Things I Hate

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It’s a funny thing, this “living your life online.” This blogging about lifestyle (also know as life). This building an “Instagram brand.” This being a brand.

My mother never had to worry about this. I think about that whenever I have a chance to look through my baby book. These 50-odd photos of baby me. Sadly and blissfully all I have to know about what I looked like, what we did. It makes me both grateful for and disgusted by the literal thousands of photos and videos I have of the first year of Vivi’s life. At least 300 are perpetually available with a swipe of my phone.

I don’t talk a lot about how much what I do tires me. How much the internet and technology and the gratuitous, frivolity of it. One because I’m exhausted by over-earnest blogging. Funny, right? Because I also love it.

I love the catharsis of pouring out your heart, the lift in sadness and despair that comes from finding a tribe of people who do so much more than just “like” your honesty; they hold up mirror images of your pain and say, “I thought I was the only one.”

I also have a hard time whining because I recognize the privilege of complaining about the superficiality of what I do. Poor me, working from home on a flexible schedule so I am also able spend hours cuddling my sweet baby girl and dedicating so much time a week to my volunteer work. The internet, in all its obnoxious glory, lets me do that.

I struggle with the self-promotion. I think it’s a difficult thing for Christian, Midwestern, female people to do. It goes against the traits those types are usually bred to project.

So I try to soften the blow with self-deprecation, humor, and, often, bluster. But I’m still uncomfortable sometimes. Because I’m still acutely aware of every person in my life who hates me for being a blogger. Who hates me for every smiling Instagram photo, every snapshot of something pretty or Pinterest-worthy (which means…what, exactly? Didn’t we just call it “pretty” a handful of years ago?). Of every person who openly refuses to follow me or, even worse, follows but never likes, or, even worse, does none of the above but still looks at my public posts or watches every single Instagram story I post. Those people make me really sad, honestly. And my awareness of the people I do know about continually pokes a finger in another gaping insecurity: How many more are there out there that I don’t even know?

The internet is a big place, and hate is usually only a keystroke away.

This post has been buzzing around in my brain for a while, but it took me a while to find words that sounded right without sounding like I was complaining. I don’t know why I feel like I need to tell you that I’m in on it — I know the promoted posts, the self-promotion is annoying sometimes. I need you to know that I try to make them not that way.

And then I roll my eyes at myself because why do I care so much? I truly believe that, in life, you either attract or repel people. And I would rather repel someone by being who I really am than attract them by pretending to be something I’m not.

Often, I fantasize about stopping it all. You know that. I can’t really, though, because it is my job. It is my golden ticket to stay-at-home/work-at-home mom life, to full-time volunteer service. But I do sometimes imagine a life where I could do those things without doing these things. Because as much as I actually love blogging and DIY and style and cooking, the hate wears me down.

You, person who looks at my stuff and never likes, who mocks and says nasty things and seethes even though I’m not hurting you (or even thinking about you, often times). You wear me down.

But if I pretend to be the person you would be happy to see me be — self-loathing, bitter, failure — I would be attracting the wrong person with the wrong things.

Because there’s so. Much. Pressure. Guys. Pressure to be perfect. Pressure to be imperfect. Pressure to be perfectly imperfect. To be raw, to be polished. To be funny, to be sincere. And to be all those things all the time. It helps to remind myself that probably all business owners feel this way. And, in so many ways, this is my business. Entrepreneurism is not for the thin-skinned, the faint of heart.

I started this blog because I wanted to be a writer, and I still cringe a bit at the word blogger. (I mean, could we have picked a word that didn’t sound like loose mix of swampland and mucous?) Today, I am a professional writer, so maybe I’m not doing everything wrong.

But I’m also a blogger, for better or worse.

And bloggers will always bother someone. Honestly, I spend a lot of my life trying not to bother anyone. I speak quieter to Vivi when we’re being silly in public, trying not to be THAT mom that needs everyone to see how great she’s doing. I’m hyper-aware of people on the sidewalk, dodging and hugging the wall to keep from jostling anyone, trying not to be THAT person who is so self-centered. My emails read like a textbook of “woman in meeting” speak, trying not to be THAT in-your-face jerk. Maybe it’s more honest to say that I spend a lot of my life trying not to be a cliché.

The thing is, I really don’t want to bother anyone. So, if this blog bothers you, if my internet presence bothers you, I implore you: Ignore me. Stop following, stop looking.

But if you like looking at my stuff, I welcome you with open arms, fist bumps, and a round of celebratory drinks.

Do other people feel like hate is this visceral, tactile thing? Sometimes I look at a person and feel it radiating off of them like steam. It oozes from nasty comments, sparks out of sharp-tongues. I’m immediately put off when I feel it; I retreat like a spooked animal, a knot in my gut and a rush of adrenaline coursing through my veins. Danger, these people seem to whisper.

Do you know what I think about every time I post anything? Those three people who I know don’t like me. I’m not exaggerating when I say “every time.” They are my last thought before hitting “publish” or “share.” The anxiety those three people give me is embarrassing for me to admit. It would be so nice to not have to deal with that anxiety.

I know what you’re thinking (especially if you’re one of those three people): So, why don’t you just quit then?

I totally get why you think that. Because I want to quit.  Often. But I can’t because of Vivi. I can’t teach her that we go as far in life as the people who hate us the most want us to go.

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Instead, I want her to be brave. I want her to be kind. I want her to be the antidote to all that nastiness. And the only way I’m going to get her there is by trying to be those things myself.

So I’m going to try to focus on the people I actually like anyway. The people who love and support and get it and get me. Who like what I do, who like reading about the things I like talking about. And, you know what? I think that can be enough.

Whew! That was a lot of feelings. And, honestly, I don’t know if I’m making anything better by calling them out. I don’t even know if this all makes total sense — I wrote it over a series of emails to myself in the car. But I think I feel a little better. The aforementioned catharsis and all of that. The point is, if you feel this way too, you are not alone. And I think we can both be a little bit more of that kindness we want to see. To those of you who do and always have supported me and shown me so much love, I thank you from the very bottom of my heart. You are the greatest.

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Actual footage.

Remember when I used to take the Long Island Rail Road a lot? And I whined about it. A lot.

It has been almost four years since I officially bid adieu to the rails, and, I’ll admit, even I started to wonder if maybe I hadn’t been the eence bit of a drama queen.

I mean, it’s just a train through Long Island. How bad could it actually be?

And then, last week, I had to take it again after over a year of abstaining.

And, you guys? I think it actually got worse.

Granted, my train home took off at 11:30, so, really, what was I expecting? But, here’s the thing: I expect the drunk train. I expect a little rowdiness.

What I don’t expect? To find myself in a full-on frat rager before it’s even midnight.

For the entire 30-minute ride I shared with this crowd, it was non-stop screaming, seat-hopping, and literal chanting. Not like, monks-finding-inner-peace chanting. Like, THIS. IS. CHAN. TING. (*clap clap clap clap clap*) And the lyrics were, shall we say, not fit to print.

It was, in a word, unpleasant.

At one point, the conductor passed through to clip tickets and whispered to the guy across the aisle and me that “they might not notice you if you stay quiet.” It was that bad.

The good news is that they got off a few stops before me, so at least part of my ride was relatively peaceful. Even so, I think I can officially scratch “am I a drama queen?” off my list of concerns.

It’s funny how life teaches you things. Sometimes, they are profound things. Sometimes, not so much.

A few months ago, I started having doubts about our living room arrangement. When we first moved into our tiny two-bedroom, we struggled with a few things.

For one, this apartment is really weirdly shaped. Ignoring the labyrinth hallways leading back to the baby’s nursery, even our “open” spaces are strangely laid out with a variety of weird pockets and wall extensions that leave us with very few open expanses of wall.

Our initial idea was to use our couch to create a bit of separation between the kitchen and the living room. We also weren’t sure where to put the TV, and the one big open wall seemed like the best option.

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That’s an old picture (we didn’t even have the rug down yet), but you get the idea.

But as time went on and Vivi became more and more mobile, the couch breaking up the room seemed like less and less of a good idea. For one, if I tried to do a few dishes in the middle of the day, it was hard to keep an eye on Vivi if she was sitting on the carpet. And if she wanted to get to me, it meant getting her tiny body around our 7-foot couch.

So I started making plans to move the couch to where the TV had been and the TV to the wall with the window. It’s still not perfect, but the end result is much more open.

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But this isn’t a style post or even a DIY post. This is a story post. Because, let me tell you, rearranging your furniture is a regular excavation for stories.

Here are a few things we learned whilst shoving our stuff around:

If you ever think you’re not important enough to have a long-term impact, try breaking a glass in your apartment. You will find shards of glass for the next calendar year.

A few months ago, I broke a jar of salsa. I had just bought it and was putting away groceries when it slipped from my clutches and smashed onto our tile floors. (Side note: Those are the moments in life when you honestly think about just getting in your car, stepping on the gas, and never looking back. Where do you even BEGIN?) Because I have a dog and a baby, I’m especially conscientious about trying to keep, you know, hazards from lurking around on the floor. So I cleaned up the salsa, swept, vacuumed, and then got down on my hands and knees with a wet paper towel to try to scoop up and remaining splinters of glass. I did this for the better part of an hour.

I STILL find pieces of that dang glass jar from time to time.

And when we moved our couch last week? GLASS CITY. I don’t even know how pieces of glass got where they were without having actual legs to walk there. We may never know.

The point is, broken glass. It’s there, you just have to find it.

You really should measure everything before you try to move it. And then measure again. And did I mention you should measure?

I wish I could tell you it only took us moving one thing (and then having to move it back) for us to learn this lesson. But it took about three things.

If you ever want to feel real dumb, make the same mistake three times in the span of about an hour. And be SHOCKED every time you get the same result.

But after moving our file cabinet and then having to move it back and then moving our pantry and having to move it back and moving pictures and having to move them back, we finally got it. Life lessons, folks.

Babies make even the simplest tasks harder.

I know, you’re STUNNED by this revelation. But, seriously. I think most people expect that having a baby will make going out to dinner harder or saving money harder. But if you think you’re going to move your couch from one side of the room to the other in one fell swoop, you’ve got another thing coming.

Vivi was in some kind of mood when we were trying to move things and wanted to be held every second or she would scream her fool head off like she was being murdered. We would have to move something for a few minutes (while she wailed), then hold her for three minutes (while she sulked), and then put her down and repeat the process about a dozen times until everything was in place.

At one point, I was like, “Should I just strap her to my back while I move this 200-pound couch?” And then I realized that was insane and put her down again.

Sometimes they gotta cry, folks. That’s the life of a baby.

But these difficult lessons aside, we got the room rearranged. And it’s one of those changes that makes you smack your forehead and wonder why you didn’t just do this in the first place. Because now we can open our bathroom door all the way (we moved the bar that had been slightly blocking it next to the couch), use our gateleg table more easily (it can also double as extra counter space in it’s new location), and fit more people around the coffee table for dinner (there is SO much more open floor space).

You live and you learn, right?

I’ve had a cellular telephone since I was 15. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s almost 14 years of wedded mobile bliss.

And while I’ve never been what I would call tech-obsessed, I had a pretty good track record with my phones. I’ve never lost a phone. I’ve never damaged a phone beyond the usual scuffs. And nary a cracked screen has tarnished my record of smart phone ownership.

Until this week.

My mom had been in town, and she, Vivian, and I were returning from lunch. Viv had fallen asleep in the stroller, so my mom offered to keep pushing her for a few more minutes while I ran home to do some work. I left her the diaper bag (just in case) but grabbed my keys and tucked my iPhone in my back pocket.

Those words will echo hauntingly in your ears until the end of this post. (OR BEYOND.)

Like most moms of babies, I also had been waiting a while to be able to use the bathroom. So before I started my work, I decided to take care of that little bit of business. As one does, I de-pants’d and was about to take a seat when I heard what sounded like something falling off of our over-the-toilet shelf and falling on the ground. (There was no splash. I always assumed there would be a splash when something fell into the toilet. Either this is not true, or my phone is heading to Rio this year with the U.S Olympic diving team. AND IT’S GONNA WIN.)

You guys. I almost just ignored the sound and proceeded accordingly. CAN YOU IMAGINE?

But, by the grace of the Apple gods, I did decide to see what had fallen. I had completely forgotten my phone was even in my pocket, so you can imagine my surprise when I looked down and saw it chilling in the murky depths.

My heart in my throat, I grabbed it without even thinking and started drying it off with toilet paper. And here’s where I made a mistake: I started using it to see if it still worked.

Apparently, according to the Internet, you should just turn your phone off completely to keep the circuits from frying. Alas, my perfect record of smart phone ownership had not yet taught me this life lesson. So I clicked around, feeling incredibly relieved that I was still able to access everything normally.

And then the screen went a weird shade of pixelated gray before the phone died completely.

Fortunately, I am not a total idiot and had at least heard of the ol’ phone-in-rice trick. I removed the case and stuck mine in a bowl of long grains while I waited for my mom to get home. My research (read: Google-ing) also told me to just leave the phone untouched in the rice for at least 24 hours, so I knew I had some time to kill before our fate was sealed.

Going 24 hours without a phone is an almost unheard of feat these days. (Unless you’re one of those people doing it on purpose to prove something. I don’t have that kind of time.) In general, I like to think that I’m pretty good at putting my phone away during the times when I want to be fully present and I don’t consider myself addicted to technology. Even so, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I didn’t feel like I had lost an arm or anything leaving the house without a phone.

What I did notice? Daaaaaaaaang, my phone makes my life more convenient.

For one, I store everything on that sucker. From photos to lists of hashtags for clients to time logs, virtually everything of any importance is on my phone because I just know I’ll always have it on me. For another, I guess I just forgot how much more work it used to be to get anything done. With my phone, Vivi can fall asleep on me on the couch and I can still get 30 minutes of work done (albeit one-handed). Without a phone, all I could do was stare longingly at the computer across the room and make mental lists of everything I needed to do when she went to bed that night. Plus, have you ever tried making plans without a cell phone? I had three separate plans that day, and two of them had to be canceled because the back-and-forth communication was just impossible. Not great.

Not to mention the fact that, well, I like to take a lot of pictures of Vivi during the day. (I’ll give you a second to recover from the shock of that statement.) I send them to her family and to Joey so they all feel connected and don’t miss anything of importance. I literally spent most of the day hoping she didn’t hit any milestones because I knew Joey would be so bummed to miss them completely.

So there were a lot of ramifications. But also…there were some good things too.

For one, it’s easy to get tied up in my phone, doing work or just goofing around, even when Vivi and I are hanging out. I don’t think I need to spend every second hanging over her obsessing about what she’s doing (girl needs some room to chill with her toys)(I’m always in the room, don’t freak out), but not having a phone removed the temptation to waste any of our time together. And not worrying about taking photos or videos of her silly antics actually let me enjoy them a little bit more.

I’m happy to report that after almost 36 hours in rice, the phone turned back on. So far, things seem to be running fairly smoothly (and, at the very least, I was able to back up the phone in case it needs replacing after all). Although my research did also inform me that there are numerous documented cases of a phone surviving a swim and then, months later, spontaneously overheating and dying. So time shall tell.

What have I learned? (Besides to NEVER FORGET YOUR PHONE IS IN YOUR BACK POCKET EVER.) Well, I’m still not addicted, and I’m still not one of those people who is going to eschew this brilliant little piece of technology just to prove a point. Mostly I’m just happy I don’t have to pay for a new phone. And I’m okay with that happy medium.

Plus, I also know exactly what to do if you drop your phone in the toilet. These are life skills, people.

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Today in statements you definitely already knew, I had a baby a little over seven months ago. The experience taught me so much about pretty much everything — myself, my marriage, my friendships, and what was important to me.

It also taught me that there are a lot of clueless (and even downright rude) people out there.

Also, people are kind of cliche — they all like to tell pregnant women the same things over and over.

I’m actually a pretty hard person to offend, so while I wouldn’t say anything anyone said to me actually ruined my day or anything, there are a few things that actually could ruin someone’s day or at the very least stuck in my craw long enough that I’m still thinking about it seven months later.

So in the spirit of spreading the wisdom, I’m sharing the four things that I find it really annoying for people to say to pregnant women/new moms — and what we should all start saying instead.

#1: You should sleep when the baby sleeps.

A) DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO YOU’RE NOT MY DAD. B) Oh, yeah? Should I? So I should not only be able to control my mind and body enough to drop off at will, but I should also just give up on accomplishing anything for the first three months of my child’s life? I don’t know about you, but if I truly slept every time Vivian slept, I would have literally been living in squalor. My husband works full-time, and my mom was only with us for the first couple of weeks. Should we just not have clean clothes or washed dishes or food stuffs? It’s not practical to sleep when the baby sleeps (and your body is so out of wack anyway, you might not be able to), and all it does when people tell you this is reinforce that there is yet another thing you are doing wrong. Not. Helpful.

Instead, say: I’m free tomorrow from two to five, so I’m bringing over dinner. And maybe I can throw in a load of laundry for you if you have any?

(SHE WILL ALWAYS HAVE LAUNDRY. Plus, she might actually take a cat nap if she knows you’re holding the baby and that dinner is taken care of.) Basically, don’t be the person that says, “Let me know if I can help!” Be the person that says, “Here is what I’m doing to help. I gotchu.”)

#2: You’ll never get your body back.

I had about the same reaction to this as I did when I was getting my engagement ring sized and literally three people told me that I shouldn’t size it down to fit because I would definitely gain a bunch of weight after I got married and/or had a baby. So apparently the assumptions start early.

But you know what? I didn’t. And, as someone who has struggled with weight issues in the past, I found statements like this to be almost equivalent to some kind of terminal diagnosis. (I know that probably doesn’t make sense, but weight issues mess with your sense of reason, yo.)

The point is, who are you helping when you say things like this? I truly think most people who said this kind of thing to me meant it in a “don’t beat yourself up if you can’t lose the baby weight — it happens to everyone!” kind of way, but it always, always, always sounds a little bit…mean. Well, maybe not mean, but at the very least like a subtle dig.

And you know what? My body did come back — I actually think my tummy looks better than it did before because I burned up a lot of belly fat whilst pregnant. That isn’t intended to be some loosely veiled humble brag. I’m just saying, you don’t really know how your body will react to pregnancy, so don’t let people stress you out. Pregnant women should take care of their babies and take care of themselves. That’s really all that matters.  

Instead, say: You look amazing! 

(Because she probably does look amazing because pregnant women are gorgeous. And because there has never been a pregnant woman who didn’t want to hear this.)

#3 Hoo-boy, are you in for it!

You know that guy in your office who loves to shoot down ideas during brainstorms by saying things like, “That won’t work” without providing any helpful alternatives? Something about #3 just makes me think of that guy.

Granted, no one actually said the words, “Hoo-boy, are you in for it!” to my when I was pregnant, but I like to think of this for a placeholder for every stereotypical negative remark people make to pregnant women. “You’re going to be so tired!” “Get ready for a lot of screaming!” “Guess this means your social life is over!”

I mean…unless said pregnant woman is new to the planet, I’m pretty sure they have an idea what they’re in for. Like, it’s kind of a thing that newborns don’t sleep for long stretches and cry fairly often and you probably shouldn’t go clubbing as a new mom. But you’re not really helping anything by pointing this out. Especially if this particular pregnant woman is already feeling kind of down or worried about the negative aspects of a new baby.

Instead, say: As soon as you feel up to it, I’m coming over with a bottle of wine and holding your baby while you tell me all the gory details.

What’s that? The negative aspects of a new baby can be funny? Or at least a good story later? Not unlike #2, sometimes a pregnant woman or new mom just needs reinforcement that her life can be similar to how it was before — not just a ribbing reminder of everything that is about to/has just changed. Be the good friend who helps her focus on the positives — and who proves that they’re still your friend despite the changes.

#4 You can’t do that when you’re pregnant/when you have a baby.

There are exactly two exceptions to this rule: 1) if you are the woman’s health care provider, and 2) if you are explicitly asked by said pregnant woman what you think.

Because, you know what? In our culture, pregnant women and moms are dumped on, you guys. We are made to feel like pregnancy and babies are the ultimate burden, and virtually every aspect of becoming a mother is made twice as hard by societal implications. Think about it: Maternity leave rarely comes with pay in this country, meaning women who love their jobs have to choose between leaving young children in daycare or giving up their careers. Public breastfeeding is routinely looked down upon, meaning women are essentially shamed into staying home rather than continuing to live their lives. People make comments like, “You’ll never get your body back,” reminding women that they’re only as good as they look and their contributions as mothers and therefore the creators of future society are valueless. (Or am I the only one hearing that when people say things like, “You’ll never get your body back”?)

The fact is, there are very few things you finitely cannot do when you are pregnant and/or have a new baby. In most cases, even medical professionals agree that all things in moderations are generally fine. (Except, I don’t know…arsenic. But, really, that was probably not a big part of your life before pregnancy anyway.) I’m a fairly crunchy pregnant person/new mom, but what other moms choose to do is their business. If I have opinions, I’m almost always going to keep them to myself. (Unless, you know, you’re trying to eat arsenic. In which case, we will have words.)

Instead, say: How are you feeling?

Because actual concern is always a better place to start — and much more helpful — than judgment. 

Pregnant ladies/new moms out there, what did I miss? What are your least favorite things to hear?

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We need to talk about something. And, judging by the title of this post, I hope you recognize the seriousness.

You have to admit, that’s a pretty good title. Intrigue.

So, what is it? What is this thing so terrible, so insidious that no one even wants to let the words cross their lips lest they incur the wrath of the metropolitan gods?

The struggle that is getting packages delivered to NYC apartments.

I’m sorry? Did I just feel you roll your eyes when you read that sentence? Were you perhaps expecting something akin to this? Or THIS?

Well, while those things may be worse things about living in New York, I’m pretty sure that, when you mentioned to your college roommate who currently lives in a Brooklyn apartment with two roommates that you were thinking of moving to the East Coast, she or he kindly let you know about those particular realities.

What I’m better he or she did not mention? You can kiss that blind faith you’ve had in the postal system goodbye.

Listen. I’m not trying to knock postal workers. They have tough, tough jobs. Through rain, sleet, snow, and darkest night? That sounds brutal.

But the thing is…that is the oath, right? So…why do I feel like no one really takes it seriously?

Let me tell you a few things you are guaranteed to experience if you live in New York for at least a calendar year:

#1: You will never receive at least one package for no apparent reason.

And the real kicker will be that no one will be able to tell you what went wrong. And you may or may not ever get a free replacement. It will just be gone. Forever. AND YOU WILL BE HELPLESS.

#2: You will have at least one package stolen from you.

I freely admit that occurrence #2 could be the cause of occurrence #1.

You know why? Because people are TERRIBLE. I have a dear friend who has actually tried to go door-to-door in her building seeking out who the good-for-nothing thieves are, but her husband stops her every time. I mean, he’s probably right. (These are good-for-nothing thieves, after all…who knows what they’re capable of.) BUT STILL.

The truly annoying part is that you’ll call up your building management to complain, and they will essentially feed you their version of “there’s nothing we can do.” And as much as that infuriates you, in this case, it’s probably actually true.

Just kidding — it’s never actually true. They could make sure your broken vestibule door is repaired. They could install security cameras. They could provide you with secure mailboxes. But all of those things cost money, so they’re never going to happen.

#3: You will have packages “returned” on your behalf.

This has actually happened to be a couple of times in the last couple of months, so it’s a fresh wound. (Would I go so far as to call it the inspiration for this post because it happened this morning? Why, yes, I suppose I would.)

What happens is that, for whatever reason, the delivery service does not feel up to delivering your package. Maybe it was too heavy. Maybe they forgot to deliver it when they dropped off your other stuff, and now the thought of going all the way back to your apartment is just too much for them. We may never know. The point is, the shipper will make the judgment call that your good should just go back from whence they came. You won’t even know it happened until you receive the email confirmation of your return. At which point you will think, “That is curious. Because I never received a product to return. Hmmm…

If you’re lucky, the company who sent your product will have already issued a refund so you can reorder your item. If you’re only marginally lucky, you will still have to spend half an hour on the phone with no fewer than three customer service reps to get your item reordered and then have to wait a week to get it anyway. Hypothetically.

The point is, there are few things in day-to-day life that make you feel quite so helpless as trying (and failing) to get a package delivered to you in New York City. And once you’ve suffered any of these occurrences, you’ll place all your orders like someone eating salmon who has already choked on a fish bone: very carefully and with a hefty dose of suspicion and doubt.

I just thought you should know. In case no one has told you yet.