Lessons Learned














I not-so-recently just got back from a trip to Italy which I’m going to pretend is the reason I haven’t posted in two months and I learned a few things while traveling abroad:


1. When it comes to airplane bathrooms, the name of the game is don’t pee on the seat or yourself.

I have a hard enough time not peeing on myself during ideal circumstances. Throw me in a 3’ x 3’ box within a box and my level of control is severely limited.

Speaking from experience, there are few things worse than sitting in your own pee, but there’s nothing worse than sitting in someone else’s.


2. Learn the language – but not too well – because, America.

Americans have been indoctrinated into believing that we are superior to all other countries in every way. Therefore, the only language worth knowing is American. That’s why I make sure not to learn the host-country’s language until I arrive.

If you’re looking to insult locals and make enemies, follow suit.


3. Limoncello is a lie.

If you’ve ever seen Mad Men, you already know Don Draper makes scotch look good. This is folly, since scotch tastes like rubbing alcohol aged in the bowels of Mount Vesuvius.

Similarly, Diane Lane swindled me into believing limoncello tasted like hard lemonade – the perfect nightcap after a 3-hour drive with a complete stranger.

I thought one swig from a bottle of neon-piss would imbue me with the charm of Audrey Hepburn and prompt an intercontinental romance, but the only thing it imbued me was heartburn and faulty expectations.

Incidentally, limoncello also tastes like rubbing alcohol aged in the bowels of Mount Vesuvius, but with a twist of lemon.

I will never forget my disappointment or the burning sensation I was left with – much like the first time I had sex.


4. Italy doesn’t believe in air-conditioned trains because they hate their people.

Not all trains, but even one is too many.


5. If someone approaches you offering a tour, risk it.

The possibility of jumping a three-hour line outside the Vatican in 90 degree heat far outweighs the risk of sex trafficking.



A Word on Commitment

I would like to provide a justifiable explanation as to why I haven’t been active for the past 57 days. Something like, “I’ve been busy covering the conflict in Ukraine as a war correspondent” or “ferrying unaccompanied minors across the southern boarder” or better yet, “training for a marathon,” but I haven’t. I’ve been weighing the pros and cons of becoming a female body builder and watching season 2 of Orange is the New Black.

My lack of commitment isn’t derived from fear – it’s chronic. I’m prone to make sweeping declarations, but only because they espouse meaningful transformation, a notion that I find irresistibly enticing, like diet fads or balance bracelets.

One not-so-recent incarnation of this illness was my three week obsession with yoga.

More than two years ago I signed up for a yoga class at what I’d stake my life on is the prettiest yoga studio this side of the Ganges River. It was a one room yoga studio, clad in white wainscoting and sheltered by tin ceiling tiles, circa late 19th century. A Home Goods mirrored end table supported a handful of lit tea light candles at the front of the room and a string of Tibetan flags rounded out the effect.

I liked the idea of getting ripped while sweating minimally and I was sold on the real estate.

The first 3 weeks I was a devout student, going to class every day, Monday – Friday.

Who doesn’t want to be a yogi master and be able to contort themselves into a sunbird or a camel? To have inner peace, presence of mind and exquisite delts?

I fantasized about wearing lululemon and developing a Wilson-like relationship with my yoga mat.

Once I had achieved sophisticated yogi status – which in my book qualifies anyone who can do a handstand without using the wall – I would show off how much more spiritually in tune I was with the natural world than my friends, but only in the most loving and nurturing way possible.

When it was time to purchase my next round of sessions, I thought I was the real deal.

Full of vigor and misguided enthusiasm, I bought the high roller package: One month unlimited classes for roughly $43,936 (price adjusted for inflation and former salary).

I went 2 more times and never used it again.

I don’t know why this happens. Probably something to do with instant gratification and a deficit in attention, but maybe if I had stuck it out, I would have been able to take advantage of some self-introspection.

As it stands, I’m back.

Resume Builder

Aside from having to pay back $30,000 in student loans, the worst part about life post-college is applying for jobs. Having personally sent out 1,000,000,000,000+ resumes over the course of my 20’s, I imagine that most of those well-thought out, time consuming resumes wound up in a digital pit of despair somewhere in the seventh circle of HR hell.

So much so was my despair that there came a point when I was grateful to get a rejection email, because it meant my resume had been viewed by a human – or a cyborg, at the very least.

As time advanced and prospects diminished, I revised and rewrote hoping to impress someone enough to overlook my lack of qualifications, thus each incarnation grew in length and exaggeration. Not unlike my dating habits, I presented the best version of myself to seem more desirable than I actually was.

Since most college graduates have no viable work or life experience to speak of, save for a semester abroad or performing menial tasks for people with actual full-time jobs, most people lean on their GPA’s, achievements, interests, skills and high school jobs.

It’s relatively easy to make a no-experience-necessary part-time jobs seem impressive simply by adding words like “chief,” “liaison,” “producer,” or “coordinator,” to the job title.

The paperboy becomes a “media distribution officer” – the gas attendant a “petroleum transfer engineer” – the dishwasher at Red Lobster a “gastronomical hygiene technician,” etc.

Suddenly the four and a half years I spent ringing up daylilies and calling for José to bring “tres bolsos de rojo mulch” at the local garden center was quickly rebranded into: “customer service rep” and “fluent in Spanish.”

My favorite part of the post-graduate resume was the irrelevant list of activities and superfluous technical skills section, which inevitably amounted to “proficient in Word, Excel and PowerPoint.” Had my own interests and skills been true to form, this is what they would have looked like:



• Crafting

• Well vodka-based drinks

• Themed mixers

• Abbreviations

• Power hour

• Pre-gaming



• Proficient at balloon arches, discerning ripe avocados, reading upside down and hugs


Unfortunately, hiring companies weren’t impressed with how many flip cup championships I’ve won (3) nor were they keen on my extensive collection of haute couture mixer wear, so I had to swap binge drinking for volunteering.

My resume has come a long way since then, as has my work experience. I’ve worked in television, radio and print, but should the occasion call for it, I can flip a cup faster than Wyatt Earp on a fast draw.

The Other Comedy


This past weekend I saw The Other Woman and Kate Upton’s boobs were everything I expected them to be and more (Leslie Mann’s and Cameron Diaz’s boobs were nice too).

Without giving too much away, Leslie Mann’s husband cheats on her with an unsuspecting New York corporate lawyer named Cameron Diaz Carly. The jig is up when Diaz’s character shows up to Mann’s house in Connecticut looking for Señor Dipshit. From there, physical/fecal comedy ensues.

I thought the movie was hilarious. It was entertaining. It was unpretentious. It was exactly what it billed itself as – so I couldn’t understand why critics lampooned it.

According to The New York Times, The Other Woman is “so dumb, lazy, clumsily assembled and unoriginal, it could crush any actor forced to execute its leaden slapstick gags and mouth its crude, humorless dialogue.”

Rotten Tomatoes rated it at 24%, saying, “The Other Woman definitely boasts a talented pedigree, but all that skill is never fully brought to bear on a story that settles for cheap laughs instead of reaching its empowering potential.”

I don’t remember Knocked Up being a cerebral masterpiece, but Rotten Tomatoes ranked it at 91%. Was it the scene where a very pregnant Katherine Heigl takes it from behind before complaining how “gross” she looks or the part where Seth Rogan muses over the personal and visual characteristics of chairs while tripping balls in Vegas that led The New York Times to deem Knocked Up an “instant classic.” Maybe it’s the dynamic between a critical wife played by Leslie Mann (also in The Other Woman) and the repressed, henpecked Paul Rudd that make it such a dynamic, never-ever-ever before told story on screen or in literature.

I like gynecologic jokes, but you can’t sanction it in one movie and not the other.

And why does every women-centric movie have to be Girl, Interrupted or The Virgin Suicides to be worthy of praise? If I wanted complex three-dimensional characters, I would have saved myself the $10 and rented The Joy Luck Club. But I didn’t. I wanted a comedy. I wanted poo jokes. I wanted caustic dialogue and I wanted hijinks, all of which I got.

Which makes me wonder: Are women allowed to be funny? Think of all the genuinely funny movies you know sporting an all-female cast:


K, what else?

Bridesmaids feels like the token black guy at a high school party. If anyone accuses you of being a racist, you can just point to DeShawn and say, “I can’t be a racist, one of my best friends is black.” Same goes for Bridesmaids:

Hollywood doesn’t value women in comedy. “Oh yeah? What about Bridesmaids?”

I happen to like movies like Knocked Up and Role Models and Wedding Crashers and Step Brothers. Shit’s funny. But when I walk in to the theater, I’m not expecting them to be on the same level as No Country for Old Men either. If a 36-year-old, inebriated Will Farrell can go streaking through the quad and still get laughs, then Leslie Mann can get shitfaced and puke in her designer purse without signifying the fall of feminism.




Speed Trapped

I’ve gotten more tickets in my life than I am able to remember. If I was to guess, I’d say I’ve been pulled over at least 8-15 times over the last 10 years. It’s not something to be proud of, but it’s something I’m proud of. The first time I got a ticket I was 18 years old going 35 mph in a 25. I thought it would help my case if I told the officer I was an honor student and never smoked pot. It didn’t.

A few days ago I was pulled over on my way home from Lowes. I needed lights to grow plants in my basement (nothing sketchy about that) and the nearest store that had them in stock was about an hour away from my house.

There’s a special feeling you get as you drive by a cop car, which can only be described as “fuck-fuck-shit.” When I saw this particular upstanding police officer reverse his marked police car and turn on his lights, I got the fuck-fuck-shits and I got them hard. Fortunately though, I have been training for this moment over the last decade and am desensitized to moving violations as well as the emotional and psychological pressures that accompany them, thanks – in large part – to exposure therapy.

Because to my extensive experience with the fuzz, I was well prepared for the exchange. Below are three steps I’ve developed to cope with The Man:

Step One: The second you see lights, pull over immediately. While standard dating decorum dictates otherwise, the PO don’t like it when you play hard to get.

Step Two: Turn down the radio. It’s tempting to blast “Fuck tha Police” in a passive-aggressive manner, but you’re not going to make any friends.

Step Three: Dazed and Confused. Through trial and error, I’ve found that it’s best to look and sound confused, but not too confused that you sound drunk. Then you get a different kind of ticket.

There are those rare occasions when you don’t get a ticket. Usually, boobs help cops make up their mind 5 seconds after talking to you. On this particular occasion, I got off with a warning. Here’s what actually happened:

Officer: Do you know why I pulled you over?

Me: No.

Officer: You were speeding.

Me: Oh, I didn’t realize! I’m so sorry!

Officer: Where are you headed?

Me: South Portland. I had to go to Lowes because I needed grow lights (regrets mentioning grow lights) and Sanford was the closest store that had them in stock.

Officer: Oh wow, that’s really far. (Looks in the backseat and sees said grow lamps) I’ll be right back.

(Goes back to car)

Officer: Here’s your license, registration and insurance. I’m going to give you a warning. Drive safe and I’m glad you got your grow lights.

Me: Thank you! Have a great day!


Then there’s the conversation that happened in my head:

Officer: Do you know why I pulled you over?

Me: I was speeding. I’m surprised you were able to catch up.

Officer: You were speeding.

Me: I had no idea. Actually, I have no idea how fast I was going. Or what the speed limit is. In fact, I usually judge my speed by how fast the scenery whizzes by me.

Officer: Where are you headed?

Me: South Portland. I had to go to Lowes because I needed grow lights and Sanford was the closest store that had them in stock. Don’t worry they’re not for pot.

(Goes back to car)

Officer: Here’s your license, registration and insurance. I’m going to give you a warning. Drive safe and I’m glad you got your grow lights.

Me: Alright, alright, alright.

Copyright © Tracy Orzel 2013