Monday, July 24, 2006

My New Love

Last week I was having to download about umpteen stupid idiotic forms in order to claim some savings bonds that bear someone else's name. I had to fill out forms to get forms, and fill out forms to order other forms and death certificates and court papers and blah-be-de-blah. My hand was almost falling off after only a couple of forms, since I type exclusively and don't even know how to write by hand anymore. I need to go back to school, maybe. Also, Arthur has my writing-hand wrist. (Arthur. Arthur Itis.)

Anyhoo, in a best effort to avoid the necessary task of filling out forms, I popped on eBay for a few minutes, amid dim and distant memories of the days when I had no computer, but a metal manual typewriter. A 1920, 35-pound, square black Royal monstrosity that three generations learned to type on. (It's like weight-lifting for those typing digits. Builds strong fingers one way.) My grandmother took it with her to Berkeley when Berkeley still had a teachers' college. I went down to check on the typewriter, and the entire scaffold of "cube shelving" in the closet COLLAPSED as I wrangled the demon out of there. Still in working order, but needing a new rubber cover on the platen. And full of cobwebs. And sort of not at all well greased. And the Standard #2 ribbon long gone. And a kid has broken the fabric carriage-return strap.

But eBay can rescue anyone from such dilemmas in mere moments!

I got sort of buggy about vintage typewriters as I was browsing. Instant hobby fun. Instant addiction. Collect them all! Oooh, you mean they have vintage adding machines, too?! I also found a blog on which a guy rhapsodized about a chance discovery of a tiny ancient typewriter repair shop, where he was sort of inducted into a reverent fraternity of the ancient machines. And eBay had a vintage ad with a girl saying, "This is the one I need for college, Dad!" She had spent the night with curlers in her gleaming hair, you could tell. (I love ephemera, but that's another post altogether.)

There were all kinds of cool type-related things on eBay, but the one that struck me was a 1949 portable machine called a Skyriter, by Smith-Corona. It looked just like something Mickey Spillane would have taken traveling on airplanes. Or Ingrid Bergman. That's actually what this model was designed for--typing on planes! It would fit on a tray table. The previous model Smith-Corona made was for typing on trains. I was smitten at once. One other person had bid on it--a whopping bid of $9.99. I noticed the auction was to end in one hour. I forget my maximum bid, but I sat sweating and nervous as the countdown progressed, fearing that terrible sinking feeling that follows you around like a cloud when you don't win something you really want.

The clock ticked until . . . Mine for $11.00. Hey, big spender! It turned out to be one of those things where the shipping is much more costly than the actual item, like the genuine police coat I won for a stage costume which weighed a ton and cost $16 to ship.

Well, it came today and I am just amazed. It takes me back and makes me so happy. I reminded myself that I am one mean typist. I am old enough that in my undergraduate days I had to type all of my papers, and as an English major that meant a lot of typing. It meant staying up until godknowswhattime (like four in the morning) to keep typing over all the pages that had errors. I also realized why people did not have phenomenal typing speeds such as 110 words per minute. You have to crush the keys with all your strength; the keys are on different levels. My other grandmother "graduated" with a certificate from secretarial school at the stunning speed of 32 words per minute. Every time I see that certificate I snort.

Lo, world, I can type on envelopes again! Hot diggity dog!

The machine is all metal, with plastic keys. A little smaller footprint than my laptop, and it has a self-cover, too; how cute is that. I was just itching for some of my mother's old-fashioned onion skin paper. Oh, and the goofball "wheel" style typewriter erasers that had the stiff little brush on the end! Then Kid 1 (14) and his best friend came over and stared at it as if it were a circus freak. Like a crosseyed calf eyeing a new gate. "What do you do with this? What is this thing? Why is it so hard to press the keys? How do you put the paper in? Does it have a backspace? When you hold the key down it doesn't repeat the letter, why not? How do you fix a mistake?" and on and on and on. Leave my baby alone! At one point I said, "It just got here! Don't break it before I even get to meet it!" and I popped on the cover and whisked it off to a safe place.

Oh, and one more thing. It is made of the same type of metal that my grandpa's ancient slide projector (not a carousel, much earlier than that) was made of. And it smells just like it, too--sort of a musty old-stuff smell, just like Grandpa's photography closet. It's funny how a smell can instantly connect you with something adored.

And you know what? I can still write when there's a power outage! Woot! Woot! When all of you computer users are having a fit, I can still hone my craft. As long as I have about a gallon of white-out. And guess what? I do. Because I am a vintage crap geek.

Now just gimme a crack at getting through airport security! **Stop her! She has a lethal weapon, an 11-pound metal typewriter! What if she hurls it at the captain through the cabin door? She can pull off the keys and use them like a pocket knife! We must suspect it, it has no electronic parts! What if there's a bomb under that lid?!**

Uhm, while I was waiting for Airborne to deliver my purchase, I, uh, finished filling out the forms by hand.

Next time! Go ahead! Do your worst! Keep the forms comin'!

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

More Phone

A few days ago, the "Don't Touch That Dial" and "Don't Touch That Dial Redux" phenomenon started happening again (links in yesterday's post). The phone rings. Someone answers. There's apparently nothing, or no one, on the other end; then there's a click, a machine comes on and a rude recorded voice says, "It is very important that you call blah blah person at 1-area code blah blah blah." Well we don't know blah blah person and why would I call a total stranger, long distance, on my own dime? And why in the hell does'nt blah blah person call him-very-self if he's so anxious to access us? And, oh, yeah, our number is on the NATIONAL DO NOT CALL REGISTRY and since you do not do any business with us, you are in violation.

So let me back up and explain why I think this is happening. Either "Patrick" of Don't Touch That Dial fame is giving out our number again, or our other esteemed telephone buddy, whose name is either Clyde or Clive Thomas, has skipped out on yet another person he screwed in one or another way. We have had this number for FOUR YEARS and people call here every few days for him and sorry, folks but he still does not live here. In fact, when we first got the number it happened so often that I put a special Clive clause on our answering machine outgoing message assuring people they needed to update their records if they were hoping to catch Clive.

Yo, Clive! I am not your personal administrative assistant! And, Clive, I would like to meet you once and for all to settle these little fictions that your lack of integrity compels me to make up about you.

Yes, I have done a Google search on the name and there are scads of Clives out there. One of them is even a radio personality. Let me make it absolutely clear that I am only mad at this one Clive. So for many of you this rant may be a case of mistaken identity. And if you are not that Clive Thomas, I promise I am not dissing you and will not throw you under the bus, and I apologize.

Each time someone calls, I get a little inkling about Clive's life. Now what I know for sure is, CLIVE (this one Clive only) YOU ARE A DEADBEAT, A$*#&@! You owe people money and they are after you. AND WATCH YOUR BACK 'CUZ SO AM I. Apparently lots o'money. You making some bad bets in that billiard room? And I know (because some of your callers have told me) that some of it is considerably worse than that.

And sometimes it is The Ladies who call, a bit startled when a woman answers at "his" number. But, Clive, sometimes people call and ask if they can speak to Mrs. Thomas. Now if there is a Mrs. (and maybe there isn't, who knows, but I can't help thinking there is), are you runnin' round on her? How come so many The Ladies dying to talk to you?

Here's an idea: One of these days I will say "yes" when they ask if I am Mrs. Thomas. Ha. And I will invent and dish some dirt on you to your one-night stands and creditors.

Now one thing baffles me about this "customer service" (read collection) business because I don't think a lot of those companies train their employees right. Dozens of times, when I am trapped on a Clive-ish call, the person says, haw, get a load of this, you'll like it: "Do you know where he is?" after I have already explained that this has been our number, not his number, for four years. As if I somehow inherited intimate friendship with the person who happened to have the number before. And then I go a little deeper and say, "What that means is that the phone company randomly hands out new phone numbers that were someone else's old numbers. When I moved here they did not say, 'Whose old number would you like? Clive's? His is fresh off the rack.'" And usually the callers do not at all understand what I am saying.

Another of my favorite approaches is this one: they start the conversation neither identifying themselves nor asking who I am nor asking for Clive or whoever. They launch right in,

Them: Yes, I'm looking for a neighbor of yours, Mr. Fillintheblank? In the apartment next to yours?"
Me: Sorry, there's nobody near me named Fillintheblank. And none of my neighbors are here so I don't know why you'd be looking for them here. In fact, there's nobody near me. I live on a pig farm in Idaho.
Them [sleuthing]: The Fillintheblanks are at blah blah address by your intersection at [intersection and town nowhere near here!]
Me: That's interesting. Good for them. But I'm nowhere near that town.
Them [grasping] Uh, Fairfield? Uh, Saskatchewan? Kyoto?
Me: Uh-uh. Nope.
Them: And you are . . . [hoping I'll spill my name]
Me: Yup, livin' on a pig farm in Idaho.

Well, that's enough about the Fillintheblanks. There's also some woman who meets men in bars and gives out this number. Sometimes the men sound disappointed that she pulled a fast one on them but other times they act like they'd just as soon chat me up, hell it's a warm body on the other end of the phone, why not. Creeps.

Then there was (for a while) I guy making repeat crank calls. At first I couldn't understand what he said, but as subsequent calls occurred he started speaking articulately and nasty, and I hung up immediately. Which was just the right thing to do because he didn't get any mileage out of it so he stopped.

And this is not the end of it; oh, no! The phone karma started years ago and just keeps following me around. When I was growing up, our phone number was one digit off from a real estate firm and one different digit off from a boat-sales business. This is how I learned about people who are phone-etiquette challenged. I was a kid, answering by just saying "Hello?" without announcing any business name,--dead giveaway--and they didn't even listen well enough to catch that, and they would launch directly into spiels about the house, the boat, whatever. Please shut up and breathe for a minute so I can at least tell you courteously that you have the wrong number.

When we were first married and got our phone in the west, we got scads of calls for Mike & Kelly Smith. Puh-leez, Mike and Kelly Smith! Calling Mike Smith! Oh, yeah, which of forty gazillion Mike Smiths do you want? I fantasized about finding them and giving them a piece of my mind. (Again, apologies to any legitimate Mike & K who aren't this M & K.) This was before these marvelous internets where you can find someone, maybe even for free, with little or no effort. I actually got a new phone book and looked them up so I could call them and pretend I was a lawyer with a cease-and-desist order. But then I was immediately infuriated because they had names so common you could never track them down in a hundred years. If indeed those were their real names. And they had probably fled the west anyway.

Pieces of work, both of them. They were scam artists extraordinaire. I got incessant threatening messages on the answering machine from The Chicago Tribune that I'd better pay up their delinquent newspaper account. I have never heard of newspaper dunning before, by the way. How bad could the arrears get? Or maybe it was not billing for the paper, but for some expensive advertising? Why a Chicago paper? Was it the con artists' hometown?

I learned that Kelly was stepping out on Mike--going to bars frequently--and giving out their old number. Will not be redundant here about the guys calling and getting me instead of Kelly, and just as soon talking to any female on the other end. Creeps. Ooh, I guess that was redundancy. But more than one of them told me, "Yeah, don't tell me you're not Kelly, it is too Kelly, I recognize your voice and I met you last night at [insert bar name here]." That was scary. Mike was lucky to be driving anything if indeed he was driving anything, because apparently his car was in imminent danger of repo. And yadda yadda credit cards. The "Smiths" were such a problem that I once started to write a short play about the incidents, intended to be a comedy, but every time I would get writing something I would get steaming mad block and not be able to distance myself from the subject matter.

And another little phone story that occurred in the western town (but far away from its place of origin). Actually it is a "meta" story. [Meta, I love meta! Can you tell I read loads of literary theory?] In other words, it's a phone story that begat a second phone story. Part one: We got a series of mysterious un-self-identifying messages on the answering machine. Eventually, I got so tired of them that even though I was afraid it might be some soliciting business trying to sucker me into something, I decided to try calling back just to straighten it out and make them stop filling up the answering machine tape with garbage.

Part two: Their number was a 1-800 number. But it was some sort of limited-region 800 number, because every time I tried to reply to one of their messages by calling it, I got a phone company error message saying I was not allowed to call that number because my number was outside its legitimate range! ABut i didn't have any other number for them and they never identified their company name thus I couldn't look them up. So, because I could not call back and straighten it out, the calls kept coming and the messages kept mounting! Aaaarrrrggghhh! But still, a fairly clear sign of a mistake of some kind.

Finally, a small bit of progress. One day, the representative actually got me, a real person. Yes, a human answered the phone that time. This person started the conversation by stating my maiden name. So, okay, I confirmed that was my maiden name. (Of course I was sure I wasn't the only one in the world with that name, but at this juncture, or rather to this person, that was entirely beside the point.) Next there was no small talk; she immediately launched into a scathing attempt to intimidate me and make me behave her way. Aside: This was back in the day when few people had cell phones, they were the size of a jackhammer and they belonged to the provider, before you could just walk in off any street corner and buy your own teensy phone. She said that I had signed up for cell-phone service on blah blah date and had not only not paid the bill for a gagillion years but had outright stolen the equipment and taken it out of the service range and they would put me in jail at once.

Huh? Whuuutt?

I asked her where she was calling from, and she said the application bore the name of the town where I grew up. I said, "Well, I grew up there but haven't lived there for more than twenty years and have not even visited there in more than four years, and did you not notice the area code when you called me is in a completely different state, so why do you think you have the right person with this name?"

Not subtle, she, for she started cussing me out and calling me a felon and thief and whathaveyou. When I detected a break in the diatribe I told her firmly that I was obviously not the person she sought, to please go away and do her homework and find the right person, and not to call me ever again. Or I would press charges. She laughed, saying that they would press charges on me and I would be in jail before I could do anything to make her stop calling. Bee-utch.

Well, boy, now that she was convinced she had her thief , things escalated. I well remember that her name was Tina [TINA, YOU IGNORANT SLUT! ] and she started calling frequently just for a lark. I started bitching back at Tina, screamed at Tina until she absolutely must be deaf in one ear, and hung up on Tina.

I'm not sure which day it was that I realized I was at declared war with Tina.

Clever Tina one time demanded that I TELL HER MY SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER because she knew it would match the number on the service application that she had in front of her face. That one cracked me up. I told her that was a real thigh-slapper, and in turn demanded that she let me speak to her supervisor. She hung up on me.

Then there was a lull. Some weeks passed and no more calls. I was starting to relax and think it was over. But then one day some other woman called from the same company. I calmly explained--and it was hard, but I realized I HAD to remain calm--about the Tina harassment and my town of origin and that I believed it was odd-chance possible that another person could have the same name as me but probably not in that town. This woman then suggested maybe someone evil who had known me long ago and knew I was gone, or maybe someone with access to some sort of records that would indicate to them that my-named person had been long-gone from there, was using my name fraudulently. Identity fraud! I said evidently that must be what it is. And she gladly offered to read to me most of the social security number on the application that she had in front of her face. And I said that was nothing like my number. She then tried to ask for my number but I said I would not give it out.

Not once during the conversation was this person unpleasant or bullying. After this she backed off and asked a couple of other questions that helped establish the fact that I was not their cell-phone thief.

And folks, all you millions of people out there on the internets, if you know where this one Clive is let me know because I have about four thousand messages for him. And I want to kick his ever-hiding lying cheating butt.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Phone Race Rant

Phone karma? I've got it. Bigtime. (As well Toaster Karma, but we'll burn that bridge when we get to it.) And, yes, I know I already posted an entry today. And I've already posted about phones before here and here. But one thing in particular keeps happening year after year and making me crazy, and just now I am hoppin' mad about it and must vent somehow that does not involve strangulation or tripping on stairs or generally whaling on a certain someone or other vile actions that would surely raise eyebrows at the Department of Children and Families.

I have many phone problems; just one is that the phone rings almost every single time I open up the garage door to come in the house. Honest to God, people, at least let me get in the door and sit down. This incessant ringing before I am really even properly home yet necessitates RUNNING, usually carrying a bunch of heavy something, up two flights of stairs in order to get to the stupid phone in time to answer before the idiot answering machine picks up instead. Well, why would that be a big deal? One, because I am asthmatic and hate like hell to run up the stairs, and then when I answer the phone the caller inevitably gets concerned because I am huffing and puffing and I then have to explain it all.

Two, because a certain family member named G (who shall remain unnamed, ahem, but EVERYBODY knows who he is!) CONSTANTLY takes the main portable phone with him as he roams endlessly through the house on his meandering phone calls. When he's finished with the phone (which usually does not happen until he has drained the battery right out and HAS to get off or get another phone), he just leaves the phone wherever in the house he happens to be, which could be under the bed or in the yucky kids' bathroom or sitting on/under an enormous pile of laundry. So of course what this means is that as I come flying in the door to answer the phone, run up the two pair o'stairs, and arrive in the family room, the expected phone is GONE AWOL and I cannot answer it before the idiot answering machine sets off its message. Where, oh where is another phone? One or two flights more stairs up! And I only have four rings to get to it, or the answering machine will go! Must run, flee! Fly, race!

I'll explain here that our answering machine will only NOT answer if you get to the phone before four rings. And if you answer a smidge late from any phone other than the main one, you cannot turn off the outgoing message, and you are stuck yelling, "Hello? Hello? Helloooo!!!" over the recorded greeting, much to the dismay of the poor caller who surely thinks you're insane or schizo and can't hear you over the tape anyway. And the idiot machine then RECORDS your conversation and runs out of message tape.

Oh, it's painful. Even talking about it is painful.

IF (and it's a big if) you get to the phone in the living room (next level up), it may be close but no cigar anyway. Because the Phone Klepto does not necessarily roam only with the main phone, but might have misplaced the extensions, too. And if I find an extension, it may well not work because it has been left out of the charging cradle until those batteries are dead as well.

There is also the amusing little problem that two extensions are almost exactly the same model, but not quite. So if on the off chance someone has actually returned a phone to its cradle, they might have exchanged one extension for the other. And while they are almost identical, if you trade them the charger connection doesn't necessarily work with the wrong phone. Sometimes si, most times no. So chances are the phone is not charged.

THUS it is entirely possible that I will have to keep racing and run up the fourth flight of stairs and see if there is a phone anywhere on that level. One might think that the parental units' bedroom phone would be Off Limits and Inviolable, but let me wise you up, honey. Phone Klepto is an equal-opportunity thief. It, too, could be stifling beneath a pile of dirty laundry.

I have never once made it to the farthest phone without the answering machine winning the race, but it's okay to dream.

And while I'm on this subject of phones, which I assure you has many sub-subjects that I will grouse about at length another time, there is just one more phone karma story for today. There is one person who consistently calls me when I am on the toilet for serious business. And I have to tell you this is not a frequent activity for me. It's not like I spend much time there at all, and it's also true that the timing is completely random, so it's not happening by the clock. It's a bizarre talent. Soon as I am stuck there and can't leave, certainly not to answer the phone, Honey calls. Honey does it over and over and I do not know how he knows when to call. I have scoured the bathroom for hidden surveillance cameras, but he must have some other method. Radar?


My Fans

First off, no, it's not about fans such as aficionados (I'm lucky if four other people in the world read this thing). It's about fans. Yesterday I had a couple of fond memories about fans. I was reminded of the fans because a friend of mine was debating whether he should get a second cat to keep his spazzy first cat company. I told him absolutely yes. Well, isn't that illogical? Why change subjects from fans to cats? What do cats have to do with this?

Many years ago I had two cats. They were born to a barn cat mother and they were brothers, as different from each other as night and day. Falstaff was a scheming, half-evil gray tabby who ate like a pig and later actually became bulimic. No, I am NOT kidding, and I'd rather not go into the details. His brother, Orpheus, was a sweet, svelte black and white lovemuffin who was absent the day the brains were handed out. He sang instead of meowing and woke me up every morning by staring at me. I never understood how that worked, but he did.

Anyway, one winter when I was living in a tiny garret apartment with no heat, a friend gave me a little portable space heater for Christmas. I took it with me all over the apartment (which was usually a crisp 52 degrees), but spent most of my time in the tiny dormer room that I used as an "office" and "livingroom." One day I was reading on my fold-up "sofa" (don't ask) and suddenly smelled something godawful. I looked over and what did I see but Falstaff backed up to the space heater spraying it for all he was worth! Oh, the stench! The fan was distributing the odor of fried cat pee all through the apartment! Cat pee is bad, but cooked cat pee is even worse. It didn't last long . . . the fan promptly gave up the ghost, and the poor space heater was no more. A weak wisp of white smoke issued, and then it was over. Thank goodness it happened while I was watching, or the whole building could have gone up in [stinky] smoke!

A few months went by and I moved out of the garret and into one side of an Edwardian double house. The place was lovely, but completely unrenovated and certainly had no air conditioning. One night I had my bedroom window wide open but the air just wasn't moving and I resorted to dragging my big box fan upstairs and setting it near the window. It felt pretty great, but the night never did get any cooler, so I went to sleep leaving the fan on low.

The next morning Orpheus was just waking me up by staring when I heard an explosive BOOM and through my half-shut eyes I saw Falstaff fly straight up toward the ceiling like a cartoon and then change directions and shoot horizontally out the door, down the hall, downstairs and to the back door. Honestly, he was flying. He had blown up the box fan by spraying it dead center. Of course I was still waking up, but I was now nearly crippled with laughter over the stupid cat action. I was snorting and fell off the bed and my eyes were welling up with tears of hysteria.

Though planning to run out and find Falstaff and see if he was okay, I was immediately and thankfully distracted by something far more important: the box fan was now a flaming pinwheel threatening to set the curtains on fire. Laughing and crying at the same time, I jumped up and grabbed the handle and fled out to the driveway, where I left it to burn itself out.

When I went back in I could not find Falstaff and Orpheus was staring at me as though demanding an explanation for all this idiocy. The shenanigans had set me off schedule and I absolutely had to leave for work, so I never found out where Falstaff had gone after the deed.

I got to work a few minutes late and went in to tell my manager (a really great lady) why. I sputtered and spewed the story out and by halfway through she was crying, too. She told me the first task I had to do when I got to my desk was write an email to my department colleagues telling them "why I was late today." Throughout the day I heard titters and guffaws as people read the message.

Those are my fond memories of fans.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Return of the Brassiere

No, Dear Reader, I have not given up the foundation fight. A while ago, I acquired an ill-fitting boulder holder and a pair of "trousers" [I use the term only loosely; they fit like nothing I've ever seen before] from JC Penney catalogue. I got really busy and didn't take back the items for a long time. That's because I'd rather have impacted wisdom teeth yanked out of my head than go to a mall. But last weekend I remembered I really had to do it. Honey needed me to pick him up from the car dealer where he was having maintenance done, so I took Tyke with me and got Honey. Tyke wanted to ride back home with me, but I explained that I needed to take A BRA back to JC Penney for an exchange. The Tyke does not like going to JC Penney, because there's a huge ladies' lingerie department. He refuses to look at it at all. In fact, he routinely covers up his eyes with one hand and makes me lead him past and tell him when it's over.

So I traded off Tyke and headed off to the mall. When I got to the catalogue desk, I noticed that the clerk was a guy. Interesting. He immediately started with the trousers and smoothly took care of returning them and crediting my account. Then he got to the other one, and balked, just about like Tyke. I was feeling feisty and a little annoyed by the stupidity of the boy/bra animosity, so decided to play with the clerk a little. It went like this:

Clerk: And, uh . . . this item?

Me [loudly]: The BRA. I want to return this BRA, yes!

Clerk [looking down at his feet, not at the bra at all]: And, what was wrong with this? It was . . . TOO LARGE?

{I had given him the exchange sheet with all the instructions clearly printed in the little boxes and there was no excuse for him to not understand. But in addition to the lingerie sensitivity, he was apparently challenged by not being a reader, either.}

Me [laughing at the cheek of this person, "sizing up" my boob-estate]: No, no, no! It was . . . too small! I need to exchange it for the next size up [loudly announcing the size up I want].

Clerk [looking at the floor again, then going to the computer and sneaking a peek at the screen] Uh, uh, there is no size up. This size [not announcing it, and heaven forbid not pointing at the item in question] is the last one.

Me [loudly]: You mean, they don't make a [next size up]?

Clerk: Uh, that's what the system says.

Me: Okay. Just return it without an exchange, then.

[Clerk fumbles with the return paperwork with surreal slowness. It seems as though the world is turning at a remarkably reduced rate.]

He hands me a slip of receipt paper showing the credit. But it seems only to credit the trousers, not the BRA.

Me: 'Scuse me, did this transaction credit the wee, nude-colored BRA, as well?

Clerk [looking down]: Yes, it did.

Me: Thank you.

Then I went on into the Forbidden Zone (the vast and terrifying lingerie department), where they had a SALE ON. And I found out it was indeed true that the Lily of France bra was not available in any color in the size I really wanted it in. But that was fine, because there were many other brands, and some of them were 2 for $24, and what joy I experienced picking things out and knowing that they would fit me.

And then I even knocked myself out and bought a support cami in powder blue and a couple of bras that had those formerly inscrutable clear straps. I could do this, you see, because after much subtle evaluation of what people are wearing these days (vs. what I have been wearing, in my hermit-cave-living, non-magazine-noticing, non-tv-watching, utter fashion-lack-of-awareness) I have finally learned how women wear these newfangled tops with great plunging necklines and other anomalies. They simply have the right underwear!

It's a great revelation to me. Honestly. I feel as if I have been born into a new era.

Let me say it again, really loudly in front of everybody and the whole darned internets: BRA!!!