Sunday, April 5, 2015

The College Visit

I graduated from Temple University's School of Communications and Theater with a journalism degree in hand, ready to conquer the "real" world and leave my carefree college days behind.

I could barely imagine nearly three decades would pass before I returned to the school, located two miles north of Philadelphia's thriving center city.

A school that held so many memories.

Good memories.

Awesome memories.

Memories that came back, in all of their vivid glory, when I set foot on the campus on a recent Friday, my daughter Melissa, a high school junior, by my side.

Melissa came to this college tour somewhat unsure of what to expect. The product of a suburban upbringing, she originally dismissed the idea of a large urban campus like Temple, thinking that a small rural or suburban college would suit her just fine.  However, when I learned she wanted to emulate her mom and study public relations and communications, I strongly suggested she at least visit my alma mater.

The university has changed, grown, evolved with the times.  In my day, if a student ordered a "Grande Espresso Macchiato" from the campus cafeteria, she would get nothing but a confused stare in return. Today, students can order their macchiato at 3:00 in the morning if they want, thanks to the 24-hour Starbucks that provides much-needed caffeine to co-eds cramming for finals.

But improvements in the coffee offerings are just the beginning.  In my day, (the paleolithic era) students wrote their term papers using an electric typewriter. Today, the campus boasts a sophisticated tech center with hundreds of MACs and PCs, new restaurants, a hotel, and the completely renovated and barely recognizable student center where I whiled away so many hours of my college experience.

Yet, some things still remained the same. The famous hut selling piping hot soft pretzels to ravenous students, the open spaces, the trees, the park benches where, as an incoming freshman, I sat quietly observing the new world around me, relishing in the joy of knowing it was ok, on a campus of 25,000 students, to simply be alone.

It had been a cathartic contrast to high school, where it was defintely not ok to be alone.

In my high school, students were unfairly labeled by their peers as   "the popular kids"  "the geeks"  "the jocks", or "the druggies."   But then, there were the students like me. The lonely, awkward kids who failed to fit into any of these categories.  The kids who didn't draw attention...who failed to be noticed. The kids who were loners.

Loners who were unfairly labeled as losers.

College changed all that.

I entered Temple University and embraced my individuality, my solitude, my willingness to sit alone on a park bench where nobody judged me.  It was a feeling unlike any I had experienced in my young life.

I felt liberated.

I felt free.

Happily, the solitude I so willingly embraced did not last for long. A group of friends entered my new college world. Friends who became inseparable during my tenure at Temple.  A group of wonderful people who never put a label on me, who only loved me for me....and 28 years later, still do!

The soft echoes of those carefree days full of friendship and laughter followed me as Melissa and I joined the guided campus tour. We visited the tech center and the School of Media and Communications, the dorms and the dining halls (Melissa's favorite!).  We learned about the curriculum, the wide range of course offerings, the extra curricular activities, internships opportunities, and dozens of ways to get involved, make new friends, and gain valuable experience in preparation for the "real" world.

In my daughter I could sense that familiar longing to break free from the confines and conformity of high school and embrace this new world far beyond the comfort of our quiet suburban neighborhood.

As I looked at Melissa, her face full of wonder, the memories of my college days began to quietly fade away.

For this day, this wonderful moment in time, belonged to Melissa's future, not to her mother's past.

And whether she chooses Temple, or finds another school that's the perfect match, if she's anything like her mom...I know she'll do just fine!

Melissa and me, during a tour of Temple University, enjoying a "famous" soft pretzel

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Monday, March 23, 2015

The Junior Dinner Dance

Ah, the Junior Prom. (Or as my daughter Melissa's school calls it -  the Junior Dinner Dance.)

That exciting right of passage where teenage girls - in true Disney Princess style - glow in their floor length gowns as their tuxedo-clad Prince Charmings (AKA - teenage boys) escort them to "The Ball"!

Months and months in the planning, the day of the Junior Dinner Dance (JDD) had finally arrived! We woke up full of excitement, looked out the window and were greeted by the beauty of the first day of spring.

Wait.

What?

SNOW?

It can't be!

A chance of flurries, they said.



It will probably change to rain, they said.

Nothing to worry about, they said.

There's no way this will turn into a major storm, dump six inches of heavy white stuff on the Philadelphia area, cause power outages, and nearly cancel the prom.

But wait, I am getting a bit ahead of myself.

Melissa and her friend Gabby were scheduled to begin the "Princess Transformation Process" at our house at 1 pm.  First hair, then make up, then gowns, then shoes, then off to their friend Lena's where nine couples (and 18 sets of parents) were planning to gather for the obligatory pre-prom pictures.

However, nine couples and 18 sets of parents had not counted on winter extending its fury into the first day of spring.

How were the "Princesses" going to walk in their gowns and  "Glass Slippers" when the scene outside our window looked more like Siberia than suburban New Jersey?

I proposed a solution. The girls would complete their hair and make up at our house, wear jeans and snow boots to walk to the car, then put on their gowns upon arrival at Lena's.

Crisis averted.

In the morning, Lena's mom sent out a frantic email to all of the parents, begging them to bring golf umbrellas to cover our "Princesses" - lest even one snowflake fall onto their hairspray-infused heads.

I ran to the drug store, parted with $25, and ran out with an umbrella large enough to cover the population of Rhode Island.

By the time I arrived home, everything in sight had disappear under a thick blanket of the forecasted  "light flurries", including the path that the "Princesses" would need to walk from the front door to the car.

I grabbed a shovel and set to work.

Crisis averted.

In the meantime, the two "princesses-to-be" were surrounded by curling irons, combs, brushes, bobby pins, hair spray, blush, eye shadow, foundation, lipstick, and my curious cat who stuck his nose into everything, much to the girls' chagrin.

Fearing that the ten minute drive to Lena's might take much longer due to the storm, I hurried the girls along, hoping they could achieve perfection 15 minutes ahead of schedule.

But the storm has one more trick up its sleeve.

The thick snow was wrecking havoc on our township's power lines.

The lights throughout the house ominously blinked on and off, on and off, and on again.

Melissa and Gabby grabbed their curling irons.

On and off and on again....

Melissa and Gabby created one more curl.

On and off and on again....

Melissa and Gabby unplugged their curling irons.

On and off and....darkness!

But it didn't matter. Electricity was no longer needed.  These two Princesses had, indeed, achieved perfection!



At Lena's, a professional photographer captured the beauty of each Prince and Princess as the proud parents snapped away with their iPhones. Suddenly, every mom and dad heard the familiar tone alerting them to an incoming text - from none other than the principal of the high school.

The JDD had been postponed from 7 to 8 pm, explained Mr. Principal. However, if road conditions did not improve, he would seriously consider cancelling.

Eighteen teenagers and their parents let out a collective groan.

Then we waited, and waited, and waited.

An hour later, Mr. Principal texted again. The snow had turned to rain, roads were getting better, and my "Cinderella" would finally get to go to the ball.

Crisis averted.

Or so we thought.

Eighteen sets of parents had all agreed to share the cost of two limos to provide round trip transportation for the kids.... limos that should have been parked outside of Lena's home.

So we waited, and waited, and waited.

Finally, the driver turned onto the street, blaming the storm for his delay.




One by one, each Prince and Princess, a golf umbrella in hand, cautiously made their way through the slush and snow and climbed into the limo.

Crisis averted?  No. Not yet.

Eighteen sets of parents watched with baited breath as the limo driver tried again and again to back out of the steep, snow-covered driveway.



Finally, he made it onto the street.  Eighteen Prince and Princesses were off for the time of their lives, while eighteen sets of parents breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Crisis averted!


My daughter Melissa (far left) and her friends pose for the official Junior Prom photos.




Sunday, March 15, 2015

*In honor of St. Patrick's day, I am sharing a post that originally ran in March, 2012.  I have made some minor edits to the original post.

Melissa vs. The Leprechaun 

For my teenage daughter Melissa, St. Patrick's Day marks the anniversary of her "terrifying" encounter with a leprechaun.  Step back in time with me, if you will, to March 17, 2007.  When the aptly-named third grade teacher Miss Green (I am not kidding) read stories about these fabled, feisty Irish fairies to her young charges, Melissa and her friend Sarah became determined to actually catch one of these mischievous munchkins.  Even though leprechauns have outwitted generations of trap-setting Irishmen, two  nine year old girls were convinced that they, and they alone, would succeed!

Melissa and Sarah spent hours developing a comprehensive trap-setting plan.  Step one involved a St. Patrick's Day eve sleepover, for surely that would be the best day for a leprechaun to be caught in the act.  Our house became the designated leprechaun lure, with Melissa's bedroom setting the stage for the over-the-top trap!

As Sarah and Melissa approached the task at hand, they decided the best way to trap a leprechaun would be to turn the bedroom into a "little green man" resort and spa.  Steaming hot water helped to transform a soup bowl into a soothing leprechaun hot tub.  Construction paper and green crayons invited the leprechaun to express his creativity, while green confetti and Lucky Charms cereal set the celebratory mood.  Barbie dolls were dressed in their Sunday best as they sat ready and waiting for the leprechaun to invite them to play, and of course, gold coins aplenty (the chocolate version) were strategically placed in a bowl in the middle of the floor.

As the girls put the finishing touches on the trap, they started having second thoughts about their devious plan.  Suddenly, it seemed like trapping the little guy would not be a very nice thing to do. But still, they didn't want their hard work to go to waste.  That's when Melissa and Sarah crafted a new plan. If the leprechaun came, he would not have to worry about being duped by two nine-year old girls. Instead, the girls would simply observe him at play while they pretended to be asleep.

With all of the wheels in motion, the only task that remained was to climb into bed and wait.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait.

And while they waited, excitement turned to trepidation, trepidation turned to fear, then fear turned to terror.

What if the leprechaun became evil?

Would he attack them?

Were they safe?

WHAT HAD THEY DONE?!

In the meantime, the "leprechaun" waited and waited and waited for the girls to fall asleep so "he" could sneak in undetected and check into the resort and spa.  The "leprechaun", who in reality stood 5' 5" tall, had long brown hair, and answered to the name of "mom", slowly tiptoed into Melissa's room. The girls moved ever so slightly, perhaps sensing a presence.  Mom froze, waiting until both girls were silent and still.  Then mom tipped over the water, tossed the barbies around, stole most of the gold coins, and used the green crayon to write a note of thanks for the fun.

In the morning, the girls woke up and were absolutely astounded by the site!  The leprechaun had come and played in the bedroom and made a mess and left them a note, AND THEY SLEPT RIGHT THROUGH THE ENTIRE THING!

As for the leprechaun (AKA - Mom) instead of placing the newly found "gold" in the pot at the end of the rainbow, she stuffed the coins were into the bottom of a sock drawer, never to be seen again...or so we thought.
~ ~ ~

About a year later, I asked Melissa to help me with the laundry.  I folded the socks, while she put them away.

"Mom, why are there gold coins in Daddy's sock drawer?"

Uh oh.

Danger!  Danger!  Think fast!  Think fast!

"Well, the leprechaun must have put them there to hide them from you."

"Oh, ok. That makes sense."

I heaved a sign of relief.  My naive little daughter actually believed me!

Or so I thought.

A few days later as we struggled through the nightly ritual of brushing of her long, knot-infested hair, she asked the question I had been dreading.

"Mom, are you really the leprechaun?"

Uh oh.

"What?  No, of course not!"

"Really Mom, it's ok, you can tell me the truth, I won't be mad."

"Seriously sweety, I am not the leprechaun."

"Really Mom, I won't be mad, I promise."

"Alright sweety, you're right.  It was me," came my guilty admission.  "I was really the leprechaun, it was me who snuck into your room in the middle of the night."

Pause.

Pause.

"YOU TRICKED ME!  YOU LIED TO ME!   WAAAAAAAAAAAA!"

So much for Melissa's promise of not getting mad.

Oh well.  Since I had already blown my cover, I decided to also come clean about the tooth fairy and Santa Clause.  Being Jewish, the latter didn't bother her quite so much, but I made her promise not to spill the beans to her friends who still believed in St. Nick.  Even though I had spoiled the fun, Melissa's friends still deserved to enjoy a few more moments of childhood innocence.

In trying to bring to life to my baby girl's imagination, I had donned an alter ego, only to lose her trust once my secret was revealed.  If I could, I would become the leprechaun every year, even when she is married with kids of her own.  I want her to relish in those childhood fantasies where the existence of little green men is never questioned, and fairies really do exchange teeth for treasure.  For all too soon, reality takes hold and childhood evolves into a grown up world, devoid of fantasy and wonder.

This year, as St. Patrick's Day approached, Sarah called Melissa and invited her to a March 17th sleepover. Seems the girls want to relive the past, treasure the memory, and just maybe, reenact their terrifying showdown with the leprechaun.

Perhaps they're not quite so ready to grow up after all!

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Valentine's Day Like No Other

One of the best things about living in the southern part of New Jersey is that we can fill up the gas tank, hit the road and be in my home town of Philadelphia in 30 minutes, at the beaches and casinos of the Jersey shore in 60 minutes, in New York City in 90 minutes, and in our nation's capital in three hours.

However, when it came to planning a Valentine's weekend getaway, my husband Bob and I were stumped.  We had the choice of all of the great places listed above...but we've been to every single one of them, over and over and over again.

We wanted to escape the cold and mundane that had defined our winter. We wanted something new. Something different. Something romantic. Something fun. Something within a few hours drive from home.

The weekend held an extra incentive for us to get away.  Our 17-year old daughter Melissa would be boarding a plane to Atlanta for a leadership conference sponsored by the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization (BBYO).  We could pack our bags in search of adventure without having to worry about leaving her home alone.

But where to go?  Where to go?

Bob, an American history buff, had long sought to take a vacation visiting civil war battles sites (yawn).  But this time, unless we wanted to brave arctic tempertures, touring historic outdoor battlefields would have to wait until the warmer months.

So where to go, where to go?

A quick google search revealed an indoor civil war museum about two hours away in Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania (yawn). Not romantic. Not really fun.  But it did count as something different, within a few hours drive from home.  We booked a hotel near the museum, made dinner reservations, and looked forward to a getaway, no matter how potentially boring it might be.

Come Valentine's morning, I jumped out of bed in preparation for our mini "vacation".  An hour later, with my hair curled to perfection and my suitcase packed, I gently encouraged my sleepy honey to rise from his slumber.  He sat up, put his feet on the floor, and attempted to lift his body into a standing position, only to fall back onto the bed.

He tried to stand up once more, only to have the same thing happen again.

"I feel dizzy and nauseous," he said in response to my look of concern.

"Give it a few minutes," I replied. "Maybe you're just groggy."

My advice proved useless, as an attempt to walk across the bedroom nearly caused him to fall flat on his face.

I made him some toast, hoping beyond hope it would be the miracle he needed to get past the nausea and start packing for our trip.

"Lisa, I am really sorry but there is no way I can go away feeling like this," he said.

"It's ok," I lied, trying to hide my disappointment.  "We can go another time."

Sigh.

One of the best hair days I ever had would be wasted on another cold, mundane weekend at home.

I changed out of my "going away" outfit, put on comfy sweats, then poured myself a bowl of cereal while Bob tried to sleep off his sickness.

An entire day with no plans stretched out before me.

A Valentine's Day with no plans.

What to do?  What to do?

I decided to use the gift of unexpected time to work on a scrapbook I was making for a friend's birthday.  As I dove into the ardous task of scouring through 2,479 photo albums, the realization hit me.  Here I was, sitting on the living room floor, knee deep in photos, while my poor husband lay upstairs in bed, sick as a dog.

Ok, so we wouldn't be spending Valentine's Day learning about the Civil War. We wouldn't be going to the hotel, or eating at a great restaurant.  But certainly, we could still be together!

I picked up as many photo albums as I could carry, heaved them upstairs to my bedroom, and plopped down next to Bob.  Together, we looked at picture after picture, the images taking us back to first days of school, vacations, holidays, and birthdays.

As the hours passed by, we watched TV.  We laughed.  We cuddled.  We hugged.

And slowly but surely, he started to feel better.

By the end of the day, I no longer longed to get away.

By the end of the day, life no longer seemed quite so mundane.

I had the love of my life, right next to me in bed.

It was a Valentine's Day like no other.

It was the best Valentine's ever!

My Bob...the best Valentine ever!


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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Jessica, You Were My First

I entered the maternity unit on the evening of June 30, 1997, ready to push out the bowling ball-like bulge that had me wearing my hubby's clothes for the better part of two months.  That "bulge" had been pretty darn tootin' comfy all tucked up in my tummy.  Her arrival date had come and gone, and now, a week later, the OB/GYN felt it best to fill me with drugs that would entice my little cherub to enter the world.

Being "induced" should have rapidly set the childbirth wheels in motion, however, the evening and overnight hours passed without incident.  There should have been something going on.  Some type of action. Some indication that this appendage wanted to exit my body.

Nope.

No dice.

The baby had not budged, and the tiny opening that was somehow going to play host to her GIANT head did not grow any bigger.

So the doctor gave me more "induction" drugs....and we waited.

In the mid-morning hours, my husband Bob arrived with our  daughter Jessica in tow.  Although the age difference between Jessica and my soon-to-arrive baby daughter would be 21 years, she couldn't wait to become a big sister.

Jessica had come with the package. A wonderful bonus that transformed me into an insta-mom of a teen the moment I said "I do."  Sure, there were some rough patches in the beginning.  I had deluded myself into thinking we'd be the very best of friends.  But the "Keep Out" sign on her bedroom door, complete with a photo of a doberman pincher, brought me back to reality.

Thanks to our mutual love for her father, unending patience, and a willingness to make it work, the walls of skepticism started to melt away as Jessica realized that her new step-mom had become an ally and friend....not a foe.

Eventually, we did become the best of friends....and so much more.  That's why I so desperately wanted her there when her little sister Melissa finally decided to come out and play!

By 11 am the morning of July 1, 1997, the drugs had started to take effect.  Mild cramping that started in my lower back made its way 'round front to evolve into full blown contractions. My doctor suggested a medication that would take the edge off  and make me a bit drowsy, an offer I readily accepted.  As the nurse injected the welcoming drugs into the IV, the effect was instantaneous.

Within seconds, I fell into a deep, pain-free slumber.  But before succumbing to the effects of the drugs, I looked at my husband and daughter, worry sketched across their anxious faces, and uttered these now infamous words...........................

"Jessica, you were my first."

Despite the contractions and despite the drugs, I wanted the daughter who had "come with the package" to understand that even though another offspring would be entering our lives....she still mattered and I still loved her because, after all....she was my first.

 Melissa, the baby that arrived on July 1, 1997,  is now a junior in high school, plays in a band, sings in the school chorus, and is on the board of a local youth group. Jessica and her husband Brian live in Washington, DC.  She is an executive with a national union, fighting for workers' rights.

During a recent call with Jessica I tried to no avail to give her advice that would help ease the pervasive nausea that has become a permanent fixture for the past 12 weeks.

Yes, that's right. Jessica is pregnant!

And even though her baby bump is still barely discernible, Bob and I simply Can. Not. Wait.

You see, I never knew Jessica as a baby.  By the time Bob and I went on our first date (chinese food and ice cream), Jessica had been out of diapers for 15 years.  I had pictures, of course.  Treasured images of a toddler with dimpled cheeks and banana curls stared at me from pages of faded photo albums.

Bob and his precious toddler Jessica!
Bob raised that precious toddler on his own, and thanks to grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends, she never lacked for love.  

Her child will not either!

Melissa, Bob, and I are ready, our hearts full of affection. We are ready to share our love with a beautiful child, ready to embrace this extraordinary new chapter in our lives.

Jessica, I know you and Brian will be wonderful parents.  However, please allow me to share with you words of wisdom from a neurotic, over-protective mom who somehow managed to get Melissa to the age of 17 emotionally unscathed (At least I think so!)

Trust your instincts.

I will say it again.

Trust your instincts.

There are no scientific studies to back me up, but know this.  There is nothing, NOTHING stronger than a mother's instincts.  You'll know if your baby's tears necessitate a doctor's visit, or if a loving embrace will do just fine.  You'll know if the baby is hungry, thirsty, gassy, tired, or if the baby just needs some affection.

It is ok to dry your baby's tears, to jump every time your baby cries.  There is no such thing as too much affection.  There is no such thing as too much love.

For, before you know it, the baby will be boarding the bus for kindergarten. The baby will be stressing over the 5th grade science fair.  The baby will be smiling for a driver's license photo. The baby will be going off to college.....

So hold on to every precious moment.

And all I ask is that you let me shower my grandchild with the warm hugs and kisses I never got to give to the little toddler with banana curls.

I promise I will love that baby as much as I love you, for after all....you were my first!

Me with my daughter Jessica....my first!
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Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Worst Typo...EVER!

One of the advantages of having a new baby is getting to stay home from work for a while.

One of the disadvantages of having a new baby is….having to stay home from work for a while.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I fell in love with my little cherub (who is now 17) the instant I held her in my arms.  However, after several months of wiping up drool and poo, my longing for adult interaction as well as the need to pay the bills led me to the classifieds to look for a job.

As luck would have it, a local community hospital had an opening for a part-time public relations specialist - and my experience seemed a textbook fit.  What’s more, the hours were perfect!   Spend Monday at home cleaning my daughter's poo - work on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday - go back to drool and poo on Friday!

With determination, I squeezed my swollen, post-pregnancy pounds into my best pre-pregnancy suit, wowed them with my charm and…I got the job!

Several weeks into my tenure, my co-worker Alice* came running out of her office, bursting with news.  Seems that our tiny hospital had secured the exclusive rights to place a full page advertisement on the back cover of the local yellow pages phone directory.

Popular in the Paleolithic Era, yellow pages directories were used as a primitive means of looking up the phone number of a person or a business.  During this era, nearly everyone relied on the yellow pages. Residents kept this four-inch thick book within arm's reach, ready to look up the number for their daughter's soccer coach or to order a large pizza with pepperoni.  Sure, it would cost a small fortune, but if our hospital had a full color ad on the back cover, that meant that just about everyone in the county would have the number of our physician referral service within arm's reach!


So Alice and the Public Relations Department Director Shirley* got to work designing the best possible ad the yellow pages had ever known.  An ad that would surpass all ads.  They even brought in the expertise of an advertising agency. They agonized for hours and hours over the ad design. Should the font be smaller? Should the logo be bigger? Should the photo be changed? Should the background be blue? Should the background be red?  Should the headline be on the left? Should the headline be on the right? Should the headline be centered?

I stayed out of their way, letting the women who had far more experience make these important decisions.  

Finally, a seemingly perfect ad made it's way out of the hospital and into the hands of the representative from the yellow pages directory.  

End of story.  Or so I thought.

Three months later, all the residents in the county received their coveted copy of the yellow pages directory. That's when the proverbial "poo" hit the fan.

I walked into Shirley's office, and saw, to my surprise, that this woman who I greatly admired was sitting at her desk....crying.

Yes, crying!

Fearing for the safety of her husband or children, I cautiously asked her what had happened.

"Lisa, if this wasn't so tragic it would actually be funny," she replied, leaving me more curious than ever.

I waited for her to share more.

"There was a typo in the yellow pages ad," she said, bowing her head in shame.  "The phone number is wrong."

Oh no!

Seems that, while my co-workers had painstakingly anguished over the logo and the font, nobody had bothered to check something as mundane as the accuracy of the phone number!

But wait.  It got worse.

Not only did we publish the wrong phone number on the back page of the yellow pages directory that was mailed to thousands upon thousands of people, we published the phone number of......

A phone sex hotline!

So when 75-year old Ralph Jenkinson called to find a doctor who could treat his cardiac arrhythmia, he was greeted on the other end of the line by "Destiny Bambi" who offered to show him just how irregular his heart could beat!

Convinced they would be fired by the end of the week, Shirley and Alice struggled to no avail to contain the story.  Despite their efforts, somehow the local newspapers caught wind of our teensie weensie typo, which resulted in headlines like the following:

Hospital Publishes Sexy Hotline

MD Callers Get Phone Sex Instead

Parents Furious at Hospital for Sex Hotline

Not merely content to shame the hospital for this innocent error, the newspapers decided to include the now infamous phone number in all of their articles, giving county residents who by some small chance had not seen the phone directory, a sure fire way to have a friendly chat with Ms. Bambi.

Being the newest member of the Public Relations Department, responding to the continuous, incessant calls from individuals who wanted to let us know about the error fell on my shoulders.  Some were polite, some were comical, while other were downright mean, accusing me of personally corrupting their teenage children who had, of course, dialed the number.  

Shirley managed to negotiate a deal with the owner of the phone sex hotline. They sold the rights to the number to the hospital, and within a week, callers looking for lust were out of luck, as the number now connected directly to the hospital's physician referral service.

Shirley and Alice did not lose their jobs, and the c-suite executives (all men) had a good, hearty laugh over the incident.  Last I heard they had hired Ms. Bambi to work in - you guessed it - Public Relations! 
(Just kidding)

*I changed the names in this story to protect privacy because even though this incident happened 17 years ago, Shirley and Alice would not be very happy if I revealed their true identity.


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Sunday, December 28, 2014

The New Car

The mileage police were hot on our trail.  For months now, we knew we were getting dangerously close to going over the 12,000 miles-per-year limit that came with the lease of our 2012 Toyota Camry.

But we didn't care.

We drove that car from New Jersey to Tennessee.

We drove that car from New Jersey to North Carolina.

We drove that car from New Jersey to Philadelphia and New York and Washington, DC.

We drove that car everywhere.

And finally, we crossed the line.  The point of no return.  The danger zone.

We (egads!) surpassed our allotted miles...with eight months still left to go on the lease!

We knew we could only evade the mileage police for so long before we would have to pay. The time had come to evaluate our options:
1. Ground the car until the lease expired and use my husband Bob's car, a 2005 Mercury with over 100,000 miles to its name.
2. Keep on driving, throw caution to the wind, and pay the mileage fees when the lease expired.
3. Go to the dealership and play "Let's Make a Deal" in the hopes of returning the car early and driving away with a newer model.

We chose option 3.

Upon arrival at the dealership, we were greeted by a red-haired, blue eyed, muscular young man in his late 20s whose sexy accent nearly put me into a hypnotic state that would have resulted in the purchase of every car in the show room.  Fortunately, reality came back to me in the form of my much more sensible hubby, who reminded me to play it cool, don't show too much emotion when taking a test drive, and let him do the negotiating.

Turns out Mr. Red Head hailed from South Africa, which turned out to be quite the conversation starter as I posed question after question about his homeland.  He responded with humor and smiles (I know....I know...of course he responded with smiles, he did want to sell us a car after all!)

Mr. Red Head escorted us to a cobolt grey 2015 Camry, which from the outside, seemed to mirror the 2012 version we were attempting to trade in.   The inside, however, not so much.

"Wow, you can see the outside temperature on the dashboard!" I exclaimed with glee.

"How many miles to the gallon does it get?" asked Bob

"Wow, you can program up to 36 radio stations!" I exclaimed with glee.

"Does it have four wheel drive?" asked Bob.

"Wow, it's got a hands-free phone system!" I exclaimed with glee.

"What's the horse power on this thing? asked Bob.

"Wow, I want this car!!" I exclaimed with glee.

"What's it gonna cost?" asked Bob, thus initiating phase two of the car-buying process....

THE NEGOTIATIONS. (Cue twilight zone music)

Mr. Red Head sat us down at a desk, offered up some cookies and coffee, and started punching the numbers. Now, had I been soley responsible for phase two of the car buying process, the negotiations would have gone something like this:

Mr. Red Head: "Well Lisa, here's what I can do for you.  I'll make you a great deal. You only have to pay $9,473 per month, plus your entire wardrobe, your home, all of your furniture, and your first-born.

Me: "I'LL TAKE IT!"

Fortunately, this is where Bob's expertise came into play, so the neotiations went something like this:

Mr. Red Head: "Well Bob, I can give you this car for the incredibly low payment of one dime per month, plus we'll throw in a free oil change every six months."

Bob: "Make it a nickel or we walk!"

And so on it went.  As my Bob played hardball with Mr. Red Head, the sun sank lower and lower on the horizon.  Finally, we all came to a mutual agreement!  Mr. Red Head even threw in two free diet cokes that I demanded, using my powerful negotiating skills!

But wait.

We had to sign our name on 3,276 pieces of legal documents. Then they had to call the bank, and the insurance company, and the credit bureau, and the leasing company, and the secretary of transportation, and the President of the United States....

Finally...we were escorted in to see the finance manager, fully prepared to use a credit card for the down payment, only to learn that they refused to accept anything but cash or check.

Oh no!

We had left our check book at home.

Would this tragic turn of events bring the negotiations to a screeching halt!

NO!

Mr. Finance Manager came up with an ingenious plan. He proposed that I stay at the dealership and sign my name to the remaining 274 documents, while Mr. Red Head drive Bob to our home, where Bob would hand over a check for the down payment.

Crisis averted!

By now the sun had truly disappeared, and the staff of the dealership had all but gone home.  Mr. Finance Manager walked me outside to my new car, which sat parked next to my old car....a car I no longer owner, but still bore the marks of the two years we had spent together.

Alone, cold, and in the dark, I began the arduous task of transferring all of the accumulated stuff from my old car into the new, including:

-A dirty towel used for ridding the windows of the dew and frost that forms in the overnight hours.
-A 2014 road map of every state in the country, along with individual maps of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C.
-Discarded envelopes that once held hated bills.
-Newspaper circulars boasting of coupons long expired.
-A broken ice scraper.
-A musty old blanket that became the saving grace for my 17-year old daughter Melissa when her menopausal mother blasted the air conditioner in the middle of January
-A brochure from Gatlinburg, TN, where we had taken Melissa, and my dear friend Angelica's teenage boys Chris and Brandon on vacation the previous summer.
-A GPS Unit
-A note pad
-A CD featuring a recording of one of Melissa's original songs

Anxious to get out of the cold and on my way, I hastily threw everything in the front seat of the new car.  I expected to be thrilled, but meloncholy took hold.  The pile on the passenger seat was just a bunch of stuff, wasn't it?  The old car sitting there, alone and abandoned on the lot was just a pile of metal, wasn't it?

Or was it?

My old car, along with two year's worth of junk that had littered the interior, had represented something more to me.  That car was where Melissa first got behind the wheel and pressed on the gas pedal, nearly crashing through the garage.  That car took us to my step-daughter Jessica's wedding to her husband Brian.  That car traversed back roads and highways, enroute to visits with grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. That car helped us enjoy some spectacular vacations.  That car set the scene for some major arguements, most involving Bob's unwillingness to listen to my driving directives.  That car played host to laughter and, yes, even some tears.

That car had been a part of our family.

New memories would come, I knew.  But for now, I simply drove out of the dealership parking lot, pushed the meloncholy aside, turned onto the open road, and continued on my way home.

Behind the wheel of my new car!

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