis loyal to him to feeling? Their rage must be unimaginable. And their retribution will be as well.
  • I am deeply ashamed of my country's part in this. We have no excuse for what will happen to us now.
  • There is nothing that the man did to us that warranted what we have done to him. The evil he did others was the evil of political aim and gain. We call it war, when we do it, and think it is noble.
  • May God, Allah, Whoever have mercy on us--and on him.
  • I am afraid.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas is officially over

Did you have a good Christmas?
Yeah, quiet, but good.
Whadja get?
An Ipod.
Which one?
The Nano.
Like it?
So far, love it.

I think I've got to accept that the thirty pounds I gained after the aneurysm were not from the Baskin Robbins diet, as I like to tell people. They were the fifteen pounds you gain when you stop smoking and the fifteen pounds you gain when you stop Hormone Replacement Therapy. Together, that makes thirty pounds. This is an important realization, it seems to me, because I don't think I'm gonna lose them just by watching what I eat. I think maybe they're with me for a long, long time.

When I think about this, I think of my mom, in the last months of her life, looking at her cancer-emaciated body, and saying, "Look at me. Look how thin I am. When I think of how hard I tried to lose weight, and now look at me." I don't want someday to find myself saying the same thing.

I don't like to [mis]quote Wordsworth lightly, but: "What though the radiance which was once so bright/Be now forever taken from our sight/..../We will grieve not,/But rather find strength in what remains behind."

So maybe I should sit shiva for the body I once had. Maybe I'll take a sewing class, so I can learn to alter my clothes to fit the body I now have.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Ho Ho Ho...

and a Merry Christmas to all.

Last night's dinner party was a great success. Not the food particularly, since I cooked a prime rib, which I don't think I've ever done before (yes, how sad, to get to my age and be a prime rib virgin). I put it in the oven with the temp probe inserted correctly, or so I thought. But the temp never registered. Then, of a sudden, due I think to a wiggle of the probe, it did. And was at it's pre-ordained internal temp. Or so it said. But when D carved it, it was still a bit blue. So our guests had a choice of rare, very rare, or the outside piece. They didn't seem to mind.

I wasn't too impressed with my latkes either, which I made to honor the evening as Chrismukah. But the pear sauce I made to go with it was a hit, and worth the tedious grating of the pears (I took photos, thinking I'd illustrate, but, eh, it's too late tonight).

My cupcakes were a bit dry. I cannot make cupcakes. I'm okay on the cake part, but when it gets divided into little frilly baskets, something happens to the batter and--I don't know--the result is less than rewarding. I decorated these with fluffy white frosting, flavored with peppermint. I even hauled out my cake decorating tools and did a stylized green Christmas tree on each, with little silver shot balls, which probably sounds better than it looked because I used a green that was better suited to camouflage. And the fluffy white frosting got a bit sticky, more like fluffy white glue. We tried one and D made an emergency run to the store for ice cream. I find ice cream will cure whatever ails a cake, don't you? Of course, he did get spumoni, which he bought because he liked the colors, not because he knew what it was. Still, the guests all ate their cupcakes with seemingly unfeigned pleasure.

So my food, which has in the past been the high point of my dinner parties, was less than sterling. What made this evening so special was the guests. There were four couples and some of us didn't know the others at all. But people came and they drank and they ate and they drank and they laughed and they ate and they laughed and then they drank some more. I got to do all the fun things that I've loved about dinner parties past, like serve port and Stilton. I haven't entertained much in recent years. It just didn't seem worth the work. Can I tell you how many times I've bought port and Stilton in the past and neither got cracked? But last night, lordy lordy, they ate and drank it all. Clearly, I've been running with the wrong bunch.

And now I'm tired (as you can tell by my rambling), so to all a good night....

Friday, December 22, 2006

Buckets of Clams, a folk song in two part harmony

Not really. Well, sorta. Buckets of Clams is a song that the goldminers were quite fond of back in '49. Once upon a time, I knew the tune, which is a familiar American ditty. But damned if I can remember it now.

It comes to mind because of these photos, which I took last Sunday when the NIL (that's nephew -in-law to those not in the know) and I went to Redondo Beach Pier.

The first two are the living breathing clams, awaiting their fate, $7.50 a pound, in the holding tanks of the fish market.
This last, however, is the clams after death, after consumption, with only the detritus of their very existence, sheltering on an outdated Chinese language newspaper, to show for their once and future glory.

See that little thing sticking up in the center of the last photo? That, I believe, is what's called a neck. It is black and wrinkled, sort of like an elephant's trunk--or a penis. In fact, the NIL when instructing me how to eat these particular clams said I should circumcise the clam, and showed me how to strip off the outer layer of the, um, neck. I can't say that this improved their appearance at all, but they were sure good.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Heart Attack

I thought I was having one. There I was minding my own business doing my food shopping at the lovely new Raley's down the street. I was almost finished, making a last pass by the dairy, when I felt this very weird, unwarranted sensation. Like a huge bubble in my chest. Pressing against stuff in there. I tried swallowing, but that didn't help. I tried not to think of all the "women have weird symptoms when having heart attacks" articles I've read, but that didn't help. I wended my way up to the checkout line as the feeling of intense pressure was growing. It almost felt like I was a Macy's Thanksgiving Day balloon and had been filled almost to bursting.

As I stood in the line, smiling and nodding and barely hearing a thing the dear boy of a checker was saying, the clenching feeling grew worse, went up my neck and into my ears. Am I having a heart attack? I can't be having a heart attack. Thank god I took my baby aspirin this morning. What should I do? Should I go home and see what happens? What if it doesn't stop? Then I'll have to deal with it at home, and with D as well. Should I go to my doctor's office down the street? What can I possibly say to them: Hi, I may or may not be having a heart attack so I thought I'd just hop over and check it out. I almost wished I'd crumple at the cashier's feet, just to save myself this decision.

Of course, whenever something like this happens to me, I always go straight back to the night I had my aneurysm. That was a little more clear cut than this in that my right hand and leg had stopped working, but there was still the anxiety of What To Do. We did call the paramedics and I did get taken to the hospital and I was there for weeks and weeks--and ever since, I guess I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I decided better foolish than dead, so I sucked it up and drove to my doctor's. Where, after an EKG that was pretty damn good, he said he didn't know what caused my symptoms, but he was pretty sure my heart was fine. And just in case, he took blood so they could look at my enzymes or whatever.

And from the point I typed the word aneurysm above, I've been hyperventilating. Because of course, there are two kinds of aneurysms: cerebral, which I had, and cardiac. Oy vey.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I'm back, and I'm grumpy...

Pissed off is more like it. Something strange happened to my email and then to D's email and it took me almost an hour this morning on the phone with a terrific Comcast techie in Winnipeg to get the strangeness undone. Both of our Comcast email accounts had been forwarded to some unknown ISP with rr in the address. It took that long to figure that out and it took two seconds to uncheck the forward, please command. But now I'm thinking--how the hell did that happen? Were we highjacked? How? By whom? And now what do I do about it?

This was not how I intended to spend my morning. I have mucho chores to do, not the least of which is sending the state some tax bullshit so they don't charge me $500. Yes, yes, I should have done it a couple of years ago, but--that's the way it goes.

I was also going to take Molly on a nice long walk and then work out at the gym for a while. And then I was going to finish my novel and sign up for that new PhD program and then I was going to take a bubble bath, paint the tub, and do my nails. And then I was going to...what an utter load of whatever you want to call it.

The thing I hate about being away is that it puts me off my schedule. And when I'm off my schedule, I'm cranky. Blame it on my mother. Blame it all on my mother.

Monday, December 18, 2006

New post

I thought I had this use-your-phone-to-post all figured out. Ha!

Friday, December 15, 2006

ANTM, or I wish I could tell you...

...that I doing something wild and wonderful yesterday. However, I got caught up in the second season of America's Next Top Model Marathon. God knows when it started, but I checked in at about 2-ish, just intending to keep myself company while I finished wrapping gifts. At 11 p.m., after Yalonna won, we turned the TV off. Yes, we. D, too, was mesmerized. There is something about that show that sucks you in.

First, I love Tyra. Yes, I know. I'm so horribly out of it, but I think she's doing wonderful things in the world; sort of a junior Oprah (who, incidentally, is beginning to annoy and bore me--is it just me, or has she gotten too thin? and too Lady Bountiful? Hubris, O, hubris). And the producers on ANTM have a terrific sense of story. In all the seasons it has been on, there are few times that it's been predictable.

Unlike other reality shows I could mention. As in The Apprentice, which I will not be watching. Or Survivor, which has become my multi-tasking option. And even American Idol has gotten woefully predictable.

I watched a couple of Britain's Next Top Model the other night, and it wasn't the same as ANTM. For one, the production values on BNTM suck, as is the wont of the Brits. I mean, the judges sat at a long table covered with a cloth in front of a hanging cloth and that was the extent of the Judging set. Tacky tacky. The competitions and shows were also much meaner. And the girls, ah, the gels--I spent too long in England I suppose, and my ear is still finely honed to accent differentiations, but the contestants for the most part sounded stupid. Dumb. Like they belonged back at Boots stocking shelves. The equivalent contestant in ANTM's season two was Shandi, who somehow got plucked from behind a Walgreen's counter and make it to the final three. It was fun watching her evolve from homely geek to sorta-confident sorta-model, and she did it with such humility.

Perhaps I needed that day-long fix of ANTM because I was so unbearably, excruciatingly disappointed with the finale of this latest season. I know Caridee was America's Sweetheart, but even the judges in the last test said she didn't hold a candle to Melrose. So how come Melrose didn't win? We wuz robbed!!!!!!!!!!

Server problems

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Happy, Happy Birthday, Baby....

Two years ago today, I started By Jane on Live Journal. Here's my first post,
in which I expressed the rather mild, nay, weak intention that my blog be a place where my friends and family could go to keep up with my life. Ha! And Double Ha! They refused, outright, sometimes silently and sometimes testily. The only family member who regularly reads my blog is Ratphooey, to whom I am eternally grateful, not the least because if I suddenly conk out at my computer, at least she will be able to tell the rest of the family.

The first year, I was trying to figure out what I was doing here. As I said in my LJ profile

You can also read there my stuttering starts at finding a voice for this blog. I always taught my students that good writing is draped on a rhetorical frame. Thus, knowing your purpose is paramount to effective communication. What I have struggled with over these months is what my purpose is here. In other words, what the fuck am I, a woman of a certain age, doing writing a blog that is read by few people, some related to me, all much much much younger than I am. My own generation, being those who cannot set their VCRs, are blog-challenged and even threatened. So I don't know what the fuck I'm doing here, but I'll keep on doing it--because I want to.
I just went back over last year's posts, and it's fascinating to see my voice develop (not to mention my confidence) . I no longer feel like the wizened old lady of the group, and I know what the fuck I'm doing here. Over the year, I learned that I am, above all, a writer, and this is the place that I write.

I had intended to mark this day by introducing some new features, like Book Club, in which I'll just blather on, as is my wont, about what I'm reading and what I think about it. And What's Cooking, in which I'll post recipes that I've tried or created. And Office Hours, in which I'll talk about things of a therapy nature. I'm going to try to make these regular posts. And if you have any suggestions for them, please let me know.

So, happy, happy birthday to By Jane--may she live a hundred years and drink a hundred beers...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Blogito Ergo Sum

I take this as my honi soit, to be hoisted on the masts and engraved on the crest. Or at least heat-stamped on a T-shirt. I had planned a rather humorous, lighthearted disquisition on this topic, but some serious thoughts keep pushing their heavy-handed way in. So bear with me, and maybe we'll get to the yucks later. Or maybe not.

I've always been a smart chick (too smart for your own good, missy, some would say) and a mouthy one as well. I have a showy kind of intelligence, the sort that ranges wide but doesn't settle particularly well. As my dissertation director once said to me, "You are good at synthesizing a broad amount of information; you are not good at digging into one particular point to follow it to it's end." Basically, what she was saying was: you're terrific in a class where you see the connections among the works; you're lousy at writing a dissertation. And she was right. As, obviously, my continued status as an ABD (All But Dissertation completed for the Ph.D) will attest.

Having given up on academia, however, I am left somewhat bereft. There is no place to settle the huge respository of [useless] information that one acquires while doing a lit PhD. No one gets my allusions. There are times, it might even be said, when no one knows what I'm talking about. The other night, for example, I sat at my Wednesday night knitting group at Knitique Yarn Shop, and noticed a hand-lettered sign that had a missing hyphen. I felt compelled to inform all and sundry about the missing hyphen and exactly how it altered the meaning of the sign. Around the table were the faces of my friends, looking at me, with that expectant look that signals someone hopes you'll start making sense soon, but for now you're speaking gibberish. Which is fine, and appropriate for that setting, yet it make me long for the times when three or four grad students would have gotten their teeth into that hyphen and argued it until it's head whipped off. I miss that. It's a part of me that is almost never tapped these days.

This morning while brushing my teeth and reading O Magazine (there are few places in which I don't read), I was reading the list of Zoe Heller's favorite books and Amy Bloom's article on poetry, and I felt quite keenly the absence in my life of people with whom I could talk about such things (and if you don't think I'm an unrepetent grad student, check all those prepositions that come rolling off my tongue in exactly their proper place). It's not that my friends don't read. Some of them do (and some don't, it must be said, which to me is unimaginable but I love them anyway). It's that no one reads a book like a literature grad student, with the full play of the critical conversation, past and present, weighing in. I miss that. I miss the intellectual wrangling that is the academic arena.

I have tried to fill these gaps with what would seem to be similar activities. In LA, I was a member of a bookclub. We met monthly to eat, drink, schmooze, and talk about the book. I think at first they liked having me there, because I more or less taught whatever book we were reading. But then I think that they got tired of me pushing far deeper into the work than they wanted to go, and I got tired of them thinking that "I liked it...It sucks...This would never happen in real life....I hated the main character" sufficed as literary criticism.

In LA I was a grad student again, this time in psychology. That wasn't such a far stretch from my lit studies, as one of the areas of criticism with which I dealt was psychoanalytic literary theory. However, psychoanalytic literary theory and psychoanalytic theory are different beasts, it would seem. Lacan never figured in our class lectures or discussion. The French Feminists? Do they have to do with fashion?

So there I am, with this rich inner life, that gets very short shrift in the outside world. Except here. On By Jane. Here I am free to expound and explicate and elucidate at will. Here, I am free to be me, all of me, not just the comprehensible bits. Thus, for Descartes, it was cogito ergo sum. But for me, it is blogito ergo sum--I blog, therefore I am.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Bird in Slough...worth two in bush?

Molly's favorite walk--the one which makes me (o, joy) her favorite walker--is down by the slough that runs through our community. I'm not sure if it's really a slough, since I don't really know what a slough is. Maybe it's a drainage ditch, or a tributary of the Feather River. Whatever, it's this body of water that bisects our development north to south.

It fascinates me for a number of reasons. First, because it offers a multitude of Great Shots. Second, because it offers a multitude of Interesting Juxtapositions.

The first here is the water and the marsh grasses and the wild and wooly country versus the row upon row of newly built houses that are always somewhere in the background. The second in this photo is the heron, who just walked into frame--and the half-submerged shopping cart. If both of these don't sum up this area--former ranch and farm land on which thousands of houses have now been planted--I don't know what does.

I think it helps that I took this with my cameraphone, which always lends a somewhat mysterious (I think, but perhaps that just my fantasy) air to these photos.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

On Not Buying A Toyota--Take Two

This morning I got an email from Dealix, the guys who run, wanted to know--Hey, Jane! How did your car buying experience at Elk Grove Toyota go? Didja buy the car?

I thought I would spare them the rather lengthy version you got. For one, they only gave me one of those 250 words or less windows to write my comments in. So I winnowed them down to the following:

The service I got in the dealership was sloppy and inadequate. Although, they knew the model and color of Prius I wanted, the car's battery was dead, and the salesman was unclear about how to recharge it. His explanation of why the battery was dead left me wondering if Prius's are susceptible to this. I thought that by going through the internet, I would avoid the typical sales ploys. I was wrong.
The long version of this is: Chris, the first salesman called last Sunday and left a message saying he had read my blog, taken note of my advice, and was sorry he was busy with another customer when I came in. That's actually the short version of Chris's rather lengthy message, but you get the point. Apology accepted, okay...but hey, wait a minute, you were busy with another customer?

Yes, but were you busy for the 36 hrs before? Did you not have enough time to make sure that the car that I explicitly said I wanted was fully charged. Does it not seem to you that making sure a brand new car is in running order for a test drive is--is--mandatory?

And that got me thinking about my first experience with Toyota, this time Toyota of Hollywood. I got my cute little VW convertible there a couple of years ago. Then, too, I went for a new car, a Scion, but that little Cabrio called out to me. Although it was used, it was shiny black, perfect it seemed, and the salesguys were all over me. Sure, the Owner's Manual is missing, but no problemo! we'll order one for you. Drive it, drive it. And I did, and it was cute, and it did seem to drive nicely, although going around the block in the middle of Hollywood is hardly a fair test of LA driving.

So I signed on the dotted line, and drove it home. I, Jane, was now the proud owner of a convertible. And I lived in LA. Those two facts alone made me a whole lot cuter and a whole lot younger. As I drove down Melrose, the sun shining, my hair blowing gently in the breeze, I smelled something. And my new car started doing something. And then it stopped doing anything at all.

I forget now what the problem was that caused my engine to seize up, it had something to do with a faultily installed ignition switch and fire. It took several weeks to order the new parts from Germany, and, frankly, I never felt the same about the car. I also never got the Owner's Manual. And did I mention that the car was sold to me with a cracked windshield wiper bottle? And those pristine camel seats? I don't know what they did to get them spotless that day, but over the months I've driven it, strange stains have emerged, making me wonder what was done in this car, and by whom.

Thus, I felt compelled to add to my response to Dealix:
The fault is not yours; it's Toyota's. This is the second time I've encountered shoddy and inadequate work at a Toyota dealership, and they are in opposite ends of the state. I love the Prius, but I'm very suspicious of Toyota.

And so I'll wait for another hybrid to get that kind of mileage. Maybe the Saturn will; they're sorta cute. I hate to say never, but now I'm saying it: I'll never buy at a Toyota dealership again.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

On the Seventh Day of Christmas......

I'm apologizing like mad for having blown the fifth and sixth days' posts. So much for promises to have my own December BloPo. But my excuses may prove interesting, if not amusing, if only I can word them in the right way.

Day Five was Tuesday, and Tuesday was's Mandate for Change Campaign Kickoff. You didn't know about this? Then you are under thirty and have never flexed your political muscles for the progressive cause. I, on the other hand, am way past thirty and marched in my first demonstration back in the Sixties. I have belonged to since it first started, as a grass roots movement telling Congress to Move the Fuck On From This Impeachment Bullshit and Deal with the Real Problems of the Country. Now they're a viable presence on the political scene and as far as I'm concerned, the only real hope for those of us who are Blue.

So when they asked me (and thousands of others) to host their Mandate for Change Campaign Kickoff, I signed on. Thus, Tuesday was a day filled with all the stuff that one has to do when one is expecting guests and one is not a person of regular tidiness. D. vacuumed and I transferred all the holiday shit, unopened mail, newspapers, and magazines that were mounding on the dining room table to their proper areas: under the piano and in the garbage. I also wiped the crumbs of a thousand meals off the table, so that it would be pristine for the several handouts that MoveOn ordered me to have ready. MoveOn is nothing if not anal about readiness and they prepare scripts that account for all exigencies. Thus, I had a number of downloads to print out in numbers that would be sufficient for my group.

Since my RSVPs were hovering around 15, I opted to print for 20. After the first load, for no known reason, my printer got pissed off at the computer (or visa versa) and the two refused to communicate. Oh, and did I mention that earlier that day I realized that my primary email address had gotten no mail since November 27? I was, as we say in the shtetl, fatoosted. And one cannot write a decent BloPo when one is fatoosted. So that was Day Five--and by the way, that was the magic number of people who showed up for the Kickoff. Anyone want some scrap paper?????

Day Six was yesterday and yesterday I had a three hour lunch with a friend from the old place of work. To fit the three hours into her schedule, which is still manic, we had to meet at 11. And you know I'm not the earliest of risers these days, so that by the time I had finished what my mother used to call her Morning's Morning, it was time to get ready. And when I got back--when I got back, I sat down dutifully at the computer, opened the BloPo window, and nothing happened. Zip. Nada. Maybe I was too full of Turkey Ala King over Mashed Potatoes. Maybe if my writing rythyms are interrupted, I can't come, so to speak. Whatever.

My absence has obviously been felt as my numbers are way, way down. So please, forgive and forget?

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Internet Is A Dangerous Place...

...for me. I can get lost in it.

When I was about five, we lived in a rural area in Western Pennsylvania, and there was no kindergarten. So my mother took me every day to Walking School. This was her invention, just the two of us, going for a walk and talking about whatever we happened across. Walking School came about because one day I had said to her, "Mommy, you're so mean to me. There's so much to learn in the world and there's no way for me to learn it."

When I surface after a session on the 'net, I thinking about Walking School. There is still so much to learn in the world, and now there is a way for me to learn it. I just want to inhale it all.

But no one is paying me to surf, so it's all gratuitious fun. Isn't that kinda like porn? And thus, the internet is a dangerous place to someone like me whose curiousity is endless.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A Political Prediction...Just Because

Al Gore will be the Democratic nominee in '08. Barack Obama is too young and untested; Hillary Clinton is too...too...devisive, at least among Democrats.

Here's how the Dems will think: After all, Al Gore won it the first time, didn't he? And now he's been reinvented, as Time, among others puts it. He's warm and funny and down to earth and passionate and....

At the Victory Party in Sacramento that I went to just a few weeks ago, there was a straw poll taken to determine who the attendees, who are politically active people, wanted for President in '8. Al Gore won by a landslide.

And finally, the last exchange in the Time interview is quite telling, if you're one who believes, as I do, that we say what we mean.

You have stated repeatedly that you are not currently plans to run for President in 2008. Do you have a more creative denial?
I don't have any plans to run. Nor do I have any creative denials. I'm using the same ones. They'll soon be out on DVD.

I think the words I've boldfaced say a lot. Do you?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

How To Lose A Car Sale

Yesterday I went car shopping. I knew what I wanted: a Barcelona red Prius with the GPS package, cloth seats, no extra sound system.

Over the years, I've bought a few cars, and I know from experience that car salesmen have well earned their second banana status. They are, in the main, jerks. Perhaps they aren't at home. Perhaps at home they're nice guys who take out the garbage and put down the seat. But at the dealership, they become Macy's parade balloons needing guy wires to tether them to the earth. And they ooze stickey testosterone along with, sometimes, dandruff.

Therefore when I go car shopping, I go girded for battle (albeit with, perhaps, a small chip on my shoulder). When I enter the arena, I'm pleasant but wary. I'm prepared. In control. Ready to deal. I search for a salesman who looks like his IQ is in triple digits, and he passed high school English.

This time I thought I'd weighted the battle on my side a bit by starting out on the Internet. I plugged in all my specs, hit Enter, and fifteen minutes later, Vincent of Elk Grove Toyota was on the phone. We had a nice, longish conversation, that focused mainly on our LA connection and the fact that both of us were new to the area. He recommended Capital Christian Church's Singing Christmas Tree as "one of the biggest things to do in Sacramento," which didn't do much for my longing for LA. We didn't talk a lot about the car because, after all, he had my specs in front of him. He knew the car I wanted; he had it; all I had to do was come in and do a test drive.

Ten minutes after I hung up, Chris of Elk Grove Toyota called me, and we had a pleasant, although shorter conversation. He too had an LA connection, some cousins in the San Gabriel Valley (which is not really LA, as everyone knows). Maybe that's something they teach them in sales school--find a common reference point and hit it for all it's worth. I told him too that I would be in the next day.

Which I was. Primed to drive and buy. Looking forward to dealing with either Vincent or Chris, who seemed to be the new model of car salesman: internet guys, relatively intelligent, Modern Men, as it were. Perhaps they are, but in that tired old ploy, the bait and switch, they said hi, shook hands, and then brought out Brian, who was the salesman I would actually be dealing with.

Brian was definitely an old model car salesman. He put my teeth on edge like chalk on a blackboard. He was alternately patronizing and cutesy. He whined and pleaded like an overtired four year old. He told a sexist story in which he was the star. He vastly underestimated my intelligence, not to mention my ability to add and subtract. He would not take me seriously. He did not listen to me. And consequently, he lost the sale.

Here's my advice to car salespeople:
  • Think! If the enquiry came in via the internet, assume a certain saavyness. The people I know who are woefully ignorant and most likely to be conned are Luddites when it comes to computers. You can figure that the opposite is also true.
  • Listen! Forget the script, the ten techniques sure to make a customer buy, the five foolproof ways to close a sale. You're dealing with a human being; act it.
  • Don't hand off or consult with multiple colleagues. Think of the picture you present: there you are, bowing before the great god finance manager, leaving the customer alone with nothing to do but think ill of all of you.
  • Don't wear a leather jacket with a shirt and tie, especially if you're overweight. It's cheesy, and you want to avoid anything smacking of that.
  • Don't tell a sexist joke to a woman who's buying a car for herself.
I don't know where or when I'll buy my Prius. When I got into my car to drive off the Toyota lot, my little VW convertible seemed a whole lot nicer.

Friday, December 01, 2006

My Name Is Jane and I'm Addicted to Magazines

Yes, I confess. I am a magazine junkie. I love them. Can't get enough of them. The smell of a new magazine, the glossy (or not so glossy or even matt) paper excites me. I want to touch them. Fondle them. Flip quickly through their pages and then slowly, slowly go back over each one.

I see magazines as repositories of everything I might ever want or need to know; the cover lines say so. How to deal with my belly fat. What the newest tech toys are. Why Hilary may not be running in '06. I believe what they tell me. Even though when I was writing for magazines, I know how I could work with words to make them seem to say far more than they actually did.

A room is never painted. There's no prep or primer that goes into it. You "merely use your roller to apply a coat or two." A perp never says something. He alleges, which inserts that element of doubt, reminds you that we're talking about legal matters, which are never, after all, totally true.

Here are the magazines that are in my house every month or, god help me, week: Allure, Cooking Light, Eating Well, Hadassah, InStyle, Los Angeles, Money, Men's Best Life, More, Newsweek, O, People, Rolling Stone, Sacramento, Time, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Wired. And those are just the ones I have subscriptions to.

And I've just found a new one, which prompted this post: sactown. I got the premier issue yesterday. It's lovely. The cover stock is heavy and dull, sort of like brushed metal. The fonts are varied, as is the way today, but still comprehensible (as is not the way for some mags I could name). I've only done my first flip through, so I can't offer a full J-school analysis, but I will say this: it's the first time in years that my journalists' buttons got pushed, and I started thinking story ideas. Perhaps I'll write them a love letter....