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‘Fer Cryin’ Out Loud’ Category

  1. The Mini Refrigerator that Turned into a Giant Headache: Part 1

    June 25, 2017 by Diane

    My mini refrigerator died. It had survived thirteen years, which in refrigerator years is, like, fifty, but after this last heat wave, or my five-millionth defrosting job, it went to the happy junk yard in the sky.

    I always time my defrosting duties for when my landlady is out of town, so I can store all my perishables in her full-bodied refrigerator. She was in Reno until Saturday. My mini fridge died on Friday. I had to get a new mini fridge pronto before my landlady came home with a Costco-sized load of groceries. That left me twenty-four hours to get my food out of her refrigerator. So on a day I normally work my second job because my first job doesn’t pay all the bills, I went hunting for a new refrigerator that wasn’t in the budget.

    I scoured the internet for brands, and read reviews. Armed with a list of possible candidates, I got in my car.

    First, I headed to Costco. I walked the entire store and found zero mini fridges. I also found zero food demonstrators, so I had zero sustenance for my epic journey through Costco.

    Next up: Walmart. I loathe Walmart only slightly less than I loathe IKEA, mainly because the people who work in Walmart seem profoundly unhappy, and none of them speak my native language, the Queen’s English. I traipsed hither and yon looking for mini refrigerators, and finally spied the empty shelves where once they stood.

    I looked around for a helper.

    “Excuse me,” I said to a young man wearing a blue Walmart smock. “Do you have any mini refrigerators in stock?”



    “Si. Here.” He directed me to the empty shelves and we stood side by side gazing at them.

    “Are there any in back-stock?” I wondered aloud.



    I drove across the street to Target.

    I spotted a young woman wearing the Target colors: a red top and khaki pants, and asked where I might find the mini fridges.

    “The kitchen section, if we’ve got any,” she said.

    I walked five miles looking for refrigerators that didn’t exist. First, to the kitchen section, where I found shelf labels, but no actual mini fridges. I hunted for a helper. There are no helpers in Target. There are shoppers wearing red tops and khaki pants who have no idea what’s in back-stock, but no Target employees walking purposefully, or even sauntering, down the aisles. I know this, because I walked up and down every aisle until I was at the front of the store again, asking one of the cashiers for help in the kitchen section. She pointed me to a guy with a walkie-talkie who promised to help, and then promptly disappeared. I asked another cashier who pointed me to guest services, where walkie-talkie-guy was chit-chatting with an employee. “I’m on it,” he said when he noticed me, and promptly disappeared. I asked another…I’ll cut to the chase. Somebody finally found a mini refrigerator, I paid for it, and a beefy fellow wrestled it into the back seat of my Corolla.

    I drove home.

    Dare I tell you what happened next?

    Remember, I was under deadline. My landlady was packing to come home. She would undoubtedly stock up on food before arriving. I had less than 24 hours to get my new fridge into my cottage, out of the box, allow four hours for it to stand upright before plugging it in because that’s what the directions say, clean it, turn it on, and get it to the proper safe food temperature which takes, oh, twelve hours.

    I decided to get that refrigerator out of the car by myself.

    Granted, this was a mini version, and half my height, but it was twice my weight, or what felt like twice my weight after pushing and pulling and shoving and angling and using forceps to get the dang thing out without breaking my car door. This, I imagined, is what it feels like to give birth. Without the mess.

    I dragged it over uneven pavement to my back door, heaved it over the doorstep, and rocked it down the hall. I clipped the packing straps in two, and started cutting the sides of the box with an Exacto knife before realizing I could lift the box off its base, wrangle the fridge off the styrofoam, and push it into position.


    I hunkered down and opened the small door.

    The photo on the outside of the box showed a variety of food filling the shelves, one item being a jar of Mayonnaise. I should have realized…the jar was Barbie-doll size. Upon closer inspection of said photo, the Mayonnaise jar was no bigger than the Yoplait yogurt crammed next to it.

    This refrigerator had midget shelves.

    The freezer? Huge!

    Obviously, this mini fridge was designed for someone who lived in a man-cave subsisting on frozen dinners and a single stalk of celery.

    I’m a vegan.

    I need a crisper that’s bigger than a wallet.

    I needed to get that refrigerator back in its box, down the hallway, over the uneven pavement, into my car, and returned to Target in exchange for another refrigerator at some other store which, hopefully, had something in stock.

    The clock was ticking.

    I got to work.

    …to be continued.

  2. When Honesty Goes Awry

    June 11, 2017 by Diane

    At work one day, while cutting through the room where my boss was interviewing a bookkeeper, I heard the question we’re asked at every job interview:

    “What’s your weakness?”

    Does anyone answer that question honestly?

    “Well, I’m always late for work, and I’m a slob. I’m a hoarder, too, so my desk will be a mess. Oh, and I like to read books when I should be working. And text friends. And surf the ‘net. And take personal calls. And naps. That’s about it.”

    The bookkeeper answered:

    “I have a hard time working for a place where I don’t feel appreciated.”

    Good answer! I thought, and then, wait, wanting to be appreciated is a weakness? Isn’t that a right?

    How about this answer:

    “I like to be paid on time.”

    It got me to thinking: in what other situations do we avoid honesty? What if we just said it like it is?

    “Do you take this man to be your lawful married husband, for better or for worse—”

    “Can you define ‘worse’?”

    Or how about this classic:

    “Does this dress make me look fat?”

    “Uh, yeah. Pretty much.”

    Okay, so blunt honesty isn’t particularly nice.

    “What’s my weakness? I’m honest to a fault. That tie you’re wearing makes you look like a doofus. When do I start?”

    We’re told to be honest, but along with that expectation comes the understanding that if you can’t be nice, then lie. Or deflect.

    “That dress? What a lovely shade! It brings out the blue in your eyes.”

    Maybe there’s a middle ground for honesty. Something that’s not too honest,

    “I have low self-esteem, because I’m one of twelve children and my parents ignored me.”

    …or not honest enough,

    “My weakness? I’d rather not answer that question.”

    …but just right,

    “That dress isn’t quite as flattering on you as the green one.”

    “My weakness? Not having a prepared answer for that question.”

    Our degree of honesty depends on our relationships. We’re blunt with spouses and family members, but not with co-workers or strangers. Why? Because we know our loved ones have signed on “for better or for worse,” but a stranger might want nothing more to do with us.

    So we lie to be liked.

    Or to be president.

    We just don’t call them lies.

    We call them alternative facts. Because we can’t even be honest about lying.

    I appreciate honesty. It builds trust. On the other hand, if honesty reveals a psychotic personality, how much trust can I muster?

    There’s vulnerability in being honest. We risk losing respect when we admit, “I don’t know, I’m wrong, I made a mistake.” But when we lie to ourselves, we’ve lost something far more valuable.

    Better to speak our truth,

    “I really don’t like working with numbers. But I need this job, and don’t believe there’s something else out there, or something I can get, so I’m willing to settle. That’s my weakness.”

    …just not in the job interview. At home, in front of the mirror, looking ourself dead in the eyes.


  3. How to Go Down When the Ship of Life is Sinking

    May 28, 2017 by Diane

    For the love of God, jump!

    I can’t remember the last time I laughed. I mean one of those stress-busting hearty belly laughs where tears stream down my cheeks and I can’t breathe. In a good way.

    My workplace took a turn for the serious. The ship is sinking. At first it listed. We added more weight to even things out, but all that weight filled the ship with water, and now we’re going down like the Titanic. Some people jumped overboard. Others were pushed, gently and with great sadness, to lighten the load. The rest of us are bailing water like crazy and occasionally getting into catfights.

    There’s a rescue ship on the horizon. We can see it, but it’s not here yet.

    So we offload more weight and strap on life preservers.

    This is the third sinking ship I’ve been on. The first was a travel adventure company that adventured it’s way straight into bankruptcy. The second was a nonprofit that managed their books so badly they didn’t realize they were out of profits until I developed a budget, brought in an ace accountant, and pointed out: the money? It’s gone.

    What’s the common denominator?


    Am I the hex that brings these ships to their nautical knees?

    Or am I just boarding the wrong ships?

    At a writer’s conference one summer, a respected writer/teacher/book reviewer brutally edited my short story. The first paragraph alone was so bloody from the red pen, the page sobbed in pain. I told myself, I’m not a writer, I’m an actress, and marched across the quad to the empty theater, sat in the back row, and cried.

    Wrong ship?

    On Saturday nights, KQED airs movies. This week, it was the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel. As I watched, transfixed, I remembered working on that show in college, watching from the lighting booth every night while lusting over the set construction manager who lusted over one of the dancers. I remembered dancing the ballet sequence in another R & H musical, Oklahoma, when my partner almost dropped me into the orchestra pit. I remembered shimmying on the grocery store checkout counter as Babe Secoli in the musical Working, and belting songs with a cockney accent in The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd.

    I remembered those smells, those roars. My heart yearned for what was missing, like a long lost love. I told myself, that’s the ship I belong on, not this sinking tub I’m on now.

    Here’s the thing. I could bail, but the lifeboat is sinking too.

    It’s not a matter of finding the right vessel for my voyage. It’s a passenger issue.

    I was one of those cats fighting last week. That isn’t me. The real me finds humor in the nutty stuff that drives us nutty. But there I was, snarling, showing my claws, ready to jump. Stress will do that to me.

    I haven’t found the humor in the situation yet.

    However. Until the rescue boat arrives (and it will arrive), I’m committed to going down dancing and singing. I’ll be like those musicians on the Titanic who refused to abandon their instruments, sawing away on their violins as screams filled the air, because as long as they still had breath, nothing had the power to take away their music.