Each summer, the full-time staff members where I work leave me to run the office while they go on a retreat somewhere nice, quiet and relaxing. During that time, they relax and have fun, but also do a bunch of boring team-building projects such as making shrinky-dink mobiles depicting objects and words that they feel define them. They also do other kindergarten-related projects such as creating a recipe for the workplace that contains a cup of respect and a tablespoon of good humor, etc. Meanwhile, I sit in a deserted building, drumming my fingers and cursing the internet for it’s inability to entertain me longer than an hour. Between curses, I answer phone calls from orthodox Jews planning a visit to Seattle from New York who expect me to be their travel agent and find the nearest synagogue within walking distance to their hotel downtown (there are none) and to also create a day-by-day itinerary of kosher eateries within walking distance from their downtown hotel (there are none). No, I’m not the least bit bitter that I don’t get to join spend two days in a quiet and relaxing vacation area such as Palm Springs and get paid to cut watermelons artistically and swim in a pool.

When the staff returns from their two days of peace, quiet, and camp activities, I inevitably end up with a large stack of paper scraps with encrypted short-term and long-term goals for each staff member. I am then expected to decrypt handwriting worse than a doctor’s and neatly type and organize various goals in a word document which I then save in each staff member’s respective folder on our shared network. It sounds like boring drudge work, but it’s much more interesting than sitting around for two eight hour days and finding that the only entertainment is scraping a year’s worth of dust from my computer- dust that started collecting after the last staff retreat. Besides, I get to pry into not only the career goals of my fellow workers, but also their personal goals. There ain’t nothin’ better about learning such juicy tidbits as who is planning to move, how many kids they plan on having and when, and the fact that So-and-so’s goal is to learn to relax and take more personal time off in the next few years.

I’m not really a goal setting person, and I didn’t learn the true business-clogged meaning of the words “Goal” and “Value” until the later years of Junior High when, much like a pop-quiz I wasn’t prepared for, I was expected to make a word cluster of my “Goals” and “Values”. When the teacher presented the class with this task, I went numb, caught in the headlights of confusion. Given the blank stares directed at the teacher and the overall silence of a typically obnoxious class, my fellow students apparently felt the same way. “Goal” was an easy word- it was like the goal line in tag soccer. But “Value” presented another problem. It was a word we were expected to know and comprehend, and although most of us knew the dictionary definition, the application into business terminology was on an entirely unattainable level. To make things worse, our Junior High was particularly vicious, and not knowing something so basic- something we all knew must be basic- was a death sentence. “Psst. What’s a ‘value’?” someone whispered nearby, not wanting to ask the teacher such a stupid question. Lucky for her, she was popular and was safe from loosing any shred of reputation by asking The Question. “Ummm… I think it’s- uh- like, things you care about. Religious things, and shit like that,” was the answer from a less popular student. It was then, for the first time in my life, that I learned what a “Value” was.

val-ue n.: something one cares about, often religious, or other important shit like that.

The words I would have chosen for my cluster would have been generic things like: family, friends, health and so on under “Values”. Improving my skill as a violinist, getting better grades, and surviving Junior High were probably what I had for goals. These days, my goals are much more obscure. Sometimes, especially when thinking about the general goals that most of the people around me seem to express (graduating college, going to graduate school or finding a job, getting married, having children), I realize that my goals are quite absurd. So, in case you cared, here’s a list of a few of my short-term goals.

  • Know not only the locations of all photo booths in Seattle, but also the quickest way to drive to each one and what buses to ride lest I need one more god-damned photo to “affix for identification purposes” on various visa/health insurance/affidavit paperwork
  • Survive the bureaucratic fire hoops of hell required to study in Rome
  • Survive Rome without having to curse at and chase after pickpockets
  • Survive Rome as a Vegetarian (and not eating only gelato for nutrition)
  • Become an editor for a literary erotica journal
  • Maintain the quality and integrity of said literary erotica journal
  • Read the thirty books on my “to-read” list
  • Obtain a Bartending license
  • Become the hottest female Bartender in Seattle
  • Start a bar brawl because someone grabbed my ass in my bar (“No Sex on the Beach for you, mister.” Bash. Crash. Crunch)
  • Become a Master Gardener and offend rich lawnophiles when I suggest environmentally friendly alternatives to a “greener and healthier lawn” ™
  • Drive on the remnants of Route 66 until my car can’t make it any farther
  • While driving on remnants of Route 66, make a detour to Dublin, TX and visit the only Dr. Pepper plant that still uses real cane sugar
  • Should car die, remove all paperwork and both license plates before pushing off a cliff
  • Should car make it back to Seattle, plan road trip to Moose Factory
  • Should car still make it back to Seattle, sell it to a desperate UW student for $100


  1. I call your bluff. I know you read a lot, and I can see you chasing after a pickpocket while screaming foul things at him, and starting a bar room brawl is just the type of thing you would aspire to, but 30 books in one summer?

  2. Well, the 30 books is just a goal. I gotta give myself something challenging to do or else it'll be boring.