The Bachelor’s Bowl

If you attend a public university in the state of New York — most have an undergraduate population that rivals the city of Beijing — it is possible to go four years without any faculty or staff interaction.

Except for the cafeteria ladies.  They patrol the lunch lines to make sure no one takes more than a single serving of ketchup.  I never understood this conservation of ketchup.  It was the 80s.  The Reagan years.  Ketchup was classified as a vegetable.  Who ever heard of restricting students from consuming plant-based substances other than cannabis?

Anyway, without any oversight — not even from a computer — it came to pass that it was mid-term of the spring semester of my senior year when I discovered that I would fall one credit short of the magic number required for graduation.

Fortunately, the school had something called the “Quarter Course”.  These classes ran only half a semester but required twice the regular instructional hours to earn the standard course credit.  I raced to the Registrar’s Office to find a class that would enable me to graduate in May.

Unfortunately, the only one credit course with available seats that fit my ongoing work and school schedule was Beginning Bowling.  At 7 am.  Four times a week.

Though it was not what I had in mind for my final days of college, I trudged to the Student Center every Monday through Thursday at the crack of dawn to join the other slackers at the alley.

Our teacher, a short rotund woman with a thunderous voice, choreographed our movements like she was the director of some twisted version of A Chorus Line.  But instead of “Five, Six, Seven, EIGHT” she would boom “Step, Step, Step, GLIDE!”

The weather improved each week but my scores did not.  Blame it on the late nights or the early mornings or on my as yet undiagnosed Raynaud’s or arthritis.  It doesn’t matter.  At semester’s end, my average was just 43 (out of 300).

Despite my dismal performance, the instructor passed me, allowing me to graduate sunna cum maius.  To celebrate, my friends took me bowling.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

The Strong, Silent Type

If you should find yourself single, the women you know would ask you to join them at various “events”.  The purpose of attending these things is to meet men.  They want to go to the meat market but they don’t like to shop alone.

OK, this woman inquires my interest in some kind of a cowboy gathering.  Yup, she said “cowboy”.  She tells me she likes the strong, silent type.

So I inform her that I am an over-educated Jewish girl from New York.  I do not like the strong, silent type.  I like the slender, wordy type.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

My White Vinyl Moment

The way they are replaying Jennifer Lawrence’s tumble from last night’s Academy Awards ceremony, you would think she had invented the move.

She did not.

Long before Ms. Lawrence was skinning squirrels in Winter’s Bone, women were wearing too high heels and too long gowns and tripping the light fantastic.  Ms. Lawrence wasn’t the first.  Heck, she wasn’t even the first to do it in pink.

I should know.

My first friend to get married.  My first time in a wedding.  My first trip down the aisle.


The decorators had rolled out the White Vinyl on top of the Red Carpet that led to the chuppah.  I was walking so very gracefully down the aisle, holding on the flowers, holding back the tears.  But the White Vinyl had become crooked and wrinkled.

One of the groomsmen decided my sashay would be an opportune moment to straighten the White Vinyl.  Perhaps he was imagining that old tablecloth trick?  The one where they pull out the tablecloth and leave the dishes undisturbed on the table?

But this kind of sleight of hand, it takes practice.  You wouldn’t get it right the first time.  You should not practice with the delicate china.  You should not practice with the osteoporotic me.

Despite my best surfer girl impression, I could not catch the gnarly wave.  It was a total wipe out.  A complete sand facial.

Everyone said it was the best part of the ceremony.  Just like they are saying Ms. Lawrence’s stumble was the pièce de résistance of the Oscars.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

Pants on Fire

George Washington’s birthday falls on February 22.  Today, four days early, we’ll honor the father of our country by celebrating President’s Day in the fine old American traditions of hitting the slopes, eating cherry pie, buying new cars, and telling lots of lies.

Legend has it that George Washington could not tell a lie.  As a young lad, he bravely confessed to chopping down a cherry tree despite the inevitable consequences.

Abraham Lincoln, the other President sometimes associated with the federal holiday that falls on the third Monday of February, was also known for his truthful ways.  “Honest Abe” earned his nickname after walking several miles to return a few pennies.

The average American, on the other hand, is a mendacious creature.  There have been many projects to research how often people lie, but it turns out this is a hard thing to study because people lie about how often they lie.  It is generally accepted that most people lie between a few times and several dozen times each day.

Perhaps we can comprehend — but not condone — why ambitious people employ duplicity for personal gain.

Independent fact-checkers reported so many outrageous lies during the 2012 US Presidential campaign that the only possible explanation is that deception was executed as a carefully planned strategy and not the inadvertent result of casual misstatements.  A top aid for the Romney operation admitted that lying is the whole point of their ads.

Less clear is why otherwise admirable people make statements lacking in both credibility and purpose.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor tarnishes her reputation by claiming she never heard of the Supreme Court until she was in college at Princeton.  Sotomayor graduated Spellman, a private high school where all students take college prep courses.  Even if she had attended an impoverished public school, it would have taken a complete news blackout for such a bright girl to miss the many landmark Supreme Court decisions of the 70s.

Most bewildering, at least to me, is why the people we know tell us so many lies, both little and large.

The majority of people are terrible actors.  They are only fooling themselves if they think they are fooling us.  And to what end?  They are showing disrespect, breeding mistrust, and fracturing relationships.  Maybe they are making themselves feel better.  They are certainly not making us feel better.

As for me, I’m sticking with the truth.  If you don’t like it, you wouldn’t have any trouble finding someone else to lie to you.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

Please Don’t Help Me

My doctor wants me to start taking 5g creatine supplements —

Warning.  Creatine occurs naturally in the body and acts to build skeletal muscle.  Do not use creatine in attempt to enhance athletic performance.  Excessive amounts of this substance are known to produce dangerous side effects.  Even modest supplementation can be unsafe for people with certain medical conditions or harmful when combined with common medications.

OK, so my doctor advises me to start with the creatine.  I go by the drugstore and head straight to the vitamin and mineral aisle.  The bottles are ordered alphabetically.  I move directly to the “C” section:

C…  C + E…  C + Rose Hips…  Calcium…  Calcium + D…  Calcium + Magnesium…  Calcium + Magnesium + D…  Chromium Picolinate…  Cod Liver Oil…  CoQ10 —

Suddenly, a clerk interrupts my progress…

Clerk to me:  Can I help you?

Me to Clerk:  I’m looking for creatine.

Clerk to me:  Carotene?

Me to Clerk:  No, creatine.

Clerk to me:  OK, carotene.

Me to Clerk:  No, creatine.  C-R-E-A-T-I-N-E.

Clerk to me:  C-A-R —

Me to Clerk:  No, C-R-E —

Clerk to me:  C-A-R —

I give up and resume reading on my own.  I can read.  All by myself.  Probably better than most.

Was the clerk unaware that her “help” was counterproductive?  Of course, I don’t blame her.  Most shops seem to require their staff to provide this kind of “service”.  But why would the bosses think this behavior is desirable?  If we wanted assistance, we would ask for it.

Just the other day, while reading labels at the Whole Foods, three different clerks approached me a total of five times within the space of about two minutes.  Yes, two of them actually approached me twice.

And it just keeps getting worse.  Earlier today there was a radio spot for Trader Joe’s.  In addition to unsolicited product pitches, their clerks will now be encouraged to make book and movie recommendations.

Two words.  No thanks.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

Get the Fork!

The New York Fall 2013 Fashion Week has ended and the critics are buzzing about the styles of the upcoming season.

Good news!  My “as is” wardrobe?  A perfect fit with the hottest trends.


My cocktail dresses?  My client attire?  My casual apparel?  My workout wear?  My socks and bras?  En vogue!

Since witnessing fashion’s demands back in college, my mode has always been to stick with an easy and relaxing feel.

See, one morning, my roommates are all getting ready for the day.  Suddenly, there are loud sounds of thrashing and agony.  Danielle screams, “Pam, get the fork!”

Was Danielle having some kind of epileptic fit?  Did she need Pam to suppress her tongue?

I rush in to find Pam straddling Danielle who is lying face up on the bed.  Pam appears to be doing some kind of procedure on Danielle’s midsection.

Pam calls out to me, “Thank G-d you’re here.  We need help.”  I move closer, frantically praying that no blood has been spilled.

The unfolding drama amazes me.  The two girls are desperately pulling at Danielle’s skinny jeans.

Danielle is holding her breath and tugging at the right and left halves of the waist, struggling to clench them together.  Pam is securing Danielle’s body with her own weight, wrestling with the zipper using a fork tine inserted into the pull tab.  But it just won’t budge.  They need me to take charge of the waist.  This will free Danielle’s hands so she can raise her arms over her head to achieve the maximum stomach flatness.

So we do it.  We work together to get Danielle’s skinny jeans zipped and buttoned and we help her to her feet.  She will be standing all the livelong day.  She will be walking in slow motion.  She will be very late to all of her classes.

And me, I had seen what it takes and knew I would never become a slave to fashion.  I would always buy only comfortable clothing.  And I would always buy only clothing that I could put on and take off by myself, without assistance from a personal dresser or use of the kitchen cutlery.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

Neither Snow Nor Rain

Long ago, on a sweltering summer day in August, the regular US mail contained a small card from my little niece.  Quite surprisingly, it was a Valentine.  The envelope was postmarked a few days before Valentine’s Day, six months prior to arrival at my home.

We will never know what happened to the vanished Valentine during those one hundred eighty-three days, but problems with the mail delivery vex me still.

See, a few times a week, envelopes and packages intended for the neighbors on my left and my right show up in my mailbox.  At the same time, a number of envelopes and packages sent to my address never reach me.  Social invitations.  Birthday gifts.  Important stuff!

What happened to the sacred trust between postal carrier and civilian?  Maybe this was just some nonsense spewed by Cliff Clavin, the grandiose postman on Cheers, but still, this is serious.  What is the deal with my mail?

A bit of detective work has revealed three problems that amalgamate into the proverbial Catch-22.

First.  The postal carrier doesn’t see the mail.

While placing the envelopes into the boxes, he does that thing.  You know, the over 40 thing.  The thing where you keep moving the paper closer to and farther from your face, but it doesn’t help.  The text just will not focus.  On many occasions, I have watched our carrier place the neighbors’ mail into my box.

Now, you would think that having vision correctable to 20/40 or so would be a job requirement for a postal carrier, kind of like swimming really well is a job requirement for a lifeguard, but apparently this is not the case.

Second.  The neighbors don’t “forward” the mail.

When mail for my neighbors is dropped in my box, I deliver the items to the appropriate door.  Clearly, this small courtesy is not a common practice in my building.  Never, not even once, in all my days here, has a misplaced letter or parcel appeared at my door.

No, it appears the “neighborly” behavior in my building is to leave the items on the bench in the mail room.  Free stuff for any passerby.  Great.

Third.  The cleaning people don’t rescue the mail.

The cleaners do not like stray paper.  This would be a good thing except they do not discriminate between fast food wrappers and official government mail.  Every day, they throw out the items left on the bench.  So much zeal I wish they would show for deodorizing the garbage room (currently doubling as a urinal for the homeless people).  But no.

Summary.  Postal carrier puts my mail in neighbor’s box.  Neighbor puts my mail on bench in mail room.  Cleaner throws out my mail along with actual rubbish.  Verbal requests and written notices go unheeded.

So please, do not entrust the US Postal Service to deliver anything to my current residence.  If you have something for me, deposit it directly into my hands or into my bank account.  Guess you really can’t trust a person in uniform after all.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.