Thursday, December 30, 2010

Resolution Time

Tis that time of year. Time for reflecting on the year gone by. Time for looking ahead to the next. The holiday malaise is lifting and we are becoming acutely aware of the consequences of all our merriment. A prick of conscience is perfectly natural in our retrospection; as is a renewed desire to better ourselves with the dawn of a new year approaching.

It’s become customary, and unfortunately cliché, to make resolutions. Things we’d like to change or areas we’d like to improve upon in the coming year. Resolution by definition is a formal expression of intention or the act of resolving upon an action. In this case the medical definition of resolution may be more apt, the subsidence of a pathological state. That is the halting of any unhealthy, abnormal or ineffective condition.

According to several polls some of the most common resolutions are: lose weight, quit smoking, get out of debt, get in better shape, drink less alcohol, save money, get a better education, manage stress, travel more, find a better job and help others. Those seem to fit the bill, most stemming from self-reproach with an eye toward self-improvement.

Why is it then that so many resolutions tumble for you like Boy George and the Culture Club?

Cavett Robert said “Character is the ability to carry out a good resolution long after the excitement of the moment has passed.”

My point is not to attack anyone’s character (I’ll let you do that to yourself) but to illustrate that we often make resolutions in a moment of excitement or reflection and that moment fades. We are still however, left with the original condition that prompted the resolution. So what then?

For those who truly wish to change they make public their resolutions. Basically it’s not a real resolution until you write it down and tell someone. Keeping your resolutions private indicates a lack of sincere desire to change. Oh and facebook doesn’t count. Most are only “friends” in the academic sense. I mean real people you actually see and talk to. Also I don’t want to read 300 “Time to get back in the gym” status updates nor do I wish to follow your weight fluctuation all year long. After a month of horking fistfuls of fudge and watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ I know it’s time you got back in the gym; and 97% of your facebook “friends” don’t care about the 2 lbs. you lost last week. Posts of that nature don’t impact you no matter how many “Super job!” comments you get.

Involving your friends and family is a good first step towards keeping your commitment after the initial feelings dissipate. Sadly though this is not enough because of a growing culture of political correctness that has mutated and spread into every aspect of our lives.

I recently had lunch with a good friend of mine; he told me his wife had said that he was “losing his filter”. To which I replied “Good, more people should.”

We’ve all become so conscious of how we’ll be perceived and so frightened to possibly offend someone that we’ve filtered ourselves to what borders on dishonesty. Sure, as my wife constantly reminds me, you don’t have to say everything you think; but when did speaking plainly become such a sin?

Years ago serving a mission in Jamaica, when I first arrived, children would refer to me as “the fat one” when trying to differentiate me from my companion. They meant no offense; they were just trying to establish that out of the two white American young men in white shirts and ties they were talking about the pudgy guy. Later, having shed a few lbs. and while serving with a pale-faced Idahoan, I was referred to as “the brown one”. They were simply calling it as they saw it. I’ll admit that it took some getting used to but ultimately I prefer that type of communication to the hypersensitive over-analytical cowplop we deal with in the U.S. of A.

Furthermore it is this type of self-censorship that is hampering our ability to foster a support system that would enable us to take steps toward self-mastery. If we could be open and honest with each other we could affect real change.

For instance, my weight has fluctuated for as long as I can remember. I’ll lose weight and then inevitably regain it. I’ll have to resolve once more to step up my exercise and watch what I eat. Each time I lose weight I’m nearly overwhelmed with “Hey, have you lost weight?” or “Wow, you’ve lost weight. You look great.” Of course this feels good and was earned through hard work and sacrifice. But where were these people when I was all porked out?

In my lifetime I’ve had just one person come up to me and say, “Boy, you look like you’ve put on a few. You’ve been hitting it pretty hard haven’t ya big fella?” I consider him to be a good friend and a really funny guy but most people that know him just consider him to be a loud mouth insensitive jerk.

Who’s more of a real friend though? The person who says “You’ve lost weight, you look fantastic!” or the person who tells you that fifth apple fritter might be a bad idea considering you need help to tie your shoes.

Old Bill Shakespeare said, “It’s not enough to speak, but to speak true.” If you are serious about change then you’ve got confide in those who care about you and license them to speak true. It might hurt a little in the short term but there is no growth without pain. In the long term it will be for your good.

No doubt my wife is reading this and thinking of the last time I told her to speak up when I was overdoing it. She is now recalling the subsequent scolded puppy dog look I gave her when she suggested that I return the handful of cookies to the pantry from whence I’d thieved them. Trust me it’s not as easy as I’m making it sound. You’ve got to see it as help and not a hindrance.

While we’re licensing friends and loved ones we might as well license everyone to share what they think and not consider it a personal affront. Just view it as their opinion and who knows, maybe upon further consideration, you might even find out that they are right. (That paragraph could be a blog unto itself)

Now I fully realize that ‘lose weight’ and ‘get in shape’ will once again top my list of resolutions and that writing this is opening myself up to cynics and smart alecs alike taking pot shots at my pot belly. To them I say bring it on, let’s see who cares about me the most. At the very least my facebook wall should be full of some pretty good fat jokes.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cover It Up Gramps!

Like most things I write I question what real impact (if any) it will have, but I write nonetheless because it’s cathartic and hopefully entertaining. With that said I will cling to the small hope that throwing my words out into cyberspace may one day positively affect someone or more importantly stop somebody from annoying me.

My disinclination towards exercise, or any physical exertion that doesn’t result in a trophy, is well documented. I gain little to no personal satisfaction from soreness and sweat, the result of endless minutes of punishing myself on modern machines whose derivation is most certainly from medieval torturing devices. If I had my way, outside of sport, people would only run when escaping a masked assailant wielding a stabbing implement or when pursuing a delicious sugary treat, rolling ever-so-slowly away in a vehicle playing jovial instrumental music. That’s pretty much it.

Keeping that in mind, for some foolish reason, I decided to participate in a triathlon held earlier this fall. Almost immediately I made this decision public as to decrease my chances of not following through. So now trapped by an idiotic web of my own making and driven by a desire not to embarrass myself I began to run.

I took to the streets dripping sweat around my neighborhood and gasping for the sweet breath of life. Eventually I got a bicycle and endured the sore tokus that accompanies the early stages of pedal driven travel. Finally, being that a triathlon requires a third leg that also involves gasping for the sweet breath of life due to high levels of physical exertion while simultaneously submerging your head in water, I began to swim. That brings me to the crux of this post.

The cooler fall temperatures required that I find a place indoors to swim; as luck would have it my gym had such a place. It was a small lap pool in the back that I had never before used. Entrance to the pool was naturally through the locker room which was equipped with showers. In my previous gym-going experience I had seldom ventured into the locker room as I preferred to go home and clean up after my futile attempts to stave off obesity. Now however, with my daily swim it became necessary to shower and change at the gym.

Immediately following my first swim and subsequent shower I encountered an older gentleman nonchalantly standing in the middle of the locker room wearing nothing but his birthday suit. I smiled to myself as I passed by. Those of you who know me know that the maturity to not be amused by brief male nudity still eludes me. I laugh when somebody gets mooned, I laugh at streakers, Terry Bradshaw’s backside in Failure to Launch was hands down the most memorable scene in that movie, I even giggle at the word naked.

Still when I found an even older man on Tuesday watching ESPN in the buff it was no laughing matter. Wednesday a grandfatherly type disrobed mere feet from where I was changing and was in no hurry to put on his underpants. This epidemic continued Thursday when two naked old men passed like ships in the night right in front of me as I exited the showers. I began to wonder if I was a victim of a prank. I half expected Ashton Kutcher to emerge laughing with his trucker hat slightly eschew but then I remembered that I wasn’t famous and you couldn’t show these naked old men on TV anyway.

Wondering if this was an isolated phenomenon I mentioned it to several friends who reported similar sightings. My brother-in-law told of an incident from the previous day where an elderly locker mate chose to hang up a perfectly good towel and air dry while casually sorting through his things and organizing his clothes. One friend suggested that it may be a generational thing as social nudity was common practice in saunas and bathhouses in days gone by. Whatever the case something has got to be done as this visual affront to decency cannot go on.

I have no firsthand knowledge of this but I’m told that old people au naturel isn’t confined solely to the men’s locker room either. So this goes for you too granny.

I am not a prude and I fully appreciate the human body in all its glory (or in this case past glory). I accept that a locker room is a place to change clothes and that a good deal of nakedness can be expected. However, that nudity can be minimized and should be brief in duration.

It is not okay to watch Monday Night Countdown with your boxers resting a few feet from you. While you are well within your right to remove your towel before putting your pants on, you should confine yourself to that area until the task is complete. Relaxing in the locker room after your work out is completely permissible but for the love of all creatures great and small you can do that with your shorts on. Oh and under no circumstances are you to ever, and I mean EVER, sit your naked behind on the bench.

It doesn’t matter if you are comfortable with it or proud of that fact that you are still working out at your age. I don’t care if you are too old to be bothered with such things as pants or too tired to retrieve your underwear in a timely manner. I get that your loved ones don’t want you parading around the house naked and this is your last refuge but don’t take it out on us.

On the off chance that I will one day grow to a ripe old age and lose the will to cover my flabby fanny in a quasi-public area I will stop short of condemning you for this practice. I will simply plea for whatever sense of humanity you have left and ask that you please please cover your wrinkly old rump just as quickly as your tired limbs allow. Thank you.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Way You Lie

Each person who purposefully embarks on the journey of parenthood has a basic understanding of what will be expected once the new life they’ve spawned enters the world. That is they will be responsible for the necessities of life; food, clothing, shelter and protection. In addition they have the obligation to care for the emotional and mental well being of the child.

Naturally young children look to their parents to provide these fundamentals. They look to their parents as they form the foundation of morals and principles that they’ll carry with them throughout their lives.

As parents we want our children to be healthy and happy; we want them to understand basic principles of right and wrong. We use stories and fables to illustrate the importance of honesty like “The boy who cried wolf” and “Pinocchio”. No child wants to be eaten by a wolf or sport an unusually long nose while their bloomers are a blazing. Why is it then that we parents have given old Jiminy Cricket a collective flip from off our shoulders?

I’m not a psychologist but my understanding of cognitive dissonance is basically when our idea of who were are, or who we are supposed to be, doesn’t match up with our actions. If I may get biblical it’s like trying to serve two masters. There are immediate and acute feelings that accompany this gap between what we say and what we do. When faced with this chasm we can either change our attitudes, beliefs or actions; or take the much easier road of justifying, blaming or denying.

Its Christmas time, as the song says ‘the most wonderful time of the year’. This is the season where Christians celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ whose life exemplified the manner in which we should live ours. However, our modern celebration of this event is built on the biggest worldwide conspiracy to deceive and bamboozle the most innocent amongst us.

***SPOILER ALERT*** For those of you reading this who truly believe in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny, leprechauns, and all other magical beings please stop reading now. It’s about to get real, kids.

Now I know there are those of you out there saying ho-ho-hold on a minute you’re not going to tell us that you have told your children the truth about Santa and the tooth fairy? No, of course not, I too am complicit in this monumental betrayal of trust. I too live by ingesting a healthy dose of justification and denial (note: a spoon full of sugar really helps it go down). My purpose is simply to point out inconsistent behavior in others and pretend that I am, in every way, above it all.

So why do we do it? Sure, our parents did it to us. Sure, everybody’s doing it. Sure, we’re not hurting anybody. But aren’t those just the excuses that we would never accept from our children? What could possibly compel us to halt the practicing of what we are preaching?

Let's examine the word "Santa", shall we? S-A-N-T-A, Santa. Let's see, what have we got here? We've got an S and an A, an N, a T, and another A. Hmm… Who would help grown men and women peel the focus from the baby Jesus on his birthday? Who could it be, I just don't know. Could it be… Satan!!

Seriously though, the origins of these traditions and stories came about far before our arrival here on earth. They’ve changed and grown throughout time. They are harmless enough. Most are used to provide gifts and a sense of wonder and magic in the world. Each of us have our own cherished memories and feelings as it relates to these mythical creatures and want the same for our children.

Imagine with me, if you will, the alternative.

A young impressionable child approaches you and looks up with those big innocent eyes and asks, “Is there really a Santa Claus?”

You bend down, place your hand gently on his shoulder and say, “Listen Bobby,”

“My name is Billy.”

“It doesn’t matter what your name is. The only thing that matters is that you know the truth. You’ve been duped. The media and the entire adult community have conspired against you and those naïve little toddlers you run around with. Your parents buy toys weeks in advance and hide them in the closet, in the garage, at a neighbor’s house, it’s all right under your nose. They wait until you are asleep and then sneak around like cat burglars assembling and wrapping presents only to later tell you that they were built and delivered by magical elves that choose to live in a frozen wasteland that you can never find. To top it off they commit a Class A misdemeanor by forging the name of the head magic elf on your packages. Oh and the tooth fairy is your mother, your dad hides all those eggs and the leprechaun thing, well, I’m still not sure how you bought that one. I’m not going to lie to you kid. I wouldn’t do that to you. This is honesty. You’re welcome. Now clean up this mess; just use those tears to wipe up your hopes and dreams off the floor.”

Nobody wants that. So we lie. We tell ourselves that it’s a good thing we are doing and then we lie. Oh and for those of you saying to yourself ‘I don’t lie to my children, I just let them believe’. You are the worst kind. You feel more deeply than most that something in your behavior is amiss and you can’t even bring yourself to say it out loud. You say things like “Well what do you believe?” or “It’s real if you believe it is.” Remember honesty is not only truth telling but truth living. So don’t think you can separate yourself from the rest of us just because you don’t tell your children stories of a jolly fat man who can fit down a chimney barely big enough for a squirrel, or spin wild tales of a giant storm in fairyland that delayed the tooth fairy when you forgot to replace that tooth with a quarter the previous night. You’re no better than we.

That brings me to the final tangle in this web we weave. Eventually they get wise to this game. They grow older and smarter. We too get old and sloppy. Gifts are found prematurely. Inconsistencies develop in our stories. The questions become more penetrating and poignant. So what do we do? We ramp up the lies of course.

We tell ourselves we’re doing it for them. They are too young to let go of the magic. It’s too soon for them to handle it. The truth is though that we are terrified at how they’ll handle our betrayal and will do whatever it takes to cover it up for as long as we can.

So pull it together. Get your stories straight. If you have to invent new magical creatures to cover for the old ones who’ve failed or slide down that chimney yourself; you do it. Use props, costumes, elaborate stories, skits, magic tricks, whatever it takes. You lie until you’ve painted yourself so tight in the corner that only your little piggy is touching. You keep up the deception until they are old enough to learn the truth from their friends, older siblings or strangers on the street because that kind of thing should never come from their parents whom they trust. Remember it’s all for the children.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Saying What We Mean

Once again I am here to help men/women communications. But first, a story.

I recently took a course on ethnic relations and multiculturalism (don’t stop reading I promise I’m going somewhere). It was an interesting class where we discussed societal issues and prejudices (if you feel yourself falling asleep just bite down hard on your tongue, that’s a trick I learned in this class). During one discussion we were asked how the subordinate position of women is similar to that of oppressed racial and ethnic minorities and also how they differ (I nearly fell asleep typing that but it’s about to get good, hang in there). After outlining some similarities I mentioned that one way I could see their positions being different is that, in some cases, women share an intimate relationship with a member of the majority group and therefore have influence and consideration that would not be given to an oppressed racial or ethnic minority. And then it happened…

A woman in the class launched into a full blown attack/tirade about what a stereotypical viewpoint this was. How men think that women are always trying to be subversive to “the system” by using their feminine wiles and that this attitude dated back to Adam and Eve. How a man can use persuasive argument to get what he wants but how a woman is never given the benefit of the doubt by what means she garnered such influence.

In the moment I sought to subdue her outburst by explaining that I meant “intimate” as in close personal relationship and that there is a difference between intimacy and sex. I simply stated that I meant that a woman might receive consideration from the majority group (like her feelings and general well being) that was not afforded to racial or ethnic minorities and that consideration is influence. Initially I chalked this up to semantics and went on with my life.

The more I thought about it, however, the more it bothered me that her reaction had been so severe to what I thought was a fairly benign comment. And then it happened…

An epiphany. It had little to do with what I said and more to do with what she applied to what I said. Everybody, man or woman, takes their experience and applies it to whatever they may be presented with. That’s human nature it’s how we form our perspective. Therein lies the rub.

Let me explain. Men are very simple creatures. Scientists say that humans are 96% similar to chimpanzees, in my experience that 4% difference is entirely you, ladies. Men are an uncomplicated thoughtless lot. We give little consideration to things other than food and intimate relations, by that I of course mean close personal relations (get your mind out of the gutter). If asked for an opinion we’ll say what we think. And by “what we think” I mean the answer that comes to our mind first, seems most logical and requires the least amount of effort to articulate, while getting us in the least amount of trouble. Really that’s what our communication boils down to.

Women on the other hand, of course I’m speaking as an expert here, you are incredibly complex. Before expressing your opinion in an instant you’ve considered your past and present experiences on the matter, who you are speaking to and their feelings on the topic, the thoughts and feelings of those who may or may not ever possibly hear what you are about to say, potential reactions based on those feeling and how to best state your answer in terms that will be broadly accepted. The synapses in your brain light up like the Fourth of July while we may barely generate enough sparks to light kindling. It’s a credit to your gender that with all the going on you are able to select a single response.

That being your experience, naturally, you don’t express all that you are thinking. Therefore when processing information you believe that there is more being left unsaid by others leaving more work to be done to get to the meaning of what was said. The expectation is not the same for us.

What you’ve got to understand is that we mean what we say and not a lot more. You are searching for meaning behind the words. You drill to depths that we shallow beings simply don’t have and when you find nothing you apply meaning of your own. All of that would be fine except that on occasion you apply meaning that gets us into trouble. We can do that on our own; we don’t need your help.

For those still unconvinced let me use this illustration; the word “fine”. As in “I’m fine”, “it’s fine”, “that looks fine”, etc. For a man the word fine has, tops, three or four meanings and that’s only because of the fairly recent edition of “Dang, girl! You look fine!” Otherwise “fine” would range somewhere between satisfactory and of superior quality. For a woman the word “fine” has like seventy meanings and depending on voice inflexion can actually mean ‘If I’m questioned again I’ll stab you in your sleep’.

If we tell you we like something it is because we actually like it or because not liking it will lead to unpleasantness from you. If you say you like something it can mean that you truly like it, you think we want you to like it, someone you know likes it and you don’t want them to hear that you said you didn’t like it, you think we think you thought you should like it because someone you know likes it and…AHHHHH! My brain hurts. It’s exhausting in there.

Here’s the bottom line. For women, you need to understand that what we say is what we mean. Sure there are underlying motives behind what we say or sometimes what we say is born out of our natural thoughtlessness but there isn’t a deep, penetrating meaning underneath. So stop looking because you won’t find it and please don’t feel the need to fill that void with meaning of your own that is going to make you angry at us. For men, understand that she didn’t believe a word of the previous three sentences and has completely disregarded them as the inane ramblings of a fool so like it or not you are going to have to start thinking about how you say what you mean. You are going to have to consider your audience and how your words will be perceived. That’s just the way it is.

Now let the communication begin.

***disclaimer*** This is in no way a reflection on my experience with my wife. She had foreknowledge of me writing on this topic and granted permission. Our communication and relationship are sound as is her knowledge of my love for her. Love ya boo.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Backseat To No One

I do not address this next topic lightly. I am aware of how strongly people feel about this but something needs to be said. Someone has got to stand up and say “Hey! Wait your turn.” There must be a champion for the neglected and silently suffering. Who will stand up for the little guy when the world seems all too willing to let it fall by the wayside? As usual it’s me.

I was driving home from work yesterday and flipping through the radio stations when I heard one of my favorite songs. You’d think I would have been thrilled with such a happy coincidence that one of my all time favorites was being played just when I happened on the station, but no. Why you ask? What was the song you ask? O Holy Night.

Good people of this great land hear me. Far too long have I stood idly by while the Christmas season has swept through the calendar like a spilled cup of grape juice on the kitchen counter. Gone are the days when people put up their tree on Christmas Eve. Christmas lights started appearing on houses in November and we said nothing. Department stores donned Christmas decorations while our pantries were still full of Halloween candy and we smiled. Radio stations devoted their slates to Jingle Bell Rock and Holly Jolly Christmas just after Veteran’s Day and we sang along. No more!

I too am complicit in this insurgence in the war of holidays. I live on a street where neighbors revel in holiday cheer. I love their devotion to Christmas and the lights, decorations and music that flood our street at this time of year. A couple of them already have their lights up and a few others are working on it as I type. But I cannot remain silent any longer.

How dare you step on Thanksgiving. HOW DARE YOU!

I know it doesn’t have scores and scores of songs devoted to it. There aren’t bright shiny decorations associated with the season. There aren’t weeks of anticipation leading up to an event so big that its eve is also a holiday and children don’t receive a multi-week break amping up said anticipation. But doesn’t it deserve the same treatment that we give every other holiday? That is, to be left alone un-encroached upon by its neighboring holiday.

What other holiday is treated so poorly?

Thanksgiving is a glorious day of feasts and football, family and gratitude (yes in that order). Close your eyes and imagine with me…no wait, strike that, if you close your eyes you can’t read this anymore.

[I’ll pause and wait for my slower readers to figure that out]

Are we all back? Good then.

Imagine the smell permeating the house; turkey, pie, stuffing, pie, mashed potatoes, pie and rolls, pie… The family is together and the game is on. Heavenly.

This is a day that deserves better and we can give her better. We can give her our full attention; for the love of pie we must give her our full attention.

I too love Christmas and understand the temptation to bust out the wreath and mistletoe just as soon as the mall goes all winter wonderland on us. It takes a good deal of restraint to stave off this premature jubilation and wait.

If you won’t do it for Thanksgivings sake then do it for Christmas sake. Sure the idea of Christmas spirit all year long is great but if it were Christmas all year long then Christmas wouldn’t be special and we’d have just destroyed everything that we look forward to.

I’m not asking that you wait until that blessed day or even that we shove Christmas back to its own calendar month; I’m just asking for one more day. The Friday after Thanksgiving you can just go nuts. Put up a forty foot inflatable Frosty (my neighbor’s got one), go all Griswold on your house, bust out your Blue Ray edition of Polar Express and wear it out, you get the idea. We can do it and we and both holidays will be enriched.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Punch Me In The Face

I love movies about the old west. I love the no nonsense heroes. The cowboy who is carving out his piece of the world, the local sheriff standing alone against corruption or the outlaw with a good heart. These aren’t complex characters in many cases, one commonality unites them; the expectation that people act civilly and responsibly. If they don’t the repercussion is swift and definitive; a punch in the face.

Not unusual in these movies is the occasion where someone is shooting off his mouth or disrespects a woman or just in general is being a public nuisance. That is when someone will step forward and punch that guy in the mouth. Of course someone is there to catch him or pick him up off the floor. There is a brief pause in the action where onlookers wait to see if anything else will come of it. Sometimes a friend or relative of the recently struck will appeal to local law enforce, “Sheriff, ain’t you gonna do someth’n.” His reply will consistently be something like, “He had it a com’n.” And that would be that.

Today we view those times as crude, uncivilized, even barbaric. But what if they had it right?

In movies today, set in present times, it is not uncommon to see someone take a well deserved shot to the face. Generally it comes with a painful shake of the hand and a great sense of satisfaction for the character and the audience. But when was the last time you saw someone take one to the chops in real life?

If that happened today, instead of the piano player halting, the barkeep staring and the clobbered being helped to his feet while wiping the blood from his lip; you’d have people calling 911 on their cell phones and most assuredly a horrified bystander questioning the puncher, “What is wrong with you?!”

As a society we’ve progressed to a point where it is unacceptable behavior to knock someone down who is acting a fool. I teach my children to use their words when faced with a conflict. That’s what civilized people do. All that is fine and good except for one small thing; we’ve enabled the fools.

You see, two rational intelligent people can work through their differences without physical confrontation. But what happens when a rational intelligent person is crossed by a clown without a shred of decency or common sense and no regard for the general welfare of humanity. The fool can act as he pleases, disregard any plea for civility and go about his business while the rational, sane, intelligent person is left frustrated and unsatisfied. So you do the right thing and the offending party leaves unscathed and largely unaware of the damage done. This situation will, most likely, be repeated again and again because rational intelligent people are bound by the expectations of society and are unable to correct the fool’s behavior through reason and discourse. So the fool will continue being a fool because he can.

Now before you get too carried away I’m not suggesting that anybody go around willy nilly throttling people who upset or annoy them. However, on the occasion that you run across a fool and all attempts at reason have failed wouldn’t it be nice if, in the end, someone could help that fool to his feet with a shrug and onlookers and authority figures alike could say, “Well, he had that a com’n.”

Taking it a step further just look at what happened at Felcher & Sons when they brought in an office linebacker. Productivity went through the roof. The Terrible Terry Tate brand of justice produced immediate results and put the fools on notice. (excuse his language)

What if people could expect a measure of instant justice when they were out of order? The acts of thoughtlessness would decline exponentially. If you give people license to be fools then you are left to deal with fools. However, if you put fools on notice then they’ll be forced to snap to attention and act right or suffer the consequences. Think of it as an adult spanking.

What if the punk talking during the movie who’s rebuffed repeated petitions for silence or the incompetent colleague whose perpetual thoughtlessness puts your team under the gun time and time again could expect a clothesline or a well placed stunner or DDT? You think they might modify their behavior? You bet your sweet bippy.

At one point or another we’ve all wanted to belt a deserving somebody; a coworker, a neighbor, a stranger; I don’t know a wife out there who hasn’t wanted to pop her husband from time to time. That thought has probably crossed my wife’s mind while she read this.

Look, I’m not condoning random acts of violence or saying that you should start punching people in the face…I’m just saying imagine a world where people had to think twice before they said or did (or wrote) something stupid.

Friday, November 12, 2010

10 Commandments for getting along with your IT guy

I’ve given a lot of thought to this subject and I really think I can help. You see to many people IT guy is a mystery; a reclusive, surly shadow that descends upon you in your hour of need and disappears thereafter, from sight and consciousness, moving on to the next user in distress. Dealing with such a creature may seem complicated or daunting. Keeping that in mind I’ve come up with 10 guidelines for successfully navigating the pitfalls of dealing with your IT guy.
***disclaimer*** I am perfectly aware that there are many fine IT gals out there but for the purposes of this blog both IT guys and gals will be lumped together and referred to as IT guy.

1. Thou Shalt Not Forget Thy Password
We understand that you have multiple passwords and most times they are different. Requiring you to change your password, for security reasons, to you seems unnecessary. We get that. Nonetheless you have to change your password and you know you have to change your password. Resistance is futile. When the time comes to change your password you must engage whatever cognitive function you can muster and retain the information you’ve chosen to use. That brings us to the next commandment:

2. Thou Shalt Not Excuse Thyself In Any Way
When you screw up, own it. The natural inclination is to say “It wasn’t me.” Well it was you. No one else uses your computer, just you. The argument is often proffered “I remember my password; the system is not letting me in.” Let me tell you something “the system” doesn’t care who you are, “the system” doesn’t have any prejudice or bias against you and “the system” isn’t trying to sabotage your day. “The system” just wants the correct password and when it receives that password (that you set by the way) “the system” will gladly let you in. You know how we know that? Because everyone who entered the correct password was promptly let in and did not have to call us.
Another thing, saying “I’m not a computer person” or “I’m computer illiterate” is a cop out. It’s 2010, most jobs require some sort of interaction with a computer. And guess what? Your job requires that you use a computer. Why is it that people wish to be viewed as competent in every other aspect of their job but are unwilling to put any time or effort into figuring out what every ten year old knows how to do? You don’t have to be a “computer person” to operate a computer and saying you are “computer illiterate” tells us you are either lazy or not bright, we’ll let you pick.

3. Thou Shalt Not Start Thy Query With “Quick Question.”
The implication here is that you’re so busy that you need a brief answer right away or that the question is insignificant and therefore not worth either of our time. Both of these are irksome. We fully recognize that this prefix to your question is rooted in your IT guy’s ‘don’t bother me’ persona and that it is intimidating to call him. You may think ‘I’m simply alerting him that I’ll only require a moment of his time’. You don’t know that and can’t control that; beginning your conversation with “Quick question” is a bad idea. Simply state your problem or question and allow your tech support to judge the value of the conundrum and determine the length or brevity of his response.

4. Thou Shalt Respect Thy IT Guy’s Time
We all know the Brothers Grimm tale of a shoemaker and his helper elves. Each night the good shoe cobbler laid out a piece of leather and went to sleep. At midnight the little elves would appear and make shoes while the cobbler slept. In the morning the elves would be gone and the cobbler would find a fine pair of shoes ready to be sold. Well you are not a cobbler and we are not elves. We work the same hours as you. In the evenings and on weekends we go home to our family. We too get to take lunch every day. Inviting us to work on your computer while you are at lunch, at 5 o’clock when you are done for the day, or on Saturday when you won’t be bothered doesn’t work for us.

5. Thou Shalt Not Stop Thy IT Guy In The Hall
If you see your IT guy in the hall there’s a good chance he’s going somewhere. He’s not just wandering aimlessly around the building waiting for someone to stop him with a question or a problem. Odds are someone has already called or emailed him with a question or problem and he’s on his way to respond to them. Your hallway question or problem is the equivalent of cutting in the lunch line. It’s not fair to the others involved. Oh and if he’s not on his way to help someone he’s on his way to the bathroom. He’s been holding it for some time because he was on the phone with someone claiming that they did not forget their password or that they are “computer illiterate”. So please give him a break. A smile or a polite head nod in the hall will usually be returned in kind.

6. Thou Shalt Have No Other IT Guys Before Him
Whether your boyfriend, brother or roommate is an IT guy, computer guru or tech geek is irrelevant. Your support comes from your IT staff. Going to someone else first only makes the problem worse when they can’t figure it out and you are forced to call your IT guy anyway. Saying that you tried to work it out through outside resources does not garner you any points, only chagrin.

7. Hast Thou Rebooted?
With the inevitable bumps in the road that come with regular computer use you’ll experience a glitch, a bug or a frozen application or system. Before frantically reaching for the phone and dialing your friendly neighborhood IT man, stop for a moment, take a breath and ask yourself “Have you rebooted?” You see this will save you from shamefully answering “No.” when your IT guy asks you that very question when you know good and well that would most likely have done the trick in the first place.

8. Thou Shalt Not Be Cute
Your IT guy visits many different people throughout the course of the day. He sits in offices and cubicles, on some chairs that are comfortable and others that aren’t. Working on computers requires that he sits at a desk that is not his own in a workspace where you are accustom to seeing others sit. When stumbling upon this out of the ordinary scene you may feel compelled to make comments such as these: “Why Barbara you’ve changed.” or “My Bob, you look different today.” or “Suzie, did you get a haircut?” These are not original and to your IT guy, who hears this six times a day, it is maddening. Resist the urge; fight it with every fiber of your soul. We beg you.

9. Thou Shalt Not Be Disingenuous
Starting your phone call with “Hey buddy” or “What’s up brother?” does not make us buddies or brothers. Asking “How’s your day going?” or “What’s new with you?” may seem polite but in the context of why you are calling is moot. We are not buddies as we never hear from you other than when something is wrong or you need something. This is not a social call; you are calling because you have a request for help or service. Pretending it is anything else is just a waste of our time and your energy. You give no thought about your IT guy unless you have a problem. We accept that, let’s move on.

10. Thou Shalt Express Thy Gratitude
IT guy is a thankless job. He is remembered only in your hour of greatest frustration and angst; to be immediately forgotten once the crisis has been addressed or the problem solved. If you really want to get along with your IT guy this commandment is above all others. Say thank you and mean it. You will endear yourself to him in a way that even he doesn’t understand.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

No Shame in Car Singing

It’s time people, time to remove the shameful stigmatism from singing in your car.

You know what I’m talking about. You’re cruis’n down the road when your jam comes on the radio. Under the guise of privacy that your car provides you start groov’n along to the beat. Slowly and ever so quietly the words begin to escape from your mouth. Before you know it you’re singing at the top of your lungs and loving every minute of it.

However, lurking at the next intersection is an ominous red light; a clear sign that the party is about to stop. You’re still feeling those good vibrations only now you realize that you are indeed not alone. With a glance to your left you see that you’ve caught the attention of the driver next to you. Maybe he’s laughing or maybe she is just staring at you, head shaking mouth agape it doesn’t matter, like Marlin the clown fish the “good feeling’s gone”.

You bashfully look away, turn down the radio that was previously blasting and sit in silent shame waiting for the light to turn.

Why should an observer or two stop our little private karaoke car ride? The answer: It shouldn’t.

Last week, due to conflicting schedules, I was without my carpool buddy. I heard Katy Perry’s ‘California Gurls’ on the radio three times. Did I sing along? You betcha, every time. The only way to break this shame cycle is to move beyond the fear of ridicule, abandon our self-reproach, set aside mortification and let the rhythm move you. Of course this was made easy because while I was rock’n out with Katy my lady there wasn’t a car around.

The real test came on my ride home. With Lady GaGa’s ‘Bad Romance’ bump’n through my Honda I was somewhere between “I want your love” and “I want your revenge” when I rolled up to the stoplight. I noticed the car next to me inch forward a bit; undoubtedly my famous seated dance moves caught his attention. Mid head-bob I threw him a nod without missing a beat and burst into an “Oh-oh-oh-oh-Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh!” Then I shouted something that sounded like “La Cucaracha!” I don’t know what she’s really saying something in French, it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that I was not ashamed. He started to laugh and the light turned. We both went on our way only, for me, the hit parade kept on rolling all the way home.

Say it with me “I [insert your name], sing in my car and am not ashamed!”

There, doesn’t that feel better. Now the next time you are singing along to Taylor Swift (don’t judge me you know you do it) and you find someone peeping in on your performance; resist the urge to turn down the volume and fall into the car singing shame spiral. Instead consider them an unpaid spectator to your show. If they don’t like it they can look away. You just keep singing your little heart out.

My hope is that my children can grow up in a world where it’s perfectly acceptable for them to sing in their car without fear of ridicule or rebuke. Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got to get my carpool buddy up to speed on our Carpenters ‘Superstar’ duet for the ride home today.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Memo to Women: I don't get you.

In my life I’ve come to accept a handful of absolute truths. 1) You can’t name a food that I can’t improve with either bacon or chocolate. 2) I can gain weight easier than I can lose it (see No. 1 for confirmation). 3) Bleeping out swear words on TV makes me laugh, every time. 4) Most people, through no fault of their own, just annoy me. 5) I will never EVER understand women.

To be fair the list of things beyond my comprehension is long. Quantum physics, macro-economics, micro-economics, Yo Gabba Gabba and why some people actually like salad.

The difference is that I like to think if I put in enough time and effort I could come to at least a basic understanding of the above mentioned quandaries. Women, however, are an entirely different subject.

Even at a young age they perplexed me but I thought then with enough exposure I’d come to understand them. I foolishly believed that when I married one of them that the daily close up observance would enlighten me to their inner workings. Unfortunately the more I learn about them the less I understand. Recently I wrote about their inexplicable shoe fetish, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Ladies the way your minds work just astounds me. No offense but to an outside observer you all come off as, well, kind of crazy and interaction with your gender is a bit maddening. (By the way when you start a sentence with “No offense” you are not allowed to take offense to any ensuing statement no matter how offensive. That’s the rule.) Don’t get me wrong I think women are great and I love my wife dearly but seriously sometimes I think you all are conspiring to drive us insane.

Case in point, my wife has had a cough for some time now. I have repeatedly told her that she should go see the doctor. She resisted and I did not push it. This past week while I was out of town she visited with a couple of old friends. They also witnessed her coughing and her friend said “You should go get that checked out.” This was almost verbatim what I had told her a handful of times. Well guess what? She finally went to the doctor. Now I’m glad that she did but what the frack?! Why was my suggestion invalid but her friend’s counsel words of wisdom?

To further drive home the point she even posted this on her friend’s facebook wall “I went to the doctor. Bronchitis. Thanks for telling me to go.” AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

This situation was beautifully explained by one of my favorite TV shows, Scrubs. Yes the last few years of the show were dreadful but this gem came from the final season.

“A wife cannot hear logic from her husband. It must come from someone else; a friend, a stranger…Oprah.” – Dr. Perry Cox

If this recent cough-n-stance was an isolated incident then I could happily dismiss it but I’ve witnessed this phenomenon again and again. I’ve even been on the other side where my neighbor had made a suggestion to his wife which she rejected but when hearing through my wife that I had said the exact same thing she reconsidered. Why?!

Shouldn’t the information be judged on its own merit and not marginalized because it was spouted from the dolt that you call your husband?

Please, ladies, I beg you. If this is some carefully crafted worldwide conspiracy to cripple our mental faculties then we give. Call off the dogs. Have mercy. Stop the insanity.

Alas I fear this will not be the case and this universal struggle for understanding will inevitably be our downfall.

Guys, our only hope is to just accept this. Don’t try to understand it. Embrace the crazy like it’s a free chalupa. Do not attempt to fight it. Resistance is futile. Peel back one deranged layer and you’ll just be confronted with another. Trust me this is better left as is. With any relationship communication is paramount; so continue to talk, continue to share, continue (or start in some cases) to listen but stop trying to analyze their ways. That’s just what they want us to do. They’re trying to drive us mad, yes. That’s how they’re going to do it. They wants to break us. Drive us crazy. We mustn’t let them do it. No. No. We’ve gots to stay sharp. Yes. Keeps our wits about us. Yes, yes…yes.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Why do I do this to myself?

It’s been nearly nine years since I’ve gone to a gym. No real reason other than the time and financial restraints that come with having a young family. Plus I don’t really like working out. Sure I enjoy the end result but the whole gasping for air, heart beating out of your chest, sweating through multiple t-shirts thing I can do without.

Anyway that all changed this past month when one of the Superstition Little League sponsors, Fitness Works, decided to give all the volunteer coaches and their spouses a free membership. Not being one to pass up a freebie I sat down with Lola and we made plans on how we would make time for the gym.

As the time to return to the gym grew closer I became more and more excited. It’s not that I’ve had no physical activity in the past nine years (although some would argue to the contrary) it’s just that going to the gym is a whole different animal. I was so pumped walking through the doors Saturday that I climbed up on the check-in desk, threw my fist in the air, closed my eyes, turned my head skyward, drew in a deep breath and bellowed “FINALLY, BLAY-LOCK has COME-BACK to fitness!” The check-in girl asked that I climb down and quietly scan my key tag. I dutifully obeyed.

So Lola hustled off to some sort of Tae Bo man hater class where mild mannered women unleash all their feminine hostility for an hour or so and I jumped on the elliptical. I rocked the stairs for a half an hour (on level 5) and was feeling pretty good. Then I decided to lift some weights. I, of course, defaulted to my chest and tri workout from days of yore. Everything went great. It felt good being back in the gym.

Then I woke up Sunday morning.

As I struggled to put on my shirt for church I thought ‘This is why I never thought about returning the gym.’ So I resolved to change my routine, after all I’m older and have different fitness goals now.

Basically I’d just like the thought of taking my shirt off in public not to conjure up painful memories of a rather unpleasant shirts and skins basketball game in my seventh grade P.E. class (I’ll let you guess who was skins). So I agreed to go with Lola to some of these classes that she swears by.

Monday was my first ever spinning class. As I thundered away on the stationary bike being prodded on by our 95 lb instructor and a puddle of sweat the size of Lake Powell formed underneath me I thought “Why am I doing this to myself?” Too tired to form any type of a coherent reply that question went unanswered. Mercifully the class came to an end. The feeling of relief was so great that I didn’t pick up this internal argument again.

Then came Tuesday.

As I stood there on one leg while twisting myself into a pretzel during the Pilates/Yoga/Tai Chi torture fusion they call a class, the thought again returned “Why am I doing this to myself?”

Fortunately, during the three minute cool down where we lay still in the dark while the instructor encouraged us to release the stress of the day (most of which, for me, was caused by said instructor), I had time to reflect on this question.

My first thought was that I love food. Delicious food; bacon and chocolate, burgers and ice cream, breaded food, fried food, food that makes vegans recoil and the fat kid in all of us salivate. That coupled with my aversion to physical activity above and beyond swinging a golf club yields less than desirable results on the scale and in the waistline.

During my life I’ve had different goals for working out; to get stronger, to increase stamina and flexibility, to improve performance in sports, to lose weight. I imagine that most people fall into those categories, but there is one underlying reason that motivates people to work out: to look better naked.

Of all the reasons people say they workout this is the most honest. Plus I take every opportunity to say naked.

Don’t judge me, I know it’s childish but you’re no better. Go ahead, I dare you to say “naked” out loud and not smile. You couldn’t do it, could you?

But I digress.

Why am I doing this to myself? Is it vanity? Is it pride? Is it for a boost to the old self esteem? Yeah, probably a little bit of all that.

All I know is as long as these two opposing elements of appetite and au naturel exist there will be the necessary evil of returning again and again to that house of sweat and pain. Oh, what a world! What a world! At least I’ve got one less thing to wonder about when I’m pounding away on the treadmill tonight.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cuteness over Comfort? Really?

At work yesterday I heard the following conversation.

Lady #1 “Cute shoes.”
Lady #2 “Yeah, but they are really uncomfortable.”
Lady #1 “But they look so cute.”
Lady #2 “I know that’s why I got them.”

This has been a constant fascination/quandary of mine. Why do women buy uncomfortable shoes?

Just last week I witnessed a girl, preparing to go home for the day, change her shoes ala Mr. Rogers. When I questioned her on this she explained that pair #1 goes with her outfit and are “cute” but uncomfortable and also not allowed in the lab where she had work to do that day hence the need for pair #2.

I don’t know why I continue to question this behavior as it is clearly insane and I am left baffled each time I peel back another layer of insanity. I keep thinking that I’ll move closer to a logical explanation when in reality I know one doesn’t exist.

I recently purchased a new pair of running shoes. I walked into the store knowing which pair I wanted. My wife had shown me an ad in the paper and I selected the pair that looked good to me. Upon arrival in the store I found my size in the desired pair. Mind you I really like the look of these shoes. However, upon trying them on I found them to be a bit on the uncomfortable side. I tried on several different shoes before finding a pair whose look wasn’t exactly what I was looking for but whose comfort was off the charts. I purchased the shoes and haven’t had a moment of regret.

You see that is what a logical sane person does. You put on a pair of shoes and think ‘Boy these are uncomfortable’ and then you put those shoes back. You do not think ‘Well these babies will probably cause me feet to bleed but they really set off this pant suit. SOLD!’

What is it about shoes that cause women to cast aside common sense and dive into this world of masochism?

Could you image hearing someone say “Sure this blanket feels like sandpaper but it’s so cute.” Or “This hat has cut off all circulation to the top of my head but it’s adorable.” Or “Having to cram myself into this mini Cooper everyday has given me scoliosis but it looks super cool.” No, you’d call the loony bin and have that person carted off for their own protection. So why do we all stand by and allow this self destructive behavior to continue? Who is there among us that will stand up for feet?!

I too, in my quest to understand this sickness, have sat idly by and shook my head and smiled. But no more! It’s time for an intervention. Ladies please, stop this madness. If you try on a pair of shoes that suffocate your feet like a boa constrictor put them back. I don’t care how cute they are, it’s not worth it. Taking off your shoes at the end of the day should not feel like being liberated from a Nazi internment camp.

You spend all the time and money taking care of your body, your skin and your hair but treat your feet like John Rambo passing through Hope, Washington. Why?

They deserve better, you deserve better. Say it with me “My feet are my friends.” Now next time you see a “cute” pair of hoof hurters just ask yourself ‘Would I treat my friends like this?’

Thursday, February 25, 2010


I’ll get right to the point. LOL is way out of control. I’ve put off writing this for a couple of reasons:

1) People who type LOL have no malicious intent and are just trying to express in writing that they’ve experienced a physical reaction to what they’ve just read.
2) Generally when I read LOL it is in response to something I’ve written that somebody liked enough to laugh out loud. So why would I want to crush that person, right?

Having said that, it’s time that LOL went the way of “Not!”, “Psyche”, “Rad”, “Whatever”, “Sup” and all other clichéd rhetoric. Sure those expressions were fun for a while but their overuse grew to a point of annoyance. Soon those smiles on the faces of your friends turned to looks of disapproval as your go to phrase “My Bad” turned from acceptance to irritation.

This is where LOL becomes a tougher cookie to crack. In this age of texting and social media, communication has exploded but face to face contact has nearly disappeared. You share information with people daily who you see rarely, if ever. You also have the ability to throw out your two cents into cyberspace without any feedback in return. Also with this entirely written communication you are limited to how you can express yourself and to how your expression is received (no hand gestures, eye contact, facial expressions, sighs, grunts or…wait for it…laughter).

What I’m trying to say is that I understand where this has come from and the same reason that necessitated its creation is the same reason that it has hung on so long. No nonverbal cues to tell you that it’s time to move on. I do believe that it has its place but people, please I’m begging you, show some restraint. If everything you read is making you Laugh Out Loud you may need medication.

When you regularly use LOL it just becomes contrived and trite. If something truly tickles your funny bone throwing out LOL shows no thought or originality. Not to mention you aren’t even taking the time to spell out Laughing Out Loud.

As someone with a fragile ego who desperately needs people commenting on what I write, I get wanting to comment on something that you liked to show your appreciation for the chuckle it gave you. I’m just asking that you have something to say. I know everyone’s not witty and I’m not saying that you shouldn’t reply or comment unless you have something witty to say (although that would be nice); matter of fact one of my other pet peeves is people endeavoring to be witty when they are not (we’ll save that for a different blog). What I’m saying is that if you read something that made you laugh and you want to comment or reply to that effect let’s try to mix it up. Maybe something like or “That was some funny crap!” or “Man you are really funny, and good looking. I adore you.”

There’s got to be a better way and I’m not saying I have the answer. For myself I go to great lengths not to use LOL. I probably overuse Mr. Smiley face in the process. :o)

Using LOL is a personal choice. What I’m suggesting is that it should only be used in cases of emergency. For instance, you are skydiving and your chute doesn’t open and you go to check facebook on your Blackberry one last time and read one of my hilarious status updates about pant-less TV watching or my unnatural obsession with bacon. Sure the ground is rushing up to meet you but your last desire in this world is to tell me that my post amused you, then by all means use LOL because time is short and people need to know that something made you laugh…out loud.

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