On Wednesdays We Wear Labrets

Boss: “I like that shirt!”

Me: “Thanks!”

Boss: “And what kind of shoes are those?”

Me: “They’re actually paratrooper boots.”

Boss: “You know, my son would love everything you’re wearing. The only things he has that you don’t are tattoos.”

Me: “Well, at least none that show.”

Boss: “…”

She also clocked me for wearing jeans instead of slacks, something she’s failed to notice for the past week and a half. This tells me about how long I’ll be able to get away with facial piercings.

Yes. Dolores Claiborne. Exactly.

Dear Homeowner,

While I’m sure your pit bull/Rottweiler/Komodo dragon mix may in fact be, as you believe, “the sweetest puppy in the world,” your neighbors are terrified and don’t want to live in a Stephen King movie anymore.

Also, the apology notes left on doorsteps and signed with giant, smeared paw prints are just creeping everyone out.

A+ for effort, though.


[A telephone conversation between myself and a homeowner.]

Homeowner: “I want to paint my house a different color. What do I need to do?”

Me: “All you need to do is fill out and submit an ACC Request form, which can be downloaded from our website, or…”


Me: “Pardon?”


[Ed. Note: The maintenance fees paid by homeowners go directly into the HOA’s accounts, not to the management company. People don’t realize this, though, so when calling to complain, the first thing they do is remind us that they PAY A LOT OF MONEY.]

Me: “Actually, I send out monthly email updates to your entire community. Perhaps my emails have been getting caught in your SPAM filters?”

Homeowner: “NO. YOU NEVER EMAIL ME.”

Me: “Okay, then let me look in my records to make sure we have the correct address for you.”

Homeowner: “YOU NEVER EMAIL ME.”

Me: “Is your email address [I read off the address we have on file]?”

Homeowner: “No. That’s an old address.”

Me: “What’s your current email address?”

[She gives me her new address, and I update our records.]

Me: “Great, so now that I have your email, I will send you the ACC Request form, and you can just fill it out and send it back to me.”


Me: “Ma’am, I was out of the office this morning on property visits, but I am in the process of getting caught up on messages… which is why we’re talking now.”

Homeowner: “Oh.” [Beat.] “Thanks.”


But hey, at least she said thanks. That’s a first right there.

A Scintillating Stamp of Professional Approval

For my third recovery birthday, my brilliant friend Tod gave me a card of one of his paintings, and in gratitude I ran off in search of the perfect picture frame:

tb chairs 2
The upholstery matches the upholstery.

As you can tell from the radioactive, mutant-green wall, the card ended up in my office, where it immediately stole focus, because it was the only innocuously work-approriate piece of art on display. In contrast, everything else looked… not gaudy, exactly, but like it was trying too hard to make a statement when there was really nothing to be said.

It was time, I realized, to start treating my office like an actual workspace, and not like (as my ex used to call it) a “white trash Pagan temple.” Making a valiant attempt at objectivity, I began pulling decorations that felt in any way over the top. The cauldron and the skull pillow were the first to go, followed by the Poseidon bottle and, with sad reluctance, the vagina bird. The place definitely looked a lot more like an office and less like an occult shop from the 1980s, but it also looked (at least to my eyes) a little colorless and drained of personality, even with the giant, affected Mona Lisa that was here long before I was.

I needed replacement ornamentation, but I needed it to be professional. I needed it to say, “I am salaried and keep my religious beliefs to myself.” I needed it to cost next to nothing and come with free shipping.

And I found it:

Click to see life-sized. Totally worth it.

I’ve been trying to get a better picture of it, but I just can’t capture how blinding the lettering is — seriously, it’s like it physically emits concentrated awesomeness. Alan walked into my office right after I’d put it up and was all, “Oh holy God. I can’t look directly at that.” And I was like, “I know! It’s vintage. Isn’t it wonderfully hideous?”

“No,” he replied. “Just hideous.”

Then my boss walked in and shielded her eyes and asked, “Is that… pink? Or… orange? Or… what color is that?”

And that’s how you know you’ve arrived: When your titles and qualifications can literally dazzle your colleagues. I’m sure a diploma or an award or something would have made an impact as well, but this particular plaque sums up my accomplishments perfectly, in that I sent $80 to the State of Texas, and they sent me back a stamp with my name on it.

My next mission is to find a matching sign that reads, “I Got Ordained Online.” But, y’know, I’ll probably keep that one at home.

Frame Job

A couple of months back, I ordered a print from the amazing and fabulous artist Jennifer Cox. Once it arrived, I put it in a frame, and I placed it on my desk:

Office Thoth
“Thoth Likes Extra Foam”

The End.

Right. So that’s basically what happened, just with a few key details edited out. Following is the full story (melodramatically rendered in present tense), which provides an excellent example of how my Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder works:

I find the artwork while browsing around on Etsy and note that it comes in three different sizes. I print out black-and-white copies of each size and tape them to various walls a) to see if the design will go with the rest of the décor around the house, and b) to determine which size will be the most aesthetically pleasing. I also print out two copies of a different illustration by the same artist, because while I’m not buying it right at this moment, I might eventually, and I need to make sure the two pieces will complement each other.

After an epic internal struggle, I settle on the 5 x 7 size and make the purchase.

The print arrives at my office. I open the package and prop the print on my desk to see if I want to keep it here instead of taking it home — after all, Thoth is associated with Hermes, who is associated with Mercury, which is the ruling planet of notaries, and all of my notary stuff is up here. I ultimately decide it would look better in the apartment, where I remember that I have a cool, multicolored picture frame. I locate the frame, take it apart, dust it and rinse it off, wash the glass separately, towel it all off vigorously and let it air-dry overnight (don’t want any errant water droplets ruining everything).

The following morning, I reassemble the frame and insert the print, and then spend forty-five minutes rearranging the knickknacks on my writing desk to properly fit it in. (I want it next to my St. Expedite statue, but then I would have to move a regular jar candle to a space between two seven-day candles, which is unacceptable.) So I finally get everything set exactly, and it looks great! Except…

The yellow and green corners are at the top of the frame, and while the yellow doesn’t look bad, the green clashes with Thoth’s nemes. Granted, this could be easily remedied by turning the frame upside down so that the red and blue corners are up top, but (and here’s the crux of the matter), whoever designed the frame intended for the yellow and green corners to be at the top, and therefore turning it upside down might destroy the entire universe. WE CAN’T TAKE THAT CHANCE.

I make it about a day and a half before I can’t stand it anymore and run to the drugstore down the street to pick up a plain, black frame. So now Thoth is on display again, just with no extra embellishments to distract the eye or drive me insane. All is well. Except…

The new frame is black metal, and all the other frames in my living room are black wood. I try to accept this, guys; I really, really do. But a few days later I cave and take the print and both of the frames to work with me, thinking that this whole situation would be a lot easier to resolve if all I had to do was just find a couple of hobbits to help me get rid of a ring.

So I’m up at the office the next day, and the first thing I notice is that the multicolored frame looks pretty awesome with the David Cowles caricatures across from my desk. I take Thoth out of the metal frame and put him back in the wooden one, and… ye Gods but that green corner is going to give me a seizure.

I know what has to be done.

Gritting my teeth, I pull Thoth out of the frame one final time, rotate the frame so that the red and blue corners are at the top, and put everything back together. The universe in fact does not explode, which is a pleasant surprise, but also, the color combo is now pretty much perfect. You know the relief that overwhelms you when you dislodge a popcorn kernel from between your teeth? It feels just like that, except the popcorn dislodged from my frontal lobe.

There is a brief moment of panic when I realize that the Thoth print plus the Erté Queen of the Night greeting card next to my computer might equal an unbalanced number of framed items, but I only have to spend about fifteen minutes repeatedly removing and replacing each piece individually before I decide both can stay.


So yeah, that’s what it’s like in my head. No-brainer, throw-away tasks become onuses: One second I’m trying to choose a picture frame, and the next I’m in Ancient Greek hell, pushing a boulder up a hill. The upside is that I know OCPD is just a vestige of my treated anxiety, and if the worst thing that happens to me on any given day is that I compulsively move a doodad across a shelf in half-centimeter intervals versus endure sixteen hours of hurricane-force panic attacks, then I’m probably doing okay. I may have to tell myself over and over that I am okay, but the reality is I really am, regardless of anything I can’t control, or that isn’t in order, or that gets reshuffled against my wishes.

I am okay.

PS: A tech guy just walked into my office with a new computer tower (my previous one pulled an Old Yeller and had to be taken out behind the barn), and the first thing he said was, “I’m going to have to move some of this stuff on your desk.” I screamed silently for only the briefest of moments before replying: “Oh, that’s fine, move anything you need to. It’s not a big deal.”

And it’s not a big deal. It’s not a big deal. It’s not a big deal.

Say it with me, guys.

It’s not a big deal.

It’s not a big deal.

It’s not a big deal.

I Think They Might Could Use a Different Kind of Meeting

A text from one of the Misfits: “Hey, want to go grab dinner?”

My first text back: “Sure. I’ve got to facilitate an HOA meeting at 7:15, but that shouldn’t take longer than an hour.”

An email from the HOA Board president: “I’m looking forward to the meeting tonight! Should I serve wine before or after the food truck arrives? Or should I just tell everyone it’s BYOB?”

My next text back: “It’s going to take longer than an hour.”

ETA: The Board president drank this much vodka and fell down. Amateurs.

Property Management, Shirley Jackson Style

The upside to having both a panic disorder and an attention deficit disorder is that I am a medal-worthy multi-tasker. Need seventeen separate projects completed by yesterday? No problem! I’ll switch between them as my interest waxes and wanes until the anxiety kicks in and I screech into overdrive, and I’ll still find time for personal correspondence and social media updates.

The downside is that sometimes said projects get a bit mixed up in my head, such as what happened a few minutes ago, when I was copying text into an HOA’s monthly inspection report while having a lively email debate with a bunch of Bacchic Orphists and taking phone calls from contractors and ordering lunch. I paused for a quick second to glance back over the report before sending it to the Board of Directors, only to discover that  the section on deed restriction violations now proclaimed, in proud, bolded font:

“You all heard it. He volunteered to be sacrificed.”

Couple of thoughts on that.

a) Thank the Gods I always proof-read.

b) If I left that sentence in the report, and they didn’t immediately terminate our contract, no one would ever violate the deed restrictions again. In which case I may have just found the cure for a veritable crate-load of headaches.