Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Creepy Callers Incident

I used to love those little sneaky one-day holidays. President's day, MLK day, Memorial day, LABOR DAY, etc - holidays that the grocery stores don't go rabid about, and there's no real decorations or family gatherings, but you still get a three day weekend to drink and get into shenanigans.

Except when you don't.

Labor day is no fun when you're the only one of your friends laboring.

This past labor day, my phone illuminated all morning with texts and tweets and instagrams and other forms of communication I can barely finagle.

"Going to the pool?"
"lol sorry awesome BBQ to go to"
"Y go to the pool when you can go to THE BEACH"
"lol LA is so like whatever, NorCal bound!"
"R. Grace where are you?"

"At my desk. Working."

One friend was horrified that I had to work on a holiday, like doesn't that go against the constitution? I had to break it down that I worked technically part-time (38 hours some weeks, but still) in a customer-service position. Christmas and Thanksgiving are the only two days I for sure have off. While everyone else was riding dolphins or sparkler-jousting with celebrities (to my out-of-LA-friends, that's totally what this city is like. All the time.), someone had to make sure their baked goods arrived on time for their fabulous after parties. And that someone... was me.

Also I'd maxed out my credit card and October rent already loomed like a beacon of despair, so I kind of... needed to work. Baffling, I know.

To the Bakery's credit, work started pretty smoothly. A jovial mood permeated the few of us that were present. Most of the calls simply asked if we had regular business hours on Labor day.

I can do this, I thought. I am being responsible and conscientious about supporting my dream! I can still join the festivities after 5pm! (And then I will look better than everyone else because I won't have puffy day-drinking face! Day-drinking face instantly drops a point on the hottness scale!)

Soon it was just me and two other people. I was starting to feel self-pitying, but tried to be extra sunshine and rainbows nice on the phone. Maybe everyone else's Labor Day joy would ooze into me through osmosis. Maybe a studio exec would call for his son's birthday and say, "your voice is perfect for the lead role in Finding Nemo 3, is it okay if I give you buckets of money and also pay for your SAG-AFTRA fees?"

What? It's Hollywood; it could happen.

I got a call from a mom in the midwest... Nebraska maybe? Somewhere where people are supposed to be nice. Her daughter attended school near one of our locations and it was her birthday! So Nebraska mom needed a delivery to her daughter, like, 5 minutes ago. How did I not already know her full order and delivery address and card information, her daughter needed these pastries ASAP OR HER BIRTHDAY IS JUST RUINED, hello?!

I looked at the clock and realized the delivery cutoff happened an hour ago. And with it being a holiday (for everyone else beside me, apparently), our deliveries were jam packed all afternoon/early evening. Ugh. Okay, gentle let-down speech. I actually feel kind of bad, maybe I can check with a store and see if there's any possible way we can have something out...

"What part of I-live-in-Nebraska don't you understand? I can't be there for her so I need to get her these pastries for her birthday / because it's her birthday / I'm in Nebraska / That's far / Do you know how far?"
"I just checked with the story and it looks like deliveries are full..."
"Can't you just bend the rules? Add another one in? It's her BIRTHDAY after all."
"Ma'am, it's a holiday so we're already packed -"
"Your website doesn't say ANYTHING about it being a holiday."

Wait, what? Isn't that just like a common sense thing? I tried to come up with another solution, to be A++ awesome at customer service and save the birthday!

"Do you know any of her friends? There is still space for a pickup in a few hours; maybe you coordinate with someone to pick them up from the store so we can still get those cupcakes to her!" Perfectly logical solution, right? I am A++ the best at customer service, you're welcome world. I could already imagine her thanking me for saving Labor Day/her daughter's birthday/her woeful lack of preparedness...

"No I DON'T know her friends / why would I know her friends / are you not listening to what I'm saying / they need to be delivered / like right now / She can't pick them up either / Then it's not a surprise / she has to be surprised / so what you're saying is my daughter's birthday is ruined / because of you / you are ruining my daughter's birthday / do you even care?"

As my favorite philosopher, Ron Burgundy, once said, that escalated quickly.

Clearly nothing was going to please this woman besides me hand-delivering the pastries directly to her daughter two hours in the past. Since my time machine was on the fritz again (good plutonium is so hard to come by), this wasn't an option.

"Ma'am, I'm sure she'd be just as excited to pick the cupcakes up in person / or even a giftcard so she can select everything herself whenever it's most convenient / I can even transfer you directly to the store so you can speak to a manager -" (the classic pass-off. yell at someone else please.)

"So you're saying my daughter's birthday is ruined?" Where? Where in the last fifteen minutes had I ever inserted the word "ruined?" I have a bit of a southern accent, but usually that just adds a syllable here or there instead of throwing in completely different words.

"I'm saying that there are a couple different options we can try to get these pastries to your daughter this evening."
"But you can't deliver them to her right now?"
"... ... ... " I could not figure out any other combination of the previous sentences to make it clearer. Ummmm....

"Nevermind, I will find another bakery that cares about their customers. You are USELESS. Stupid bitch." Click.

Whoa. My head spun and I couldn't decide what to be offended by first. Obviously calling me a stupid bitch seemed out of line. What is this, Real Housewives of Nebraska? But also, I care about people A LOT. It's the whole being-from-the-south / never-met-a-stranger-just-a-new-friend that more often than not gets me in trouble for being TOO nice. (See: The Salami Suitor Incident). I'd also been in that post-grad, under-employed funk. What use was spending four years of my life studying, thousands of dollars on books and lectures and projects? Was I still, after all that, useless? Maybe Nebraska Mom moonlighted as a political commentator; she sure was good at stringing together untrue statements to destroy my self-worth.

Suddenly, everything sucked. I was useless; this job was un-fun, people were mean, my friends were probably signing acting contracts while riding on giraffes in a private zoo somewhere. Why was I even in LA? What was I even doing with my life? Oh no, existential crisis meltdown on a Monday in the office. Since a kitchen staffer and a delivery driver sat only two cubicles away, just hanging out, I sprinted to the bathroom, locked the door, and kept reactivating the motion-sensor faucet so they couldn't hear me crying. So cool and subtle.

I pulled myself together. After all, I only had an hour and a half left and then I could join my friends in all their fun and revelry. This is always the part in the ABC Family small-town-girl-in-the-big-city movies where something REALLY GOOD happens to restore the girl's hopes and spark her creativity for that one cool project that will get her noticed by her boss AND score the love of her life. I was ready! I was excited! I was...

I was all alone in the office.

Sometime in my sob-spectacular the two remaining guys had left for the day. This usually isn't too abnormal; but as it was a holiday, every one next door (management, hr, fancy not-customer-service staff) had left as well. And someone had turned out the lights in the hallway, casting an eery haze from the frosted windows at the front of the office. Creeeepy.

Adding to the creep factor is the location of this office. Awesome Bakery HQ sat in a rather... unsavory section of Los Angeles, directly across from a strip club and next to a motorcycle shop. Not a place that normal families, celebrating their fabulous Labor Day, would casually stroll past.

But the dead silence and lack of accountability meant I could screw around on the internet uninterrupted. Hello, reddit. All's well that ends well, right? I was getting paid to do nothing after being abused by some Midwestern monster-lady. I could handle this -

RIIIIIIINNNNGGGG

My first phone call in thirty minutes jolted me out of my not-doing-anything haze. Surely this person will be nicer. Surely this person won't swear at me.

In retrospect, I kind of wished they'd dropped a couple F words and just slammed the phone down.

"Thank you for calling Awesome Bakery, this is R. Grace, how may I help you?" Sooo cheery. Suuuch a good employee. The caller ID was blocked, but this is pretty common in LA. Lots of celebs who want their sugary treats without their personal information for some call center drone to gawk at.

"Oh wow. You sound really pretty. Are you at the Beverly Hills location?" AWWW. A compliment! This must be the universe sorting itself out; someone really lovely to make up for that awful lady. We get all the Bev Hills store calls directly routed to us, so we usually just say we are that location.

"Oh yes, this is Beverly Hills. What can I get started-"
"No. I mean it. You sound really, really pretty." Okay, getting a little weird. Uncomfortable pause. Uncomfortable laugh. Let's get this order back on track. LA guys are just super weird sometimes, right?
"Heh heh thanks, now may I get a name for this order?"

The voice changed from just a regular inquisitive dude to something dark and slimy.

"No. I mean it. You sound really pretty. Where are you? I'm going to find you." Breathing.

I hung up the phone immediately and it started ringing again from a blocked number. I would just call my boss on my... dead cell phone. Oh. Crap.

I was alone, in a huge dark office building, with no one nearby, no phone, and no weapons (I knew I should have tucked my crossbow in my purse that morning.) The only person on our office IM chat was the IT guy, who was working on an in-store issue about an hour away. After my frantic messages (Help / creepy stalker / phone is dead / I'm scared / I don't want to die at a bakery / I don't want to die ever / need weapons / help / all alone / gonna die) he offered to swing by the office on his way home... while I sat alone for the next hour and a half. He found my supervisor's cell-phone number and said I could call the Sup, but maybe I should just like... leave?

I was torn. Yes, I wanted to immediately get the hell out of there. But I also REALLY needed this job. Leaving without doing the necessary shut-down, security checks (basically, poking into dark corners in the office. Alone. Cool.) was grounds for a major punishment, if not dismissal. I needed confirmation from someone else, who could be held responsible instead if the higher-ups freaked out.

I called my Sup and the conversation went something like this:

"Hello? R. Grace? How's it going? I'm at this great BBQ right now so I'm gonna -"
"IM GONNA DIE / creepy stalker / creepy phone call / creepy creepy / thought I was in Beverly Hills / dead cellphone / gonna be a dead R. Grace / no weapons / shoulda brought my crossbow."
"Ohhh yeah... we get calls like that sometime. You're probably fine."

WHAT.

"I am ALONE / no weapons / no phone / phone kept ringing / nope nope nope"
"I mean if you don't feel safe, maybe hold on to a pair of scissors? Or... a stapler?"

DOUBLE WHAT.

"I DON'T FEEL SAFE SOMEONE JUST SAID HE WAS GOING TO FIND ME AND THEN BREATHED AT ME."
"Eh, you can go home if you want. It's probably pretty slow now that all the Labor Day festivities are starting to die down."

TRIPLE WHAT.

Not only was the Sup utterly nonchalant about pervs calling, but his advice if I got attacked was... whack them with office supplies? Like have you never watched a crime show? Scissors vs. a blunt object to the head and duct tape didn't sound like the odds were in my favor. And my aim (besides with a crossbow) is laughable - had I tried to chuck a stapler at an approaching murderer's head, I probably would knock myself out in the process, making his job EASIER. Also. I could have gone home if wanted? At any time? All the BBQ and giraffee-jousting and fire-dancing I could have participated in! My heart.

I shut off my computer and the lights as the phone rang again. Nope nope incredible nope. I grabbed BOTH the scissors and a stapler, because I was not going down without a fight. Not only did I not want to die in a bakery's corporate office, but I didn't want to prove Dr. Dad right, in that LA is super dangerous and scary and full of people that want to kill you. I could picture Dr. Dad putting a little slip of paper in my coffin, with his awful doctor handwriting: "I told you so." And then I would be stuck with that for all eternity.

I propped the building door open with my foot and scanned the perimeter. Looked normal, besides the extra rowdy celebrations of the motorcycle shop next door. If I got jumped, would they even hear me over the engine-revving and loud cheers? I hastily set the building alarm.

BEEP BEEP BEEP

Incorrect. In my jitteriness, my brain skittered all over the place, making a few-digit code as complex as the hieroglyphs. Was there a seven in there somewhere? Maybe after the head of Osiris? I had two more tries before I set off the alarm (which I have done before. Ear-splitting shrieks. Flashing lights. The perfect distraction to snatch up a frightened employee and carry her to your evil lair.) Just as a decided to make a run for it, bakery be damned, I landed on the correct code.

I darted outside and jerkily paced the parking lot. No one behind the fence. No one under my car. No one around the industrial freezer. The door had four locks, and after each one I scanned the background again. Nothing. All was clear. I checked under my car for those people that crawl under and slice your Achilles tendons - no one. I check the backseat for a hiding-in-plain-sight strangler. Nothing. No one. I flung myself into my car and flew out of the parking lot... all the way to Wendy's on Sunset Blvd for chili cheese fries.

What? The threat of being murdered makes a girl hungry. Also, not like I needed to look sooo hot in a bathing suit, as most everyone was done with their holiday celebrations. I started ugly-crying while eating my fries, so stressed out and icked out and prickly uncomfortable. I realized it was pretty hard to drive while eating fries with one hand and clutching a stapler in a death-grip in the other... so I put the stapler down so I could two-hand-attack the fries. Ahhh. Beautiful greasy stress relief.

I quit shortly thereafter and vowed to never eat baked goods again. That lasted maybe a week. But there is still a stapler that sits in my glove compartment... just in case.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Oh no, minnow! Incident

I really, really hate fishing.

Of course, it's Dr. Dad's favorite pastime. And one of Lil Watz's tops too. For about five years, if you searched Lil Watz's real name on Google, there'd be a picture of him and Dr. Dad, holding a giant shad or something that they caught in a competition. I don't understand. I've been exposed to the slimy creatures (the fish, not the male half of my family heh heh) since roughly birth. Fishing is boring and fish are gross.

Making us learn how to properly hold a rod, cast, etc. It's a miracle Lil Watz never got a hook in the eye.
One day in my idyllic angst-ridden teenage years, we went down to the river. Lady Mother claimed her spot on the towel, brandishing her SPF 1000 sunscreen tube like a scepter of uncool-paleness. [Lady Mother would insert that her and Lil Watz are terribly sensitive to sun, and she's gotten sun poisoning on more than one occasion. I say: LAME.] She would read her specifically-for-the-beach trashy mysteries or "bodice-rippers," which I think is a much more to-the-point name for the "Harlequin Romance" genre.

Dr. Dad manned the multiple rods, some for trawling, some with special bait, some fly-fishing (what we are probably practicing in the above picture). Dr. Dad totally RUINED the hip new style of feather hair extensions for me, because I'd been playing with those bright neon strips of feather (and let's be real, probably accidentally super gluing them to my head) since I was a wee babe. I bet Ke$ha's dad made her learning how to whip a rod for fly-fishing when she was a wee stripper babe and she got the fly stuck in her hair.

I sulked around the perimeter of the beach. NO, I didn't want to talk to Lady Mother about my friends and life. NO, I didn't want to cast a line. NO, I don't want to gut a fish. Can Lil Watz and I walk down to the tackle store for another ice cream sandwich? WHY ARE THERE NO CUTE BOYS HERE WHAT IS THE POINT?! Laying out was dangerous because Lady Mother would try to spray me with sunscreen and ask about my personal life; swimming was dangerous because I could get a hook in the eye. Ughhhh family times sucks I hate everything geeeeez.

I'm so glad to be done with my teenage years.

After sufficiently bitching through the entire trip, we finally packed up to drive home. Dr. Dad, that cruel fiend, would not stop at the Burger King to get me a milkshake. What a JERK. Can you believe this family? Cruel and unusual punishment.

We finally got home and I had somewhat of a change of heart. I guess it wasn't that bad... I got a bit of a tan, and I think the college-age cashier winked at me. Also, if I helped unload the car, that meant I would garner enough good-daughter points to get out of the next trip. Or at least get $10 to go to the mall later that night. Clearly, I had great motivations for helping my parents unpack.

I skipped around to the back of the car, suddenly soOoOo cheerful and helpful and productive. Aren't I the best daughter ever? Don't you just want to forget my entire day of complaining and avoiding you and shower me with rewards? Teenage logic is the best!

I carried in probably one beach chair and a towel before I realized carrying things sucked and Lady Mother probably wasn't going to drive me to the mall afterward because she was TIRED and wanted to READ MORE. So selfish. Ugh. Whining: resumed.

"Why do I have to carry stuff / I didn't even use any of this / YOU were fishing so YOU carry in YOUR fishing stuff / I hate you / I didn't want to go to the river anyway / Why can't we have a cool beach house on Topsail / who even goes to the river / you are so lame / I hate everything / wah wah wahhh"

Finally, in his never-ending patience (ha, just kidding, more like to shut me up because I can be REALLY ANNOYING), Dr. Dad consented if I'd carry in one more thing to the garage, I would be done. It was a trip of probably ten feet, since we were parked right in front of the garage. Ugh. Usually I don't negotiate with terrorists, but I GUESS I can do this huge act of service and go so totally OUT OF MY WAY to do this HORRENDOUS TASK.

I dragged myself around to the back of the car, to see a pile of fishing gear and assorted styrofoam containers. Everything smelled and everything was slimy, especially my family. Lil Watz hoisted the heavy styrofoam containers of tackle/wire/line/parts/who knows what else, like a jovial little imp, because he is the best child and I am the mean awful horrible teenager. I set my sights on one decent-sized styrofoam container and prepared for a heavy load of tackle and... knives? I don't know. I yanked it up and suddenly realized it was far too light to be gear...

so light that my yanking far overshot the balance of the contents, flipping the container upside down and right onto my head.

What did I dump on myself? Not hooks, not knives, not wire - though all of those things would have been preferable...

MINNOWS.

Hundreds and hundreds of minnows, in just enough water to keep them swimming, dumped squarely on my head. I'd grabbed the live bait box.

Minnows down my shirt. Minnows in my hair. Minnows in.. my mouth? I screamed with full bodied-teen rage and flung the empty container across the driveway, jumping and shaking and trying to scrape the minnows off of my suntan-lotion-sticky body... while my jumping crushed them underfoot.

"R.Grace NOOOOO.... SAVE THE MINNOWS..." I could vaguely hear Dr.Dad yelling at me from the confines of my personal hell. I didn't care that this was probably $40 of fresh bait and that he was going fishing again tomorrow - I was covered in slimy fish water, surrounded by dying fish wiggling and hopping around the pavement - every time I stepped or moved, I squashed another one. I was trapped. Trapped and oozing and surrounded by little flailing bodies gasping for air.

Dr. Dad and wunderkid Lil Watz ran up with another styrofoam container filled with water and started scraping the fish off the ground and off my body. My shrieking and wailing brought the neighbors outside (probably less concerned about abuse and more general entertainment). I ran into the house and up the stairs to my shower - minnow bodies flopping off and leaving a trail of fish guts stuck to my feet.

I could not get the water hot enough to burn off the fish slim (though I definitely burned off a few layers of skin, making the angry eczema monster awaken in full rage). I actually did the "Rinse, Repeat" that the shampoo bottle recommends. I punctuated the entire shower with "I HAAAATEEE YOUUU"s I wailed out, to no one in particular, as the rest of my family was still unloading the car / holding hundreds of tiny funerals for the fallen fish.

After scrubbing my flesh raw, my heart softened ever so slightly. Maybe this harrowing ordeal wasn't my family's fault. Maybe togetherness and family time wasn't that bad. Maybe if I showed some repentance, I could still get a ride to the mall after all.

The Watz family is weird and awful and embarrassing, but maybe they aren't really that bad...

I crept downstairs, clean and clothed, with the right mix of remorse but-really-I'm-right on my face. It appeared my family was just finishing unloading the car (whew, at least I dodged carrying all that crap). Lil Watz turned around with a smile - maybe if I could make peace with the "better" sibling, my parents would be more likely to bend to my wishes and take me to the mall...

Lil Watz held out something to me... a peace offering? Wait... why were his hands all red...

"Look, R. Grace! A minnow heart! It popped right out of one of the fish you stepped on! It's still beating!"

I was holding a minnow heart in my hand.

A beating, bloody heart, on my just-washed hands.

I screamed and flung the heart on the pavement. It squashed and subsequently stopped beating, but splurted fish blood on my feet. Lil Watz loudly wailed at I always ruined everything. Brat.

I sprinted away, through the backyard and up the stairs, back into the shower. My parents' laughter drowned out my infuriated yelling and the pounding of the water. I didn't even want to go to the mall anymore, because how could I ever wash off the filth? How could I ever go out in public again? How could my family be so incredibly gross?

The Watz fam really was THE WORST.

Ugh.



Sunday, November 24, 2013

The very worst date ever incident

Sometimes first dates are awkward.

Sometimes first dates are bad.

Sometimes they are the VERY WORST.

A shining pillar of awfulness, that you can forever compare future sushi/italian/ethiopian dinners with unappealing starving artists/office drones/actuaries so no matter how bad, no matter how hopeless you feel the dating scene is in your mid-twenties, at least it wasn't THAT BAD. This one particular date I'm about to describe... it was that bad.

Halfway through college, I found myself suddenly single, after my super-serious-totally-going-to-be-together-4ever relationship dissolved. Although I ended things, I didn't take it well.

Like the protagonist no one likes in a Thomas Hardy novel (I'm looking at you, Tess of the D'Urbervilles), I took to my bed. And moped. And moped some more. And then slept twelve hours. And moped again. I think I cried some, too.

Then I got really bored of being sad, but I couldn't quite snap myself out of it. Since I don't do "moderation," I swung wildly in the opposite direction and bought a one-way ticket to New York City for the next day. I was sooo bohemian and cool, sleeping on a friend's couch in Greenwich Village and wandering the streets by day. I visited the kickass theatre company I'd interned with the summer prior, where I received the best life advice I've ever come across:

"I know you are sad but you look GREAT. You should breakup with people more often. Especially if it brings you here."

I was strong! I was cool! I was empowered! I was bold and fabulous and like sooo New York! I was never, ever going back to North Carolina to face reality!

Just kidding, I had a project due on Tuesday and my partner was furious with me.

So back I went, but with a full heart and empty bank account! Yes to trying new things! Yes to saying yes!

In theory, at least. In reality, I was still crying A LOT and sad A LOT and eating A LOT of frozen yogurt.

A few days later, a guy friend (We will call him... Jean-Claude, because I'm obsessed with the JCVD volvo commercial right now. Those LEGS.) suggested we grab dinner before my play rehearsal so we could catch up.  Nothing signaled "ALERT DATE ALERT." Jean-Claude was twice my age and getting a PhD in some sort of science I can't even pronounce. We'll say it's ADVANCED MATH. He was cool and smart and European (swoon) and "just wanted to cheer me up."

Okay, maybe I should have gotten a hint.

The dinner location was a surprise (red alert! red alert! chances of this being a date = HIGH) but I had four hours of play rehearsal afterward so we only had about an hour. He arrived at my apartment in a button down and nice shoes. I was wearing sweatpants. It dawned on me that this might be a date, but I immediately shook off that ridiculous notion.

We arrived at a little vegan restaurant tucked away in the back of a shopping center. I think it was named Blooming Lotus or Tofu Rivers of Desire, something earthy and creepily too-sexual-for-a-restaurant. Because we were eating around my rehearsal schedule, it was about 4pm and the place was completely DESERTED. The one other person in the restaurant, our waiter, Herman, also happened to be in my acting class, and seemed shocked that people were actually in the building. He explained the specials in excruciating detail, down to the last bean sprout. I bit my lip and examined the fancy plates and multiple forks, suddenly hearing the Akbar-ian shriek in my mind: IT'S A TRAAAP.

I was on a date.

Growing up in the south, I always admired the possum's approach to confrontation: play dead. I decided to keep acting as if I had NO CLUE that this was DEFINITELY A DATE and thankyouheavensabove that I had a strict gotta-be-at-rehearsal deadline.

"Sooo... why'd you choose a vegan restaurant? It's really cool; I never would have thought of something like this." I was praying Herman would come back so I could have him re-explain the appetizers or talk about vegan cheese.

"Well I noticed your eating habits are disgusting so I wanted to teach you a lesson."

What.

WHAT.

To Jean-Claude's credit, my eating habits ARE disgusting. I mostly survive on macaroni and pizza. Jean-Claude had made a similar comment a few months earlier, at my beach birthday party, as I was touting the merits of beanie-weenies (which are freaking amazing, thankyouverymuch). And he is a health nut. But still. We were alone in a restaurant, and he was wearing nice shoes, and he called me DISGUSTING. Also, "teaching someone a lesson" should be reserved for grandpas. Or kinky bdsm things. Neither of which were going on at this dinner.

Herman the waiter magically appeared, saving me from trying to come up with a response. I had him compare and contrast the soups. I asked HIS favorite dish. I asked about our homework and how his final project was coming along. I asked about his family.  Maybe I could stall for another forty minutes. But alas! One other couple had entered and needed to be seated. They were young and in love and looked like they probably loooved zucchini noodles.

I ordered a "loaded baked potato," which was an insult to baked potatoes everywhere, as it contained neither cheese, nor sour cream, nor bacon bits, nor hearty meaty chili.  I think it was a potato FILLED WITH MORE VEGETABLES. What a travesty. It's not like I was living in LA yet, where everything is kale and quinoa (even our vodka!) - there were at least two burger joints within walking distance.

Our waiter left us to pluck our meal from the tender grasp of God's green earth. Trying to keep the conversation off of myself, lest he find anything else wrong with me, I tried to ask a lot of questions about his life. That's a great date thing, right? Be interested, try not to roll your eyes too much? I am NAILING this single thing.

"So... ADVANCED MATH... PhD... that sounds... very intensive. What is your dissertation on? Or is it a comprehensive project sort of thing?" I know nothing about ADVANCED MATH, and if I were to get a terminal degree it would be an MFA in theater, so I have very few touchstones for either academia or science. But I thought my questions belayed the right amount of polite interest, and I might learn something.

"You wouldn't understand. It's very theoretical and requires a complex understanding of quantum mechanics and calculus and -" My eyes began to glaze over as a wave of pretentiousness crashed over me, threatening to drown me with how much smarter/better/healthier he is. I zoned out to the charming lilt of his European accent, pretending it was compliments or something - love may cover all wrongs, but a fancy accent definitely covers a couple on its own.

You may be wondering why I've stayed and put up with this foolishness for so long. The R. Grace of previous stories would have zinged back with a couple witty retorts, accidentally spilled tofu all over herself, and left in a blaze of glory and tahini sauce. I was snarled between two pathetico strands of thought: 1) Maybe this was how normal people dated, and I was overreacting, and 2) Causing a scene and leaving would require a whole lot of effort that I'd rather reserve for moping later. Both of these were incorrect, and I should have just stormed out in full gusto. However, I stayed, paralyzed in my uncomfortableness. Well, paralyzed except for picking at the saddest baked potato sitting in front of me. What the hell was on it? Squash curls? Bean sprouts? It tasted like grass.

Oh no oh no oh no. I had paused too long silently bemoaning my sorry estate. Jean-Claude took it upon himself to move the conversation forward.

"You're double-majoring, right?" Aha! That makes me sound intellectual and well-rounded. Maybe this date is salvageable! 
"I'm getting a degree in journalism and a degree in dramatic art, and I'm in a documentary theater production right now that really gets to combine those two!" Drawing connections between my two fields, showing that I'm actually pursuing them, A++ maybe this date could turn around!

"I don't understand why you're in the arts... it's not like you're benefitting society in any way."

Silence.

Disbelief.

Rage. 

I thought nothing could reawaken the old R. Grace from her heartbreak stupor. I was destined to drift, a shell of a girl, whining and weeping through every froyo place in collegetown. I assumed coming across my true love my rouse me from my haze (jk I'm going to die alone, sadness), but I was wrong. Insulting everything I loved / basically saying I was useless shocked me back into the world of the waking.

I put my fork down. I was done with this baked potato with a side of bullshit.

For the remainder of the dinner, we loudly argued about the merits of culture, human experience, academia (as my first response was, how are YOU benefitting society if you're in school for a decade? Not my best line. I was rusty.), work, money, etc. Our worldviews directly clashed in almost every way. Everything I held dear, he thought was frivolous and wasteful. Everything he valued, I thought was arrogant and self-serving.

I glanced at my phone and realized rehearsal began in five minutes. For those not in the theatery world, being late to rehearsal is unacceptable. Like, 20 lashes and walk the plank unacceptable. I'd just been brutally arguing for twenty minutes; I didn't want to be yelled at for the next twenty. I strongly urged that we get the check and leave now / like right now / like we should already be in the car / let's go / right now / no I don't want dessert / especially vegan dessert / can we go / right now / NOW

To his credit, Jean-Claude did pay for dinner. Considering I had three bites of the award-winning lamest potato, I thought the restaurant should have paid me for a thoroughly underwhelming dinner.

We drove to the theatre in near-silence. I anxiously writhed in my seat, praying that maybe his advanced math skills could time warp us there faster. He slowly pulled up to the curb and I bolted out in ecstasy to finally escape...

"R. Grace?" I turned, thinking maybe I had dropped something in Jean-Claude's car like my dignity, ugh.

"I want to take you on a real date next week."

What was this? A fake date? A clever ruse? A deconstruction of my self worth? And now he wanted to repeat this experience with... more vegetables? Absolutely not. I'd never been so insulted and angry and now I'm definitely late to rehearsal. No! Never! Beyond not every going to happen nope no way no no no....

"uh yeah sure gotta go" and then I sprinted away into the theater.

What? I don't know how to say no.

After rehearsal, I went out with my castmates, reveling in art and whatnot. We stumbled upon on of the best burger places in town / the world. After my blahpotato, I thought I deserved it.

I got a burger. Rare. Extra cheese. With an egg on top.

And it was good.