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Last night, we decided to do something different and go see a jazz and poetry performance at the Casa da Fernando Pessoa. But, since it was sandwiched between Gabe’s weekly meetings with his students, we left late and would’ve had to return early. When we realized that it was much further than we’d thought, we ended up just walking around the neighborhood instead. Oh well. I did take some great pictures of the walls and graffiti we saw though, just to prove the point of yesterday’s post:

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Had we not come home early though, we would not have been treated to the privilege of meeting two of our downstairs neighbors. Our building is set up kind of oddly — there are four flats in the main building, of which we are at the bottom. A flight of old, bowed stone stairs runs under our flat (taking out a large chunk out of our square footage) down to a number of small studio apartments below, which were once the prayer cells for the nuns who lived here.

Since we can see the studio roofs from our back windows, I thought they were all out behind our building, and hadn’t realized that there was anyone underneath us. I have in fact been grateful that there wasn’t, since the person upstairs from us sounds like an elephant, and I wouldn’t want to inflict that on anyone. (I can hear him getting up now, in fact.)

However, as it turns out, we too have been elephants dancing on somebody’s ceiling. As we were chilling out with more recorded Olympics last night, someone buzzed our doorbell. When Gabe went to get it, he was greeted by what was clearly a well-rehearsed and long pent-up tirade from the French woman that lives in the flat below. Whoops. She said she can hear everything we do, including shutting the door and turning on the light switch, so could we please be a little more mindful?

Gabe, being the friendly, easy-going guy that he is, said sure, no problem, and then tried his best to be friendly to her, asking her which flat she lived in, where she was from, etc. She was having none of it though, as she had clearly been working herself up into making this confrontation for quite some time, and was totally unprepared to be greeted with amiability. Instead she just said, “You stay up very late and get up very early, no?” Gabe admitted that well yes, he stays up late and I get up early. Again… whoops.

In our defense though, Gabe makes a huge effort to be quiet at night so as not to wake me up, and I do the same for him when I get up in the morning. So I’m not exactly sure what we can do to improve the situation, other than maybe switch the lights off more quietly. But we can try our best. Poor French lady.

About an hour later, Gabe was in his second meeting of the day when the doorbell rang again. Convinced it was the same lady, I sighed and went to the door. No, this time it was a different downstairs neighbor, or at least one of their landlords, who needed to ask us a question about our flat. I chatted with him for a while, and it turned out he was from South Africa. He also told me that there are a total of thirteen flats in our building — and only four of them are in the main building that we live in. So how many tiny studios are there downstairs?! You do the math! Holy crap. No wonder she’s unhappy with our loud light switching and door closing.

So after five months of living here, we have finally met two people from downstairs, less than an hour apart. And we now know that out of all the people who own or rent in our building, there are at least two French people, a South African, a family of Anglicized Portuguese (our landlords), a regular Portuguese guy (who is our own elephant), and of course us, the two Americans. What an international community, all crammed into this one small building!

And to think — had we made it to the jazz and poetry performance, we would’ve missed these fascinating revelations, and the lady downstairs would’ve had to keep her tirade pent up for another day. What a shame that would’ve been.

On Saturday, our tour of the Moorish castle and the Palacio da Pena was haunted by a group of four young American exchange students. I knew that’s what they were because try as I might, I couldn’t help but overhear their loud conversations saying as much. The two girls were kitted out in skirts, leggings, big scarves, and tall boots, while the guys were dressed at their nattiest, with slicked hair, leather jackets, and fancy decals on the back pockets of their jeans. One of them was even wearing aviator sunglasses (on a rainy day) and a big cross pendant with fake diamonds. Nice touch.

At first, they were mildly entertaining. When they passed us on the way out of the Moorish castle, one of the girls was saying, “You know, Madrid and Barcelona were like, the same, so like, I didn’t care which one I went to.” Right. Two major European cities, with centuries’ worth of history. Exactly the same. Sure. We had a laugh over that, and forgot about them.

Until we ended up right behind them on the tour of the palace. They dissolved into laughter after peeking into one of the rooms on the ground floor, and one of the girls said loudly, “That painting looks like Abraham Lincoln naked!” Oh jeez. Really, I’m so proud to be an American, I can’t even tell you. We hurriedly bypassed them, skipping a few rooms, and went up the stairs in search of my half brother and sister, who had gone ahead of us while we bought tickets.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the last we saw of these four. Since we had left the palace after it closed, there was a huge crowd of people waiting for the bus to go back down to the city, and we couldn’t all fit onto the first one. So we waited around in the cold for fifteen minutes til the next bus came. When it did, I quickly pushed my way on and found a seat, and Gabe came to stand in front of me when he got on the bus some time later (I don’t deal well with waiting in big lines.)

To my regret, the two American guys ended up standing right beside me, so I was privy to both the blinged-out cross and their inane conversation. The girls got seats further back in the bus, so the two guys took the chance to gossip about them and puff their chests out a bit. “I think she likes me, dude. Why would she do that if she didn’t like me?” I didn’t mind at first, as I always think it’s funny to find out that guys talk about girls as much as girls talk about guys.

Pretty soon though, their conversation got obscene and really distasteful, and I gritted my teeth and grimaced out the foggy bus window as they got more and more crude. Finally, I’d had enough. I turned to them and said, “Hey guys, other people can understand your conversation here. Some of us speak English and know what you’re talking about, so why don’t you save that conversation for later, OK?”

The shock on their faces told me I’d judged correctly: they thought they were safe to talk like that on a crowded bus because they’ve grown used to assuming that no one can understand them. I remember doing the same thing when I was nineteen and living in France — my friends and I thought English was our secret language, and used it to gossip just as we did in French back at home. In a suburban community in the south of France, it was usually a fairly safe bet that we spoke too fast for most people to understand. But at a major tourist destination, it’s slightly different.

To be fair, although they continued talking about their girl friends, their conversation did clean up after that. I turned back to the window, embarrassed and somewhat shocked at myself. I felt like such an old prude, correcting young boys for their language, unable to handle their posturing and attempts to feel tough. But I had to say something, as I didn’t want them to think that treating girls that way was acceptable — and I certainly didn’t want that to be the image other people have of Americans!

In the past, I would’ve just continued to grit my teeth, no matter how much their conversation bothered me. But I think that our time here has raised my standards in terms of respecting women, and I couldn’t just let it slide.

European men are indeed more open about their appreciation, which I think puts a lot of Americans off. Yes they look, and sometimes they even flirt, as one of the trainers at the gym did yesterday. But other than the man who tried to grab my ass in the grocery store, I have been treated with nothing but respect and honor by every man I have encountered here. To me, that kind of open appreciation is a whole lot better than the sly, secretive perversion I heard from those two boys on the bus, which is more or less what I grew up with and took for granted for most of my life.

In fact, it wasn’t until I met Gabe that I realized it didn’t have to be that way. He is an exception to the American rule, an old-world kind of guy, one who opens doors, pays for dinner, and pulls out the chair for you to sit down. At first all of that bothered me, but I’ve grown to take it for granted now as a sign of the respect he holds both for me as a person and me as a woman.

It was with all of this in mind that I scolded those two boys, prudish and old lady-like as it made me seem. I’m sure none of what I said actually made a difference, but I felt it was my responsibility to show them just once that it wasn’t acceptable to treat women in that way. Unfortunately, the girls they were talking about probably had no such compunction, as so often in our culture, the bad guys do get the girls. Sigh.

Of course the four of them then ended up on the same train car as us on the way back to Lisbon, but thankfully they sat at the other end. Instead I was treated to overhearing another group of American students, who were sitting at the our end of the car. Although their conversation was innocuous, even their accents made me cringe. I was certainly not feeling proud to be an American at that point, and couldn’t wait to get back to Lisbon, where I could safely tune out all the conversations around me.

I’m telling you — kids these days. No respect for their elders. Or their women. Or themselves.

It seems like Tuesdays are my days for setbacks recently. Once again, I stubbed my cultural toe yesterday, and this time much more painfully, ending in tears on a street corner after spending twenty minutes with what felt like an entire store full of people all glaring at me and scoffing at THAT American.

Yes, last night I was that tourist in line that everyone hates — the one who doesn’t know what they’re doing, who is insensitive and dumb, doesn’t speak the language, etc. And I spend so much of my time and effort trying NOT to be that person. Alas.

The day was for the most part normal — work, writing, gym, and a great Portuguese lesson where we discussed the life of the Portuguese national poet, Fernando Pessoa, and the history of the dictatorship here. Even though I was too fascinated to bother with speaking Portuguese for most of the time, I still learned a great deal. At this point I have more or less given up on actually learning the language, and instead am seeing my lessons instead as an exercise in cultural and social research. Far more entertaining and productive that way.

So it was with a smile and a jaunty step that I headed out into the relatively mild evening, Rachel Maddow on my iPod, sunset on the horizon. I was planning to head to the grocery store and then meet Gabe somewhere along the way so that he could help carry the bags.

I did my usual round of the store near my tutor’s house — fruit, limited veggies, cereal, lots of dairy, eggs, etc. I greeted the checker, got ignored as usual, and bagged all my stuff as she rang it through. She finished and told me the total price, which came to roughly 19 euros. I pulled out my wallet, opened it, and found two five euro notes. Ten euros. Nothing more.

Shit, I said. Shit shit shit.

Now, a brief explanation here: since I’m not on our Portuguese bank account, Gabe has our only bank card. To avoid the brutal conversion rate, he just pulls enough cash for both of us out of our Portuguese bank account. (Yes, I am a kept woman. And I like it.) Usually I’m good about noticing when I need more cash, but this time I hadn’t realized that I was getting low. And more importantly, I learned very early on that no one takes credit cards here. We are lucky if they take our Portuguese bank card, and many places don’t even do that.

In other words, I was stuck. There was a line of people already building up, all my groceries were already in my bags, and the woman was waiting impatiently for me to hand over the money so she could get on with the job she so clearly hates.

In other words, once again: shit.

I told the girl I didn’t have enough money, which caused her to sigh hugely in exasperation. No, I only have ten euros. No, I don’t have a multibanco card. (Note: she specifically asked me if I had a bank card, NOT a credit card.) I tried to explain that my husband was coming shortly with more money, so she could just cancel the whole transaction and then I would wait for him to arrive.

Everything?” she asked in disbelief. “You want me to cancel everything?”

Quickly I backpedaled and said, “No, just up to ten euros is fine.” So she said, OK fine, and angrily started running my items back through the register, one by one.

Of course to do this she had to ring a loud buzzer to call the manager up to the front, which only called more attention to my predicament. “We have a stupid American without enough cash on aisle one! Stupid American, aisle one!” The line was all the way back into the aisle by now, and they were all staring at me in curiosity, although it hadn’t yet turned to resentment.

That soon changed as the checker had to laboriously hunt back through the receipt to find the code for every single item she’d rung through. I again tried to explain in stilted Portuguese that my husband would be arriving soon, and she replied (in even more stilted English), “Stop. I just need you to… stop.” OK! Jeeeeez!!!

By now she had closed off her line and called one of the other checkers up to open the other register, but the bottleneck I’d created was still lined up back into the aisles. To make things worse, I knew that the other checker was way nicer than this one, and also understood English. If only he’d been working the register when I came through! If only!

So we stood there, me in agonized silence, her in total frustration, with the line of people at the other register still either glaring at me or peering over in curiosity. Either way, I was the spectacle of their evening — especially when she again had to buzz the manager up to the front, who proceeded to help her ring all my items through, the register beeping and whining multiple times for each one.

It was like every noise and movement they made was a neon sign pointing to my head saying, “This is THAT American! This is THAT tourist, who you pity and at the same time hate for holding up your evening!” Ahhhh! I really wanted to crawl under a rock and die. But I also really wanted my yogurt and fruit and eggs, and I wanted to be able to shop at this store in the future, so I couldn’t just walk away and forget the whole thing.

So I stood there, and wished with all my heart and soul that I was somewhere else, or that the nice English speaking boy had been the one to ring me up, or that I had waited for Gabe, or that I had asked him for more cash, or done ANYTHING differently to have avoided this hideously embarrassing situation. But I hadn’t, so there I stood, looking like a total idiot.

Finally, after all the items had been rung back through and piled up on the conveyer belt, she looked at me and once again asked if I didn’t have a multibanco card. I said no, my husband has it, all I have is a Visa. At this she rolled her eyes and said incredulously, “We take Visa!”, gesturing imperiously at the sign all the way on the other register saying that yes, you stupid idiot, they did take Visa. Fan-bloody-tastic. They take Visa. Great. Of course they do!

Just at that moment, my savior Gabe walks in, with his money and his Portuguese. Suddenly the checker is much nicer and far more forgiving, and proceeds to ring everything back through yet again, waving off his far more fluent apology as if it were no big deal. Nice, lady, real nice.

As she was doing so, I happened to notice that there was an item left in my second bag that I hadn’t seen before, so she hadn’t returned it. At this point I really didn’t want to know what she’d do if I asked her to go back and return one more item, and I really just wanted the entire experience to be over with, so I just shut the hell up and didn’t say a thing.

So in the end, after we’d paid and finally FINALLY left the site of my twenty-minute long humiliation, after all that… I ended up getting a free four pack of yogurt (which only cost about a euro anyway.) Normally I would’ve felt terrible, and I still kind of do. But under the circumstances, I couldn’t help but feel that it was some kind of poetic justice. I will eat every one of those yogurts with gusto, knowing that I earned their illicit goodness with every minute of that excruciatingly embarrassing ordeal.

I know that in the grand scheme of things this was a minor blip on the radar, and even an hour later, I could laugh about it on the phone with my mom. But in a world where small triumphs are the only ones you have — successfully negotiating the gym, the grocery store, or the post office, for instance, or even ordering a meal — minor setbacks can also take on disproportionately large importance. As Gabe said, it was a cultural stub of the toe: it stung far more than it should have.

But I survived to tell the tale, and as I’m learning, that is really all that matters. At least it makes for good blogging material, right?

Most of my day yesterday was perfectly normal and pleasant. I went for a swim in the morning, studied Portuguese for a while, talked to my mom on Skype, then took a different, longer way to class so that I could do a bit of exploring on the way. Class went well, although once we get beyond simple thoughts and opinions in Portuguese, it’s far too easy to lapse back into English. Alas.

As I was walking home through the warm, drowsy sunlight of the late afternoon, I had such a huge sense of well-being, enjoying every new run-down building I came across, really soaking it all in and almost pinching myself as I thought: I really live here!

All this was blown apart, however, by one chance encounter with a pig of a man in the grocery store. I debated whether or not to write anything about it here, but I think it serves as an example of something I haven’t really touched on yet: Portuguese men’s attitude toward women.

This particular man was the worst I’d encountered yet — one of those people who just takes up a lot of room, physically and psychically. As a result, he dominated the entire tiny grocery store that I stop in on my way home from class: talking loudly on his phone, making comments to the guy working there, and taking up as much room as physically possible in each narrow aisle. It seemed that every time I turned a corner, there he was, blocking my way and then forcefully brushing by me, even when there was plenty of room on the other side.

At one point, he pulled this little trick while he was walking behind me, which resulted in the back of his hand oh-so-nonchalantly swiping my backside as he walked by. I’m sure if I’d confronted him he would’ve played the innocent, but it was clearly an intentional accident. As it was I was so astonished that I just turned around and gaped at him as he walked away, outraged and speechless to protest in any language, much less Portuguese. Luckily I was almost done with my shop, so I bundled up my anger along with my lettuce and cucumber and grumbled my way home.

So there went my nice afternoon, which was later redeemed somewhat by walking up to the miradoure above our house with my sweet, respectful, gentlemanly husband and watching the sun set over the city.

My point here is not to prove how European men are pigs. In fact I’m telling this story to illustrate that this idiot was an exception to the norm here in Lisbon — a norm I’ve gotten so accustomed to that I didn’t even realize how much I took it for granted until it was violated.

Don’t get me wrong, men here are definitely more open in their appreciation of women. Time after time, I have seen men on the street openly stare at and evaluate every single woman who walks by, no matter what their shape or description. It’s funny and predictable, but thoroughly harmless.

I have also been the subject of such frank evaluation myself, but have never once felt threatened by it. When I’m with Gabe, men always look away, respectful of another man’s woman. But even when I’m by myself, they leave me alone — unlike other countries I’ve gone to solo, where I’ve had to retreat to my hotel room when I got tired of the comments and stares. Although the men here are far from subtle in their appreciation, they are not disrespectful, and I never feel unsafe.

Until yesterday, that is, when this guy crossed that invisible boundary between appreciation and disrespect. I wasn’t as much angry in my own right as much as I felt that he had violated some unspoken rule of conduct, crossed a line that is for the most part inviolable in this society. Just as I found in Cuba, the appreciation for women’s beauty here is combined with a deep respect for them, an old and almost chivalrous attitude, especially towards married women. So as much as this guy pissed me off, it’s nice to know that this kind of behavior is far from the norm. Thank goodness. But watch out for those skinny supermarket aisles — they’ll get you every time.

Speaking of which, in unrelated and much better news — we were pleasantly surprised last night by the early arrival of our hypermarche delivery, which was scheduled to come between 8 and 10:30 PM. It being Portugal, we were prepared for it to arrive at the later end of that window, but the truck pulled up as we were sitting down to dinner at 7:45! The guys proceeded to carry everything inside in one fell swoop, and left us with a plethora of bags on our floor.

This weekend, serious organizing and nesting awaits me. I can hardly wait.

… people will be Tweeting about it, even up to the very moment of their destruction. My husband sent me an article yesterday about How to Know Everything, All the Time. (Now why would he think that I wanted to Know Everything, All the Time? I can’t imagine.) It was a very helpful article, as I am always learning more about the various ways of using the internet to gather information. But one part in particular just made me laugh:

When anything important happens, Twitter messages go out instantly. I realized this when I happened to be watching Twitter and an earthquake in Silicon Valley hit. People posted Twitter messages about the quake before the earth even stopped quaking. Breaking news is usually posted on Twitter before any other source in the world.

Wow. Putting Twitter above self-preservation? That really makes me sad. Pretty soon we will be at a point where we can no longer process any real life event without doing it online. Witness this blog post, even — clearly, I am not above the phenomenon myself.

What does this remind me of more than anything? The humans on WALL-E, whose entire worldview was both shaped and expressed by the tiny screens in front of them. Luckily most of us still have enough bone density and muscle mass to allow us to walk around, but really — if people are so entertwined with the virtual world that they have to process natural disasters on Twitter even as they are happening… are we that far off?

With the return of my insomnia last night, I decided perhaps the problem is that I haven’t been running enough. (Or maybe I’m just turning into a night owl in my old age?)

The last month of my pilates class has been more “high-intensity,” aka “kick-your-butt/crossfit/OH MY GOD I’m sore/you want me to do WHAT???” Most of the time, I’m either afraid to run (the day before class), exhausted (the day of), or way too sore (the day after). So running has become a thing of the weekend, when I’ve had a day or two to recover from class and at least one more to prepare for the next.

You would think this much exercise would knock me out. If I was normal, I’m sure it would. But I’m not normal, I’m a runner. No matter what other exercise I do, nothing is quite the same. Yes, my body is exhausted after each class, and I spend most of the day trying my best not to pass out on any flat surface available. But when night rolls around, it’s still not enough to make my brain shut up long enough for me to fall asleep.

The crucial difference here is that for me, running is not just a physical exercise. Running has always been a form of moving mediation, less a way of escaping my thoughts than working through them at a faster pace. I put my body on autopilot, synchronize the pace of my mind to that of my feet, and I go. I run, I think, I dodge branches, logs, strollers, and bikers, until I’ve worked my way through at least a few of the things on my mind. In the end, a good run is one that achieves complete unity between head and body, leaving me at peace both mentally and physically.

While I love my kick-your-butt, I mean pilates, class, it just doesn’t have the same effect. When you’re working that hard, you don’t have time to think. You just do, and do again, praying all the while that your muscles will have enough strength left to do the next set, and the one after that, and then oh wait, don’t forget the mat work too! It’s great to find something that will actually shut my mind up for an hour, but it really doesn’t give me a chance to work through very many knotty issues.

Conscious and unconscious exercise — it’s almost like the difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise. They are both valuable in terms of building strength, endurance, and flexibility, but you can’t neglect one at the expense of the other.

So this morning, I told my body, “Look, I realize you’re sore, but you’re just going to have to deal with it. I need to run.” And run I did, on my favorite trail, stopping in the middle to catch my breath and gaze at the (slightly low) creek. I didn’t make record time, that’s for damn sure, and I struggled with a couple of the hills. But I did a lot of thinking, and felt my mental muscles loosening up even as my physical ones protested at the abuse. Again, too bad. It felt great.

The best part of the whole run came at the end, as I was cooling down and stretching by my car. A hiker was just starting out along the trail, equipped with two walking poles, a pack, and a suitably determined look on his face. He greeted me, and said, “Funny thing about this shirt — they told me it wouldn’t smell. I’ve been wearing it for five days straight, and it doesn’t smell.” With that, he kept walking.

See what I would’ve missed out on if I hadn’t convinced my legs to take me running today? That made it all worth it. That, and my old friend the runner’s high. Oh, how I’ve missed it. Nothing else is quite the same.

For most of this year, my life has been almost entirely solitary. The people I do interact with on a regular basis can be counted on one, or maybe one and a half, hands. And anyone who’s been reading this blog for longer than oh, a day, will know that I like things that way just fine.

One of the biggest downsides to my perpetual solitude is that I find even the slightest violation of it more jarring than ever. Yesterday, I blissfully turned my back on the world and spent my entire afternoon curled up with a book, interrupted only by the strident call of the clothes dryer and the occasional trip to the laundry room to take care of its demands. I seem to have an increasing need to spend time this way, just to reset and live in someone else’s world for a while.

In the late afternoon, I emerged out of my finished book (they go so fast!) and looked around, blinking hazily into the dimness of my living room. Surprise surprise — I was restless. So I hopped on my bike and rode down to the gym, with the sole intention of using the hot tub and sauna there. A great way to end a thoroughly lazy day.

When I got there, I went directly for the sauna, because I saw a man lying by the side of the tub and didn’t much feel like being ogled. Sadly, I wasn’t quick enough to escape his notice. Within minutes, said man was — predictably — coming to join me in the tiny sauna room. So here I am, sweating profusely in my bikini, sitting not two feet to the right of this guy and doing my damnedest to mind my own business. Um, awkward! Personal space much?

To make matters worse, he started talking to me. Seriously — the nerve! Somehow a comment on the heat of the sauna turned into a recap of how much partying he had done this weekend, as if to prove that despite the ample expanse of leathery brown skin I was unwillingly privy to, he was in actuality — no really! — young at heart. Even at my most social, this is a conversation I would gladly have opted out of. But after spending an entire afternoon with my head thoroughly absorbed in fictional realities, characters, and conversations, the absolute last thing I wanted to do was hear about this man’s weekend exploits.

At first, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I responded by making a few polite noises, pretending like maybe he wasn’t in fact hitting on me while we were both sitting half-naked in a very small, very hot room. I mean c’mon dude, roughly one-third of what I’m wearing consists of a rather large diamond and a gold band. On my left ring finger. Is it really that foggy in here?

Apparently it was very foggy indeed, for despite my silence, his next line was just that: a line. And an old one at that. “So, did you just join the club here?” Read: I haven’t seen your hot young body around before. How could I have made that mistake?

I said, “No I’ve been coming here for a while.” Read: Please for the love of God stop talking to me! With that, I ended the conversation, made some excuse about the heat being up too high for my tastes, and escaped into the hot tub. Luckily I grabbed a magazine on my way in, because sure enough, about thirty seconds later, he followed me out. By this point, he had thankfully gotten the hint, and soon left me alone.

Needless to say, the whole experience set me on edge, and more or less ruined my nice relaxing heat therapy session. After I had biked all the way down there, too! As I said, on any day this would’ve pissed me off. But on my mental health day, my “me” day, in which dialogs both internal and fictional had predominated… that was just sacrilege.

Next time, I will wear a swimsuit that says, “Please — don’t talk to me.” Anti-social? Yes. But worth it? Oh, most definitely.

(My husband suggests something along the lines of what the girl is wearing in the third panel of this comic: )

All three people who read this blog may have noticed some radio silence over the past weeks. Mostly that’s because I’m dealing with huge and insurmountable Issues, and don’t really want those to be internet fodder, thank you very much. But it’s also because I made the mistake of surrendering my beloved computer, my life’s blood and my muse, the fount of my creativity, over to the most inept and rude crew of computer geeks I have ever experienced in my whole life.

Two weeks they had my computer. Two weeks. For a flickering screen! The initial repair (oh sorry, that would be the initial second repair, since the first one Apple did a month ago didn’t work) only took about five days. But when I got my computer home, sat myself down in my favorite writing spot on the couch, and flicked on the power button… nothing. It booted up with Apple’s diagnostic programs still loaded onto it. Fantastic!

So I took it back in, and all hell broke loose. Initial diagnosis was that Apple had wiped my harddrive — duh. But it’s fine, right, because I paid $80 for a backup the first time that I brought it in for this same repair? Um, wrong. Even though two people had reassured me when I dropped it off that they still had my data and I did not in fact have to pay for another back up, now I was told that oh, by the way, they only keep their backup data for 30 days. And because they had turned me away when it first started having problems again, it had been in excess of that period.

Panic set in. Panic got exponentially worse when I suddenly realized that our wedding video had been shot straight to my harddrive and never copied.

Oh. My. God.

But then a light came through the darkness. They did a full data recovery, and it looked like they had almost all my files. Huzzah! So I went in to choose what I wanted to transfer back to my computer from their master harddrive… only the tech I’d been working with had just gone home sick ten minutes before — and wouldn’t be in until three days later. Fantastic.

I went back in three days later, very excited to have my computer AND my data back intact. The guy sits down at their master computer, starts looking through his files, and goes, “Uh oh. I don’t believe this.” Ummm… what?

Yeah, you guessed it. Somehow, the recovered data from my backup had been erased, written over, dumped, burned, something. No one could tell me what had happened, and no one offered me an apology. I was flabbergasted, but really, all I could do was laugh and walk out of there before I started screaming and crying like a banshee. I am a little on edge these days, after all.

No call came the next day. When I finally swallowed my pride and called the store, they simply told me to come and pick up my computer while they continued to search for my errant data. And still, not a single apology was heard. Oh wait, let me amend that. I apologized to them for causing them the inconvenience of having to search for my data. Remind me how that works again???

So after two full weeks, last night I finally pried my poor amnesiac computer from their utterly inept hands. I even managed not to break down in helpless tears until I was safely back in my car and on the phone with my husband. But the final indignity was yet to come. After I had cleaned myself up and gotten to my next destination relatively on time, I reached into my bag for my pen — only to find that the tech who made me sign off on five different invoices before I could retrieve my computer had kept my best pen. Damnation! They win again!

Since then, it has taken me another twelve hours to even turn my computer on, because I didn’t want to be faced with its poor blank stare and a stranger’s desktop image. Not to mention its harddrive devoid of my documents, pictures, music, and most importantly, a movie.

Not only is all of this devastating in its own right, but right now everything seems to get blown out of all proportion because it inevitably gets conflated with my dad’s illness. So instead of just shrugging my shoulders and getting on with it, I feel deeply violated by this whole experience. The anger and helplessness mirror my emotions around my dad’s cancer, as does the lack of comprehension as to why exactly this all happened.

So yes, I know it’s just a computer, but it’s the only one I feel comfortable writing on, and it’s an integral part of my daily life. The loss of my data is a deeply personal one, and the callousness with which this loss was treated is simply inexcusable.

What lessons have we learned today, children? 1) Always always ALWAYS back up your data yourself; and 2) never ever EVER go to this particular Mac store again.

About a month ago (which was the beginning of August, which means – holy crap! – that it’s now the beginning of September!), we very proudly sold our second item of furniture on Craig’s List. We got an inquiry almost right away, and agreed that said individual should come and pick it up the following Friday after work.

No problem, easy peasy, we should do this more often!

Friday rolls around, and we are waiting around the house, putting off our evening’s plans to wait for the new owner of our furniture to arrive. He ends up being about an hour late, which is OK as we never have very exciting plans anyway. His newfound piece of furniture is a big hit, and he hands us a $100 bill without hesitation. Between us we are only able to scrape up about $42 for change, so he ends up overpaying us, again without hesitation.

One hitch: his car is not big enough to transport said item of furniture, even though it’s pretty obvious that when buying something six feet tall and designed to hold books, you might need a truck of some sort. I mean, we’re not talking about a folding chair here, people. But no problem, our buyer promises to return the next day with an SUV to transport his furniture to its new home. Since it’s already outside, we assured him it was no problem to come and get it even if we weren’t here.

The next day rolls around, and as it turned out we were in fact here for most of it. However, our buyer was not. Nor did he come the next day. Nor any day in between then and this very morning.

So here our furniture still sits, just as it did a month ago. His money, of course, including the $8 extra that we gained by being short on cash, was spent rather quickly. (Was it that pair of shoes, or perhaps that purse? I can’t remember.) We have emailed him twice, with no reply. Finally, last night we decided to contact the other two people who asked about our posting and originally got denied.

Somehow, I feel guilty, but I don’t know why. We ended up with the money and our furniture, but completely not on purpose. Now we are reselling it to someone else. I feel like we scammed this guy without even trying!

So please dude, if you’re reading this, come and get your money back. I can’t live with this slight on my conscience any longer!

Some people. Oy.

“Treat history as a springboard, not as an anchor.”

- General John G. Medaris

When I Wrote It

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