"Da da da, da da da, da da da da daaa..."

I guess you could say that some of today’s television shows have catchy theme songs. Most people could probably recognize the open to Modern Family. Unfortunately, I think just as many people would instantly know Two and a Half Men as well. But with few exceptions, most network programs have super boring or nonexistent opens.

What happened? Back in the day, the theme songs were just as memorable as the shows themselves. Sometimes more so. I couldn’t tell you a single plotline from The Facts of Life, but hells yeah, I could sing you the open. And Cheers. And Three’s Company. I bet I could do a decent rendition of Diff’rent Strokes, too. Props to Alan Thicke.

As with most songs, whether they’re sung on television or radio, you form lasting recollections of them because of the moment or time period they evoke. But perhaps more branded into my memory are not the theme songs from the shows that I watched, but rather those that my father liked. Which, by the way, were all totally depressing.

I always knew when my dad had tuned into M*A*S*H because suddenly I would be overwhelmed by an inexplicable wave of sadness. Given that the open to M*A*S*H is called “Suicide Is Painless,” I think my reaction to hearing it was entirely apropos. That said, I barely knew my ABCs when M*A*S*H went off the air, so I’m not sure if having such feelings of melancholy were healthy for a kid my age, especially on a weekly basis. And here’s a fun fact… M*A*S*H was Emmy-nominated 11 times… for Outstanding Comedy Series.

Same goes for Hill Street Blues. Not the Emmy nominations for being a comedy. At least the academy – or whoever decided the votes – had the sense to recognize that the show was as depressing as its theme song and called it a drama. What I’m referring to is the sorrow I would experience while watching it on the couch with my dad, blankie in hand and thumb in mouth. Coping mechanisms.

And apparently I’m not the only one who went through television-induced depression during my formative years. Just the other night, my boyfriend and I discovered that we both suffer from Taxi post-traumatic stress disorder. Taxi was the worst of the despondent 1980s theme songs.

Now I realize that all the songs I’m mentioning have received high praise for their quality and composition and whatever other musical terms apply. So I’m not saying that they’re bad songs. But I am saying that they made me want to throw down a few sleeping pills with my chocolate milk and call it a night.

The thing about Taxi is that the entire show was depressing. The theme song was only the precursor to what would be 22 minutes of miserable characters and an even more miserable backdrop. No wonder Christopher Lloyd was always drugged out. I wish I could erase all memory of Sunshine Cab Company, too.

I must have a very different sense of humor from adults of the late ’70s and early ’80s. Like M*A*S*H, Taxi was Emmy-nominated multiple times – and won most of those nominations – for Outstanding Comedy Series. In fact, it was up against M*A*S*H three times – and trumped the Korean War “comedy” each year. It also beat out Mork & Mindy. Whaaat?

But I suppose even the tried and true sitcoms of the 1980s had their darker moments. I still remember the Family Ties episode when Alex battled his grief over a friend’s death. And what about when Carol Seaver’s boyfriend died? I wept many tears over Matthew Perry that night.

You don’t see that too often in primetime television anymore. I can’t imagine shows like Parks & Recreation or New Girl tackling teen drunk driving. Maybe because there are no teens on either show, but that’s beside the point. To be totally honest, though, I prefer it that way. I like my comedy straight up, and after a long day of work, all I want to do is tap out to Leslie Knope’s bubbling enthusiasm and Jess Day’s adorkableness. Though shows like M*A*S*H and Taxi may have their place among the greats of television programming, I’m content to let others explore the depths of their despair with them in syndication.

Image courtesy of phanlop88 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Dude, really, stop.


A few weeks ago I discussed my disdain for being approached by strangers. I forgot to mention that I don’t like talking to anyone else either. Specifically, I hate cashier conversations.

Now before you label me a snob, allow me to impress you with my employment past. I have been once, twice, thrice, quice – that’s my word for four times – a cashier gal. Actually… five times if you count my one-day stint working at a deli. Once I realized how motherf*cking hard it is to work in food service, though, I threw in my hairnet and called it a day. But aside from my short-lived career making cappuccinos and paninis, I have spent many an hour behind the cash register. And I’m not just talking cutesy boutiques where you get one customer every two hours. (Though I have had that job.) I’ve put in time at Target and Bed Bath & Beyond, y’all. I know the deal.

And here it is… They say that multitasking gets twice as much done in the same amount of time. I also say that multitasking gets twice as much done – as long as you don’t mind it getting done half as well as if you just focused on one thing at a time. Which is my point.

Whenever a cashier strikes up a conversation with me, he double swipes at least one thing I’m buying. Without fail. As a matter of fact, it’s even happened to me twice in the same week. So this isn’t a superiority complex thing. This is a cold hard cash thing.

The first time was at Target. Of course. I’m there all the time, but I made the grave mistake of wearing a provocative shirt. Nothing sexy, mind you. On the contrary, I had on a huge, very un-sexy T-shirt that happened to have my alma mater’s name emblazoned across it. Without so much as saying, “hello,” my cashier instead blurted out, “I used to live in Chicago.” Great.

Some people may call me cheap. I prefer thrifty. While looking up alternatives for the word thrifty, I found parsimonious. I like that one, too. Anyway. My thrifty ways likely come from my Dutch blood, but I’m cool with it. Yes, I add up every item as I put it into my cart. I also watch the price display like a hawk when I check out. But because I can’t multitask, if the cashier starts talking to me, there’s no way I can keep track of the register’s beeps. And neither can he.

The cashier then tells me that he loved Chicago but left because “the winters are so cold.” Yeah, I’ve never heard that before. Finally, we wrap up our convo, and I walk away, intensely scanning the receipt for mistakes. And there it was… a double charge for exactly 97 cents.

I know what you’re thinking and I don’t care. That’s 97 cents that I could use for ChapStick.  So you bet I went over to customer service and made them refund it to my credit card. Ain’t no shame in my game.

The next afternoon, I was at the grocery store. Why I didn’t just use the self-checkout, I’ll never understand, but I was immediately punished for my laziness once the cashier started ringing me up. For one, the dude had to pause every three items to cover his mouth and cough. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, he was also having a conversation with the next cashier over about the best home remedies for a cold. Apparently the other guy is a big believer in wonton soup. So not only is my cashier hacking all over the groceries I will soon be eating, but also he’s not paying any attention to ringing me up. In fact, I saw the double charge as it happened, but he was so engrossed in his conversation that I couldn’t get his attention to stop him.

With lips pursed, both from annoyance at my bad luck and fear of catching his germs, I swiped my card and waited for my receipt. Once in hand, my eyes immediately found the double charge – it’s like my superpower – and I pointed it out to the cashier.

He was totally nice about it, but because he was also so totally out of it, he proceeded to refund me for three boxes of cereal instead of one. Dammit. Now what? Though I’d love to have that extra $5.36 in my pocket – not to mention, I felt like the grocery store did owe me for my future cold expenses – I knew it would be wrong. So I informed the cashier of his second charge error. I truly hope I was his last customer of the day because it took about three tries before he understood what I was saying.

No wonder why Amazon is worth 90 billion dollars.

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I get that the world might be ending, but can't you just do a topcoat?

You don’t know what you got until it’s gone. And people are weird. I was reminded of both facts last weekend when I went for my regular sojourn south of the border – the Los Angeles County border, that is.

Before I became a resident of Los Angeles, I called Orange County my home during grad school. And though it’s been a few years since I’ve lived behind the Orange Curtain, it still feels oddly familiar every time I have to hit the brakes when the 22 East meets the 5 South. Seriously, how is that interchange busy at 8am on a Saturday? Which is exactly what I was forced to do while driving to see my longtime hair stylist, Miguel.

You see, every couple of months, I drive approximately 40 miles (80 if you count roundtrip) to get my hair done by the same guy I’ve been going to since I moved to California. Some might call this behavior extreme – and by some I mean men – but the ladies can back me up on this one. It’s worth every penny of that gas money.

But it’s not just the hair. I multitask my appointments and also treat myself to a pedicure each time I go to the salon. Debbie (not her real name) and I also share a long history. And it’s not just about how great she is at making my toes look all pretty. We have a relationship, people. We talk about stuff. I tell her about work, she tells me about work. I tell her about my family, she tells me about her family. Hell, I’ve even seen pictures of them, and I love it. This is why I keep coming to this nondescript strip mall shop.

To make the most of my O.C. Saturdays, I always book the first appointment of the day, and without fail, Miguel and Debbie are waiting with open arms each time I walk through the door. However, I happened to get there a little early this past Saturday and was mildly surprised that Debbie wasn’t already there. Miguel met me at the door and said he would call her to let her know I had arrived. Cool. I had to pick out my nail polish anyway.

After deliberating way too long on a shade, I finally sat down and began that magazine flipping thing you do when you’re not really paying any attention because you’re suddenly beginning to feel like something is wrong. Miguel approached me again to say that his call went directly to Debbie’s voicemail.

“Oh, okay. Does she live far away?”

“No, just a block from here.”

“Oh, great! She’ll probably be here any minute.”

That’s when Miguel awkwardly informed me that she might not be coming at all. Ever. Debbie had quit two days earlier without any notice.

I was incredulous. How was that possible? I had just talked to her a few weeks ago! And why didn’t she call me? That’s what friends would do, right? I was upset, but more than upset, I was confused.

“How could she quit? Is she okay?”

Miguel’s response didn’t exactly confirm a positive answer… Debbie quit because she thought the end of the world was coming.

Although 12.21.12 has come and gone, and the earth has not been consumed in a ginormous fireball, Debbie has some lingering suspicions that Armageddon has been rescheduled for a future date. Maybe she’s right, but is that reason enough to bail on my pedicure? I had no words to respond. I could tell that Miguel felt weird by association, and who could blame him? I’d feel uncomfortable, too, if forced to relay the message that someone I know had gone nuts.

Still, I didn’t quite understand why the end of the world would prompt someone to just throw in the towel on life, so I pressed for details. Miguel didn’t have much to tell me, other than Debbie had been spending every morning at church. I felt like I was part of some weird Dateline special.

I decided to call her myself, but as Miguel had encountered, my call went straight to voicemail. What kind of a message do you leave after learning something like that? I know I sounded just as bewildered as I felt, but managed to string together a few words to wish her well. “Okay, bye…” Forever. Click.

Five days later and counting, Debbie still hasn’t called me back. And I still don’t know what to make of last weekend’s events.

And I still need a pedicure.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Just don't make eye contact, and you'll be fine.As a kid, I didn’t much heed cautionary stranger danger tales, but now I take them to very much to heart.

It probably has everything to do with my days in Chicago. From the time I left my apartment to when I arrived at school, it was like my very own game of Frogger. But instead of trying to avoid cars and trucks – and for the record, drivers are trying to run you over – I was doing my best to miss the weirdos and creepers on the street.

Not to say that Chicago isn’t awesome. It is. In many ways, Chicago is like a big bag of jellybeans. Most of it you can devour and enjoy without worrying, except for those icky licorice ones. And if you happen to like licorice, that’s on you. Weirdo.

I’m sure this is no secret to anyone who has lived in a city, but the trick to avoiding oddballs is pretending they’re not there no matter how eccentric their behavior. There’s a fellow having an argument with himself on the bus? Keep your eyes on your book. There’s a lady petting an imaginary dog on the sidewalk? Check your voicemail like it’s an ordinary day. Because the moment you make eye contact, it’s over.

Now a Los Angeles resident, I’m not nearly as vigilant when roaming the streets of this great city. Probably because I never roam. No one does. We drive, which is highly effective at eliminating most instances of unwanted contact. It’s really nice. Not to say that LA doesn’t have its own oddballs. They hang out in Starbucks and Whole Foods.

But you can’t avoid all the people all the time, right?

So the other day, I was doing my weekly grocery shopping. (For the record, I’m a Ralph’s and Trader Joe’s gal. If I shopped at Whole Foods, I’d probably be hanging out there all day, too, because I no longer would be able to afford rent.) Now when I frequent Trader Joe’s, I prepare myself. First, you have the eager-eyed petitioners outside. Does anyone actually stop and talk to them? Then there are the uber-friendly workers, whom I used to think were oddly cool until someone told me that they’re required to be nice. It makes a whole lot more sense, though. But even the other shoppers will throw a smile your way if you accidentally look at them. However, today I was in Ralph’s, which is normally a contact-free zone. You can then imagine my surprise when I was accosted in the refrigerated cookie section.

Upon assessing the situation, I noticed that the dude in question had a kid, so I relaxed a bit. Though children do not automatically rule out the possibility of being weird, you can usually downgrade the terror alert level from red to a solid yellow. Plus, he had a package of sugar cookie dough in his hand. My initial instincts told me that this was simply a clueless dad.

“Excuse me, but could you help me with something?”

I noticed that this guy had a British accent, which put me into an internal tailspin. Normally I don’t think twice about being brusque with strangers, but this guy was a foreigner. And we all know the bad rap that America gets abroad. Time to turn on the charm.

“Sure! What can I help you with?”

As his little daughter looked on, British man proceeded to ask me about what type of dough would be best for molding into shapes. I enthusiastically indicated that he had already found the best kind for his needs.

“But can you dye this dough?”

The truth is that I had no idea. I was leaning toward no, but given that he had no intention or aptitude to actually make dough, and his daughter was listening to every word we were saying…

“Sure! I mean, you’ll probably have to work it in, but I think you can do it.”

This answer satisfied him. He thanked me with his British accent and quickly went on his way before his daughter could question the purchase. For my part, I felt very pleased with myself as a smug American would. I then inadvertently smiled at a woman examining packages of cream cheese. She immediately averted her eyes.

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No cavities? I don't believe you.The dentist’s chair has not been kind to me over the years. But I’ve gotten used to it, and my dentists have gotten used to me. Because something’s wrong with my teeth every time I go in for a checkup, I’m required to come back for multiple visits, which has given me ample opportunity to get to know my dentists. In the past, I would chat with them about their kids, their German Shepherds, whatever. Sure, they did most of the talking, as I was typically laid out with a mouth full of dental equipment, but it has always made the minutes pass by a little more enjoyably.

Then about two years ago, my dentist hired a new hygienist. She’s great. In fact, she’s so cool that I actually get a little bummed when she hands me a cup and tells me to swish, which indicates that my visit is over.

The first time I met her, I immediately liked her. She’s like me; she loves to talk. Plus, even if you’ve known her for only ten minutes, it feels like you’ve been BFFs for ten years. Thing is… I can’t remember her name. I know that’s bad, but cut me some slack. I only see her twice a year. I’m sure she must have introduced herself upon our first meeting, but now it’s far too late to ask her name. To avoid total awkwardness, I have to find creative ways to say hello and goodbye without being obvious that I don’t know if she’s a Jane, Jennifer, or what.

That aside, our visits are very pleasant. I learned during our very first appointment that she had just moved to Los Angeles, so we immediately bonded over being LA transplants. And then there’s the boy talk. Yes, I discuss my love life with my dental hygienist. But for the record, she started it. All it took was, “So are you dating anyone?” for me to totally regress into junior high mode and divulge all information. Her squeals of delight and outcries of “I’m so happy for you!” only encourage my behavior. It can be tough at times to hold up my end of the conversation as she looms over my gaping mouth with her cleaning tools, but this doesn’t seem to hinder our talks in any way. In fact, she is very adept at interpreting my gurgles.

Then the last time I saw her, she revealed the reason why she left her hometown. I’m not at liberty to disclose such private information, but needless to say, it was a shocker. At the same time, I took her revelation quite seriously. She had waited two years to tell me, so obviously this was a big step forward in our relationship. Suddenly I was wishing that she could knock off early from work so we could grab a coffee and chat more about the motive behind her move. But wouldn’t you know it… I didn’t have any cavities. My time at the dentist was over for another six months.

Which is beginning to concern me a bit.

I always have something wrong with my teeth. However, I have gotten a clean bill of health after each of my last four checkups. Coincidentally, all four appointments have been presided over by this hygienist.

As much as I love her, I’m beginning to wonder if my rapport with my hygienist is to the detriment to my oral health. Could it be possible that she’s too distracted by our conversations to notice my cavities? Or maybe she does spy them, but is too nice to tell me? I could totally see her doing something like that. Whatever it is, I’m not altogether convinced that my years of dental misery are miraculously behind me. If even she could find just one teeny tiny cavity, it would put my mind at ease. Odds are, I’d get to hang with her a little longer, too. That would be so nice.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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