Neighbors

I was going to break the “silence” on this semi-defunct blog with a boring and semi-coherent post about having social anxiety, again, ho hum. But then an amusing thing happened, so I will post about that instead.

This being National Pie Day, I had just placed a bourbon apple pie in the oven and was finishing clearing away excess pie crust, when I heard the sound of tires squealing. My windows afford a great view of the goings on down below, so I looked out and saw a massive SUV struggling to wade through the three feet of snow that has blanketed our streets. No plows have even attempted to go through our neighborhood, so it was rough going. From my window perch I checked on the SUV, went back to the oven to check on the pie, and back to my laptop to check social media notifications. This went on for another fifteen minutes before I felt a bit bad about peeping on the driver and decided to intervene.

For the first time since Friday’s snowfall, I suited up and headed out into the wintry world. There’s a shovel and a tiny courtesy bag of salt stationed in the vestibule of my building; I grabbed the shovel and stepped outside, whereupon I immediately sank into the snow up to my hips. The driver of the SUV was furiously trying to ram over a snowbank before he noticed me. He got out and as we shoveled, he explained that he was on his way home, when he had to turn around due to a firetruck blocking the road. Baltimore is under an officially declared snow emergency, which means that only emergency vehicles are permitted to be out on the streets. Obviously this man had not been made aware of this. He had turned around and promptly got ensnared in the snow in front of my house, and was making absolutely no headway, basically grinding his tires into wet rubber slurry. Though he had an SUV, apparently this SUV did not have snow tires or even four wheel drive, for that matter. (I am not sure how it qualifies as a “utility” vehicle.)

After a few minutes of the two of us trying to scoop out the impossible wall of snow embedded between his tires and the road, another guy came walking up to offer assistance. It turns out he lives across the street from me, also on the third floor. (He also happens to be cute and really into bikes. No idea about status otherwise.) I have not met any of my neighbors apart from people I already knew before moving here, and the ex-roommate who I am actively avoiding. Cute Bike Guy also mentioned this phenomenon. At some point in conversation, I mentioned making a pie, which reminded me that yes – I had indeed made a pie which was currently baking in my unattended oven, so I ran back upstairs to take care of that. (Luckily, I had come back at just the right time for it to be done and unburnt.)

I came back outside. Another man had walked up, a mercenary shoveler (a great business to be in during a time like this), and lent his assistance. The driver was far too agitated to be chatty, but the rest of us chatted about the snow shoveling business, massive snowball fight events planned throughout the city, and so forth. Yet another neighbor came out wielding a shovel, and the five of us nearly succeeded in getting the car to the bottom of the hill, where my little avenue intersects with a major (and thereby plowed) street. Then a plow truck – the very first I’d seen this storm – came towards us, plow down and angled towards us, honking furiously. We hopped out of the way as the plow shoved more snow back into our way, so we dug that away too.

A woman walked past us to cross the street. On the other side, she met up with a man who proceeded to strip off his clothes, baring his naked flesh to the icy air. “What the hell?” whistled the mercenary, staring incredulously. I just shrugged and continued shoveling, rather than know more about what was going on. (Probably they were art students.)

Finally we got the path to the main street shoveled out sufficiently for even a SmartCar to pass, and the driver climbed into his car for the final push. Cute Bike Guy and I cleared out of the way, expecting the SUV to come barreling out, when the engine fell strangely silent.

The driver hopped out, exasperated. He had run out of gas.

The nearest gas station – if, indeed, it is open tonight – is about a mile to the west. “The devil is busy tonight,” declared the driver. Shoulders slumped, he marched westward into the distance, empty gallon gas can in hand. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone so exhausted and miserable in a long time.

Cute Bike Guy and I parted ways – I mean, we couldn’t keep helping this obviously hopeless person – but now I know a neighbor. And a perfectly baked pie. I feel so terrible for the SUV driver, but I couldn’t help but laugh at his predicament, because I am a bad person, and seriously? Sure, he chose his vehicle poorly, and also his transportation plans for this evening, but still, that is some fucking luck. I hope this man makes it home okay to have a better day tomorrow.

And I hope I continue to get to know my neighbors when there aren’t natural disasters happening.

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Editing my life

A little less than a month ago, I achieved a pretty major personal goal. I had a successful audition and got into the main improv company in my town – a great redemption arc considering previous audition experience I’d had. I am happy – nay, ecstatic – to have validation that all the effort that I have been putting in is paying off.

And a lot of work it has been. It seems a tremendous amount of work for me to be able to do what comes effortlessly to others. I know that is partially anxiety rearing its dumb head, but also there is some truth to the fact that some have innate talent, and I am not one of these people. Improv requires you to be free and breezy and quick on your feet, and I am none of these things. I’m an overthinker trying to pose as an improvisor. I am intellectually aware of “impostor syndrome” but despite that, can’t help but be affected by the certainty that I just do not belong here. I had the one good night during auditions, and a lucky streak of decent shows (except for the latest little bit set which set off this particular panic attack, in which I apparently started having a stroke or something and just word-saladed on stage). But really, deep down inside my bones, I am not good at this. Someone is going to call my bluff and it’s all going to come crashing down, mortifyingly, in a Carrie-at-the-prom kind of way.

Carrie_prom2

I am well familiar with this feeling. Throughout most of elementary school, I had what is now called selective mutism, which is a social anxiety so intense in certain settings (usually school) that the child does not speak. In my case, when I was forced to speak, I affected a different, higher-pitched voice. I have no idea how it started in my case, but it was borne of some deep-seated paranoia about my voice not being girly enough – for some reason I had it stuck in my head that I sounded like a boy (which I probably did, because kid voices all sound pretty much the same pre-puberty). The paranoia evolved and reinforced itself via this obsessive fear that if I did just one day decide to drop the affectation and go back to my normal voice, all the other students and teachers would hate me for lying. I felt like a fraud and a phony every day, carrying this bizarre and totally self-imposed burden, but even though I knew that this was something I could solve, it was getting desperate enough that I saw no means of escape. This went on for years. Luckily, I transferred schools and it just disappeared.

I have never been able to banish anxiety, just squish it down to manageable levels until it again explodes and turns into panic attacks. I am not doing myself any favors by engaging in performative arts as a hobby, particularly one of the more stressful ones. Anxiety is obviously something that afflicts a lot of improvisors, judging by a purely unscientific sample of Tumblrs and Facebook status updates culled from the improvisors I know. Naturally, I think all of these people are incredibly talented and way better than I could ever be, and am baffled as to why they would be so down on themselves. And no, of course I do not think this is applicable to myself!

I know that the only way to really get better is to do what I have been doing, which is doing as many reps as possible. I also know that if I do any more reps right now, I might actually die of too much improv. I’m not even a month in, and still well within the probationary period.

There is nothing more painful to me than disappointing people, but it’s the one thing I can reliably do.

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Daily digest

What I did today:

– I wrote nearly 2,000 words about Phineas Gage
– Bought an orange crysanthemum plant that takes up roughly 1/8th of my living room
– Went to self defense class (+1 confidence boost)
– Stopped by the Giant (area grocery chain) in Hampden for some light doomsday prepping in advance of the maybe hurricane coming this weekend.

The Giant was dark, but people were going inside anyways so I thought I’d investigate. There was a police officer stood out front telling people that the store was open, but we could not purchase any perishables. People were shopping using the light from their phones, and I don’t think they were necessarily shopping for essentials – I overheard a couple discussing whether or not they should pick up a can of aerosol silly string.

The power was off for everything except the cash registers, and the ever present “easy listening” radio station music that blares in every American grocery store.

– Went to an improv show (this is almost frequent enough to not be noteworthy)
– Went to the liquor store (again doomsday prepping). Dejected liquor store patrons talked about moving out of Baltimore if the Ravens continue to do so poorly.

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Light pressure no big deal return to bloggy world

What I did today outside of routine:
– Left work early to help set up a volunteer event for the homeless.
– Sorted papers.
– Took pictures of volunteer dental stations.
– Toured the new grocery store downtown, called “Streets.” It looks like “Fresh & Green” but with a whole selection of Korean items.
– Spraypainted a barrel to make it look like a toxic keg at the Baltimore Rock Opera Society HQ.
– Decided to blog again.

Annoyances:
– I was in the left turn lane, waiting for oncoming traffic to stop oncoming, and the asshole behind me laid on his/her horn.

Surprises / discoveries:
– Found out one of the other volunteers works in my same building. Had a long chat with her! She seems nice.
– Listened to a free stream of the cast recording of the hip-hop musical “Hamilton”, about Alexander Hamilton, his political/personal life, the duel.

Observations:
– I like helping, even in boring capacities such as sorting papers.
– I have run out of long term storage capacity, hence the need for offshoring memories into written/digital format.
– I can’t not eat cheese doodles.

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