Awkward.

One major change in moving to Denver from NYC was how much friendlier salespeople are here.  I’m originally from Indiana, so it’s not like this should be news, but the New York attitude had become the norm for me.  It was not unusual for a store employee to openly roll their eyes at you, blatantly ignore you, or make snide comments about your purchases, so you learn to wear headphones and always be throwing a dirty look.  Like that graduation song says, live in New York, but leave before it makes you hard.  (That’s what she said.)

When I first moved here, I was taken aback when the girl at Target asked how my day was going.  I wondered what she could be trying to sell me, since I was already giving her money.  It just kept going from there!  The guy at the grocery store complimented my ring.  The man at the liquor store cheerfully announced, “hey, it’s the girl from Indiana!” when I walked in…this could also have been a sign that I was drinking too much, but let’s not think about that too hard.

After being wary for a few weeks, I leaned into this change pretty hard.  I was working freelance out of my kitchen for six months, and I was starved for human interaction, so those perky teenage baristas at Starbucks were my saving grace.

But now that I’ve assimilated back into the world of chit-chat, I’ve noticed how damn awkward these interactions can be.  Yesterday, I bought a mattress (side note: HOORAY!  No more air mattress!), and after laying on only three beds, I pointed to the middle one and said, “I’ll take it.”  The salesman, who had paintings of dragons taped up everywhere, said, “Hey, you’re an easy sell.  That’s how I like ’em.”

In my life, I have now been called a cheap date and an easy sell.  PSA to men: women do not enjoy this.

Then I kicked around a couple of furniture stores, dreaming of buying some furniture for my living room, when a bike store caught my eye.  Hoping to cheer myself up after the Lady Navigator fiasco, I walked in and asked for some advice about bikes.  The guy asked what I’d be using it for, and after hearing I was mainly interested in weekend rides to the park, the salesman told me that I would be fine with one of the $500 bikes (what cheap pieces of trash, amiright?), but he rides about 20,000 miles a year (or 2,000?  I checked out at the first sign of condescension) AND he races, so he’s pretty much on the opposite end of the spectrum from me and has several $5,000 bikes.

He then asked, “are you German?”

“Uhhh, no…” I replied.  “Why?”

“I dunno.  Tall.  Blonde.  Pale.”

PSA to men: most women do not like being called “pale.”

He told me to come back after my slightly broken ankle healed and take a test ride – though, of course, he had to make a crack about how he wasn’t sure they should even sell me a bike, since I seem pretty clumsy.  He tried to give me a brochure to take home, but they didn’t have any catalogs of women’s bikes in stock – nor, apparently, had they had any for months!

At that point, it was 2 pm and I hadn’t eaten, and I’d pretty much had it.

I looked at the three dude salespeople gathered around me.  “I can’t believe you don’t have any brochures for women’s bikes.”  They shrugged.  “Do any women work at this store?”

One cocked his head and said, “yeah, we’ve got one.  And then there’s another, but we keep her locked in the back, haha.”

“Well,” I said, “you need to tell them that they need to look out for their own, because obviously this Sexist. Male. Bureaucracy. isn’t going to.”

I realized I was chiding a bunch of strangers and pulled myself together.  We all laughed it off, and I bought a sandwich.  It was the first time I was a little nostalgic for the hands-off shopping experience in New York.

But really…I’ll take an awkward interaction over no interaction any day because it reminds me what a surprising, exciting life we get to lead.  So keep it up, weirdos of America!  There will always be people like me who appreciate your contribution.  (Selfishly, this gives me hope that somebody is out there appreciating all the weird things I say.  Karma!)

 

Mud on my Face.

Friends.  This past weekend…did not go 100% as I’d hoped.

It’s practically written into the Colorado constitution that all residents must own a bicycle, and since I haven’t really ridden a bike in 15 years, I’ve been looking into used “starter” bikes.  Then, last weekend, my cousin’s husband told me about the Denver Police’s annual auction of unclaimed stolen bikes.  A wide variety of used bikes with badass back stories?  I was sold.

I got up early(ish) on Saturday and headed to the auction location, where I knew immediately I was in trouble.  The line to register spanned the parking lot.  However, after spending over six years in NYC, I am not one to be intimidated by bike-loving hipsters, so I claimed my spot in line.  After signing up with cowboy hat-wearing auctioneer named Slim – a roguish middle-aged flirt – I proceeded to inspect the bikes on offer.  They had everything from busted up Huffy bikes with no seats to sleek thousand-dollar road bikes, but nothing in the first few rows caught my attention.  And then I saw it: a sky-blue Trek Navigator, complete with a bell!  She would be mine.

Trek Navigator

Artist’s rendition of Lady Navigator.

As the auction began, I realized that due to the number of ladies in attendance, coupled with the dearth of lady bikes, it would take a tiny miracle for Lady Navigator and I to be united, a desire that was surely trembling as strongly in her gears as it was in my heart.

Lady Navigator was way far down on the list, so I was entertained by the auctioneers as they unloaded the busted Huffy bikes for $40 and the fancy road bikes for $500.  I got irrationally angry as a girl with too much eyeliner and an exposed bra bought not one but TWO bikes, as though there were enough for seconds.

As I waited, I decided on a self-imposed limit of $175, since that’s a chunk of change but still leaves room for any necessary repairs.  Then, finally, Slim held up Lady Navigator.  She gleamed in the fluorescent light of the tire shop/auction space.  I clasped my now sweaty auction card, ready to flash my number.  The bidding began, and at least five cards shot up when they started the sing-song numbers at $100.  My card was lost in the crowd as the numbers grew higher.  Lady Navigator was, indeed, sold for $175…but not to me.

To recover the day, I was forced to go day drinking with my friends.  Luckily, if anything can mend a broken heart, it’s mimosas in a back yard on a sunny day.

On Sunday, I participated in the Dirty Dash, a 5K mud run/obstacle course.  Our team – the Hoosiers – were clad in crimson and cream and ready to get dirty.  Historically, I’ve never considered signing up for one of these, because I am the girl who falls down.  Stairs, usually.  I’ve fallen down stairs at the water park…in my own house (socks on carpet is a dangerous combo)…even broke a toe and drenched myself in Diet Pepsi while falling down stairs at college.  THIS TIME, I vowed, would be different. I would be brave and graceful and capable.

Dirty Dash Denver

Ready to race!

As we lined up at the start, I looked at my friend and said, “I’m so nervous!  I’m probably going to break an ankle running through the tires!  Ha ha!”

I’ll give you a minute to place your bets.

We splash through the first mud puddle, round the corner, and there before us is a field of tires, which we must run through.  I hop timidly into the first tire, and then with each one I begin to feel more sure-footed.  I actually get a little annoyed with the girl in front of me, who is carefully picking her way through the honeycomb of rubber.  As I hop to the side to get around her, my left foot catches the inside of a tire, rolls, and I feel the telltale pop of an ankle sprain.  Mind you, this is 2 minutes into this 5K.

Determined not to be a pansy quitter, I limped marched back to the first aid station, asked the EMT to “tape the shit out of that sucker,” and then returned to the starting line.  I ran the whole 5K, including most of the obstacles, and felt incredibly proud of myself.  Then the adrenaline abruptly left my body, and I felt incredibly in pain.  The foxy EMT re-taped my ankle and gave me a ride on his four-wheeler, and then I had a beer with my friends (the second best option after backyard mimosas).  I moseyed my way to the urgent care, where they x-rayed my fat, bruised, monster ankle.  The doctor thought the x-rays looked fine and sent me home with a nifty gel stirrup.

EMT four-wheeler

Yes, sir, you can give me a ride any time.

Monday morning, I got a voicemail from urgent care: “Hi Jessica.  The radiologist took a look at your x-rays…and he found some fractures, so you’ll either need to come back and we’ll put you in a boot, or schedule an appointment with your doctor.  Oh, and we never charged you for the air cast, so if you could stop by and pay for it, that would be great, thanks!”

HOWEVER, turns out they’re just little bone slivers pulled off by the ligaments (because my ligaments are too badass to tear!  They just rip off pieces of bone!), and I only have to wear a compression brace for a couple weeks and avoid running for five.

Hopefully I’ll redeem myself next weekend…

Happily Ever After.

Beach wedding

California love.

As I mentioned, my little brother got married a couple weeks ago.  “Little” brother is quite a misnomer, as he’s about 6’4″, but to me, he’ll always be the lovably hyper boy of my memories.

It was such a strange experience to watch him get married.  Not a bad one, by any means – his wife is lovely, and it was a great weekend – but any of you who have younger siblings will know what I mean.  In some ways, he has always seemed like my actual kid, not just my kid brother.  I’ve certainly doled out plenty of bossy older sibling advice, at least.

And then, suddenly, this little kid of mine is a husband!  With a wedding ring!  And a for real wife!

His best friend from growing up (whom I also can’t picture as older than 13) gave a moving speech at the reception about how kind and loyal my brother is, and it’s true.  He’s a neat guy – incredibly nice, with an infectious spirit of whimsy, and he can rattle off any sports stat you’d ever care to know.  But the best man also talked about how hard it was for my brother to lose his father at age 14 – when you’re just starting to figure out how to be a man.

Hearing that was a gut punch.  It made me sad that I didn’t do more for him in the past 10 years.  When our dad died, in one sense it brought us closer together, but in another, we all drifted apart.  You have to fight so hard to hold yourself together, which you do not just for your own sake but also for your family’s, that you sometimes forget that they need support, too.  I thought about all the CDs I never burned for him, all the weekends I never invited him visit me at college, and all the phone calls I forgot to return.  For all my parental feelings of ownership, I’m afraid I failed him in some really important ways.

But then I heard him stand up and thank all his family and friends for being there to share his wedding weekend, and he sounded like a real grown up.  Standing on the beach in his wedding suit, he looked so much like our dad it was eerie.  I realized that, in spite of it all, he had forged his own path to manhood, arriving on a pristine beach in California, standing next to a beautiful young woman who has fallen in love with all the things we love about him.

We couldn’t have failed him if we’d tried, because he’s a resilient, joyful man – one I’m proud to call “brother.”