Electric Chair massager thingy – a memoir

“Electric massage chair thingy…”

I remember looking across the classroom at him in disbelief. Craig Wortenberg liked me more than Stretch Armstrong and more than bubblegum ice cream from 31 Flavors. It was true. His love letter I received during recess couldn’t lie. He smiled back at me, squishing his tongue impressively through the window of his missing front tooth.
I scrunched my nose and looked back at the precious piece of construction paper. It was as clear as day and nicely laid out for me on the bar graph he drew and colored in with Crayola pencils. My bar, the one he colored pink, went all the way to the top of the chart. Just below, J.I. Joe’s orange bar came about three quarters up and was closely flanked by Stretch Armstrong’s bar, which was brown. At the bottom of the letter he’d drawn two boxes. “Do you like me back? Please check one, Y or N?”
I marked the Y box with a red pen and slid the note into his Transformers backpack. That was the beginning of my first relationship. If I had only known it was a trap. Of course, some may not count it as a real relationship, given that I was only in first grade, but I learned a lot from the brief experience. There are many ways a person can become trapped. Sometimes you can be locked in a situation by a person’s emotions and sometimes by family circumstances. Emotional traps usually arise from relationships in which one person has more invested than the other. In this case, Craig was more devoted than I. This is not to say that I never went out on a limb for him occasionally. One time I held his hand during recess. This was a big step because in those days, you were never supposed to like boys. Boys were the enemy. Boys were gross. Boys are gross. When my friend Adrienne skipped over to the monkey bars to ask if I wanted to play four-square, I yanked my hand from his before she saw and pretended to tie my shoe. The next time I let go of his hand, we were walking down the hall after school was out. I saw a friend walking toward us. I pulled my hand away and kept walking casually. When I looked back, he had stopped and was staring at my shoe. As if an untied lace was the only reason I should ever let go of his hand. It was embarrassing and I felt bad for him.
A few days later I was getting tired of our relationship. The breaking point was seeing him wipe his nose on his sleeve leaving behind a snail trail of snot up to his elbow. The kids started calling him Booger Boy. It wasn’t working out. We were too different. He was clingy and I was a free spirit. I felt trapped. I had more important things to do during recess than hold his hand by the monkey bars. There were four square games to be played, jump ropes to be jumped and hand clapping routines to be enjoyed.
I rode bus number 2 home that day. My friend Brynn sat next to me as usual and helped me when I decided to write the break up letter. I had it beautifully pictured in my head. My bar graph would include Carebears, a turquoise bar, Cherry Merry Muffin, a red bar, and rainbow sprinkle cake with confetti frosting, a fantastically striped bar consisting of almost all the colors in my Crayola box. There was just one problem. My colored pencils were in my cubby at school! I panicked. Brynn and I frantically searched our bags for any writing utensil we could find. Our hunt yielded a No. 2 pencil and a Strawberry Shortcake highlighter. But we still needed one more color. Finally I stuck my hand in the crack of the bus seat and found a green marker. By the end of the bus ride, Craig’s bar, grey, only came up five and a half notches short of Cherry Merry Muffin, florescent pink highlighter, who was far behind rainbow sprinkle cake, green polka dots and squiggles.
Two days later when Craig finally found the letter, which had worked its way down to the bottom of his backpack, I was home free. He cried all through music time. My friend told me about it at recess.
There have been other times in my life when I have jumped into situations where my initial excitement faded faster than I would have liked. My parents own part of a franchise and often I would work for them. To them this was a fabulous idea because somehow the experience was supposed to teach me basic work ethics while providing them with free labor. Naturally I was not as enthused as they were with the idea. Sure, in the beginning I wasn’t so repelled by the idea. However, as the years passed and the stream of social opportunities increasingly flowed in my direction, the idea of working during 6 am to 7 pm seemed like slavery (social injustice) when all my friends wanted to go to the mall or to see a movie. And, sometimes as I think back on it, I believe it was.
Someone’s desk fountain trickled unceasingly in the silent office, giving me the impulse to check if the bathroom faucet was leaking again. I stared at the blinking cursor on my computer screen and silently willed myself to get up. But getting up meant I’d have to put my shoes back on. It was mid-afternoon in August and the California heat battled against the waning air conditioner which had just started leaking above my file cabinet the day before. My office shoes resisted as I tried to slide my toes back into them, the straps stuck to my pink swollen feet. Just as I finished lodging my heat-swollen feet back into my sandals my boss (who is also my mother) summoned me.
“Could you come to my office for a moment?” she bellowed from her office. Since 8 am that morning, I had been chipping away at the latest promo list, updating it before we sent out 4th of July baskets and business cards. I was just finishing with DeLame Fox.
“The lame fox?” queried my mother, now on the phone, from her office.
“Fox,” I repeated, “first name DeLame.”
“Oh, her,” said my mother, and she sighed a weary sigh, though it was only going on 10:30 a.m. “So you’re already to the ‘F’s. You could…yeah. No…just come here…that way I can…”
There is little that annoys me more than people who start saying something and then stop right in the middle of a sentence. It’s almost as irritating as a friend who points out the loud popcorn munching person in the row behind you at the movies. Then you start to notice every other minute sound, (crinkling wrapper, sniffling nose) which eventually ruins the whole experience of the theater.
I hung up the phone and stood in front of my chair for a moment, captivated by the fact that I could actually feel my pulse in my feet, throbbing against the straps of my sandals. I tried stepping to the beat of my pumping blood as I walked to her office.
It’s those pet peeves, those mosquitoes of idiosyncrasy that compose the days you wish you’d never gotten out of bed. Such was the day my boss (my mother) called me into her office and asked me to come to her side of the desk so she could show me how to perform a task on the computer. As it turned out, it was something she wasn’t quite sure how to do either.
I could feel the pulse in my feet again and I started leaning against the desk behind her. The hand on the wall clock twitches forward. She kept clicking away. I was feeling impatient.
“Well, just call me back in when you figure it out,” because I had a gazillion other more constructive tasks I could be accomplishing.
“Just wait a minute,” she threw out the magic finger. That one, that all moms have, with the ability to freeze anyone in their tracks, like a tractor beam. My feet were hurting, an ache began to inch its way up my spine and this heat was making me feel like an old woman! Gravity was taking hold of my entire body and was now swinging from my eye lids. My gaze lands on the chair on the other side of her desk. I had never hungered for anything non-edible so much in my life. I figure I can sneak around the desk while she’s focused on the screen and sit down before she says anything.
Slowly I lean and slide casually around the edge of the desk. She leans back in her office chair and I freeze. She’s not saying anything. She pushes her glasses up the slope of her nose and leans forward again. I slide further along the edge of the desk until finally I plop down in the chair. Mission accomplished! She swivels around and looks at me. I sit up and assume an attentive posture.
“So what link do I click again to do a mail merge?” I ask as though I were inquiring directions to a party I really wanted to attend.
Her brows drew together, “I’m not sure. Let me pull down the file menu.” She swivels back to face the screen. I hold my Victorian posture for a moment before I start listening to her again. The whole ‘drift-off-in-your-train-of-thought-and-don’t-complete-your-sentences’ thing was really irritating me. I’d accomplished one mission, but I was still trapped. I shimmied down, melting comfortably into my chair and the inevitable happened. I started falling asleep. She obviously wasn’t telling me anything important or she would have been more attentive to her grammar.
“This right here…you will…and…need to do…” is not an informative sentence, let alone a coherent thought! It finally got to the point where I stop and ask her to finish what she is saying. This method has worked in the past, but it’s almost easier to just avoid talking all day.
Working in an office with your entire family can get interesting. Tensions can get so thick that people will do anything to relieve the stress.
I was typing out some forms when I heard the humming. I figured it was my brother. We had been sharing a desk since I got kicked out of my cubical by the new guy a week before. I look over at my 25-year-old brother, sitting there sort of bouncing in his seat grinning his silly nine-year-old grin. He turns to look at me “I’m pretending that I’m getting a massage from my chair…you know, like those electric chair massaging thingys.”
He kept humming. I watched in fasination from my primitive swivel chair. It really did sound like one of those electric chair massagers. Like the ones you find in Brookstone at the mall. My brother powered down his chair massager…he actually made the ‘power-down’ noise and turned the knob on his imaginary remote control.
I thought to myself at that moment that everyone should have great comedy relief like this in their office. Then I wondered, were there enough brothers to go around? Are all brothers like mine? Do they all have a tendency to echo strange noises that they randomly hear? Like when they hear a dog barking, do they always bark back? Do they all giggle when they watch cartoons on Saturday afternoon, even when nobody is there to giggle with them? I wonder if they all pinch their mouths and make funny faces and weird squirting noises while they search radio station web sites? Do all brothers open the tissue after blowing a heinously gross nose full, and look at their snot? Do they all call you over to check out its unusual color? I pondered these questions as I watched my brother squeeze his cheeks into a fish face while staring intently at his computer screen.
The hiccups of my brother’s antics are what loosened the bars on the cage of my office woes. Just as I started to feel trapped in the office, unable to escape the monotony, I would see my brother squirting our office manager by pinching the drinking fountain nozzle just so, or pressing his face to the copy machine and posting squashed lips in the break room. I’ve learned that I don’t ever have to feel trapped in an unfavorable situation. My brother reminded me of something I had forgotten since elementary school. Sometimes the key to your cage is hiding in your seat, be it a marker in the cracks of your cushion or a massager thingy that you just hadn’t turned on yet. I don’t want to be trapped emotionally in a relationship, or physically in an office. Learn to enjoy where ever you are to avoid being trapped. Make it a moment you don’t want to escape; because, essentially you can never be trapped in a room, that you don’t want to leave.

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