Queso Palooza

One kabillion years from now, when I look back on my career, the work accomplishment I think I’ll be most proud of will be the time that I somehow convinced multiple coworkers to bring me different types of cheese.

Let me set the scene for you. Almost every month, my agency has a potluck lunch to celebrate any employees’ birthdays that occurred during that month. Knowing how much my cheese wife and I adore queso, someone made a harmless-but-genius joke back in June that the next potluck should be queso-themed.

Amanda and I immediately latched on to this idea as though it were a life preserve and we were drowning in the ocean. Our eyes got big. We clapped our hands. We bounced up and down. The joke-maker tried to take her suggestion back, but at this point, it was too late. The toothpaste was already out of the tube.

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The Queso Palooza potluck finally rolled around last Wednesday. Five generous coworkers brought their own beloved queso creations and set up camp in the kitchen. Crockpots occupied every available electrical outlet. Bags of chips were poured into bowls. Some clever human even brought cheesecake for dessert.

It was a lot like how the Mayans used to please their gods by making animal sacrifices. Only, instead of gods, my coworkers were trying to impress two cheese-crazed humans. And instead of animal sacrifices, there were just cheese offerings.

So, to sum it up, it was nothing like the Mayans.

Amanda and I gathered samples of each cheese and sequestered ourselves in the conference room to conduct our official judging business. Regretfully, I was too hypnotized by all the quesos to remember to take pictures of them. But I did take diligent notes!

Queso #1 got us off to an excellent start with a smooth, creamy consistency that didn’t harden even as it cooled. Queso #2 contained white cheese (which we tend to prefer) and poblano peppers.

Appearance-wise, Queso #3 looked more like a chili than a queso, with its liquidy consistency and big chunks of onion and peppers. But it was very flavorful. Like the mad scientists we are, we mixed Quesos #3 and #1 together and found success.

Quesos #4 and #5 were the unique ones of the bunch, as #4 was the only one to be broiled in a skillet (and involve Gouda), and #5 was the only one to contain meat.

All of the quesos had their strengths and weaknesses, but the two we couldn’t stop snacking on were #1 and #4. We ended up awarding the grand prize trophy to Queso #4, which turned out to have been cooked by our supervisor. She triumphantly celebrated her victory.

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Awarded to “The Big Cheese”

Also, I feel like I should mention that all participants were given scratch-off tickets as a thank-you for humoring us, so at least we’re somewhat appreciative gods  cheese-crazed humans.

If you were having a potluck meal and could pick the theme, what would you go with? Breakfast foods? Desserts? Various quesos?

The Reason for the Cheesin’

 

When a Grump Talks about Happiness

Nikki over at A Kinder Way has invited me to participate in The Happiness Tag, a challenge to list things and songs that make me feel light and lovely. She actually tagged me a few days ago, but this somehow went unnoticed by me, so I only learned of it today.

It’s a little funny that I’m being challenged to do this activity today of all days, because I’m a bit of a Grumpy McGrump-Pants at this time. Some things are happening at work that are out of my control, and I guess my resolve is starting to wane. Normally, I’m able to complain about it to my coworkers (lucky them) and move on, but right now it’s bugging me a bit more than usual.

So when I saw the Happiness Tag, a part of me wanted to not participate. When you’re cranky, you don’t want to think about lovely, happy things.You want to cross your arms and make grouchy faces like a four-year-old. You want to knock things over for absolutely no reason, and stare down anyone who objects.

And then you want to set stuff on fire, because you’re a flippin grown-up, and that’s how grown-ups show their irritation.

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Unfortunately, the annoying therapist who lives inside of me decided to make an unwelcome appearance, and encouraged me to participate as a way to (hopefully) get myself out of this charming mood. Real Me started to argue, but then Therapist Me reminded me that I say this stuff to clients, and that I’m a bit of a hypocrite if I don’t do it myself. So then Real Me was like “Whatevs! Get out of here, Annoying Inner Therapist!” And then Therapist Me was like —

You know what, I’ll stop there. Let’s just say that things got ugly.

Long story short, Therapist Me, with all her rational and positive thinking, won out. I grudgingly admit that it’s good for me to remind myself of things that make me feel calm and soothed and happy on a day when I feel none of those things.

So, with that, 5 things that make me happy:

  1. Games – board games, card games, made up games – I like them all! Well, most of them, anyway. Monopoly and Risk can go to hell.
  2. Books – I have a rather large collection that has filled up my bookshelf and is now overflowing onto the floor. The cranky four-year-old in me wants to build a cave out of them and live inside of it.
  3. Food – I have a blog that is 39% about cheese.* You should’ve seen this one coming.
  4. When my friends and family acknowledge my eccentricities in a loving way – when someone calls my car by her formal name (Ellie), when someone buys me earrings depicting my favorite beloved animal, or when someone asks me to recommend a good queso establishment – these are things that put a warm little ball of happiness in my heart. Is that a weird thing to say?
  5.  Stationery and journals with different colors and patterns and designs

* = made-up statistic

…and 5 songs that make me happy, or at least less grumpy:

  1. I Love It (Icona Pop) – The peppiness give me more energy on a happy day, and adds fuel to the fire (in a good way) when I’m angry. It’s like the most positive negative song you’ve ever heard. It’s magic.
  2. Where is The Love (Black-Eyed Peas)- I know the whole thing by heart and like to whip this out as a party trick
  3. Hold Back the River (James Bay) – just ’cause.
  4. Anything by Maroon 5 – I was in 8th grade when they came out, and I’ve loved them ever since. Any song by them puts a little smile on my face
  5. Better Together (Jack Johnson) – my best friend and I long ago proclaimed this to be “our song” and it works like a charm.

As it turns out, Therapist Me was irritatingly correct. Making myself think of these things really did make me feel a little better. Shh, don’t tell her. She’ll never let me live it down.

What sorts of things make you happy, or make you feel a little lighter on a down day? What people or items or places put a smile on your face? Let me know in the comments, or feel free to make your own post about it using The Happiness Tag. I think we could all use a little happiness floating around the blogosphere – and that’s coming from a Grouchy McGroucherson.

Which “Friend” Worked the Most? The Answer May Surprise You

It’s a long-running joke about the television show Friends that the six main characters spend more time drinking coffee at Central Perk than they do actually learning a living.

Personally, I think the lack of work is pretty understandable – the show is supposed to be about a group of close buddies and their struggles and triumphs together, and seeing them at their individual jobs doesn’t allow for those fun interactions to take place.

After all, if they worked all the time, when would they get to play football or poker together? Or crowd in on Chandler’s bathtime? When would they tease each other about having a third nipple, or breaking the porch swing? These are the things we want to see.

Although it makes sense to me that the Friends aren’t often shown working, I was still curious about which one works the most. In order to find the answer, I watched all 236 episodes of the show – episodes I have seen dozens and dozens of times before – and combed over each and every scene for any signs of the characters working.

I took meticulous notes. There was a spreadsheet involved.

It was totally worth the effort.

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So what counts as “work”? Obviously, I included any scene where the characters are shown doing their jobs at their actual work places – whether it’s Monica cooking something delicious at a restaurant, or Ross lecturing to a classroom of students. However, for the purposes of my super scientific study, I counted other types of situations as “work” as well:

  •  Odd jobs that are separate from more consistent employment – such as writing restaurant reviews, temping, spraying cologne on unsuspecting store customers, etc.
  • Discussing  the work day – applies when Friends exit the room, saying they’re “headed to work,” or return home and share a work story with the others
  • Work-seeking behaviors – job interviews, auditions, internships, etc
  • Appearances of work – wearing uniforms (such as Monica’s outfit at the 50s-style diner), or dressed professionally, PLUS carrying work-specific props (such as a briefcase or massage table)
  • Miscellaneous work-related events – includes charity functions, conferences, dinners at boss’ homes, formal work parties, etc – the Friends may not have been paid to be at these events, but were probably still expected to be there
  • Performances – seeing a Friend act on television, or perform in public places (where tip money could be made) totally counts. This one’s specific to Joey and Phoebe.

On the other hand, these more ambiguous references to employment did NOT count toward the tally:

  • Talking about work in general terms – “I don’t like my job” or “I have to work that weekend.”
  • Dressed professionally, but not discussing work in any way, nor carrying any props that might suggest they’re headed to (or coming from) work. We see that you’re wearing a nice outfit, but how do we know you were at work, and not some other dressy event?
  • Non-public performances – singing in other Friends’ apartments does not count

Now that we’ve gotten the boring criteria out of the way, it’s time to reveal our winner and hardest worker. Are you ready for this? Drumroll, please…

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Winner: Rachel
It probably comes as a shock that the character known for being a spoiled rich girl (at least in the beginning) is actually seen doing the most work throughout the ten seasons of Friends. There’s something so fitting about this, actually: the woman left a financially-secure lifestyle behind in order to make a stab at independence, and we get to see her gradually progress from waitress, to low-level employee in a fashion company, to merchandising manager at Ralph Lauren. You go, girl.

Admittedly, Rachel probably never won any Employee of the Month awards, as we often see her sitting on the big orange couch when she’s supposed to be waitressing. And then there’s that whole affair-with-her-subordinate thing. And the falsely-accusing-her-boss-of-trying-to-buy-her-baby thing.

Ironically enough though, Rachel is the only character who never really dealt with unemployment on the show – unless you count the day-long gap between getting fired from Ralph Lauren and hired at Louis Vuitton.
Total days worked in 10 seasons: 137

Runner up: Joey
When trying to convince Chandler to hire him for a role in a commercial, Joey refers to himself as a “chameleon” – and he is, at least in terms of employment. Despite not working quite as much as Rachel, Joey held by far the most jobs: actor, model, sperm donor extraordinaire. The list goes on. Even his acting jobs ranged in prestige from playing Al Pacino’s butt to playing Dr. Drake Ramoray on Days of Our Lives.

Admirably, Joey carried out ALL of these roles with pride. (And with dishonesty, as he lied quite a bit on his resume.)
Total days worked in 10 seasons: 115

Ross
Despite having the most advanced degree of the group, and once enthusiastically proclaiming that he “can’t get enough dinosaurs,” Ross really isn’t seen working all that much. He technically comes in third place in this list, but his number is far behind that of Rachel and Joey’s. Perhaps all of those weddings and divorces got in the way of getting much work done.
Total days worked in 10 seasons: 73

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Chandler
It was a surprise to see Miss Chanandler Bong work so little, considering it’s heavily implied throughout the show that he makes good money as a “transpondster,” and takes his WENUS very seriously. Shockingly enough though, he was the only Friend to go an entire season (the 6th, to be specific) without being seen working at all.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that he truly didn’t work, but we don’t see it taking place, and that’s what counts here. There are plenty of times that Chandler is shown wearing a suit, but with no work story or briefcase to provide supporting evidence, it couldn’t really be included.
Total days worked in 10 seasons: 63

Phoebe
Ah, Pheebs. It’s really no shocker that the free spirit is next-to-last in this study. She held consistent jobs as a massage therapist and Central Perk performer, but a lot of the work we see are side jobs, like catering with Monica or temping as a secretary for Chandler. Of course, it can’t be forgotten that she also held a one-day stint as a life-saving telemarketer.
Total days worked in 10 seasons: 56

Monica
It’s a bit cringe-worthy when the most competitive person in the group comes in dead last. However, although we don’t see Monica working as much, I’d hesitate to call the woman lazy – she cooks and cleans for everyone, gives the best bad massages, and is always the hostess. In a way, Monica was the stay-at-home mom to the other five. Especially when she made lunchmeat foreskins for Joey.
Total days worked in 10 seasons: 50

 

So, fellow Friends fans, what are your thoughts on this list? Could you BE any more surprised by the winner? Which character’s work record surprised you the least?

E.T. No Phone Home

It seems as though everybody has one simple, daily task that they absolutely loathe. Chores like paying bills, or vacuuming: easy, straightforward things that are mundane to 99% of the population, but manage to trip up and befuddle a small faction of people.

Hands down, my dreaded duty is making phone calls.

It’s a task that requires very little to no skill, and yet, I’m terrible at it. In person, I can interact with you like a somewhat-well-functioning human being. I can listen to what you say, provide clues to let you know I’ve understood you (or not), and then reply in an appropriate manner.

I’m a communicating champion.

Sort of.

But get me on the phone, and I turn into a total friggin’ weirdo. Imagine the rigidity of a robot combined with the wide eyes and manic behavior of a hyper Chihuahua, and you have an idea of what I’m like.

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Talking on the phone causes me to instantly develop a disability that I’ll call “Impaired Phone Hearing” – meaning I have totally normal hearing in everyday life, but on the phone, I inexplicably cannot hear or understand half of what people say.

Also, after asking them to repeat themselves 2-3 times, I get worried that I’m bothering them, so I’ll pretend to understand them, even when I don’t.

Grandparent: “Amanda, I need a new kidney and you’re a match. Can I have yours?”

Me (not understanding): “I’m sorry, what did you say?”

Grandparent: “Can I have your kidney? Mine’s not working.”

Me (still not understanding): “Sorry, still didn’t quite catch that.”

Grandparent: “Gimme your kidney.”

Me (giving up): “Erm…alrighty then! Sounds good!”

Note: the above conversation didn’t actually happen. Probably.

Another issue is the lack of nonverbal cues. Facial expressions are an important part of communication, and without them, I’m apparently a social skills disaster. When I can’t see the other person’s reaction, I become paranoid that the mild, harmless joke I just made may have gravely disturbed them, so I back-pedal in an atrociously graceless way.

Parent of child client: “I tried to call you yesterday, but the lady who answered said no one was in the office.”

Me: “Yes, we all decided to just leave and go home for the day!” (Laughs jovially).

Parent is silent for less than half a second. Panic sets in.

Me: “JUST KIDDING! We were off for the holiday!” (Makes loud noise that is half-laugh, half-whimper)

Note: the above conversation actually did happen.

The absence of nonverbal cues mingles together with my Impaired Phone Hearing disability to create a perfect storm of phone awkwardness.

The worst of the stories comes from when I worked at a rehabilitation center, where my entire job involved calling people. All day long, I phoned former clients of the rehab and asked them overly personal questions about their sobriety and employment.

The following is a cringe-worthy phone conversation catastrophe that actually took place:

Me: “Hi, this is Amanda with Such-and-Such Rehab. Is this a good time to answer a few questions?”

Guy: “Uh, how long will it take?”

Me: “Only about five minutes!”

Guy: “Well, actually, this isn’t a good time. My son is dying.”

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Gulp.

His devastating statement kicked the perky attitude right out of me. Based on the information I had about this client, I knew he was young, and therefore, must have had a very young child. I genuinely felt shocked and sad on his behalf.

Me: “Oh, my God. I am so sorry, sir.”

Guy: “Eh, it’s fine.”

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Hmm. Guy on phone sounded remarkably relaxed about his dying child, which only increased my shock and discomfort. I know people grieve in different ways, but who feels “meh” about their kid dying? Several painful seconds passed before I was able to form a polite and professional response.

Me: “Why don’t I just call back at another time. Do you think a month from now would be okay?”

Guy: “Uhhh, you can just call me tomorrow…”

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Confusion riddled my brain. His son was dying today, but tomorrow would be a better time to talk? What could he possibly mean by that? And why did he sound confused, too? What the hell was the matter with this dude? I struggled to come up with a reply.

Me: “Uhh….Nah. It’s… uh, cool if we put the follow-up off for a while. I’ll just call you back in about a month, okay?” Please let this conversation be over now.

Guy: “Seriously, it’s fine. I’ll just charge it tonight and it’ll be good to go tomorrow.”

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…WHAT?!

Oh.

OH.

Turns out, his phone was dying. Not his son. He didn’t even HAVE a son.

The man simply declined the follow-up interview because his battery was going out, and I responded with over-the-top sympathy and offers to give him space.

Please sir, take thirty days to mourn your dying phone. No, no – I insist.

Is anyone else strangely inept on the phone? Please tell me there are more of “me” out there.