What It’s Like Going to a College Info Session and Tour

Rob has CHOSEN HIS COLLEGE. He’ll be going to one that’s about a 7-hour drive away, which is a nice distance: far enough to feel Nice and Far for him, but close enough that if something were to go wrong I wouldn’t have to try to book a flight; close enough that we can drive him with all his stuff, rather than trying to ship it or fit it on an airplane.

Well. That whole college-selection process was an…invigorating time. And now there is a brief lull before we start all the freshman-prep stuff, so this seems like a good chance to talk about what it was like to go on all those college info sessions and tours. Those were on my list of anxieties before starting the college-search process with Rob, so I want to tell you how much easier they are than I’d thought. Here are the notes I have from the last session/tour, which was when I decided to write this post:

• don’t wear loud shoes
• it’s so boring seriously
• shows you how old you are when you look around at other parents
• so many stairs

So basically that sums it up, but I’ll fill in a few sparse places.

To start with, colleges WANT you to do these. I don’t know why I imagined I was somehow inconveniencing them by visiting: they do info sessions and tours ALL THE TIME. Some of the more popular colleges do them again and again all day, every day of the week. Usually they have a schedule posted online; usually you need to register ahead of time with information such as the child’s name, address, phone number, email, date of birth, high school graduation year, areas of interest—things like that. (This will then get you on that college’s mail/email list if you weren’t already.)

Times that are convenient for you to go (Thanksgiving break, Christmas break, spring break, weekends, etc.) will either be unavailable or will fill up early. I was worried that if we went during the summer we would miss getting the Real Feel of the student-occupied campus, but I didn’t see a huge difference except that it was less comfortable weather-wise.

It is common for the students to be accompanied by family members. I felt awkward about this when registering the first time but it’s so totally normal. Many kids had one or two parents AND a sibling or two; Rob was accompanied by one parent plus William (since William is two years behind Rob and could get an early start on his own college search). It would not, however, be a good place to bring MUCH younger children—like, anyone in the run-around-in-the-aisles/cry-interruptively stage of life.

It is a little alarming, by the way, to look around at all the other parents and realize that’s how old you are too. It is especially alarming seeing them/yourself in such sharp contrast to all the young, vigorous students. A person can end up feeling a bit middle-aged and frumpy and done with the meat of life, is what I’m warning you about. I tried with mixed success to turn this into a feeling of solidarity with my peers.

The most common info/tour system we encountered was this: you could sign up for just the info session or just the tour, but usually the info session went right into a tour afterward. So if you see that info sessions are offered at 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., and tours are offered at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., you can feel confident that the 9:00 a.m. info session is followed by the 10:00 a.m. tour, and the 1:00 p.m. info session is followed by the 2:00 p.m. tour. (On our first couple of college visits, I was worried that the info session would take, say, 1.5 hours—so then we couldn’t sign up for the 10:00 a.m. tour. But no: the college realizes you will probably want to do both, and they don’t make you hang out for several hours in between.)

Or you might end up doing them separately. For example, some colleges have traveling info sessions: the child’s high school might host one, or in our case we attended one at a local hotel conference room. The school was far enough away that we wouldn’t have visited just on a whim, but after we went to the info session we were interested enough to book a tour and make the drive. We could have re-attended the info session once we were on campus—but since the college had Saturday tours but no Saturday info sessions, and since we were available on a Saturday, it all worked out perfectly.

The info sessions and tours are free. About half the time, they included free coffee and water, maybe some candies or cookies. Sometimes there are optional expenses: for example, a couple of tours ended by saying we were welcome to try a meal in the school cafeteria if we wanted to, but there was a cost for that.

I will say this: I found all info sessions and tours to be IMMENSELY BORING. One was kind of cool because it was at a famous college so I was sitting there thinking “I can’t believe I’m sitting here in this well-known place!” But then the person from admissions came in and started talking, and it was just as boring as everywhere else.

Boring but INFORMATIVE—as long as you realize you are sitting through a sales pitch. The information session tells you what the college thinks are its selling points. You will find out which buzzwords the college wishes to push: unique, cooperative, diverse, opportunity, innovative, excellence, hands-on, interdisciplinary, passion, real-life experience, selective, progressive, driven, research. You can recognize which words the college decided on because they will say them comically often until you are thinking “OKAY WE GET IT YOU WANT US TO KNOW YOU’RE TRYING TO SHAKE THE PRIVILEGED WHITE KID IMAGE” or “YES YES EVERYONE IS A GENIUS AND STUDIES CONSTANTLY, GOT IT.”

The info session usually takes place in a largish room with dozens or hundreds of people (though we went to one that was just five students and their families) and lasts about an hour. They will cover things such as: which majors are most common; what their acceptance rates are; a little about the application process; what they look for in a candidate; the student-teacher ratio; opportunities to study abroad or at other local institutions; a little about how they help graduates find jobs; cost of tuition, room and board, fees. Most will give you written materials as well, with pretty much the same info.

After the info session there is time for people to ask questions. Every single session-leader handled this beautifully so that it didn’t go on and on and on, but there were usually a few parents asking really specific-to-their-own-child questions that were a little tiresome for the rest of us; for example, one mother asked if the session leader could please list all the classes needed for a marketing major. (Beautiful handling by session leader: “Oh, great question! I don’t have that information with me, but if you stop at the Admissions office on your way out we can certainly get that for you!”) One father wanted to tell everyone that he had been quite the soccer star when he attended there, and to ask how had the team been doing since then because his son wanted to play soccer too.

After the Q&A, the group is divided into tour groups, usually of about twenty people in each (or of course fewer if the whole info group was fewer than that). (Usually there was no pee-break between session and tour, so find a bathroom before the info session if you can. You could also sneak out during the last 15 minutes of the session to pee.) One time we got to choose our tour guide: five of them introduced themselves and said their majors, and then we could pick which one to go with; this was nice because we got someone with the same major Rob is considering, so she knew about and emphasized stuff he was interested in. But most of the time we were counted off and then assigned. The tour guide is a current student doing a memorized routine. They walk backward while the group follows them and listens; typically you can ask questions as you go and the tour guide generally made it easy/comfortable to do so.

The tour lasts an hour or so, and typically includes a lot of walking and a lot of stairs; I recommend wearing comfortable shoes and bringing a water bottle. The tour usually includes some academic buildings, a dorm (but only once the inside of a dorm room—sometimes the college offered a separate housing tour), a cafeteria, the library, a social hang-out area, the gym, a big open grassy area, a sculpture, and anything else the college wanted to draw special attention to (a self-sustaining green area, an on-campus museum filled with student art, a fountain donated by someone famous, a concert hall, a 3D-modeling lab where students built a working car, etc.). Note: many campuses have multiple Pokéstops.

After the tour, you are dismissed. The tour guide usually invited anyone with additional questions to stay after and ask them. We almost always had to use that opportunity to ask the tour guide how to get from where we were back to our car. Fortunately the info session usually includes a map, too.

Oh, and I highly recommend bringing a snack: it seemed like we were always starting the process in the late morning and then going through to early afternoon, so afterward we were hot, tired, cranky, hungry, and in a strange city. Having a sneaky granola bar on the tour made things so much more pleasant.

Which reminds me of another issue: parking. This mystified me. The college would have online info about attending tours, and would instruct us to park in Lot A. And then Lot A would have ten parking spaces. And it would be full, because dozens or hundreds of people were attending the session/tour, and there would be no back-up instructions. So! Print out a campus map to bring with you, and investigate alternate visitor lots ahead of time if possible—or just be prepared that you might need to do so on the spot. I liked to allow quite a bit of padding so that we could (1) find parking without me feeling like screaming, and (2) walk from that far-off lot to Admissions, and (3) FIND Admissions, and (4) find a bathroom.


To sum up:

• investigate parking and allow extra time for it
• pee right before the session
• comfy shoes, water bottle, snack
• it’s pretty much always an info session followed by a tour
• take notes and save the paperwork, because they all start to blend together

What it Was Like To Deal with a 4883C Letter from the IRS

“Not too terrible!,” is the short answer if you’ve got stuff to do.

Here’s what part of Letter 4883C looks like:

It is signed “Sincerely yours, INTEGRITY & VERIFICATION OPERATIONS,” which is a little funny if you are still in the mood to laugh after receiving a letter from the IRS. “Sincerely yours”! And then all-caps! From not-a-name-of-a-person! It’s funnier to me now that I’ve already dealt with the letter.

The whole thing looks shady as heck, so first I spent some time verifying that it was a real letter from the real IRS. But they use the real IRS website on their letter, and a real IRS phone number, and the real IRS website has a section on this letter. Also, the postage is paid by IRS.gov.

I looked up online to see if I could figure out why we got the letter, but apparently it’s a bit like getting pulled out of line at the airport for additional checking: sometimes it’s for a reason and sometimes it’s not, and most of the time you don’t get to know the reason. I also found reports of waiting 1.75 hours on hold to speak to an agent, so I waited until I had a whole afternoon ahead of me, and I had a book available.

They want you to have available your tax forms from the most recent filing and the previous year’s filing, including all schedules, W-2s, 1099s, etc. This gave me some anxiety: I was worried they would ask for some information and I would have to riffle endlessly through papers to find it. (This is exactly what happened, but they are used to it.) So I put all the stuff in piles on the bed to at least reduce the number of papers I would have to riffle through for each question: a pile for the tax return itself, a pile for the W-2s, a pile for the 1099s, and a pile for everything else—in two rows, one row for 2015 and one for 2016.

Then I dialed the number. They give you an estimated hold time right at the beginning, which I appreciated: if they’d said two hours, I would have called back another time. But they said 15 minutes, and that’s about how long it was. They are, as it turns out, the type of business that thinks you want a voice to come on the line every 20 seconds to thank you for holding and assure you that all available agents are helping other customers, and then remind you again to have your tax returns, W-2s, 1099s, etc.—so that was annoying. But tolerable.

An agent came on the line sounding like this was not his dream job but he didn’t blame me personally. He also had a cold. Imagine Robert De Niro, two years from retirement at a depressing desk job, and with a headcold. He’s not mean, he’s just really tired and he’s not having any fun.

Anyway! What was clearly happening was that he was reading off a screen as it told him what to ask me. He asked if I had received a letter asking me to call this number, and which letter it was, and whether I was calling on my own behalf or someone else’s; then I think he asked for the name or names on our tax return, and then for the first Social Security number on the tax form. Then he asked several other questions. One was how many dependents we had claimed in 2015. Then he asked for the Social Security numbers of those dependents. I had to riffle to the very last page of our taxes; I used the Coping Thought of “This must happen to pretty much everyone.” After I’d listed four of them, he said sorry, he needed me to go back to the beginning and tell me their full names. Then he needed me to go back to the beginning and tell me their dates of birth. There was apparently some issue with the fifth dependent not showing up on his screen, but that seemed to be an issue only for him, not for me: that is, he was keeping himself from saying his computer was stupid, but he didn’t give me any feeling that my forms were the problem. He said he could see it was five dependents but that for some reason it wouldn’t show him the fifth. Robert De Niro sigh, and a big long sniff followed by another sigh because he cannot stand to blow his nose even one more time today.

He asked if I’d worked in 2016, and I said I had, and he asked for my employer, and I told him the name of the in-home elder care agency, and he said “Excellent, yes.” Then there was a silence as he typed. I felt uncertain, because I also earn money from the ads on this blog, but that’s called “non-employee compensation”—so should I mention that or not? I decided to err on the side of MORE information, so I said into the pause that I wasn’t sure if this was the time to mention it, but I also had non-employee compensation. He said “From who?” and I told him, and he said “Perfect!” in a voice that to me communicated “Good girl, you got it right!”—I mean, in a good way, not in a condescending way. More like I had given the right answer and he was pleased. I was feeling as if however he felt about his job, he and I were getting along and he didn’t mind this call as much as he minded some.

I think that was all he asked. When he said something about number of dependents being weird, I said I wondered if it had anything to do with one of our dependents turning 18 this year—he’s still a dependent, but he no longer gets us the Child Tax Credit, so…maybe? And the agent said yeah, maybe so, and then he said “I mean, it’s not like we got two forms from you or anything, so it must be something like that.” And I seized upon this and said, “So it doesn’t look like it’s an identity theft issue? I was worried that maybe someone else filed a form using our names,” and he said, “No, no—we just got the one form, so something else must have triggered it.”

He put me on hold for about five minutes while he “returned the tax return to the queue for processing,” and then came back and said everything was all set and started reading off a screen again, something about now the forms were submitted for processing and I should call some other number if the refund wasn’t completed in 9 weeks.

And then it was done! The whole thing took about 40 minutes, about half of that time on hold and half talking to the agent. It was a little scary to get the letter and a little scary to deal with it, but in the end it was okay. Well, or we’ll see how long it takes to get the refund now.

Update: I thought it might be good to add a data point for how long it took to get the refund after this. I called them on April 24th, and we got our refund on May 11th: 2.5 weeks. That’s better than I was expecting.

Swistle and Paul Discuss Rogue One and Rearrange a Pantry

We saw Rogue One.

Swistle: “I wish they had cut out about thirty minutes of the ‘[*zooms her hands like fighter planes*] PEW PEW-PEW PEW-PEW-PEW PEW PEW PEW-PEW PEW-PEW PEW PEW-PEW-PEW PEW PEW-PEW!!!!!’ and used that time to explain who people were and what was going on.”

Paul: “I wish they had cut out the thirty minutes where people were talking or having feelings or looking meaningfully at each other, and filled it with more PEW-PEW-PEW-PEW-PEW.”


I don’t want to nitpick about an otherwise perfectly acceptable person with many indisputably fine qualities, but see my tagline because yes I DO want to and here I go: Paul puts things into temporarily-empty spaces. Like for example, I can still get worked up about him “organizing the pantry” a couple of years ago. He went striding down there as if he thought only his manly super-intelligence could solve this little domestic issue, and into every space where we were currently low on flour or tomato sauce or cereal or whatever, he crammed items from other shelves. He made our pantry into Tetris: every item was packed beautifully for maximum conservation of space—and minimum ability to remove that item or put away any further groceries.

And when I said, “Wait, but I can’t put the groceries away because there’s no room for them, and we can’t get to the cereal or crackers because they’re behind all the canned stuff,” he was pissed and huffy. Pissed and huffy is my least-favorite spousal state after “So Sick He Will Probably Die of this Head Cold that Is Definitely Flu Because Listen to How Much He Is Groaning and Sighing; Can I Feel His Forehead and See if He Has a Fever?”—and also Pissed and Huffy is MY specialty and he shouldn’t be copying me. …I am not sure firstborns should marry each other.

Bright side: the pantry DID get organized, because I had to move every single thing back again.

Not every space-filling episode is as dramatic and disastrous as The Pantry Incident. Sometimes it is a matter of him helpfully moving a stack of bowls over to an empty place in the cupboard—a place where, when the dishwasher is unloaded, it will turn out the dessert plates normally go: that place was not just sitting empty because we were too silly to use it for something. Sometimes it is putting a plate into the dishwasher so that it blocks water to the inside of a bowl. Sometimes it is taking a pad of paper on which I’ve written an important reminder, and adding it to the mail stack on the counter where I won’t see it. Sometimes it is taking a bunch of things out of the upstairs freezer and moving them to the downstairs freezer—right into the space where I will then not be able to put away that week’s groceries, which include replacements for the things I thought we were out of because they were not in the upstairs freezer. But always, ALWAYS there is that lethal combination of “HE’LL take care of this issue!” + MAKING THINGS WAY WAY WORSE AND CREATING A LOT OF WORK + pissed and huffy that “making things worse and creating a lot of work” is not praised and appreciated. Stick to what you do WELL, Paul. LEARN FROM EXPERIENCE, Paul. It has been OVER TWENTY YEARS OF SWISTLE BEING QUITE VOCAL ABOUT YOU NOT REARRANGING HER THINGS, Paul.

Comments suggesting I should be grateful that he WANTS to assume I don’t know what I’m doing and fix it for me will be answered with the delivery of Paul to your house to rearrange your pantry and stand there proudly expecting you to be grateful for it. I will infect him with a head cold first, so that afterward he will lie on your couch groaning and shivering until you ask him if he’s okay.

Swimsuit Shopping Report

Yesterday I mentioned I was heading out to do some swimsuit shopping. Backing up a little, I should say I FIRST tried to shop online, but gave up for two, no three reasons:

1. HOLY HELL, $60-100 PER PIECE of a two-piece swimsuit are they LITERALLY AND ACTUALLY ON ACTUAL LITERAL DRUGS??

2. The aforementioned problem of trying to figure out what it would look like on me, when it is displayed on non-plus-sized models.

3. Just in general, I need to try it on I think. I know I COULD order eight suits and return seven, but I hate doing that. I like to find something I like and then order the exact same thing again and again for eternity.


I am not sure why I am reluctant to tell you that my excursion yesterday was to…Wallmartt. No, I do know why: it’s because I hate that store and I keep telling you so. It’s depressing. And their low-price thing is a fake: they do it to start with, and then they raise the prices after you are already convinced they’re lower, and for some reason that is a very hard psychological mold to break out of. And they have their own product sizes, so sometimes you think “Oh, I’m paying $1.97 when the other grocery store has it for $2.50!” but actually the Wallmartt one is 10 ounces and the other grocery store’s is 14 ounces. OR WHATEVER. And things are always out of stock! And things ring up wrong all the time, always in their favor, so you have to WATCH THEM LIKE A HAWK, UG I don’t even want to TALK about it, it’s so frustrating!! …Ahem. My point is that I am on record as having practical, philosophical, and emotional objections to Wallmartt, but fortunately I am also on record as occasionally shopping there anyway, so there is no need to call anyone out.

And the fact is, that is where I went. Whatever Wallmartt’s other (MYRIAD) (SIGNIFICANT) flaws, they acknowledge that plus-size people exist and they sell clothes in those sizes in their actual physical stores so you can try them on, and that is in their favor. And once, long ago in despair when I HAD to go swimming and it was LONG PAST the time stores sell swimwear (i.e., summer had begun), I found two good swimsuits plus a swim skirt on their clearance rack for like $3-7 each, so that has lingered in my mind.

Yesterday I bought:

1. This ruffled tankini top in Superhero Underoos blue, which was my long-distance-third choice after pink and aqua but the only one they had in stock in plus sizes. Also, it has virtually no support in the chestal region, which feels weird—like being in a car with no seatbelt on. But it was $11.84 and Will Do.

(image from Walmart.com)

2. This tankini, which was in Wendy’s post and is one of the reasons I went to Wallmartt. Cute/pretty/fun/colorful pattern; medium support in the chestal region.

(image from Walmart.com)

3. This blue skirt (again, not my top color choice but the only one they had) to go with both. The waist is TOO LOW and I have to keep tugging it up. I would really like the waist to go all the way up to my ribs, and I don’t see why I can’t have that for less than SEVENTY-FIVE DOLLARS LANDS’ END I AM LOOKING IN YOUR DIRECTION. But here we are, spending $11.

(image from Walmart.com)

So! I came home with two swimming suits I have to keep tugging at. But! I like them OKAY. And they will DO. That is the important thing: they WILL do the job. I can put them on and I can go into the water.

This frees me up for the second step, which is to see if I can do better. I can get a bit…panicky and overwhelmed, with things like this. But if I HAVE something that I CAN wear, that reduces the panic and stress considerably by taking the element of desperation out of it. So then, after reading all the comments that basically said, “Listen, you get what you pay for,” and feeling more relaxed because I already had my bird-in-the-hand cheap swimsuits, I took my 30%-off Lands’ End code and bought a LONG-TORSO plus-size top and skirted swim leggings:

(image from Landsend.com)

I was very excited to find a swim top that was tall AND plus: that is almost unheard of. (I did not need tall for the leggings: my torso borrowed the height from my legs.)

I am going to try to make myself try them on RIGHT AWAY when they arrive, rather than leaving the box unopened for months while I get up my nerve. Because if those swim leggings fit, I am going to be an extremely happy girl. I am of the opinion that swimsuits are NOT ENOUGH CLOTHING TO WEAR IN PUBLIC, and although capri leggings, a mini-mini skirt, and a tank top would ALSO be too little clothing for me to want to wear in public, it is a PRETTY NICE STEP UP, coverage-wise!

Today’s Task: Swimsuit Shopping

Today I am going swimsuit-shopping. I know your thoughts will be with me at this very difficult time.

This has been looming ever since last summer, when I put on my swimming suit right before a swimming commitment and thought, “Oh geez, this no longer works, maybe a t-shirt over it or something?” Later I took it off gratefully and with no small difficulty, thinking “I have until next summer to find another suit.” And lo, that time loometh. Swimsuit emails have been arriving for a couple of months.

But I did not feel fortified for this terrible task until I read a post on plus-size swimsuits by my blog-friend Wendy. I will not usually link you to slideshow posts, but this one is Full-On Worth It. I was just about collapsing with frustration yesterday trying to shop for a plus-size suit when half the models are not even CLOSE to plus-size. Like, how on earth can I tell how this suit would fit on ME?:

(image from roamans.com)

And this is on a site specifically for plus sizes. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable to want to see it on someone with upper-arm fat. And thighs that not only touch but snuggle up like the cozy besties they are. IT IS A SITE FOR PLUS-SIZE CLOTHING. THEY DON’T EVEN SELL NON-PLUS SIZES. How many clothespins did they have to use to fit the suit on someone so much smaller than the minimum size they sell??

How To Remove a Phone Case; Suggestions for Phone Games for My Mom

FIRST: I have been trying to get a phone case off of my phone for three days. Intermittently, I mean. Not without ceasing. I got a new phone, and so I needed a new case, and then Paul put the new case on without taking off the sticker on the back of the phone, so then the sticker showed through. But then I couldn’t get the case off. Paul tried and ended up damaging it, leaving a small sharp point on the top. So I searched online and found this video by I think a child, with an idea of how to do it, and it totally worked. (I showed it to Paul, who suggested I might want to start attending the Technology for Seniors class at the library. HE COULDN’T GET THE CASE OFF EITHER.) I have an android phone and that may be why I had to slide the card down to the bottom corner rather than up to the top corner, but it totally popped the case right off. (Idea starts at 0:50.)

Second, speaking of phones, my mom needs suggestions for phone games. She likes a very particular type of game: the kind where you play the same game over and over with varying degrees of success, NOT the kind where you endlessly level up. So for example, her top favorite game is Solitaire: you play the same game over and over, and sometimes you win and sometimes you lose and sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s hard, but you don’t then level up, you just start over.

It isn’t that it can’t level up at all. Back at Christmastime, she liked that ornament-smashing game on the Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendar: as you complete each level it goes to the next—but it only goes to level five or something, and it’s always the same five levels. Maybe sometimes you get through all five and then you win; maybe other times you only get to level two or three or four before you lose; but it is always the SAME levels, again and again.

She likes Candy Crush pretty well, but doesn’t like that it endlessly levels up with new challenging features. She’d be happier if Candy Crush was a five-level game where you always start at level one and see if you can get to level five without losing a life. (Sometimes Candy Crush has special mini-games like that—but they’re temporary, and they change.)

If you are thinking, “Why doesn’t she just play the first five levels of a game over and over?,” that is something she has thought of, but it lacks the satisfying quality of a game that is supposed to be played that way: she has to keep track herself of the levels, and it doesn’t tell her she’s won if she makes it to the fifth level, and she knows she is SUPPOSED to keep going. It’s all wrong.

So she and I are wondering if you can suggest more games of the sort she likes.

Lawn Chairs

Let’s say you are having people over for an Easter Egg Hunt. Let’s say that while the children hunt for eggs, you are serving buckets of mixed candy (one bucket for chocolate items, one for fruity items) to the adults. What boxed wine would you pair with that?


I would like to buy some lawn chairs.

1. They should be able to hold a nice big person, without that nice big person feeling as if the chair might collapse under them. (“Something collapsing under me, actually or apparently because of my weight” is one of my Top Anxieties.) (It happened to me once with someone’s picturesque tree swing. That memory plays in my mind as if from an observer’s point of view, which is how you know it’s one of the worst ones.)

2. They should fold up or stack for storage.

3. It would be nice if they had cup holders.

4. I don’t like the kind with leg rests, but I might like to have one of that kind for anyone who DOES like that kind.

5. Bonus points for assorted pretty colors, but you should suggest it even if it only comes in boring, limited colors.

Why I Hate the Phone, Reason X of N

The doctor said she would order an endoscopy, and that the endoscopy people would call me to schedule it. If I didn’t hear from them by Friday, I should call her back.

I didn’t hear from them by Friday. I called her back Monday. (…Okay, I called her back a week after that, because I didn’t want to call and I was still hoping to hear from the endoscopy people without having to do this.) I was on hold long enough to fill the dishwasher, finish William’s driver’s ed paperwork, empty the dish-drying rack, go downstairs for a new roll of paper towels and box of matches, and put away a Target bag of stuff I never got around to putting away yesterday.

The receptionist came on the line. She said oh, yes, sometimes the scheduler doesn’t get around to calling, but I could call the scheduler myself to get the process going more quickly. She gave me the number.

I called the number. I was on hold for long enough to get out my insurance card, tidy up the bathroom, and start dealing with the Mail Pile on the counter. The person who picked up the line had no idea what I was talking about. No idea at all. She could not really believe I was calling her, or why. She said they don’t have access to any of that information. She said they can only do what the doctor instructs them to do. She asked incredulously did I even know which doctor was doing the endoscopy? I said I did not. I repeated that my doctor’s office had told me to call this number. I added that my doctor had forwarded the information; was there any way to access it from there? No, this was impossible. They don’t even SCHEDULE endoscopies from this number, they only REGISTER them. …Okay, I have no idea what you are talking about, I guess I am the only one in the history of time who has been given this number by a doctor, I guess alllllll the other patients know exactly who in the GIGANTIC COMPLICATED MEDICAL SYSTEM to call about what, thank you for less than nothing and also for the unpleasant attitude as if I’m the idiot here rather than someone who is JUST FOLLOWING INSTRUCTIONS. (Actual Swistle words: “Okay! Well, thank you anyway, I guess I’ll give them a call back! Bye!”)

I had a little frustrated almost-weep. Watched Upside Down & Inside Out for distraction and a mental re-set. Went to the phone. Called my doctor. Was on hold long enough to play two rounds of Candy Crush. Their on-hold information recording has deteriorated considerably, and now sounds like “Here at bzztt bz pssshhhh YOUR HEALTH Is the bzt bzt bsssssstttss in your hands! Come to our pss psss pssssssssss BZT for convenient online ZZT bssssttsss….dot com!” Talked to someone else this time, so had to re-explain the situation.

She looked in my file and found that the information/order had been sent to a particular GI doctor at the end of March. She said they absolutely should have called me by now. She suggested I contact that office directly. She gave me the number. I called that office. A receptionist picked up with a tone of voice that communicates what a burden it is to have to deal with patients: “Good morning this is Nancy can you hold please there are two calls ahead of yours.” I held. After a minute, the call disconnected. I called back. “Good morning this is Nancy can you hold please I am dealing with a patient.”

I held. I was on hold long enough to adjust the time on the one-minute-off microwave clock, even though that meant consulting the manual. Thank heavens, though, it wasn’t Nancy who finally got back to me, it was friendly-sounding Lauren. “Hi! Have you been helped?” I said not yet, and she said, as if she would really be happy to do it, “Okay! How can I help you?”

I told her that my doctor had told me to call, and why. She was puzzled, but game to figure out what was going on. She looked in the computer and found me, and confirmed that they had all the information and the referral. But… “We have a scheduler who does all the scheduling. So I’ll leave her a message and she’ll call you, okay?”

I spent more than half an hour on the phone with FIVE different people to be almost exactly where I was before: waiting for a scheduler to call me. It was frustrating, I spent a lot of time on hold, and I didn’t encounter a high percentage of people who could do anything except give me another number. I had one conversation with someone who seemed actually hostile, and two brief encounters with someone who hates her job. I am left mentally arguing with EVERYONE. Except Lauren. Lauren was really nice.

Lists of Things All Adults Should Supposedly Be Able To Do, And How I Feel About Such Lists

Do you know who I love? Hardly anyone. But in that small number I include plumbers. Also the people who come to change a flat tire. I have encountered both of those people this week, and I love them both. I have added them to my Christmas Card list. Whenever I am blue, I will picture that guy kneeling in front of my flat tire, asking the tire earnestly if it is seriously going to fight him every step of the goddam way. Or that other guy kneeling in front of the broken sump pump in his careful, taking-no-chances, 2-inches-above-the-jeans underpants. Guys Kneeling and Fixing Things is a coffee table book I would buy.

I have seen lists of things all adults should be able to do (debone a chicken! sew a shirt! deliver a baby! start a fire without matches! mix a perfect martini! caulk a tub! iron pleats! drive a stick shift! change a tire! hotwire a car!), and I hard-disagree with all of them, starting with the presumptuous tone and ending with the listed items. By all means, learn things you WANT to know how to do, or personally NEED to know how to do, but there is no reason to run out and acquire the particular skills the clickbait author came up with, making it an even 10, 20, or 30 so they could turn it into a snappy title. (I know it should be “bone a chicken,” not “debone a chicken.” But really at this point in the English language it should be changed to debone. So I’ve changed it.) (I also know that “who” in the first sentence of the post should be “whom.” But it always sounds wrong, and also snooty. I’m changing that too.)

Some of the things on the lists are outdated: it takes awhile for older generations to stop insisting that the younger generations learn things they no longer need to know. (I for one will have a hard time giving up on cursive writing.) I was glad my dad made me learn to drive a stick-shift back when a lot of people had stick-shift cars, but now it is really rare to encounter a stick-shift and really common to encounter people who think everyone should know how to drive one Just In Case, because THEIR dads made them learn how to drive one Just In Case. But we are now at least one generation past that time; it’s like saying everyone should know how to use a pencil to fix an unwound cassette tape. (I can imagine similar lists in previous generations. Absolutely EVERYONE should be able to: recite one performance poem from memory; speak conversational French; fashion a bandage from an old petticoat; darn a sock; pull an abscessed tooth; deliver a breech calf; disassemble and clean a simple pocket watch; make a good plain meal on the cook’s night out; gentle a horse; testify effectively in a witchcraft trial.) The ONLY TIME I have ever been called upon unexpectedly to use my stick-shift skills was when the pharmacist wanted to treat the pharmacy staff to coffee and doughnuts, but he couldn’t leave the pharmacy and needed someone to drive his car so he wouldn’t have to mess with reimbursing mileage. I was the only one there who could drive a stick-shift, so I did the coffee/doughnut run. SAVING LIVES. I think people should learn to drive a stick-shift if their car is a stick-shift, or if they WANT to learn to drive a stick-shift, or if they have reason to believe they have more than the usual likelihood of being called upon to drive a stick-shift.

For other, more currently-useful items on the list, I think we don’t ALL need to know how as long as SOME of us do. Let’s SPECIALIZE and then SHARE OUR SKILLS FOR CASH OR BARTER. I do not want to take the bones out of the chicken. It would take forever and I would hate it and it would be messy. Let’s give that job to an expert wearing a company smock they won’t have to personally launder. They can do fifty chickens in the time it would take me to do one, and then we can all take home our packets of boneless chicken and spend our time doing happier things we’re better at.

Or I certainly COULD learn to change a tire or change the oil, but I’d prefer not to. I’d like the person who changes the tire to be someone who has done it THOUSANDS OF TIMES and so will get it RIGHT. I don’t want to do it a few times to learn it, and then wait a few years, and then suddenly have to remember how to do it on a dark scary road in the rain, when I’d rather be inside the car with the doors locked waiting for the guy to arrive and swear at the tire for me. And it’s more sensible for the person who changes the oil to be someone who has all the equipment (including the coverall that only improves in appearance with a few sexy oil stains) and can handle the whole task quickly, neatly, and efficiently. And then they can dispose of the old oil easily, because they have a whole system for that. In a TRUE OIL-CHANGING/TIRE-CHANGING EMERGENCY, like in a dystopian future where roadside assistance no longer exists, I will read the manual. Or I will find someone who already knows how to do it, and I will barter. I have many jars of peanut butter. Or I can name a baby. Or I can listen attentively and responsively to a really boring story.


I have so many things to say, some of them quite dull indeed. But my need to tell others the minutia of my life is HIGH, and Paul’s interest in hearing about it (“And then I found printer paper on this good sale, I think because they’re changing the packaging from 500 sheets to 400 and they want to get rid of the old stuff, AND I had a 20% off coupon!”) is at an understandably lower level, and this is probably why blogs were invented. And since my blog has been in and out of service for about a week (and CONTINUES to have trouble), I have a significant stockpile of minutia built up. Some will have to wait, however, until I’m again able to load photos: I’m getting an error Paul will have to look into while I tell him my great story about the printer paper.

I have a song going through my head and I CANNOT FIND IT, and I have been hoping it will play again on the radio. I wish I could hum you a snippet because I’m SURE some of you would know it. And I have a vague memory of there being apps/programs where you CAN hum a snippet and it will find you the song, but I tried just now to hum it and it was…not very well matched to the original. All I remember is this: the chorus sounds like the guy is singing something like “Do I need YOU? Do I love YOU?”—something along those lines, quite high-pitched and slowish and sad, or maybe just sentimental and croony. I have tried to search with the lyrics, but you can see how those lyrics would be rather common, and also I’m not sure of them: it could be “and” instead of “do,” or maybe he’s singing “And I’m so blue,” or who KNOWS. I heard it while I was cooking dinner and didn’t realize how much I liked it until it was going through my head later. [Update: Rachel KNEW WHAT SONG I WAS TALKING ABOUT. It’s “If I Have To” by Avery Wilson. I cannot believe someone GUESSED IT from my EXTREMELY POOR DESCRIPTION.]

Speaking of songs that go through one’s head. I know we all have our things that we feel physically self-conscious about, and if plumpness is one of yours I suggest Mika’s “Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)”:

I was heading into the grocery store yesterday, basically walking like the girls in the video because I had this song in my head. Well, MENTALLY walking like the girls in the video.

I re-watched Crazy, Stupid, Love. I remember watching it before, and I remembered liking it, but I couldn’t remember much else about it. And I just watched La La Land, which features a re-pairing of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, so that put me in the mood for Crazy, Stupid, Love. It was better than I remembered it. Which I shouldn’t say, because I still think it’s best to go into it with lowered expectations. But…I really liked it. Again. Despite being approximately 0% on-board with the concept of soulmates, or with the ultimate destination of those photos.

Our sump pump is acting up. You know how sometimes a toilet will run and run, and then you open the tank and jostle the floating thingie and it stops? That is how our sump pump is behaving, except when I jostle the thingie, it only lasts maybe ten or fifteen minutes until it starts running again. I have emailed my dad but he is in a different time zone so it may be awhile; in the meantime I have put a box of Famous Amos cookies down by the sump, and every time I have to go down there to jostle the thingie I have a cookie. But I am getting low on cookies. Also, I made the brief, screaming acquaintance of a spider of considerable heft and girth that evidently calls our sump pump home, and now I don’t know where he is. [Update: My dad emailed and said this is a sump pump emergency in need of a TODAY appointment. A plumber has come and gone; he is getting us a new sump pump and will be right back to install it. I notice his underwear is a good two inches above his jeans; he is taking NO CHANCES.]

Don’t let me forget that the next time I go down to jostle the sump I need to bring up a cake mix. Two of our cats have birthdays this week, and according to the children it would be unfeeling to combine the celebrations. So I will bake the two layers, frost one for today’s cat birthday party, and put the other layer aside for the Friday party.

We have now heard back from all the colleges Rob applied to. He has about 3-1/2 weeks until we have to send a deposit to one of them. And is he making spreadsheets, reading pamphlets, responding enthusiastically to suggestions that we discuss pros/cons or visit the campuses again? No, he is not. And when I ask him about it he acts as if I am nagging him around the clock. I alternate between getting teary over my first baby leaving us forever, and COUNTING THE MONTHS.

Are you following the livestream of the giraffe in labor? I AM. I am feeling so much empathy for the giraffe. She stands still; she presses her head against the boy giraffe’s neck; her legs tremble and her ears flutter and her tail lashes. It’s been DAYS. The update on Facebook from the zoo claimed that “there is no pain.” Bitch, please. This reminds me of my own pregnancy/childbirth days, when I fervently wished to mind-meld with the obstetrician for just ONE HOUR. See if he wants to shrug off the “normal first-trimester nausea” THEN! See what he wants to call “the discomfort of contractions” THEN!

Paul, with surprising disregard for his own well-being, started a sentence in this conversation with “Well, actually.” “Well, actually,” he said, “animals don’t feel as much pain as humans do during childbirth. It has to do with head size.” Okay, fine, but what I would like to know is how we think we know how much pain animals are feeling. Have we done a mind-meld? No? Then perhaps we should not be deciding whether they do or don’t feel a certain way. Perhaps that giraffe is feeling no pain. Perhaps she is all “La la la, what a pleasant mild sensation, like a fairy tickling my tum!” But I will be very relieved when the baby giraffe is born.