28 December 2008

Year in review

Warning: this is a long one.

It’s the end of the year, and we all know what that means: the media – or “the media” if you prefer to be snarky about it – will be counting down lists of the best, dumbest, and most amazing people, animals, natural disasters, and celebrity meltdowns of the past year.

Animal planet, for instance, has a special airing soon about the ten most amazing animal moments of 2008. E!’s “The Soup” will do some sort of soupy countdown as well – a clipdown, I believe they call it, since it’s all TV show clips commentated on by the delightfully snarky Joel McHale. In a recent Entertainment Weekly, Stephen King listed his favorite movies from this year. The list goes on and on.

I actually considered counting down my ten favorite countdowns, and I still may do so. But with all the emphasis on the best of things, I always get confused. I think, hey, wasn’t this in fact a spectacularly crappy year?

So without further ado, I give you my personal top ten suckiest moments/events/whatever of 2008.

10. My car. Period. This was not a good year for my car. Of course, it’s a Chevy, so no year is a good one and every mile I drive causes more and more cash to fly out of the tailpipe like it does in those commercials. I think the bloody thing’s worth maybe a grand now. But even for my bottom-of-the-line, stripped down Cavalier, this was a bad year. The EGR valve croaked. Two of my three A/C control knobs broke. It really started to get that Old Car Smell. The little ashtray-drawer-thingy snapped off. The latch on the boot broke. A tire went flat in the 3rd Avenue parking garage. The paint started peeling off aggressively. My gas mileage tanked. The belt driver (whatever the H that is) had to be replaced. The foam in the steering column hardened, causing my horn to blare randomly, frequently, and without warning – often at 2 or 3 in the morning, for five minutes at a stretch. And more recently, the battery died. A fairly new battery, I might add.

All this is just in the past year. Since I’ve owned it, I’ve also had to have the brakes fixed, a new A/C installed, the starter repaired, and the antenna reattached. And the windshield wipers replaced five times. And like four new batteries. And the stereo replaced.

My next car will be German or Japanese, I promise you that.

9. 2008 was the year that an old friend from my past made a reappearance.


I had horrible acne as a teenager, and I was terribly relieved to find that as I entered my twenties, my skin cleared up. I had, oh, three or four good years. My skin looked great. A trifle pale, certainly. But that’s my normal hue. I could use WiteOut as a concealer, I swear it. But every so often I’d get a nice rosy glow in my cheeks, and darned if my face didn’t look fantastic.

But then it happened. Long about … oh, March or maybe April I think, I started noticing blemishes where there once were none. It started out small – a red bump here, a red bump there - one, maybe two at a time. But then a new one would pop up while the others were still out. Three zits, and then four marred my face.

By November, I was back to using a medicated facial cleanser, toner and moisturizer, the kind that peel off a layer or two of the epidermis as they “clean.” And you know what? I’ve still got acne. Five zits on my face, two on the front of my neck, three on the back of my neck, and one or two little guys behind the ears.

I’ve tried concealers and foundation. The blemishes suddenly match my skin … and I end up looking warty instead of zitty.

Sigh. Goodbye, lovely skin of my twenty-second and twenty-third years. I’ll miss you.

8. My favorite antidepressant stopped working. Oh, Zoloft. What happened? We used to work so well together, you and I. Sure, we had our ups and downs – dosages upped and downed, that is – but once we hit the right number of milligrams, it was magic, wasn’t it? I felt normal. You didn’t have many side effects – mostly headaches, and I was used to those. Together we got through beauty school and fibromyalgia, and you kept me from hauling off and hitting people (although in all fairness, most of them deserved to be hit). We were a team, Zoloft! But I flew too close to the sun on wings of serotonin. I took you for too long. And you couldn’t help me anymore.

And I was a miserable harpy again. Dr. Zenner – you remember him, right Zoloft? He said that if I leave you alone for long enough, when I go back to you, you’ll work again. And we’ll be so happy together.

In the meantime? Bupkis.

7. I met another old friend this year, one more crabby and vindictive than acne. I had my tonsils out in 2007, and I enjoyed a good nine months of good otolaryngological health. Not a rhinovirus or a streptococcal amoeba or a sinus infection in sight – and I’d been a walking strep virus for ages.

In March of 2008, I got strep throat. Well, I told myself, removing the tonsils wasn’t a foolproof solution. I did work closely with children (until #3 happened) and germs were germs. I doubled my use of hand sanitizer and turned away when someone coughed. Strep returned again in March, then May. And June. And again in November.

On the upside, that’s only four cases of strep compared to the ten a year I was used to when I had tonsils. On the downside, that’s four more cases of strep than I had in 2007.

I’m not sure what else can be removed to help remedy the problem. As soon as I find out, I’ll schedule a surgery.

6. I bought myself a shiny new Dell laptop computer back in … oh, February, I think. It came with Windows Vista installed, and I was (pathetic as it is) used to Windows 2K. But, I told myself, new is good. And I got used to the little “quirks” (bugs) that came with Vista, and I came to like it well enough.

Until October, that is. I’d installed Service Pack 1 (which was supposed to fix said quirks but brought with it two bugs for every one bug it fixed) and on the advice of Scott, my computer-genius big brother, I had Windows set to check for updates nightly.

Mid-October Windows strongly recommended some sort of antivirus update. And fool that I was, I clicked “Ok.”
That, my friends, was the beginning of the end.

This all-important, Strongly Recommended update caused my computer to commit hara-kiri. It would not start up. Start Up wizard couldn’t fix it. It would not boot manually. I could not access my files. My computer, an integral part of my life, was a $750 paper-weight. And I completely. Freaked. Out.

Fortunately, I had Scotty, my own personal Geek Squad. He employed every tool in his mental arsenal to fix my problem. He tried removing part of the hard drive. He tried hack after hack. Finally, using a CD that booted Ubuntu, he retrieved my files from Windows. And when I had them all backed up, he cleared my hard drive off, cleaned up my computer, and downgraded me to Windows XP. He also did a little research, and apparently hundreds if not thousands of people had also lost hard drives to this Strongly Recommended update.

Scotty, you saved my tuchis. You rock. Thank you for losing hours of sleep to keep number six on my list from ruining the whole dang year.

5. Did you know that people in their twenties can get gum disease? I didn’t until the über-helpful dental hygienist told me that I had it. So do you know what I did for my summer vacation? I got my gums lasered four times (and my insurance only covered three). My poor gums. They ached. They stung. They bled. They … healed. But unless I brush and floss vigilantly at least twice a day for the rest of my mortal life, it will come back. And you know what? After a treatment I couldn’t eat anything crunchy for a week. No potato chips! No movie theater popcorn! No regular popcorn!

It was brutal. Especially considering how many movies I saw this summer.

4. Numbers four and three on my list sort of tie for general suckiness, but after considering my sizeable debt, I ordered them as I did.

At the end of July, my boyfriend of four months dumped me. And he gave me the “it’s not you it’s me” routine, just like they do on television. He encouraged me to get angry with him for it and then got offended when I called him a rude name.

Things only got worse between us but I’d rather not get into that.

3. I was fired from my job of nearly two years. I hated management, but I was starting to build up a clientele and I loved working with little kids. I was good at what I did. I had seniority. I was responsible. I filled in at other salons as they needed me. I kept my trap shut when they transferred me to a salon I didn’t want to work at.

But my manager, Sonia, was (pardon my French) an absolute horse’s ass, and she played favorites like one would play a piano. And I was not one of her favorites. So she made up stories about me stealing and messing with the computers, refused to believe me when I told her the stories weren’t true, and canned me. Five days after my dad had brain surgery. Then, after she fired me – in front of a co-worker she insisted sit in on the firing – she said to me offhandedly, “Oh, sorry about your dad.”

I have no qualms about saying that if God is just, this woman will roast in hell for eternity. She treated me like manure and fired me because she could. I hate her like poison.

2. My father’s brain surgery – his third in a year – was because – I believe it was a year to the day from his initial diagnosis – we discovered that his cancer had come back with a vengeance. One month, his MRI was clear. But after he went to the ER because he was having trouble speaking and writing, they did a scan and discovered a huge tumor had popped up out of nowhere. It was aggressive, and it was going to kill him. We were told he had a few months to live, they weren’t sure exactly. They did surgery to remove what they could, and to insert chemotherapy wafers in his brain.

The surgery was on Friday. He came home on Monday night. Eleven days later he lost consciousness and never woke up.

1. Eleven days after he passed out, he died. My father. My daddy. My friend. The best, smartest, kindest, most insightful man I’ve ever known. I miss him so much that it hurts – it’s a physical ache that won’t go away. His death devastated me and I’m not sure I’ll ever completely recover. I’d give the world for five more minutes with him. One more minute. Anything.

I miss him. I don’t know what to do without him. But I have no choice. It sucks. It hurts. And it’s why 2008 will live in my memory as one of the worst years of my life.

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