Driving Miss Crazy by Courtney Mehlhaff

In an attempt to save some money on my insurance premium, I recently plugged a small electronic device into the diagnostic port in my car. This dastardly little piece of hardware monitors my driving habits and records them, flagging things like hard stops. 

So I think to myself, ok, I'll just drive even more like a grandma than I usually do. I'll take it real easy for a few weeks.

But get this: on literally the second day under mini Big Brother's watch, I had to slam on my brakes three separate times in a matter of hours. Once to avoid hitting a car going the wrong way across a parking lot, once to avoid hitting some dipshit who stepped off a curb into traffic, and (this sounds like a lie but it's absolutely true) once to avoid hitting a bunch of orange traffic cones that flew off the back of a city truck taking a turn too fast.

If you're one of the conspiracy theorists who believes the world as we know it is actually a simulation, I definitely stumbled into the defensive driving module. Long story short, the realities of being an alert motorist in a metro probably means I can kiss a big discount goodbye.

On the plus side, nobody died. Too bad nothing is recording that.

Homeslice by Courtney Mehlhaff

So I've officially been a homeowner for a couple weeks now. Here are the top five things that have happened since moving in (mostly bug-related):

5. My dad helped reclaim the basement from the spiders, who had established a kingdom with primitive laws and the beginnings of a language.

4. I sprayed one of those spiders with insecticide, and it actually turned around and came after me, like "I KNOW you didn't just try to kill me, bitch!"

3. I was chased inside by a huge moth-like creature that attacked me every time I fired up the weed whacker.

2. Some handy friends spent a weekend here fixing things, including wiring lights and regrouting the shower, and somehow amid all the electricity and pointy tools, I was the only one who got hurt -- I managed to rip my elbow open carrying an empty box down the stairs.

1. I encountered a mystery bug outside the bathroom and said the following: "I don't even know what you ARE, but I can't fight you naked."

Early adventures. More to come, I'm sure.


Cruel Beans by Courtney Mehlhaff

I had a coffee run-in the other day.

I went to a local movie theater to watch a Met Opera Live performance, and because I knew it would be a long production, I stopped to grab some caffeine on the way. I've done this several times at a different theater with no dire consequences, so I didn't even question my routine.

But the woman scanning tickets was older and far crankier at this particular establishment. As soon as she caught sight of my cup, she yelled, "No outside food or beverages!" with the same level of alarm you might apply to "Hey look out!" or "He's got a gun!"

Now, typically, I'm a rule follower. And when I'm busted, I quickly cave. But I must have been feeling my oats that evening, because I decided to try to sweet-talk my way past her.

"Aww, are you sure I can't bring it in?"

Stone face. "You'll have to throw that away. We sell coffee here."

"I just bought this one, and I can't afford to waste it."

Angry face. "It's a HUGE health code violation!" (To me, this explanation seemed less plausible than "We sell coffee here," but what do I know about the free market).

"I guess I'll have to take your word on that one," I said.

"Well, I know. I've been doing this for many many years!" she said, and I believed that.

So, seeing I wouldn't be able to charm her and not interested in throwing away $4 worth of delicious liquid stimulant, I did what any good passive-aggressive, pissed-off Midwesterner would do: I stood in front of her and slowly drank my coffee for 10 minutes. And I mean slooooowly. I'd arrived early enough -- I had plenty of time. 

When I was finished, I very politely and formally asked if I had permission to cross the carpeted threshold into the concession area with my empty cup, because that was where the trash can was.

"As long as you throw it away! You have to throw it away!" she yelled. 

I thought the whole thing was a pretty ballsy stance to take with only a dozen cars in the parking lot, but I guess if you're committed to defending your workplace against rogue java, you have to draw a hard line.

I wonder what she would have shouted if she'd seen the apple fritter I had tucked in my purse? 

Beat the Clock by Courtney Mehlhaff

I recently found myself trying to explain to a colleague the physical impossibilities of completing a large amount of work in a very limited timeframe, and I was reminded of a story from my sister's days in customer service.

She was working in a credit card call center, and she handled only the "escalated" calls. This was deemed a promotion, though I can't imagine anything worse than taking that much verbal abuse.

On the other end of the line was a very determined woman who wanted something fixed on her account. My sister apologized and explained several times that she was unable to rectify the situation because it had occurred so long ago, but the woman refused to give up.

Completely exasperated, my sister finally said, "Ma'am . . . . . I can't help you in the past."

Without a doubt, this is one of the truest snarky statements a person could utter. However, to her everlasting credit, the woman fired off one of the greatest comebacks ever. 

"Yeah," she said, dryly. "I understand how time works."

A lofty concept, indeed. I wish everyone who dealt with deadlines had a similar level of basic knowledge.

Cruze Snooze by Courtney Mehlhaff

A few weeks ago, I started a four-hour drive back from South Dakota on very little sleep after my sister’s wedding. I was feeling drowsy after about an hour on the road, so I stopped to grab some food, which perked me up for about 45 minutes before my eyelids got heavy again.

Knowing I was truly running out of steam, I decided to pull in at a gas station and take a quick nap in my car. This turned out to be a very smart decision, because I had barely reclined my seat before I dropped off into dreamland.

However, when I finally snored myself awake, I had no idea how much time had passed. I wandered groggily into the station, used the restroom, grabbed a drink and a snack, and was starting to feel more refreshed when I got to the counter.

“Hello,” the clerk said.

“Hi,” I replied.

“Will this be all for you?”


There was a long pause.

“Did you catch a little snooze out there?”

Another pause, while I realized that he must have been peering out the window for quite some time at a seemingly unconscious woman tipped back gracelessly in a Chevy Cruze.

“Yeaaaaah . . .” I admitted. “But I don’t know for how long.”

“Oh, it was only about 15 or 20 minutes,” he assured me with a smile.

I couldn’t decide whether it felt creepy or extra safe to have someone watching over me and clocking the time as I slept in public. I’m going to go with extra safe, because that’s really the only feeling you should hope to have toward random men at gas stations. 

I guess after a weekend of partying, you could end up with worse things than an unleaded guardian angel. 

Critter Titters by Courtney Mehlhaff

I have to share a couple of recent animal-related comments that cracked me up.


I told a friend that I ordered a Cuban sandwich at a new restaurant over the weekend. He immediately asked whether it was pressed adequately, since we both agree the thinness can make or break a great Cuban. I replied no, sadly, and he shook his head. Then he said, "I hate it when that happens. I ordered one once, and they served it on bread that was so fluffy, it looked like, at best, a kitten might have just gently rested a paw on top for a moment."


I was talking with my sister about why her husband hates bees so much, especially fuzzy, lovable bumble bees. She summed it up succinctly and hilariously, and the issue is apparently the deception: "He doesn't like how they seem friendly, but then it turns out that their asses are knives." 

It's the betrayal that stings.

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing by Courtney Mehlhaff

About this time last year, I was in Canada visiting some friends. On the last day of my trip, I had to get up around 5:00 a.m. to catch the train. This would have been hard enough for a late sleeper like me, but add the fact that I’d been up most of the night with terrible cramps, and it was a very rough morning indeed.

Out of sheer desperation for some pain relief, I stopped at a Shell station about halfway through my rainy slog toward the Amtrak depot. No sooner did the guy open the door for business than I made a beeline for the lone bottle of ibuprofen on the shelf.

I was haggard from no sleep and Lamaze breathing through gritted teeth, plus dripping wet. So I must have looked like death warmed over when I slammed a water and medication onto the counter.

The sales clerk, a dude in his early 20s, gave me a knowing stare.

“Wild weekend?”

I may have glared back at him. There’s no way to be sure. I wanted to say, “No, buddy. It just feels like my uterus is being ripped apart by wolves. Now give me the pills.”

But if he actually thought I might have indulged in some bacchanalian craziness instead of touring art galleries, taking ferry rides, and eating ice cream . . . well, who was I to disabuse him of this much more interesting fantasy?

“Sure,” I said, fishing out my remaining Canadian coins. “Thanks.”

And I walked away feeling sort of unjustifiably badass, courtesy of angry ovaries. Work it to your advantage, ladies. Work it.

What More Could You Need? by Courtney Mehlhaff

This sign has been up at my office for well over a year. I know it's supposed to say "lock," but every time I walk by, I do a little double-take. It could be a tragic failure of penmanship or a bold yet anonymous cry for some lovin'. Either way, mistakes have been made.