6.) I had a pet chameleon when I was in eight. His name was Abu and he was so noble and adorable that I want to vomit everywhere just thinking about him.
My family had mixed emotions about old Abu. Becca was a straight-up hater (speaking of our shitty relationship growing up) because I had adopted him from Olney Elementary's third grade this-is-how-you-take-care-of-a-lizard unit...that apparently happened. Five years prior to this adoption, Becca asked if she could adopt her class' lizard and our parents wouldn't even entertain the thought. Five years later I asked and our family gained a new beloved pet. Similarly, Becca wasn't allowed to have an American Girl doll because our parents thought that they were laughably expensive and frankly, you've got some stones for even asking, missy. But me? Proud owner of both Samantha and Kirsten. Is this evidence that our parents love me more? One could certainly make that argument.
My father, on the other hand, was a big Abu fan. I might even go as far as to say that he was Abu's best friend...? In the whole world...? When I first got Abu, it was very much a FINE, BUT HE'S YOUR RESPONSIBILITY, YOUNG LADY situation, but somewhere down the line he stole Richard's heart and my dad spoiled that damn lizard rotten. Every Friday he'd go into the pet store he passed on his way home from work and buy Abu some new top of the line lizard accessory or gourmet bag of crickets the store clerk promised you couldn't find anywhere else. To give you an idea, Abu came to us in a small plastic fish aquarium and left in a giant glass habitat with mahogany detail, deluxe electric heat rock, and his choice of five high-res images of the Grand Canyon to serve as a backdrop, depending on his mood. (Although he didn't have an American Girl doll, so: Abu: 1, Meg: 1, Becca:...it's questionable.)
As far as pet's deaths go, Abu's was pretty traumatic. (Not as bad as the time Rachel killed my cat when we were in Hawaii and I missed the luau because I couldn't stop crying, but hey—we all make mistakes.) Like any other morning, I woke up, spritzed some water onto the side of his habitat and waited for him to scamper over and PFFFT! PFFT! PFFFT! it up with his little missile tongue. Instead, Abu, who was noticeably struggling to breathe, could only manage to turn his little lizard head towards the water and stick out a tiny portion of his pink little tongue before he collapsed completely. This image is scorched into my memory. This happened 18 years ago and I can still remember what pajamas I was wearing and what was on that bookshelf. It was almost as bad as the Christmas morning my family sat down at the kitchen table for breakfast and our neighborhood fox walked up to the deck and dropped dead. Almost.
Back in 1993, I freeeeeeaked the fuck out, burst into tears, ran to get my mom and made her call pretty much every veterinarian in the state of Maryland until she found one who'd be like, "A one-year-old shitty little class chameleon? THAT'S AN EASY FIX! Bring 'em on in!!!" But she never found one. SHE NEVER. FOUND ONE. Instead, my mom sat me down on the living room couch and very sweetly explained to me that all the vets she talked to agreed that one year is an impressive amount of time for a chameleon like Abu to live and maybe this was just his time to go. Holy shit. It was horrible.
I blamed myself for Abu's death for months afterward because I was also babysitting Teresa's chameleon at the time, and instead of putting hers in a separate room, I put him on the table across from Abu so they could see each other. I thought he died of jealousy. How tragic is that??
Oh my God. Why did I choose to tell this to you this story? I feel like I'm about to cry and all I want to do is call my mom, but it's 5 o'clock in the morning and I feel like she'd disinvite me to Hanukkah dinner and Lord knows she only makes those sweet, sweet latkes once a year. I am completely miserable, San Diego.
7.) This last one isn't so much a piece of trivia as an anecdote Dan's been trying to get me to tell on the blog for a year now but I've been resisting because it makes me seem...well, racist.
Growing up, I lived a few streets over from an African American girl named Amber who's father was a police officer. A few years ago I somehow found myself having a conversation with a co-worker about how cops are assholes. My co-worker made the point that although yes, most police officers are assholes, it's also a really mentally and emotionally draining job that in the long run can have damaging effects.
"So many of these cops," she said, "are put in a position where they have to shoot someone on the scene because it's a matter of public safety, but afterwards, it really fucks with their head and they're never the same. Nobody really thinks about that."
"Oh my God, I know exactly what you're talking about," I told her, "My friend Amber's dad was a cop and he had to pull a gun on someone one day and it totally fucked with him. He came home and got his hand stuck in a pickle jar and I remember he lashed out at Amber's mom and she was like, 'It's not about the pickles, is it? You had to pull a gun on the job again today, didn't you?' It really does affects family's lives."
After I said that my co-worker continued on with our conversation, but in my head I stopped and was like, "Huh...I wasn't really that good of friends with Amber. How do I know all of that? Specifically the pickle jar thing. Why can I see that happening so vividly...?" And that's when I realized that that in no way happened to my friend Amber's dad—I was thinking of a plot line from Family Matters. I had just confused the black family in our neighborhood with a cop for a dad with THE WINSLOWS.
I immediately turned beet red and all I wanted to do was acknowledge what had just happened, but I didn't really know this girl well enough to be like LOL RACE LOL!, so I had to just stand there like an asshole and finish having this conversation about my "friend" who's "dad" got his "hand stuck in a pickle jar" and then he and his neighbor got in the "Sexy Urkel Machine" and "Laura" was suddenly "interested" and it was an important "life lesson" about how it's what's on the "inside" that counts.
A year has passed since I told this story to Dan, who has since moved halfway around the world, but I still regularly get text messages from him being like, "I just thought about how you told someone your friend Carl Winslow got his hand stuck in a pickle jar and laughed-out-loud in a meeting," and all I want to do is melt into a puddle and slither out of the room Alex Mack style because it's so fucking mortifying.
So, 7.) I am a racist asshole.