Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mass Confusion = Reprieve?

Well, well, well.  All of a sudden, talk of postponing next week's meeting has popped up.

Maybe people were enjoying their summer too much to haul around the ol' required reading.  Me, I was just avoiding it.

The tiny but lovely readership of this blog may recall that my mom offered to host.  The poor dear actually rushed to paint the downstairs ahead of some family obligations that commenced mid-month, and while unfortunately the walls were not cooperative, it gives that nice added conversation piece of a work in progress.  Now that there is talk of postponement into September, the club will have to face the fact that Mom already made plans with certain days--like days the painters are coming--some of which happen to be Mondays.  

Our club organizer sent an e-mail asking for members to reply with availability.  Enter the flurry of responses via the dreaded "Reply All" button.  (Yeah, I know some members want to know what everyone says; me, I'd rather you just collect the responses and tell me what the new date is.)

One of the non "Reply All" users hit reply to the response my mom sent as future hostess explaining her limited availability in September.  Mom forwarded it to me because it was a bit puzzling.

Guess the mysterious author of the reply.  I'll give you a hint.  Her response included the phrases: "Great to talk to you," "you'll be ok [sic]," and "love you!"

I was a little puzzled, too, if that helps you any.


Monday, August 15, 2011

I Joined a Book Club and All I Got Was Drama, Part II

(Be sure to read Part I before continuing to read here.)

Already on the phone, she had hemmed and hawed about my "price" for computer tutoring, to the point where I said, "I don't care, bake me a pie, bartering works for me." Lady, don't say you don't know where to set a price, then make me give you an idea (what I earned as a tutor at school), and then start babbling as if I'd asked for a million bucks.

It was all for naught, anyway, because I realized two things: One, I'd skipped over this version of Office as I went from job to job; two, Jolene's idea of "helping her with her computer" and my idea did not quite match.

Me: So if you want to clean up your mailbox, just go to "Tools" in the menu bar and-
Jolene: [shaking her head and throwing up her hands] Wait, wait, wait!
Me: ?
Jolene: You have to give me more time. I'm not getting it. [sighs, keeps shaking her head and cringing]
Me: ? [to myself: Um, should I not have assumed she has a basic understanding of the program she uses to get her e-mail every single day?]

And that was red flag #2, after she had taken issue with my use of the word "purge" with respect to cleaning up old e-mail. I'll let you guess what got overshared there. (Sometimes, I really wish my embarrassment would make me run rather than stay.)

I think she really had no intention of learning any more about the program, and wanted me to "fix" whatever was bothering her and set things up the way she wanted them. I wish she had spelled that out from the beginning, but then again, I never would have said yes, would I?

Then there was a whole e-mail archiving fiasco because, as I tried to tell her, I was not really familiar with this version of Office. We ran a search for e-mail more than about six months old, her choosing, not mine. I could see from the location labels that the majority were actually in her Deleted Items file, but apparently the file had never been emptied. EVER. Due to some bug in the system, our attempt to move all the old e-mail into a newly created folder wound up placing them all as attachments in a new e-mail. I still have no idea why, but stupid me canceled the e-mail with what I thought were copy attachments. . .

They weren't, according to every forum I searched. Oooops. And while I struggled to get them back, Jolene was making smoothies in a blender and of course offering some to me. When I asked if there was dairy in it, she snorted a laugh. That pissed me off, frankly. Then came the question that always annoys me: "Oh, are you lactose intolerant, too?" "No, I'm actually allergic," I responded. She assures me it's "just strawberries." Still, I politely declined, saying I just had lunch at Mom and Dad's and water is fine. She sets a glass down next to me, anyway. It's pink with flecks of green in it. Again, being polite and going against my better judgment, I took a sip. Between my mixed feelings about strawberries and both the texture and the taste of the green bits, one sip was more than enough.

At that point, I was ready to go home, or at least back to my parents'.  I decided to try the honest route, secretly hoping it would enrage her that I'd lost all those e-mails and she'd show me the door.

"Well, can you call Microsoft?" she demanded, somewhat naively. I did not think so, but I had to make a show of actually doing it while she sat outside eating her lunch. I was starting to get a headache, and I thought it was from stress and frustration. When she came back in, she asked me if I'd tried the smoothie, and I told her I'd taken a sip but it really wasn't for me. That's when she told me she put parsley and protein powder in it. The minute she said "protein powder" my heart sank, because there are a lot of protein powders out there sans lactose but still containing milk. Ugh. My headache sharpened, and I still had no answer Jolene would accept that would make her release me.

Next, I had to call the nice computer guy at the place where I had taken my defunct laptop the day before--he looked up the same answers I did. Then, Jolene put me on the phone with her son, who lives in another part of the state and probably picked up his work phone only because his grandma was in the hospital. Other than a shared laugh at his crack that "those e-mails probably needed to 'go to God' ages ago," we still came up with nothing.

So at last, she accepted that the e-mails were gone, but she still wouldn't let me go. I was feeling awful--in retrospect, I realize it was an allergic reaction--but in the moment all I knew was that I couldn't stop feeling bad and I wanted to cry. And that's when Jolene got under my skin and made some comment about my summer, and I was like, "Everything's wrong, my cat's sick, I've put on grief weight, and I have a million things to do before school starts."

While I might have been mad at myself for letting that slip out, I was even madder when she responded, "You sound depressed." I hate sidewalk psychiatry. It always seems as if people who have been through whatever feel they have ability to see the same things wrong with other people, when in truth a lot of times it's just imposition in the attempt to have something in common and be friends. It's the companion to oversharing.

Somehow, I was able to start the discussion about my departure. I started to tell her that I was willing to waive my fee for the day because I'd made the mistake. . . and then she interrupts me, saying that I really didn't tutor her anyway and that she expected to have some real tutoring next time. At which point I underscored my ineligibility to tutor her, because I did not know enough about the applications, but she just brushed that aside oddly by saying that the only other tutor she had found who could do it was charging $60. (She didn't even want to pay me half that!) With even more frustration making my head boil, I managed to wrap up the conversation by telling her just to call me if she wanted to set anything else up. (I figured that gave her time to get distracted and forget.)

I left the house, but not before helping her push the leaves in her dining room table back in place. As soon as I got back to my parents', I grabbed two aspirin and some iced tea. I spared my mom most of the details, but I said, "Never again." I wound up going home for some antihistamines and sleeping for an hour to shake off the headache and whatever else had hit me.

Friday, an e-mail shows up from her. She wants to drop off a check but doesn't know my address.

First reaction: What!?
Second reaction: No!!!

The remainder of the e-mail is thanking me for being so "open" and she wants to help with my "big D." The only "D" I mentioned was "Diverticulitis" but I'm afraid she means "Depression." There's a doc attached to the e-mail and it's labeled her "story," which I'm guessing she uh, shares in order to sell her supplements.

You hear that sucking noise?

I'm running the other way.

I responded by saying that no payment was necessary. I did not say anything else. I haven't gotten a response yet. I'm almost hoping to keep her at bay via e-mail. But if she shows up at the next book club meeting, I'm trapped.

Or maybe Leona will create a diversion.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I Joined a Book Club and All I Got Was Drama, Part I

Lately I have been questioning the point of book clubs. Do people join them to read more books, to talk about books and reading, to learn about new titles that might be interesting to read, to meet people? All of the above? None of the above?

Since joining this book club, I have read a total of three books (in their entirety, I think) and part of a couple books--not to mention the one title I did not read at all. And no, I have not started the one for this month yet. . . although I was startled to open the local Catholic newspaper this week and find an article featuring a discussion with the author. (Presupposing "an audience that doesn't believe in anything" doesn't do much to up the interest factor for me.)

Aside from getting acquainted with some of the new neighbors in my parents' neighborhood and some of their friends, and re-meeting some people I haven't seen since I delivered their newspaper, the only extended communications I've had with members have been with the strange ones. Honestly, I must be magnet for the drama people.

Like Leona.

And now, "Jolene."

Jolene hosted a couple meetings ago--The Other Wes Moore, a meeting I didn't get the chance to recap here. (I am pretty sure someone tried to call my mom racist during that meeting, too.) And then Jolene was the one pushing people to move the June meeting and attend her event in its originally scheduled place. If you read to the bottom of that post, you'll see that she also was pushing to introduce me to her son but didn't quite know now.

All that stuff going at once makes your head swim, doesn't it? That's what happens when you get involved with Jolene. She sells nutritional supplements. She talks about meditation and going on retreat. Don't get her started about her ex-husband. Oh, and she feels perfectly free to ask you about things she wants you to do for her that sound mutually beneficial but really aren't.

At the beginning of the summer, I was able to fend off the offer of a summer job organizing her business files and papers. It's not really my thing, and I really did not want an intimate view of her business--they say don't mix business with friends, and I was trying to keep her firmly in the "book club friend" category.

But when she called sounding desperate for help with a computer problem, well, those pleas are just too hard to resist. Adding to the allure was the offer to pay me at a time when my little summer job had ended just the week before. (And the air conditioning in the car broke, twice. . . and the cat's special medicine cost twice as much as the other medicine. . . ) I was going away for the weekend, but she pinned me down to the Monday morning after.

Monday morning came, and it took several series of knocks to get her to answer the door. She hid behind it, and I could tell she was half-dressed. Should I have called first? I wondered.

It turned out, she said as she apologized for her forgetfulness, that her elderly mother needed to go to the ER. I understood, I told her, and added that she could just get in touch me with whenever, to set up a new date and time. She already started talking about Wednesday, and I just kind of nodded, figuring it was subject to change.

Well, Tuesday morning, she called. First, we talked about Wednesday. Afternoon, I pleaded, because I had errands to run. (The errands wound up scrapped for a favor to my parents, as the plumber was scheduled to come at a time when both would be out.) However, once we settled that, she started talking about how difficult her mother was but she needed to visit her in the hospital this afternoon. Her brother was tied up but she could really use someone to go with her. I was silent.

Um, me?

Yeah, she asked me to go with her--you know, experience her difficult mother firsthand and act as a support/hand-holder/shield/diversion. Again, BOUNDARIES. "I'm sorry, I already have plans for today," I said. Which I did, but even if I didn't, the plans to save my sanity were in play at the least.

The following day--where of course the plumber showed up three minutes after my dad walked in the door--I ate lunch at my parents' and walked to Jolene's house. I'd be lying if I said the thought didn't cross my mind that things would be canceled again without my knowledge. But she answered the door, and while I can forgive the disorganization that comes with having a family member in the hospital, she had absolutely nothing arranged for me to sit with her or look at her computer or whatever it was that she wanted me to do.

Which I still wasn't clear about.

To be continued. . .

Friday, August 12, 2011

Attack of the Overreaching Book Club Member

Not Leona. Somebody else. Someone who is, well, a little too eager to jump over boundaries, and now the only option is to reestablish them, I guess. I'll say more later, but let me start with this: If I weren't making so little money, I never would have entertained her initial offer of what I thought was giving her a simple computer tutorial.

I wound up coming home with a migraine that day, and now I have an e-mail in my in-box containing an attachment sharing her "story."


Stay tuned. . .