It’s not my birthday…

Well the rain falls down without my help I’m afraid
And my lawn gets wet though I’ve withheld my consent
When this grey world crumbles like a cake
I’ll be hanging from the hope
That I’ll never see that recipe again

It’s not my birthday, it’s not today…

– They Might Be Giants, “It’s Not My Birthday”-

There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.

-Louis L’Amour-

No, dear readers, it is NOT my birthday today. That cherished occasion lies nine months in the future. Today is auspicious, however, for at least two reasons:

A) Today was the last day of my IT career. I’ve left behind Very Large Corporation, Inc, and Information Technology alike in order to take up my bindle stick, pluck up my courage, and hop aboard a train bound for Creative Enterprise.

and

B) Today is my “rebirthday.” Exactly 2 years ago today, I received the precious blessing of the state court and changed my legal identity to match my actual one. I may be only two years old, but I’m advanced for my age.

It’s been a busy day, is the point.

I’ve been struggling for years to return to creative work, the victim of an odd (and, at times, cruel-seeming) paradox; despite having zero formal IT training or education, possessing what can only be described as mid-level technopathy led to the assumption that I was and would forever be a “techie,” despite both my frequent side projects in the creative arts and my own hearty protestations to the contrary. Eventually, the time I’d spent in IT (which was, naturally, time away from design and other creative fields, at least according to my resume) reinforced this idea; “Claire must be meant for IT because Claire’s in IT and Claire’s in IT because Claire’s meant to be there.”

Not pretty.

But, the wheel of life spins under our feet regardless of our forward motion, and eventually I was able to – through a series of contacts, design projects and a stubbornness so profound that mules roll their eyes at me –  procure my new position in Marketing and Social Media. My excitement is so profound that I’m pretty sure I’ve been levitating most of the day, which sounds fun until you stop at the grocery and can’t activate the little pressure-plate door opener thing.

But I digress.

As I was packing up my few remaining possessions and saying my goodbyes, I realized how deeply IT has affected me, both as a person and an employee. Yes, there have been challenges to my patience at times – ID-10T errors and PEBKAC abound – but for the most part, even the most grievous frustrations were ameliorated by that magic moment, that singular instant, when I solved someone’s problem. Money has never been a particularly strong motivator for me; my inability to manage it, coupled with the sort of disregard for material gain most people associate with terminal illness or religious mania makes it a poor carrot with which to lead me down the primrose path. However, put me in a place where I am genuinely and consistently helpful to someone, exorcising not just the demons from their Excel macros but the shadows from their workday, and I am a happy camper (provided, of course, that there is gratitude for services rendered…ingrates turn the knob of my Smitemaster 3000 to “11” ).

This has not been an ideal job – what job is, in the final analysis? – but it HAS been a useful one. It’s taught me many things about myself, and the kind of work, environment and interactions I require to feel as though I’m making a positive impact every day. It’s introduced me to some great friends, taught me that trust needs to be earned (not just given away like novelty tokens at a particularly cruddy fundraising carnival), and, perhaps most importantly of all, helped me to understand all the things I’m NOT as well as those I am.

And for that, I will be forever grateful.

It’s been a day of lasts – last login, last cup of tea, last casual sweep of Ice Station Zebra, last hugs and tears and laughs.There will be letters to write, e-mails to exchange, lunches to coordinate; there will be attrition as bodies both peripheral and central in my personal galaxy move closer or break orbit and disappear into space beyond.

But it’s also a day for beginnings. Here I stand, two years as Claire behind me, with (let us hope) many more ahead. The sun has not yet reached its apex; the future stretches before me, a road traveling through sunny heights and icy, shadowed lows. Having reached a fork, I’ve chosen what I hope is the right one, and focus my gaze on the horizon.

No, it’s not my birthday, my friends. But somehow, I still feel as though I’ve been given a gift.


Things That Should Not Be: Collectibles Edition

I’m a fairly easy-going sort. When I see someone wearing, say, a trucker hat and a winkingly self-aware novelty tee shirt, I smile and say “Hey, hipsters need love, too.” When I’m parking my car and someone driving a Speck or Microbe or whatever the hell these wind-up cars are called steals my spot TWO SECONDS before I pull into it, I (try to) think “Well, they’re doing their part for the environment. I don’t mind walking seventeen blocks in four-inch heels.” Now that I’m an aunt, I find myself forced to endure things such as Ben 10 and Hannah Montana in order to remain in the good graces of The Little Emperor and Her Highness, also known as my nephew and niece.

In fact, I will even go so far as to tolerate the collections of knick-knacks, gewgaws and miscellaneous crap my friends and loved ones have in their homes (if only because I know I must have somewhere to flee in the event my book collection causes my home to collapse, killing the neighbors).

However, sometimes the percolating cesspool of popular culture belches forth an abomination so hideous, so wildly unacceptable, that I must speak out. “Why share these things, then?” I hear you asking. “Why not work to conceal them from the innocent eyes of those who may encounter them and be forever scarred?”

Because if I must suffer, so must you all, say I.

To wit:

1) Terrifyingly “adorable” Gangsta Babies. The dead-eyed stare of a doll is already fairly creepy; add piles of bling, typo-riddled marketing copy filtered through the paternalistic racism most commonly associated with Rudyard Kipling (“Carrot-toped homey” comes to mind) and the soullessly malevolent, emerald-green gaze of Pookie, and you’re looking at a lifetime of sleepless nights, my friend.

2) A thin candy shell over a pulsating heart of evil. OK, I promise not every entry will be about the disturbing fauxbies generated ad infinitum by the, uh, disturbing fauxby industry. However, these M&M babies ignited a special fire of searing hatred in my heart by committing the dual crime of being advertised in last month’s issue of Smithsonian AND making it impossible for me to eat delicious M&M’s without seeing their creepy little faces whispering “I melt for no one.”

3) Anything encrusted with Swarovski crystals. Swarovski walks a fine line – on the one hand, they have some lovely crystal pieces and jewelry that (almost) justify their price by adding beauty to your home, office, ears, navel, septum, et hoc genus omne. On the other, they’ve apparently decided to release all their leftover bits to the masses for use as spackle for EVERYTHING EVER. One young woman, encrusted head to toe in Swarovski, recently caused a ten-car pileup simply by stepping into the sunlight. OK, not really, but it’ll happen, mark my words.

And for those of you with too little taste and too much money who want something a little, ahem, “classier” than Swarovski, why not browse here?

4) Anything found in the Museum of Food Anomalies Give this site a gander, and you will never, ever look at your salad the same way. The banana with a face in it will haunt my dreams.

5) Peripheral junk-obelia that only hastens the demise of civilization. Hollywood has long ago abandoned any pretense of artistic integrity – try to remember the last popular film that didn’t feature a McToy tie-in or squawking electronic gadget released along with it – but sometimes, they run right past Ridiculous and scamper, giggling, into the arms of Utter Desolation of the Soul. These “dusty jams” may be a little out of date, but that just illustrates the longevity of our culture’s sad pageant of marketing-based suck-itude. My personal “favorite?” The C3PO tape dispenser. Nothing says “Amber Alert!” like a droid with a crotch-mounted tape wheel. YIKES.

**Note Bene**: I don’t agree with the site’s rating system, as I find both German Teachers and John Wayne to be indicative of quality and goodness, rather than horribleness and inanity.

OK, kids, I know you’ve got your own set of criteria for this category. Please, bring me your ALF alarm clocks, your Jesus action figures, your snack foods based on moderately successful second-generation children’s programs: there is room for all at the table of Things That Should Not Be!

What a card.

Just a quick update, kids.

Those of you who’ve been following the tempest-in-a-teacup I’ve been weathering with the fine folks at the bank formerly (and currently) known as US Bank will be pleased (or possibly relieved) to know that my new card finally arrived in Saturday’s mail…and with its arrival, I have at last shed the final bit of old-name purse debris and will now be able to pay for things without fearing being “read” or having to convince some scrunchie-wearing register jockey that I’m not an identity thief (and, really, who would steal my identity? That’s true desperation, yo).

As my close, personal friend Louis Pasteur was heard to opine, “Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal: my strength lies solely in my tenacity.” Sure, he may have revolutionized dairy, but I got my name changed on a piece of plastic! Yeah! Score one for Team Tramp!

Up next: Claire’s Transgendered Primer for the Curious, Apprehensive or Confused.

Your e-mail is also important to us…

…As a valued customer, your satisfaction is our number one goal!*

*Actual quote from US Bank rep e-mail.

OK, so I received a reply to my written (read as: evidentiary) missive to the bank mentioned only by a top secret and thoroughly disguised code name in a previous post.

The young (let’s go ahead and say young) lady who assisted me today informed me that she, too, understood my frustration, and would be rushing me a new card posthaste:

“I do apologize for any inconvenience that this has caused you. We have changed the embossing on the check card to reflect your new name and the card should arrive within 3 business days plus mail time. Please let us know if you have any other questions or concerns.”

– Janiece, actual US Bank Email Operations Specialist-

Janiece and her prompt reply to my e-mail have, for the most part, quieted the fires of wrath that constantly threaten to bubble up and smite those who displease Claire, Goddess of the Extremely Perterbed. Since Janiece mentioned embossing and seemed savvy regarding the construction of an actual checkcard, I’m going to run with the assumption that in three days (plus mailing time), my shiny new Check Card, complete with new code and, more importantly, name, will arrive, restoring sight to the blind, peace to the Middle East, and eliminating forever (let us hope) the now-tedious ritual I like to call “No, I’m not married, and no, I am not an identity bandit craftily using someone else’s card to buy this bottle of wine and loaf of bread, but if you’d like I can explain my transgenderism with the help of this short film while the people behind me in line watch their milk turn into Brie.”

Special thanks to Janiece and Heather, two wonderful and helpful human cogs just trying to turn their part of the gigantic Customer Disservice machine…long may their satisfaction ratings stay high!

Your call is important to us…

…please continue to wait until you resemble this guy.

OK, here’s the thing:

My beef is not specifically about the notorious wait times involved with calling customer service numbers. I make every effort I can to avoid entanglement with the enormous and labyrinthine machinery of large corporations and their customer -ahem – service departments. Since I have begun transition, my desire to avoid entanglement has become even stronger, as phone calls inevitably result in this exchange:

ME: “Hi, this is Claire J-, my account number is xxx-xxx-xxx, and I…”

CUSTOMER SERVICE IMP: “Wait – what’s the name on the account?”

ME: “Well, actually, that’s what I’m calling about, because I need to get the name cha-”

CSI: “Can you please verify the account number again for me?”

ME: “Sure, it’s xxx-xxx-xxx. Now, the reason I’m…”

CSI: “Ma’am, can you please tell me the social security number associated with this account?”

ME: “Sigh. I guess so. It’s XXX-XX-XXXX.”

CSI: “Hmm…okay. Just to ensure you’re not a crazy lady stealing Mr. J’s account, can you please recite the grades received on all projects in Ms. Krepner’s Spanish III class in 1992?”

ME: “Never mind, I will keep my money under the mattress from now on.”

The specific institution with which I am currently struggling is a popular bank, which I will refer to by the code name of “US Bank.”

I was never one for code names.

At any rate, some time ago, just after I changed my legal name and obtained my new driver’s license, I went to the local branch of the bank to change the name on my account. While a bit frosty and impatient, the clerk who helped me did answer all my questions, changed the name on my account, and even assured me that my new CheckCard would be on its way to me in a week or two.

Fast forward several months to Wednesday last, when I, fed up with hearing “OK, so is this your husband’s card, or…?” whenever I paid with my card (which is, it must be said, EVERY TIME) I called the toll-free number on the bank’s web site and spoke with Heather, who was positively mortified that I had not received my card. She apologized sincerely and profusely, and told me she would put a rush on my card, so that it would arrive in three business days (plus mailing time). I must stress here that Heather is an angel, and should be promoted to VP of Sweetness (Telephone Division). So, imagine my glee when I saw the envelope with the bank’s logo poking out of my mailbox as I checked the mail yesterday…

And, here is where neither my desire for simplicity nor Heather’s heartfelt altruism did a damn bit of good.

The envelope was addressed to my old name, but I figured, “what the heck? It’s probably just a paperwork error,” especially since the name on my statements, bills and everything else has been my new one since the changeover months ago. However, upon opening the envelope, I discovered a clone of my current card, right down to the name and secret code.

Perhaps understandably, I was quite wroth.

Verily.

So today I am calling the bank back, for round three of All Claire Wants is a Card Bearing Her Current Name So as to Avoid Social Awkwardness and Confusion, You Pillocks. Stay tuned for updates as events warrant!