Context – Case Files

I often wonder what my neighbors must think. I talk to myself. At work, when completely frustrated; and at home, just in general. But without knowing the context of why I’m shouting at the TV, wall, oven, air, etc.; some of my statements can sound a bit strange. I can’t imagine the reactions of my neighbors from over the years.  I’ll start with the most recent example, which is what got me thinking about this in the first place.

Case File 47 – Summer Nights

Remarks in question:  “take off clothes, take off clothes, take off clothes, take off clothes,take off clothes…..

Stated over and over.  I wouldn’t say I was yelling, I was too exhausted to yell.  Just talking loudly, but with a definite sense of urgency.  Now, without context, this sounds like it might have been the start of something fun.  But when examined with context, it was the opposite of fun.  I had just arrived home from work, it was a 100+ degree day, my office does not have air conditioning, and my 1 hour commute home involves two buses, neither with air conditioning.  My clothes had begun the process of melding onto my skin from the heat, and I was giving instructions to myself before passing out.  See, with context, it’s a perfectly normal conversation.  With myself.  Probably suffering from heat stroke.

Case File 23 – Flame Out


I feel this one is a slight gray area.  “Light you on fire” could mean I wanted to warm the other person up.  It was actually cold outside that day.  Or, it could have been the prelude to a heinous crime.  It actually was about to be a crime depending on your feelings towards scorpions.  I had just come home, walked in the door, and found a healthy sized scorpion waiting on the first floor landing. Caught off-guard, I didn’t have any of my scorpion eradication tools handy.  I use chopsticks to catch them, hold them over a cigar ashtray,  and light them on fire with a long-neck lighter.  As soon as I moved out of my FREEZE pose, it started to walk towards a hole in the stairwell.  Which is when I politely asked him to remain in place so that I could grab my kit and come back and kill him.  Which I did, lucky for me he was a slow-poke.  Not so lucky for him.

Case File 32 – Sleepover

Remarks in questions:  “I can do this, I can do this, I CAN DO THIS….

I screamed the last “I can do this” at a high decibel level while hopping about. I would assume the neighbors (not mine this time), thought I was practicing the broad jump.  Or new dance moves.  That were causing immense pain.  The actual story is that I was staying at my friend’s apartment while he was out-of-town, because the owner of my house had come to visit for a few weeks during the summer and wanted to stay there with her family, and I wanted to give them privacy.  And you were wondering why I talk to myself?  Anyway, the first day at his house I discovered that I couldn’t get the hot water to work.  Since it was summer, and so hot, I thought I could handle taking a shower with cool water.  At least it started out cool.  I assume the water hanging out in the pipes of the building had warmed up during the day.  But the longer the water ran, the colder it became, until the end was like ice water from the refrigerator.  But I’m not a quitter, I finished the shower without too much frostbite.

Case File 40 – Uninvited Guest(s)

Remarks in question:  “WHAT THE HELL!! WHY ARE YOU HERE?!?!?!  GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT

This time, new house, new neighbors.  I’m sure they were thinking:  Well, if she wants the person to leave, why doesn’t she just open the door?!?!  I was standing in the entryway at the time.    Freaking out over what was a sea of baby insects.  Seriously, it was pretty amazing. I first thought they were some weird tiny bug. The power of the internet set me straight.  They were baby cockroaches, and had claimed my hallway as their new home. How touching. Luckily my friend had some magic Iranian bug spray.  I sprayed in one corner where I thought they were coming from, then left the house for overnight.  Came back in the morning to find them all “asleep”.  Did some sweeping up while singing, “I am the champion my friends…”  The neighbors probably have 911 punched in their phones whenever they hear my voice.  I haven’t seen another bug in 11 months.  MAGIC SPRAY

To sum up, we’ve got several lessons learned.  First, don’t eavesdrop on your neighbors.  It’s not polite.  Second, don’t imagine the worst, their rantings could all have perfectly logical explanations.  Finally, if you’re my neighbor, thanks for not calling the police.

More Bus Tales

I spend part of my commute home on our employee bus. It takes us from work to the outskirts of central downtown Yerevan, with a few stops on the way. Our bus driver is a no-nonsense kind of guy, who is all business. No dawdling while departing the bus, or he’ll take off while you’re in mid-descent.  No chatting, eyes on the road, and he waits for no one.  Although as one of my major life accomplishments, I have gotten him to smile, wave, and say buh-bye as I’m leaving.  It’s awesome.

Yesterday, he seemed in more of a hurry than usual.  I took note of his steely glare in the rear-view mirror as one of the ladies was gingerly climbing down the bus steps.  He was rolling as soon as her second foot touched the ground.  I knew that meant that I needed to stand up and be waiting at the door ready to depart, when he pulled up to my stop.

I didn’t grow up using buses, or metros, or any kind of public transportation.  I say this because I’m not as skilled at standing up or maneuvering inside moving vehicles as my compatriots.  I basically hang on for dear life.  I’ve also noticed that public transportation drivers in Armenia take it for granted that every person in their vehicle has superior balancing skills.  They (the drivers) have a steering wheel to hang on to, so I have theorized that they don’t know the effect that their abrupt stops and zooming starts have on their passengers.  Needless to say I’ve stumbled around a few times.

But today I was ready.  I stood in the doorway, braced myself against a pole, and waited for the bus to come to a full stop.  The driver apparently took this as a challenge.  Instead of his normal glide up to the curb, he took a sharp right , a quick halt, and popped open the doors.  In a move that I still do not understand nor could I ever duplicate, my mouth opened for a brief second, and my gum dropped out.  Right on the floor.  At my feet.  A big white blob of gum.

Now, I couldn’t just leave it there.  Jump over it for the next person to step on.  So I did what I thought was the only logical solution, I bent down, and picked it up.  As I was doing so, I thought to myself, “gee, this looks like a tooth”, and did a quick grab and flick so it wouldn’t stick to my fingers.  I turned to the driver to say my thank-you’s for the delightful ride and saw that he was staring.  “Shnorhakalutyun” I called out.  No wave or buh-bye in response.  Just staring.  Ok, maybe he had noticed the gum projectile.  I looked back at the other passengers and saw that yes, everyone had seen the gum projectile.  I jumped off.

The mystery is if they thought it was actually a tooth, or were just marveling at how ridiculous it was for gum to just drop out of my mouth.  I’ll never know, I’m not planning on doing field polling.  The adventures continue!



Bus Life

Yesterday while riding the bus home, I got a phone call. First, let’s put in some qualifiers.  A hot, noisy, stuffy bus.  Jammed with people.  At 108 million degrees.  And my phone had been ringing non-stop all day. Which meant that now, at 6:47 p.m., my phone battery was ready to die. I had been working on revisions of texts all day, so I assumed the call was a continuation of previous conversations.  I answered the phone to instead find a feisty older woman at the other end.

Translated from Armenian:

Ms. Feisty:  Alo, alo, she shouted. Can you hear me?
Me:  No, I responded, I’m on a bus, I can’t hear you.
Ms. Feisty:  What? Are you selling an apartment in Etchmiadzin?

I could faintly hear her, but tried to make out what she was saying.

Me:  Yes, yes, I am, but I can’t hear you very well, now I’m on a bus.
Ms. Feisty:  What? Can you hear me?  Are you the one selling the apartment?
Me:  Yes, but I’m on a bus, and I can’t hear you.  Can I call you later?
Ms. Feisty:  What?  You’re not selling your house?

After several back and forth exchanges, I give up.

Me:  Yes, I’m selling my apartment in Etchmiadzin.
Ms. Feisty:  Are you there now?
Me:  No, I’m on a bus in Yerevan.
Ms. Feisty: Why are you on a bus?  Don’t you live in Etchmiadzin?
Me:  No, I work in Etchmiadzin.
Ms. Feisty:  So, the house isn’t yours?
Me:  Yes, the house is mine, and I’m selling it.
Ms. Feisty:  (something half Russian/half Armenian, and completely unintelligible)
Me:  I’m sorry, I didn’t understand you. I speak only a little Armenian
Ms. Feisty:  What language do you speak?
Me:  English and Armenian
Ms. Feisty:  I don’t speak English
Me:  That’s ok, just speak Armenian slowly, and I will understand.
Ms. Feisty:  Eh, I don’t speak English.  Bye

And with that, she hung up.  A useless, annoying ten minute conversation.  Since I had already been screaming in the phone so she could hear me, I just continued on.

Not translated from Armenian:

“Well, f*** you too lady!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Unfortunately, while the primary language in Armenia is of course Armenian, “f*** you” is universally understood.  I realized that forty pairs of eyes were upon me.  I hid behind my sunglasses for the remainder of my commute.  And for the first time ever, after I handed my fare to the bus driver and said my normal “thank you”, he responded with a wary, “voch inch (no problem)”.  Bus 47 will be off limits for  while.

It’s For The Birds

So, I’m sitting in front of my computer in the living room, and I hear a slight noise, and see movement on the floor in front of me. I push back my glasses and peer over the computer at the floor, and see a little sparrow bird hopping along. He sees me, I see him, and we both freeze.

Not that awkward freeze when you see someone you embarrassed yourself in front of. No.  A full-on “oh-shit-what-do-I-do-now” freeze.

The stare down begins. He looks at me, I look at him. He’s pretty casual about the whole situation, and turns around and hops straight into the bedroom. Like he forgot his hat.  But I realize he’s lost. Or he would have hopped back out the way he came.  Has no exit strategy. In over his head. Oh sure, he’s acting like he knows what he’s doing, but clearly he realizes he’s in trouble. I start to panic a bit, I mean, after all, this is my second bird incident in the last 4 days.

Armenian Magpie - Birds of Armenia Project - Acopian Center for the Environment at AUA

Armenian Magpie – Birds of Armenia Project – Acopian Center for the Environment at AUA

On Tuesday, a giant Magpie flew into my office smack into a closed window. He recovered, put it in reverse, and smacked into the first window. Corrected himself again, and flew out. I was screaming of course, since he was the size of a small pterodactyl, and ran to the window to make sure he wasn’t coming back. I have a corner office, with a window on each of the exterior walls, so I guess he thought it would be fun to buzz through the office. Jerk.

And now, it’s Friday, and another feathered friend decides to visit. What are the odds? Somebody buy me a lottery ticket!! But at least this one was small. I was slightly freaked out, he didn’t seem in a hurry to leave, and I had no idea what to do. I called my most level-headed friend. “How cute” she says, “take a picture”. NOT the advice I was looking for. My concern was getting him out without having him crap on every piece of furniture in the house. I hung up and went back to the staring contest.


Leo, on a hop-about. Post pooping

I opened the front door, thinking that an alternate cross breeze would tempt him to fly into the hall. Although in retrospect, that was a stupid idea, then how was I going to get him to fly down two flights of stairs and out the front door. No matter, he didn’t budge. Walked around under my bed like he was going to rent the place.

Since he was making himself comfortable, I decided to take a picture. Bad move.   Apparently, he’s a celebrity, NO PHOTOS, and he freaked out, flew over my head out of the bedroom, back into the living room and smacked into the living room window. Which doesn’t open, doesn’t lead to the outside, and is only there to let in light.  Not a viable escape option. He recovered, turned around and flew back and hit the bedroom window, which was also closed. Exactly the scenario I was trying to avoid. He recovered again and flew back to the living room window, and somehow got under the sheer. I named him Leo. Don’t know why, I needed a name to yell.  “Leo, calm the f*** down!!”

I closed the bedroom door to give him a chance to settle down and consider his options. “Look Leo, if neither of us panic, we can fix this”, I said. He fluttered up and perched on my Lenox vase.  Ok, he was a reasonable guy with good taste, we got this. I studied the situation a bit more, and came up with a plan. In what I thought was a blindingly lightning fast move, I moved past him, opened the living room door, opened the exterior wall window, and ran back into the living room and waited for him to fly out.

Leo? No Leo. I knew he couldn’t have flown past me as I ran through the doorway, so I started looking around on the floor. Still no Leo. Then he let out a little “cheep”. Great, Leo had decided he needed a view from the top, and he was pacing back and forth on the crown molding. Ok, nobody panic, we’re still going to make this work.  I covered my head with a dive-bomb-poop-protecting-towel and sat down on the floor in the farthest away corner to have another chat. “Leo, my man, you can do this, I see you guys buzz people all the time, this is no big deal”. Leo still paced. I assumed he was getting ready to take out his frustrations by pooping fifteen pounds of sunflower seeds on the couch. More staring. More pacing by Leo.

In my calmest no-sudden-movements voice, I said, “Leo …. just f***ing go for it”. And he did. A graceful dive bomb off the crown molding, a left turn at the TV and he flew out the window. Victory! He did leave me a tiny present on the floor of the bedroom, but it’s understandable given the circumstances, no shame there.

I have already been told that a bird in my office was good luck, and now a bird in my house was extra good luck. But I know these superstitions come in threes, I can’t imagine what’s next.

My Friend is Not a Space Alien

As I was leaving a meeting the other day, I ran into a friend of mine. Well, not actually leaving the meeting itself, I was in the process of leaving the building. And I didn’t run into her, I squeezed past her while I left the elevator, she got on, and the rent-a-cop in the lobby did what appears to be his main job function, swiping his security card over the elevator card reader so the elevator will operate. In reality, he has my dream job.  But the uniform would need a drastic makeover.  Drab gray is not in my color wheel. Plus lose the hat.  Come on, you’re inside, what’s the hat for.

We rarely run into each other, so there was first the startled reaction of “Oh!  It’s you!”.  As she hopped into the elevator, we peered over the security guard (cause you’re not going to stop him from his primary job function), and as he was reaching in to push the button, she said “Wah wah, wah wah wah wah?”.  “Ok”, I replied, as the elevators closed, “That sounds great”.  However I literally had not comprehended a single word she had said.

Now, it has recently been noted that I may not pay attention when people are speaking to me.  While watching Euro 2016 the other night, I gave an answer to my friend “I have to work tonight”, thinking he was asking me why I wasn’t drinking.  Not even close.  His  actual question was “Hey where’s Nairi, is she coming?”

The elevator, and recent bar exchange is an example of my systematic inattention. Unfortunately, in the case of the elevator, I had just walked out of a great meeting, and ideas were whirling through my head on marketing names for products designed in Armenia.  Translation, I forgot seeing me friend roughly 3.37 minutes after it happened.

But all is not lost, a few days later, I remembered the exchange, and started wondering what she had said.  I came up with three options a) let’s have coffee b) we need to catch up c) I’m an alien.  I’m not going to lie, I was hoping for option C.  I was counting on it, I told friends, I started preparing a wish list.  Isn’t that what we hope for, aliens among us will be secret genies who can grant us wishes?  I was so lost in preparing my wish list that another few days went by before I wrote to her.

Since I’m writing this from my PC, not a new Macbook Pro, I’m NOT 5’4″ and my bank account hasn’t grown either, the answer was not “C”.  But hey, aliens out there, look, I’m prepared, my list is all ready, just call me.  I promise to listen.


Time Flies

Seriously? I haven’t written anything since January? And it’s June? How the hell does that happen. I’ve barely gotten used to writing 2016.  How is it June?!?!?!

I recently returned from a “vacation” in Fresno. And I use the term loosely. A real vacation involves sun, sand, and drinks with pink umbrellas. My vacations for the last 15 years have been church banquets, trips to the Indian gaming casino, and outings to Target. Who doesn’t love those red carts.  And this year I discovered that Starbucks lets you borrow a plastic cup holder that attached to the side of the cart to hold your iced chai tea latte.  Pure heaven.

Not that I don’t enjoy all those things, but I would just love one year, to be an adult and do something a little more exotic than eating a tri-tip sandwich from Gazebo Garden food truck night.

To top things off, this last vacation was the most uneventful one of them all. Nothing even close to an international incident. I am of course, highly disappointed.  But Norway beckons at the end of June, Vikings and all.  Adventure is surely probable.

Things I know I shouldn’t want. But….

Do other people have these? Things you wonder about, wish you could experience/do/conquer, but know you probably shouldn’t?

One is a blizzard. I think I would like to be in one.  A blizzard.  I was caught in a blizzard in 2016.  It sounds cool.  I think I was in a white-out one time, for a few minutes.  I picture a blizzard as a bigger version of that.  A soft fluffy flurry of gentle snowflakes, enveloping you from every angle. I’m guessing since people are freaking out about the storm on the east coast of the US, that’s not an accurate description.  It probably would sand blast off my manicure.

Another thing I imagine experiencing is parachuting. Seeing the horizon, the curve of the earth, the landscape down below, all so soothing and at peace. But in reality, I know I would promptly crap my pants the minute I was out in the sky. That is if they could even pry my fingers off the airplane door. Or I would pass out. Or barf. Or all of the above. No, definitely all of the above.

I’ve also thought  a lot about acquiring a super-power.  Which I’m assuming is just one of those things you need to be born with.  Unless I get bit by something radioactive.  We do have a nuclear power plant, so that’s still a possibility.  But I only want a super power if I get to pick.  What if you wake up one morning, and it’s a crappy one?  Shooting lightning bolts out of your eyes.  Not so interested.  But having super-human speed, now we’re talking.  I could do all the housework in 1/10th of the time.  Arrive everywhere EARLY.  It would be glorious.

But finally, there is one thing I’ve dreamed about having, that I know I wouldn’t regret.  Singing on key.  Not just on key, but being able to really belt one out.   All the notes.  Like a pro.  Able to sing any song out there.  Although not to be a professional singer, I just want the ability for my own entertainment.   Wherever I go, just start singing  my favorites.  Who wouldn’t want to hear a cover of Enter Sandman during rush hour on the subway?  Magical moments, just waiting to be made.

I’ve Been Inspired, Let’s See How Long it Lasts

Yes, something has inspired me to do a better job of writing things down to share on my blog instead of just writing diatribes in my head. No, I’m not talking about being prompted by a New Year’s resolution, those are ridiculous, and I generally forget what I have pledged by day 12. Why do we need to wait for January 1st to pledge change in our lives? What’s so magical about that day? Let’s face it, January 1st is for hangovers and recovery, not promises we’re going to break.

Actually, if you think about it, you should make resolutions on your birthday, technically, that’s when your individual new year starts. And is also justification for me wishing people, “Shnorhavor Nor Tari” (Happy New Year) on their birthday, because for some reason I can never remember the proper greeting of “Tsnundt shnorhavor” (Happy Birthday). Which is not all that incorrect. And kind of sounds the same. However, that’s my personal challenge to overcome. And ooo, a resolution! I’ll need to add that to my Armenian conversation practice flash cards!  Soooo, expect me to continue wishing you Happy New Year twice a year.

What inspired me was a Ted talk. Those little snippets of wisdom espoused by random people and then broadcast around the world on YouTube. Isn’t the internet wonderful? I remember when I had my first job at a bank, we would get dragged to seminars being presented by motivational speakers all the time. Would-be Tony Robbins. If you don’t know who Tony Robbins is, google him, he’s the guru of motivational speakers with more teeth in his head than humanly possible. Fast forward to present day, and viola. A million dollar industry is born. I know, only a couple million. That doesn’t catch your eye all that much until you consider that a non-profit corporation owns and operates Ted, with the top 5 employees being “compensated” in excess of 1 million dollars each. I’d be motivated!

So, the video I watched was a comedian talking about how he answered a spam email on a “business” opportunity, and kept the email chain going for weeks. Something I’ve done for my own amusement many a times. My favorites are the ones that throw in a title or two, “Prince So-And-So died and left you a bazillion dollars”. Because, who doesn’t want a bazillion dollars.  Anyway, his adventures in email spamland are the reason I will try to write more.  Happy New Year!

Hello, Բարեւ, Hola, Bonjour!, Hallo, Ciao

My friend, who shall remain unnamed, is obsessed with listening to Adele’s new song “Hello”. He actually listens to it off of my blog, to save the steps of opening it up in YouTube. This means that the original post, which was meant to dissuade him from his addiction, is actually an enabler.

So this post is just for him. STOP IT. Stop listening to sad songs!

Every day that we have on earth, every day that we wake up warm and secure, every day that we have food to eat and a roof over our head, every day that we have jobs, and family, and friends, each and every one of those days are beautiful. And happy. It is up to us as individuals to make our own happiness. Not to rely on others. Our lives are what we make them. I chose to try and be happy. I listen to happy music. If that means I look at life through rose colored glasses, then so be it. I’m happy in my pink haze.

Switch songs! I offer you this one to listen to instead, which is part of my personal morning play list, and starts my day with a smile.

“You’ll never know if you don’t go
You’ll never shine if you don’t glow”

One Too Many Depressing Songs

I love Adele’s voice, and I am a big fan.  However, sometimes we have to remember, she’s just a singer, not soothsayer who peers into the souls of man.  And now, I’ve reached my tipping point on the sad songs!  With that, here’s my suggested re-write to her song Million Years Ago

Million Years Ago

I only wanted to have gum
Learning to chew, learning to pop
I let my teeth decide the way
When I was young
Deep down I must have always known
That is would be inevitable
To learn the tricks I’d have to pay
And watch the experts

I know I’m not the only one
Who regrets the years wasted on Bubble yum
Sometimes I just feel it’s only me
Who never mastered the triple pop
I wish I could chew a little more
Pop up to the sky, not dribble on the floor
I feel like the good gums have all gone by
And all I can do is watch and cry
I miss the chemicals, I miss the dye
I miss the scent; I miss it when
Gum was good and FDA free
But that was a million years ago

When I remember the aisles at Mayfair
Where my obsession started and I found my share
My friends couldn’t look me in the eye
It’s like they were disappointed in me
I try to remember what was on the shelves
Black Jack, Cloves, and Beemans
But nobody recognizes those now
In the light of day

I know I’m not the only one
Who regrets the gums they’ve left untried
Sometimes I just feel it’s only me
Who never thought the changes were what they’d be
I wish I had chewed a little more
Pop up to the sky, not dribble on the floor
I feel the FDA has ruined it all
And all I can do is watch and bawl
I miss the chemicals, I miss the dye
I miss the scent; I miss it when
Gum was good and FDA free
But that was a million years ago
A million years ago…

And now the original version: