Friday, November 7, 2008

On Slurred Speech and Sick Time

"I'm not drunk. I promise." I explain to my customers as drool drips down my chin and onto my headset.

It is at this precise moment that I realize the benefit of taking sick time for legitimate sick time issues. The festering white craters outlined in red on the underside of my tongue sting like a thousand bees attacking my mouthy flesh between intermittent moments of the sweet numbing relief of orajel. The top of my tongue is swollen so that it nearly falls out of my mouth each time I part my lips. It is as dry as the desert climate I have come to love over the past three years and cracked like the dried up creek beds just before monsoon season. Three times a day I rinse with Listerine to stave off any possible infection and the intense stinging of antiseptic washing clean my open mouth wounds is enough to make my eyes sting. It's definitely man game. Every spare moment of reflection I have is immediately occupied with thoughts of when is this going to end and how did I get this way.

"It's just that I have about 15 canker sores on my tongue and I'm using baby orajel to help with the pain." I explain further

"Don't you have any sick time?" my customer asks.

It seems as if I am being mocked by the very people I'm trying to help. As a carefree, single twenty something sick time translated to extra vacation. At the beginning of the year I was single. Between all the good weather days from January to April, hiking and staying home to watch sports had used up all my sick time by the time the weather got hot.

"That's not what sick time is for," I joke, "Sick time is for days when the weather is so great, it makes me ashamed to be at work and not outside."

Between calls, I am reminded of an episode of Seinfield when Krammer meets a wealthy benefactor on the way home from the dentist. The novicane still had control of his mouth and the benefactor thought he was mentally incapacitated. I think of my customers hearing me in a similar condition and imagining that my company employs special ed graduates and alcoholics. In a feeble attempt to prove that I'm not a louse or former Special Olympian, I unload my arsenal of complicated but correct grammar and comprehensive vocabulary.

"Well to athume that your contwact would tewminate upon compwethion of the tewmth would be an egwegiouth ewow and may wesult in youw inewigibiwity for thpeciaw offewth."

I tried. Didn't work.

I arrive home to my new wife who wants to kiss me and talk to me about how my day went after a long day of being cooped up with a two year old in an apartment with moving boxes piled to the ceiling, but anything more than a peck on the cheek hurts too much after eight hours of talking. Maybe I could qualify for the Special Olympics after burning all my sick time on not being sick.

Friday, September 12, 2008

World Class Pukes


Not too long ago I threw up. This is never an enjoyable experience for me, mostly because when I throw up, it's a violent, gut wrenching, excruciatingly painful experience that lasts for at least 15 minutes. Earlier today I had a brilliant idea: why not write a blog about the ten most memorable pukes of my life? So here they are in top ten list fashion.

10. When I was a little kid I remember going over to my cousins house for a family gathering on Easter. I was probably around four or five years old because I remember I wasn't old enough to be in school yet. In the back yard there was a wooden, factory made swing set painted brown. At the top of the slide there was a brown guard rail to keep kids from falling off. I was tall enough to see over the top of the guard rail and while waiting for one of my cousins to go down the slide, I noticed something that resembled a butterscotch candy piece melting in the spring sun to the wooden beam. It had melted quite a bit, so it only barely looked like a butterscotch candy. I smelled it to see if my estimate was correct. It smelled like butterscotch. For those who know me well, let me just say that this next part was prior to my developing a mild touch of germophobia. I licked the butterscotch candy. Of course it was delicious, but also probably tainted. Throughout the remainder of the day, I ate whatever barbecue foods were present at the party. The only one of these foods I recall eating is the generous portion of sour cream and onion chips because that night when I got home and ralphed, it was all I could taste. I haven't eaten sour cream and onion chips since then.

9. Several of the memorable pukes were memorable not because they were mine, but because I was witness to the event. Number 9 is one of those. I have a cousin named Max. He is perhaps one of the coolest guys I know. He is by far my coolest cousin. Right now he is on a mission in Hong Kong China, so he won't be able to defend himself on this one. Max is about six years younger than me and when I was in the fifth grade, our families took a road trip to Oregon. This would have put Max at about 4-5 years old. A sixteen hour road trip one way is no way to keep a four year old's lunch in his stomach. Somewhere just after we re-entered the state of Utah, Max put his hand over his mouth and mumbled something to my mom who was driving. "Max, honey you need to take your hand away from your mouth so I can hear you," my mom said. "Aunt Kaye Kaye, I have to blaaauuugh," he almost got the whole sentence out, but ended up ralphing all over inside the car.

8. Checking in at number eight is also not my specific puke, but is hilarious nonetheless. On my mission I knew a guy named Elder Phillips. Gabe Phillips was an outside of the box thinker. When his new mountain bike was stolen, instead of buying a new bike he purchased an old beach cruiser and rode it very care freely. He is just a different cat, but in a good way. So when the missionaries in our zone didn't gel all that well, he proposed the solution that was a bit unorthodox. The whole zone got together at his apartment and went out into the grass area of his complex per his request. All he told us was that there was something cool to see at his apartment. When the whole zone had arrived, he stood in front of everybody and put his finger down his throat. I'm not sure what he ate for breakfast, but he must have planned his meal around the puking because the colors were spectacular. Needless to say that twelve guys from the age range of 19-21 years old devoid of the normal 19-21 year old influences of girls, sports, TV, music and video games thought that the puke show was pretty awesome.

7. Number seven, number six and number five have common threads. Number seven was in the hospital when I was sixteen years old. I had diagnosed myself with appendicitis and my mom had driven me to the hospital. After a quick white blood cell test and some waiting, I was set to go into surgery... or so I thought. In a waiting room at the emergency room, I was told my bursting appendix would need to wait because a heart attack patient was being airlifted in. Waiting in an emergency room with a bloated appendix for five hours is a sure fire recipe for the pukes. Puking with appendicitis is not recommended if it can at all be avoided. The puke was straight stomach acid and a nasty green/yellow in color because I had puked all the food in my stomach earlier that day.

6. This leads me to number six, which was still on the day of the aforementioned appendicitis. That morning I woke up with an awful pain in my stomach. It was a Saturday morning and I thought that I had a really bad case of gas. I kept telling myself that I was going to fart and that it would be really long and forceful and that it would smell worse than any fart in the history of mankind because it had been held in so long. I woke up at seven o' clock that morning and I had a church basketball game that began at eleven. I ate some sausage and hash browns for breakfast that morning even though I didn't feel like eating anything because I knew I needed some energy for the game. I got to the church early for a little shoot-around and warm up time. With every layup and jump shot I winced in pain upon hitting the floor after my weak jump. Needless to say, the coach could tell there was something wrong with me and I was benched to start the game. I didn't even make it past the end of the first quarter when I made up my mind to go home. Immediately upon stepping outside, I had to hurl. I stepped over to the flower bed and leaned over into the bushes. Chunks of breakfast sausage and hash brown made their way into my nose because my mouth could not keep up with the sheer volume and rate of content expulsion from my stomach. Several people walked in and out of the church during my spectacle and I'm sure they gave me some crusty looks because I was desecrating church grounds.

5. Number six wasn't my first time tossing my cookies into the bushes at the church. The first time I threw up in the church bushes was about three years earlier than that when I was thirteen. For mutual (that's an LDS youth group activity on Tuesday or Wednesday nights), we were going to some type of scouting merit badge thing in another stake. I've never been particularly big on scouting so the hurl couldn't have come at a better time. While there amongst the hardcore scouters, my stomach felt like a raging sea. I wasn't sure if it was something I ate, or just being around that much enthusiasm for the lame merit badge that was pretty much being forced on me that made me nauseous, but whatever it was, one thing was sure. I wasn't going to make it through the night without ralphing all over the place. I talked to my leaders and one of them had to leave early anyway, so I just went home with him. He dropped me off at the church where my bike was chained to the lamp post just next to the flower bed and bushes near the front doors. I had potatoes au gratin that night for dinner and when you're sick, there's just no way to keep those down. So three years later when I puked the sausage and hash mentioned in number six, it was deja vu all over again.

4. Number four is another one that wasn't me. In fact, I never got the name of the kid who puked. I had just driven four hours to Rexburg, ID from Salt Lake City so that I could attend the wedding reception of one of my missionary companions, Scotty Fellows. Adam Larson, another missionary friend, was with me as he had been companions with Fellows too. We went through the line, said hello to Scotty and his wife Mignon, then grabbed some grub and sat down. No sooner had we taken our seats than this little kid, who was running across the gymnasium, stopped, put his head toward the ground, then made a floor rainbow with the refreshments he just finished eating. He promptly resumed his run across the gym and started to cry hysterically. It was classic.

3. The last three entries are all worthy of a number one, so it took quite a bit of deliberation to determine which incident is the best. I hope you, the reader, will agree with the order in which these are placed. Number three took place at a restaurant called La Paisa Grill in West Valley Utah. I had some time to kill before work and my brother and sister-in-law told me about this authentic Mexican restaurant near where I was working at the time. I decided to get some lunch. Upon the recommendation of my brother I ordered the Molcajete Supreme. A molcajete is an Aztec bowl made of volcanic rock. They are used as salsa bowls in some restaurants. At La Paisa Grill you can order your meals in a molcajete. The Molcajete Supreme contains carne asada, pollo asado, shrimp and jalapenos in an authentic Mexican cheese blend and is served with fresh hot corn tortillas. It's really enough food for two and I tried to eat as much of it as I could so that the to go box wouldn't contain so much leftovers. Well about the time that I asked for a to go box, I was feeling a bit queasy. As I was putting the leftovers into the to go box, the smell of the cheese blend wafted up into the air and invaded my nostrils. Try as I might, I couldn't keep all that food down. I managed to keep the first wave all in my mouth instead of leaving it all over the table for a lunch crowd to see, and it's probably a good thing I was dining alone. I ran to the bathroom and spit a mouth full of puke into the toilet. The remaining contents of that molcajete soon followed and I found that the spicy jalapenos burned as badly coming up as they did going down. I'm sure other patrons were wondering what was going on as I wrenched my guts out for fifteen minutes. When I was done, I wiped my mouth, and due to my fear of public bathrooms, I wasn't even able to rinse my mouth to rid it of the puke taste.

2. Number two was also directly after a meal, but at least for this meal, I didn't have to shell out 20 bucks only to leave it in the restaurant toilet. This meal was a dinner appointment on my mission. The people who had invited us to dinner were really happy to have the elders over for dinner because they didn't get the chance to do it that often. When we arrived at their house, the wife said, "Hey elders, we're having burgers tonight! I got a great deal. Four boxes of burgers for five dollars!" I remember thinking to myself, "I don't know what kind of meat these burgers are, but they certainly aren't beef." To put it simply, the whole meal was four boxes for five dollar caliber. I don't mean to seem ungrateful because I got fed every night of my mission and I'm sure that the family who fed us went to great lengths to prepare a meal for us. However, in addition to the two burgers that were put on each of our plates, there was some mushy corn on the cob, an undercooked bake potato, and two slabs of nasty carne asada. To top it all off, no water was provided to drink. They had two flavors of punch with the brand name "belly washers" on the table and that was all I could use to crush this monstrous plate of food down my stomach. As soon as we left, I turned to my companion and said, "I forgot something back at the apartment." We went home and I told him that I really had to puke because I knew if I didn't I was sure to have food poisoning the next day. He opted not to throw up because we were already running late. I went into the bathroom and stuck my finger down my throat. The sweet relief of vomit was bliss compared to donkey burgers and belly washers. The next day, he was sitting on the toilet and holding the garbage can in his hand spewing out both ends.

1. My number one puke of all time is unique. I've never heard of anybody experiencing the same thing for as long as I've recounted this story. When I was about ten, I was really thirsty. I drank a tall glass of water, but when I was done, I was still thirsty. I drank another tall glass of water but I was still thirsty. I must have drank ten glasses before I was feeling water logged and sick to my stomach. I resolved to lay down on the couch and maybe I would feel better. I started to get fidgety and began flexing my stomach muscles to see my stomach bounce up and down to pass the time. I hadn't eaten anything for a while as it was just before dinner time and my mom was preparing a meal in the kitchen. All the stomach bouncing made me a little uneasy. I went to the kitchen and poured myself another glass of water. Surely the thing which had caused this great stomach disturbance would be the cure to my ills. About halfway through my eleventh glass, my stomach said "NO MORE" and I puked ten and half glasses of water right into the sink with my mom standing over the stove right next to me. She wasn't too happy about my unsanitary antics as I contaminated some of the area in which she was preparing dinner. I'm not sure if she remembers it. It's the only time I've ever drank enough water to make me hurl. Who knew?

So there you have it. My top ten pukes of all time. As I was writing the last three, I remembered one that should make the honorable mention list. I thought of putting it in the list, but it just isn't strong enough to replace any in my top ten. The long and short of it is that on a road trip to visit my brother, who was working at the Grand Canyon, I had purchased a 44 oz cherry Pepsi at a gas station. I didn't even make it 45 miles, or to the bottom of the cup, when about 36 oz came right back up. We were on the freeway and there was no place for my mom to pull over, so it all just had to go into the cup. I was careful not to get any of it on the upholstery of my dad's new truck. He would have killed me.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Last Weekend

Several semesters ago I took a class called Creative Non-Fiction. The objective of the class was to write stories about my real life and make them interesting. Below is a story I wrote for one of my final submissions. It's called Last Weekend

Lighting is a funny thing. It’s an incredibly important element of movies and dating. Most of the time I approach dating as if things will eventually turn out like they do in the movies, but it never works that way. On this particular date, the shaded porch light blends with the flickering candle as the moon sitting low in the sky shines down through the palm fronds. The veranda is surrounded by palms and flowers which cast jagged shadows across my date Lacey’s face.
As she speaks I concentrate on not screwing things up like I had done in the past.

First there was Evelyn whom my parents liked very much. I’m not so sure I did though. From a physical perspective she was like most of the girls I tend to date. She had dark brown hair that stopped a little past her shoulders, light brown eyes that some would call honey, and a smile that could light a room. In personality she was everything I didn’t want: starving for attention, intent on having the events in her life play out in a methodical manner, and overly emotional about most things. Perhaps I only dated her to get my parents approval on my dating choices. She was from Chile and didn’t speak much English. My parents, both fluent in Spanish, love anybody who speaks Spanish. I thought she really liked me. After we broke up I found out that she really just had a particular affinity for any American boy. It was a bad fit from the start and my sister-in-law, Angelica tried to tell me as much. I should have listened.

Authentic Puerto Rican music fills the air and I listen to the harmony of the cuatro meld with the intricate rhythms of the guiro, maracas and panderetas. The music takes me to the familiar places I’ve never been in the Caribbean. The waiter dressed in a black guayabera and slacks brings my Malta. I allow Lacey to try the first sip. Her already small mouth puckers even smaller as the fizzy burnt malt soda passes her lips. As our appetizer of deep fried tostones arrives, I explain how they are made and what goes into the mojo dipping sauce.
A myriad of thoughts race nervously through my head in a matter of mere seconds. I remind myself of the detailed pages of preparation I have written in the past two weeks in my black moleskine bound journal. Five pages of rules have been set and I will not forsake them. I need to follow the rules exactly to save me from myself. My mind strays so that without warning I am caught up in the thought process that promulgated the journal rules of dating. I know I am a very good person, but I’m not a very good dater. All of my relationships that have made it past the first few dates have imploded like a lit match in a near empty gas can. I have always placed the blame elsewhere for all the disastrous experiences that have transformed my mind from the analytical machinery I have so frequently relied on to an emotional mush that inspires verses of really bad emo music. Six months after the fireworks I realize that a great deal of what goes wrong is controllable and I accept much of the blame for allowing all the heartache.

Carla is someone for whom I tried way too hard. I even almost went out and bought an internal frame hiking and camping backpack because she loved to go backpacking. I hate camping. But there are always good reasons for doing what you hate. When I met Carla I was certain that she was the girl of my dreams. I just needed to convince her of that fact. We connected on every level, but for some reason I got the idea that she just wasn’t into me. One weekend I had decided to visit my family in Utah and get Carla out of my head. When I coincidentally bumped into her, I decided that I was supposed to continue to pursue the relationship. Why else did I run into the girl I had been trying to avoid over 600 miles away from home? It was like something that only happened in the movies. It had to be fate. She came around eventually and after four months of our casual dating really started to reciprocate my affection.

She brought up the idea of marriage one Friday afternoon. We both agreed that it was something that we should prayerfully pursue after a few more months. She then told me that a few more months to her meant going to China for six months to teach English. The following Sunday, she came over to my house for dinner. I was excited to show off my cooking skills and was very careful to include menu items without meat to accommodate her vegetarian diet. Vegetable kabobs, twice baked potatoes, tossed salad and ├ęclairs rounded out the menu in the hopes that my culinary skills would be sufficient to convince her to stay. She was acting strangely the whole night and after dinner she dropped the bomb on me that she didn’t want to see me again before she left to China. She left abruptly without much more explanation. Five minutes after her departure, she called. I was too devastated to answer, but when I got the courage to check my voicemail, the news was even worse. All I remember from her long drawn out message was the conclusion, “I never want to see you again.” I should have never believed in fate. The only fate is the one we make for ourselves and I set myself up for a broken heart.

It seems to me that maybe, It pretty much always means no So don't tell me you might just let it go.

These words from Jack Johnson’s “Flake” embodied all the build up and let down that went along with my relationship with Carla.

At the thought of Carla I remember the most important rule under the subsection of emotional stability: “Forget everything you know about Carla and the flakiness that embodied that relationship. Not all girls are flakes.” This rule is there to help me have a short term memory about the things that have gone bad and the remembrance of this rule is a life preserver as I drown in the tempestuous crashing waves of my own negativity. I grab hold of it and begin to remember all the rest of the rules that will bring me to the shores of normality and spare me and Lacey from what I have come to know as the perfect storm. The date conduct subsection pulls me closer to shore and I remember to maintain eye contact. I look up. I make sure our eyes meet and I flash her half a smile. She smiles back and my fears melt into complete insignificance.
I remember my rule to keep the conversation focused on her. 70% her to about 30% me is about right. Work is on the list of acceptable conversation topics, so I go for it.

“So I’ve been meaning to ask you, when you cut my hair at the salon and I pay you, what do you do with the money?”
“I bank it,” she replies.
“And then what, do you have to pay some sort of rent to the owner of the place?”
“Yep, that’s how it works.”
Why did I gamble on this one? I think to myself. If this doesn’t go well, I’m going to have to find a new place to get my hair cut. As if she can read my thoughts she says, “You know, your hairstylist is more important than your doctor.”
“How so?” I reply.
“Well for one, you don’t see your doctor every three to four weeks.”

At this response I realize just how right she is. This could either turn into finding a new place to get my hair cut or it could mean free haircuts down the road.

The night air is cool as we drive home on the side streets with the windows down. My iPod is playing on shuffle and although Lacey doesn’t know any of the artists in the play list I’ve put together, she hums along to the music. As the sounds of The Polyphonic Spree’s “Reach for the Sun” come to an abrupt end, Rascal Flatts’ barely audible intro to “Take Me There” begins to play. I get a shot of adrenaline in anticipation to her reaction and she nearly jumps out of her seat.
“I love this song. Did you know Rascal Flatts is my favorite band?” she asks,
“Yeah, you told me.”
“I have this song as my ringtone.”
“Well I downloaded this song on iTunes earlier today so that if you didn’t like Puerto Rican food and didn’t like me, at least you could listen to a song that you liked.”
She laughs at this idiosyncratic tendency of mine to try too hard sometimes.
We stop at the grocery store on the way home because I realize that although I’ve come up with the best post dinner date activity ever of carving pumpkins for Halloween, I don’t have any suitable carving knives or pumpkins at my house. My thoughtful preparation is almost always accompanied by a mild touch of absentmindedness.

Kathy was a pretty good example of this thoughtful but absentminded approach. I broke one of my cardinal rules of dating that has been in existence since long before the five pages of rules in my moleskine. I wrote and played her a song on our first date. The problem with writing songs for girls is that they fall in love with the music, not the musician.

Such was the case with Kathy and although I thought nothing could be better than dating a girl who looked like a 19 year old cross between Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock, I realized otherwise when I went to pick up my girlfriend at the airport. I was certainly confused when I saw the stranger with salt and pepper black hair and a dozen roses propose to her in front of everybody. It reminded me of something out of a really bad movie. I ran to my car and remembered the demonstration at the Saturn dealership for the dent resistant panels on the doors. If the salesman could kick the door without it denting, so could I. I kicked until enough of the anger had subsided. On the way home I began to second guess myself. If I had never written her that song, then perhaps things wouldn’t have made it past the first date. That would have been preferable.

Enough about Kathy, I need to focus on the task at hand. As we stand in the checkout line with pumpkins in hand, the lady in front of us in line jokingly asks, “Are you going to carve them or throw them?”
“A little bit of both, actually.” I reply.
This draws laughs from the woman asking the question, the cashier and most importantly, Lacey.

I remember the rule under date etiquette that states, “Go to her door to pick her up, open her door, drop her off at her door and follow general door rules.” I know it’s sad that this is included in my rules, but I’ve been guilty of not following these rules once or twice when I was much younger, and I’ve decided that if things work out, I could expand on my rules and write a book to rival the consultative skills of Will Smith in that movie Hitch. I open her door to let her in the car and go around to my door. Like a good date, she has unlocked my door from the inside.
As I open the door and begin to step inside, a man approaches from across the parking lot. “Hi, can I talk to you?” he asks. He is mid height with a broad flat nose and a gap toothed smile. He doesn’t seem to pose too much of a threat, so I decide that I can take a few moments.
“Sure, what’s up?”
“My name is Brian,” he says with an outstretched hand.
“How ya doing Brian? I’m Spencer.” I shake his hand because despite my mild touch of germophobia, I’m more interested in being human than avoiding germs. Besides, I can wash my hands later.
“Well, I’m in a bad way. You see I’m out here on the streets and life is hard. I just need something to eat.”
“Sure. I think Panda Express and Quiznos are closed for the night, but if you want to go inside the store, I’d be glad to buy you some groceries.”
“Well there’s a McDonald’s down the street.”
“Oh, you want to go to McDonald’s?” I repeat.
“Yeah, that sounds good.”
I reflect at how different it is to have a homeless person ask me for food instead of money. I’m never sure if they ask for money.
“Sure, get in and I’ll take you there.”

I get in my car and immediately I become uncomfortably aware of Lacey and Brian in the car at the same time. We drop him off at McDonald’s with cash in hand. He parts with a “God bless”, enters the restaurant, and we are on our way.

“It’s so refreshing to have a homeless person ask for food and not money, don’t you think?”
The purpose of my question isn’t so much to gain an agreement, but more of a means to gauge a reaction based on her response. At this I remember my rules about analyzing conversation. “Don’t analyze anything she says. You overanalyze everything. Just let things happen on the first date. She won’t even let you know that she likes you until four to six dates.” Her response includes something about her dad being a cop but she trusted me to do the right thing.
While I haven’t had to find a new hairstylist, I don’t get free haircuts either. I asked her out a second time and her response was just that she was busy. I guess I should have included a rule about not letting homeless people in the car on the date.

Friday, August 22, 2008

White Diamonds

I have recently concluded that there are far too many people who have been dropped on their heads as kids. It would appear to most neurosurgeons that many of these horrible incidents have ended up with little to no permanent damage. Most of society would agree with the experts, but I have to argue against the point with my limited knowledge of brain functions. My premise for arguing in a situation where I have no business arguing hinges upon the crux that is the perfume called White Diamonds by Liz Taylor.

Twelve cranial nerves lie within the brain and are responsible for pretty much all of the functions of sensory perception. I learned them in an anatomy bio 101 class and although it’s been a few years since I learned them, and I have not in any way pursued an education or career in the medical field, I remember all of the cranial nerves and can even remember the functions of some of these nerves. They are as follows: olfactory, optic, oculomotor, trochlear, trigeminal, abducens, facial, vestibulocochlear, glossopharyngeal, vagus, accessory, and hypoglossal. For the purposes of this argument, I would like to focus on the olfactory nerve.

Med students, bio students, and Latin students will all recognize olfactory relates specifically to the sense of smell. This brings me back to the crux of the argument. White Diamonds is perhaps the most overpowering and nasty perfume on the face of the planet, yet somebody feels the need to continue making it. Econ majors, go ahead and throw your supply and demand argument my way. It will only serve to support what I’m saying here. I seriously wonder how this stuff is made. I imagine some factory worker in China is forced to mix large vats of the chemicals that make up this rancid smell without the benefit of a respirator or even a well ventilated warehouse because nobody without brain damage would take that job in the United States. Of course, there are those who have severe damage to the olfactory nerve and the surgeon may have missed it. As for the corporate execs that control releases for the market, they must have olfactory nerve damage too. I would hope that even the most scrupulously bankrupt executive who is most happy selling out would have the slightest moral fortitude to keep that scent out of my nose, but because I smell it from time to time, I must conclude of necessity that these executives have cranial nerve damage too.

In terms of demand for the product, well there has to be somebody wearing the perfume otherwise it would cease production right? The sad truth remains that there are women out there wearing White Diamonds and I smell it all the time. Most of the time my lunch ends up on the floor shortly after the incredibly overbearing smell passes my septum and tickles the cilia in my nostrils followed by an overwhelming migraine that lasts the remainder of the week. Perhaps the worst effect is that the olfactory nerve is also partially responsible for taste so those of us who lack the experience of being dropped on our heads as kids also get to taste it if caught off guard by an infringing wearer of this, the nastiest of perfumes ever made.

Now I’m sure that not all of those who have had their cranial nerves severely disabled because of head trauma wear White Diamonds. Indeed, there are those who may have undetectable head trauma that don’t like Liz Taylor. These are the sensible ones. After all, who in their right mind would want to emulate Liz Taylor? It would be in the best interest of this argument to explore the personality types of those who do like Liz Taylor. The first Taylor attribute that I would like to discuss is the hair. I’m referring specifically to the spiky and/or poofed look. Liz donned both of these styles at some point in what some people mistakenly refer to as a career. Some women jumped on that bandwagon and when the ride stopped, just didn’t see it as a necessity to get down.

A second Taylor attribute that needs mentioning is the wardrobe. A good black pant suit that is “slimming” is typical of the Taylorite. It’s almost a sure sign of White Diamonds ahead, so when you see the black pant suit coming your way, be prepared to hold your breath.

The third Taylor attribute I would like to discuss is the smoking factor. This is perhaps the most grievous offender of the White Diamonds infringement on clean air acts everywhere because the offender is a double offender. First, they dirty up the air with the cigarette smoke (usually done outside), then they pile on the gallons of the nastiest expensive perfume ever created, which pollutes the air indoors. Taylor glamorized smoking and is partially responsible for giving this killer a desirable look. Now she is lending her awful name to the perfume that can be detected from three city blocks away. For shame.

Places that one is most likely to run into the White Diamonds wearer include but are not limited to: any workplace in America that employees 40-50 something women who smoke, any “beauty parlor” that will give a woman a makeover so that she looks like Phyllis from my favorite T.V. show The Office, any scrapbooking party where the mean age is anything over 42 and outside any Williams Sonoma store. The last of these infractions is perhaps the worst because Williams Sonoma usually smells wonderfully of whatever the employees happen to be cooking at the time.
I only say that perhaps this is the worst infraction because the definite worst infraction is an uncommon one. The last place I ever thought I would run into a Taylorite with damage to her olfactory nerve is at Fenway Park. Those who know me well know I am a huge Red Sox fan. When the opportunity to go to a Sox game in Fenway with my brother Colton (also a huge Red Sox fan) presented itself, I jumped at the chance of a lifetime. We had a great time seeing Ted Williams seat, Pesky Pole, the Big Green Monster and all of America’s most beloved ball park. We sat in the front row of the grandstands along the first base line. For those who have not had the opportunity to watch the World Champion Red Sox in Fenway, the grandstand seating begins about 20 rows up. About three innings into watching Clay Bucholz getting shelled and John Lackey dominating my Sox, a Taylorite comes and sits down in row 19 right in front of me and Colton.

Here’s the wrap Taylorites. A baseball game is no place for perfume. There are enough smells to cover up whatever you’re trying to hide. The smell of hot dogs, beer, popcorn, peanuts, fresh grass on the field, and the fact that the venue is outdoors are all great reasons to not wear perfume.

As for you neurosurgeons, every time a head trauma comes into the apt hands of your care, please do the rest of us a favor and check the olfactory nerve three times. With any luck, White Diamonds will be extinct sometime before Liz Taylor.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Today is Different

A sea of vehicles baking in the sun of the East Economy overflow lot awaits me as I approach the exit for long term parking at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport. Sometimes I am lucky and find a parking spot that isn’t too far from the exit or the bus stop, but today is different. The pungent smell of sewage from the nearby airport septic dump permeates through the air conditioning vents in my car and today it is particularly fierce. I park in a corner of the farthest spot from the exit and not particularly close to the terminal either. I go through the final checklist: wallet, iPod, cell phone, keys, photo id, boarding pass, backpack, and suitcase. That is everything, yet somewhere in my scrambled eggs for brains, I know that I’ve forgotten something. I always forget something.
I’ve waited too long to grab my gear out of the car and the shuttle bus is fast approaching. I’ve missed the bus before and had to wait for the next one. Waiting for the next bus on a July morning near the septic tank isn’t exactly how I imagined the start of my trip. Then again, things never seem to go the way I plan them. The bus makes a brief stop at the appropriate station to open the doors long enough to close them. I run toward the bus with suitcase in tow. From time to time, I declare certain things to be the best (insert item here) ever. Today, suitcases with wheels are the best invention ever. The bus driver is kind enough to stop again even though there is no official loading dock. Because the airport is an institution of bureaucracy, this move is highly unorthodox at least and against some sort of employee policy at worst. This driver’s healthy disregard for the rules is something I can appreciate.
“Thank you so much.” I say with a giant smile on my face. The thought of waiting for the next stop like a stranded hiker in the desert is almost more than I can bear.
“No problem,” the driver responds, equally cheerful.
The bus approaches the terminal and its passengers who have ridden in total silence unload. I’m not quite sure I understand the long term parking shuttle ride. Everybody looks so somber like they’re going to a funeral or something. Granted, some of them may be going to a funeral, but the majority of them are going on a trip for business or vacation. Business and vacations are two great reasons to smile. One makes money and the other is meant for complete recreation. Even family members who are obviously on the bus together act like those sitting next to them are total strangers.
I’m quick to grab my bag because if I don’t get off the bus quickly, I’ll be stuck behind the mother with three kids trying to get the luggage for all four of them off the luggage rack and convince the kids that they each need to carry their own bag. As soon as I get off the bus and head for the airport doors, I am almost mobbed by five Asian women running toward the bus each with their respective luggage. They form a line and each of them create a direct path toward me with their eyes fixed on the bus as if they let it out of sight, it will be gone. Each one is a narrow miss and I feel like I’m being dive bombed by a bird protecting her nesting eggs.
The check in line doesn’t look too long and I make for the entrance. The end of the line winds around to favors the door that I just entered. But the entrance to the line requires I walk an extra 100 yards only to double back and snake my way through the ropes. As I approach the line entrance, I see a man dressed in a black Hawaiian print shirt, khaki Bermuda shorts three inches above his knee, white cross trainers and white socks that come mid way up his calf. His hair is neatly parted and more salt than pepper. His moustache is well groomed and thick. He continues to stand at the entrance of the check in line yet fails to grasp the concept that he needs to move through the line if he ever wants to check his bags. His wife stands behind him with a stroller containing a toddler. Her appearance is quite the opposite of his: baggy sweatpants, a loose fitting t-shirt, no makeup, unkempt hair and an expression of fatigue on her face. She also fails to move through the line and the two of them are looking around like deer in the headlights. I notice a small opening between the man in the Bermuda shorts and quicken my stride. If they can’t figure it out in ten seconds, I’ll be in line in front of them.
It’s not that I particularly care if I’m in front of someone else in line, it’s just that their continuing display of incompetence leads me to make the judgment that when it’s their turn to check in, they might be oblivious to that whole aspect of travel and I might check my bags late. I’m usually running late and since most of my flights are to my parent’s house in Salt Lake City, I don’t mind all that much if my bags are late. This trip won’t afford such luxuries as I am flying to Manchester New Hampshire, an airport about 50 miles outside Boston, and driving the rest of the way.
The mismatched couple appear to be moving with all the speed of a three toed sloth into the snake-rope line. I’m not fortunate enough to have made it into the entrance of the line before they block me out and so I’m stuck behind them. As I make my way ever so slowly through the line, I notice that Bermuda shorts guy has a rather large arching nose and from a profile view looks like Hitler if he were in hiding today. I laugh at the prospect of being stuck behind a clueless Hitler in line at the airport and decide that my misfortune turned comical situation is too good to keep to myself. I send a quick text to my friend Adam to let him know I’m behind a dude who could win a Hitler look-alike contest. As soon as my phone is out, I remember I have to call my girlfriend Adrienne before I take off. She’s going to be camping while I’m in Boston and out of cell range.
Security lines at the airport are by far my least favorite line in this life. They are usually long and for some reason everybody in them feels the need to stand uncomfortably close (See “Personal Space”). All that has made me slightly annoyed to this point disappears so far out of my mind as I see the Holy Grail of airport experiences, an empty security line. Before today, I never knew that TWA agents at security were even human. Today the security agents deviate from their cyborg like state. They are smiling at the travelers and joking with one another. For most passengers this is so out of the ordinary that they revert to what feels comfortable by refusing to make too much eye contact and shuffling through the metal detector. I’m quite adept at picking which security line will get me through the fastest. I try to avoid being behind old people or people with young children for the very same reason. They usually have too much stuff and are slow removing items from their pockets. They almost never get through the metal detector the first time and as slow as they are removing belts and shoes, they are more painfully slow at putting them back on. My eyes are usually quick to scan the different detectors and find the line with the best chance of getting me through quickly. Today is different because there are no people in front of me. I can choose whichever line I want and they will be equally fast. I choose the one with the most friendly looking security agents.
“Is there a laptop in that backpack?” asks the woman running the gate.
“Yes ma’am there is.” I respond, then add, “That’s why I have two trays.”
“Good work.”
She’s a black woman with cornrows perhaps in her mid twenties to mid thirties. The TWA uniform does little to hide her impressive figure. Her smile is infectious and she has a beautifully radiant countenance about her. One of the men running the x-ray machine mumbles something in Spanish to his partner.
“Hey, don’t speak that language,” the woman kids. “I don’t like it when I can’t understand.”
The two men have another exchange in Spanish to which the woman responds with more feigned frustration.
“I’ve been to this airport several times and run into people who don’t speak English several times and the only language they speak is Spanish, but there was never an employee around to help them out.” I say as I remove my shoes and belt.
“I’m the only guy here who speaks Spanish,” the agent working the machine kids.
“Oh well that explains it. I guess you can’t be at work all the time.”
“He’s from Cuba, and I’m from Mexico,” he offers.
“Well then I guess you are the only one who speaks Spanish because he speaks Cuban.” I jokingly respond.
They both laugh at my joke because they know that each would claim that the other speaks a defunct dialect of Spanish that’s a result of their country of origin and I beat them to the punch.
Each one of the agents wishes me a good flight and I thank them followed by an obligatory, habitual “you too.” At this, I feel like a complete idiot and I remember a joke by comedian Brian Regan. I’m the one who’s flying somewhere not those three. Why would I say “you too” if they aren’t going anywhere?
I go to the terminal bookstore to purchase a bottle of water. It’s a seven hour flight and they only bring small drinks so I have to fill up. Due to an attempt at decreasing airline costs, there probably won’t be a meal included either, so I have to get something to eat too. I wish I had thought of this at Walgreen’s because otherwise I wouldn’t have been jammed ten bucks for a pack of beef jerky to go with my water. I find a place to sit down near the kids section because the T.V. in the kids section is playing Scooby Doo and the adult channel is on CNN. I munch on my meager yet expensive breakfast as I watch Scooby, Shaggy and the gang uncover the identities of the ice cream men ghosts.
I look around and try to guess who will be on my plane. With layovers in Chicago and Philadelphia, it’s easy to spot some passengers wearing Cubs, White Sox, Philly’s and Red Sox gear, but others are less noticeable. A man with a beer gut and a D-backs t-shirt wanders around aimlessly. His L.A. gear shoes have the tongue sticking out of his shoes and the pant leg of his stonewash denim jeans is carefully and partially tucked into his shoes. His ginger hair is pulled back enough to fit through the adjusting hole in his Chase Bank ball cap. His hair reaches the middle of his back and forms a noticeable rat’s nest somewhere around his shoulder blades.
The airline agent calls for boarding and we line up. I’m standing behind two girls in their twenties who may or may not be students at the same university as me. I phase in and out of their conversation and so the exact details of what they say are more or less a blur. They are discussing how they miss living in Baltimore because the flight back to Manchester NH was much shorter than Phoenix. Behind me is a girl with a black animae t-shirt and a lip piercing. As we begin to board, the ginger haired dude who is stuck in the 80’s butt rock era rises from his seat and cuts in line in front of me. He can’t figure out where to sit on the plane as we board and turns around to move his way back to the front of the aircraft.
I eagerly search out a seat behind a kid. The seat selection process requires more skill than the security line process. Sitting behind adults is hit and miss because it’s just too hard to determine who is going to be a normal passenger and who is going to lean their seat back and jam up my knees. The secret is to try to sit behind a kid who is old enough to behave on an airplane but young enough who won't lean his or her seat back. Another important factor in the seat selection process is to avoid sitting by bigger people. This is especially true of guys because they will take up all the arm room and I rather enjoy my personal space.
I sit behind a kid who’s about two. It’s a gamble that usually doesn’t pay out, but today is different. The kid is extremely well behaved, much too young to want to put his seat back and I suspect this is his first time on an airplane. The girl with the lip piercing and the animae t-shirt sits next to me and pulls out a book. It’s one of the Stephanie Meyer Twilight series. I don’t care to take note of which one, but it makes me think of Adrienne. She recently picked up the hobby of reading and the Twilight series is good for a beginning, adult reader. I resolve to call her at the first stop in Chicago.
The time passed between passengers on a flight can go a number of ways. The most common passenger type is what I like to call the pretender. This type is so named because they pretend nobody is sitting next to them. They sit on the flight and the only chance of acknowledgment that I’ll ever have is when the drinks comes around and the pretender needs to pass the ¼ can of coke to me. The pretender will go on sipping tomato juice and pretending that I don’t exist.
Quite the opposite of the pretender is the best friend. I’m all for being friendly, but there are some people who are so intent on talking to me during the flight only they don’t have anything extremely interesting to talk about. Most of the time they are nervous and awkward in conversation but it’s all well intentioned so I would feel like the biggest jerk in the world if I don’t talk to the best friend. Perhaps the most influential factor in my willingness to indulge the best friend is the fact that in assessing my own actions in the past have me pinned as the best friend. If I had to choose between the best friend and the pretender, I would choose the best friend six days out of the week.
Another hybrid character is the isolationist Pod. This is usually a student, mostly college age on down to the junior high student. The isolationist Pod is different than a pretender. The pretender has nothing else to keep them occupied. At least the isolationist Pod has a guise of something that keeps him or her busy.
Those are pretty much the three types of people on the plane. There’s the rare find of a conversationalist who doesn’t make awkward or unimportant conversation, but sitting next to one of those people is extremely rare. I like to think of myself as one who could make meaningful conversation with just about anybody because I think everybody is interesting, but most other people don’t know that I’m not some weird psychopathic killer so when I attempt to initiate a conversation, they come off as distant, giving monosyllabic responses. As a result, I prefer to be the isolationist Pod as it’s the easiest. I don’t have to feel like I’m making awkward conversation, I don’t have to worry about being cold and distant. I just have to look busy. Besides, I’m in college. Anything else would be breaking the mold.
The plane lands in Chicago and, except for the call to Adrienne, the stop remains more or less uneventful. I also have the opportunity to change seats. I move swiftly to the front so that I can stretch the long legs which take up the majority of my 6’0” frame. As I sit and passengers board, I’m careful to keep my head down so that I don’t make eye contact with any passengers. What passes for a carryon bag these days is ridiculous. It seems that many airline passengers will more or less ignore the helpful little bins near the check-in line that dictate the dimensions of a carryon bag. For the most part these passengers are fairly oblivious to the law of physics that state two objects of matter cannot occupy the same space at the same time for these people with the oversized carryon bags are the ones jamming up all other passengers already stowed and reasonably sized luggage that fits comfortably in the overhead space. I usually keep my bag under the seat in front of me, but as there is no seat in front of me, I must put it in the overhead bin for takeoff.
I notice a close to retirement aged couple with next to zero carryon baggage. She has a purse that is neither designer, nor a designer knockoff, but is a designer inspired concoction. It’s a white leather purse with brown leather trim and two light brown handles instead of a shoulder strap. It has various colored logo designs in a pattern all over the white patent leather. As I see them, I immediately make eye contact as if to imply that the two seats next to me are quite empty. Success. There are three positives in selecting this couple for my travel companions. The first is the lack of carryon baggage. The second is that since they are together, the conversation will be mostly amongst one another so I don’t feel too bad about adhering to my anti social isolationist Pod tendencies. The third is perhaps the most important. The man sits at the window seat and the woman sits in the middle. While the years have been kind to him and he has a bit heavier, she has managed to maintain a petite physique. In fact, her legs when stretched out completely barely manage to touch the wall in the front of the plane.
The remaining leg of the flight is by far the most enjoyable. Not many new passengers come aboard, but the majority of those on board exit the plane at Philadelphia. As a result, there are only about two passengers per row. Next to me is a girl who is a photo major and a junior at a fine arts school in Chicago. She’s originally from New Hampshire and is going home for a few weeks to get away from photography. She has beautiful green eyes that contrast her mocha skin and dark hair pulled back in a pony tail. She’s dressed like a typical college student in the summer wearing a t-shirt, shorts, and flip flops. In the row next to me is a couple from New York who had enough of living in the East and moved to Arizona. They still have family in Maine though, so they are off to see the grandkids.
The grandparents make small talk with the flight attendant as we sit for fifty minutes on the tarmac waiting to take off in Philadelphia. She is talking about how she became a flight attendant and the toll it has taken on her over the last three years.
“I’m just tired of the whole commuting all over the country thing. My boyfriend lives in Chicago, so I relocated there because we have a hub, but I just want to go back to Orange County,” she tells them.
“When are you going to get married and become a stay at home wife?” they ask.
“Well, we’ve been talking about getting married, and he has a good job prospect in Los Angeles, so it’s looking pretty good.” Then she adds, “But until then, I’m trying to get him to buy in to the idea that I can be a stay at home girlfriend.”
At this, I roll my eyes and chuckle slightly unaware that immediately after she said this, she shifted her attention to me, the single twenty-something who most closely matches the demographic of her boyfriend.
“What do you think about that?” she asks.
“I don’t think it’s going to work.” I reply. “You’ve got to be married for that sort of position.”
Since the actual flight portion of the gate to gate from Philadelphia to Manchester New Hampshire is only a half hour, there are no beverages and the flight attendant has an opportunity to relax after peanuts are served. She sits in the attendant seat and chats with me and with the New York couple. This is surprisingly refreshing as I break from my isolationist Pod tendencies and engage in the conversation. Even more refreshing, the conversation is very natural.
“So what about you, wouldn’t you support your girlfriend as a stay at home girlfriend?”
“No, but we’re close to getting married at which point she will be a stay at home wife and mom.”
“How did you meet?”
I recount the story of how Adrienne was married to a close friend of mine who passed away almost three years ago. At the time, she was six months pregnant and only 21 years old. I then proceed to tell about the reflection piece that I wrote and sent to her last year before Christmas and the snowball effect that had on developing a relationship. Like most women who ask about my story, she almost comes to tears when I talk about how much I love her and her son, Caden. I have inadvertently made a best friend out of the flight attendant.
“Have you proposed?”
“Not yet, but I plan to in a few weeks.”
“Have you bought a ring?”
“I have one picked out.”
“What’s it like?”
“It’s nearly .6 carats, princess cut, set in white gold, and has four small diamonds leading up to the main stone.”
“It sounds really beautiful.” Then she adds with faint air of wishful thinking in her voice, “I looked at rings earlier this week. I should take my boyfriend with me next time. Maybe he’ll get the hint.”
The photography major next to me taps me on the shoulder and I turn to see if she needs me to move my legs or something so I can get out.
“Check it out there’s some really cool lightning out this side of the plane.”
I look out the window to see the show and in my mind analyze the reasoning for this sudden interest in sharing with me. Up until this point in the flight, she was more or less the pretender. I come to the conclusion that she has heard my conversation and realizes that I’m not a guy who is trying to score a date with her and I’m not a complete psychopath, and it is this realization that has allowed her to approach me without much trepidation. It is only at this point in the trip that I realize she is a photography major, and since she is sharing something interesting with me, I decide to take an interest in her.
“So are you coming from Philadelphia?” I ask. I don’t know why I ask this question because I’m not one for much small talk. Talking about things like where somebody is from usually has little to do with what inspires and motivates people. Talking about these things is what I consider real conversation. But I have to start somewhere and even though it’s not exactly ideal, her response helps launch me into a real conversation.
“No, I’m from New Hampshire, but I live in Chicago.”
“What are you doing in Chicago?”
“I go to art school there.”
“Oh. What’s your major?”
This happens to be one of my amateur interests so I ask what kind of photography she practices most.
“I mostly do studio stuff, but I’ve done everything.”
“It would be cool to shoot this lightning.”
“I know. As soon as I saw it, I was like, ‘I wish I had my camera with me.’”
“Did you pack it in your carry on?”
“Oh so you checked it. That makes sense. I wouldn’t want somebody jamming up my equipment in the overhead bin.”
“Actually, I didn’t bring my camera. I just need a break and every time I go home everybody is like, ‘Hey, can you take our picture?’ and I just need to get away from shooting for a while.”
“Have you ever done street photography?”
“Yeah, but with all the art majors in Chicago, it’s impossible to get a shot that nobody else has ever taken. That’s why I stay in the studio.”
“What about landscapes and nature shots?”
“Well, that’s a little played out too because everybody wants to get out of the city and shoot all things natural, but to me all their stuff looks the same.”
I realize that she isn’t too interested in talking about any of her work except the studio stuff so I head in that direction.
“What have you done lately?”
“Well, I’ve really been experimenting with colors and dyes in water. I’m having a fun time making it all look like multi colored smoke.”
“Have you sold any of your work?”
“No. The school has a website that is copyrighted, so I have some stuff posted there, but I really don’t want to sell anything until I get it copyrighted for myself.”
“Makes sense.”
“Yeah, I just don’t like the idea of somebody having my work without my permission.”
The flight has finally landed and we have a few more exchanges about photography as we exit the plane. Without saying ‘goodbye’ or ‘nice to have met you’ or anything for that matter, she heads straight for the baggage claim and I head straight for the bathroom. I don’t pee in the airplane lavatory.
As an end note, the flight home was typical. I ended up sitting next to a few people who ignored me and didn’t even bother to tap me on the shoulder when drinks came around for the first leg of the flight. On the second leg, I sat next to a dude who insisted on touching his arm to mine on the arm rest because he filled the seat, and when a guy across the aisle started jamming his carry on against my bag with my laptop, I looked up at him and said, “Please be careful. I’ve got a laptop up there.”
“What was that?” he responded.
“My lap top is in my bag, so please be careful.”
“I know. I have a lap top in my bag,” he responded with more shoving.
Somebody must have missed one too many physics classes in high school.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Cool Things About Being Single

So I've recently come to the realization that for five years now, people around me have been getting married. Ever since I returned from my mission in June of 2003, between numerous friends, a business partner, a roommate, a brother, most of my missionary companions and just about all other acquaintances thinkable there has been somebody in my sphere of influence who has been constantly engaged. Most recently my roommate and his girlfriend, Sean and Mary (they are mentioned in "The Seemingly Brainless on Valentine's Day") were married.

Returned LDS missionaries have a tendency of being married earlier in life than the rest of the world. One missionary companion has three kids and I trained him. From a cultural standpoint, I am constantly barraged with questions of when I am going to get on the marriage bus by people at church, extended family and friends. I know that they all want me to be happy and that's why they ask, so I don't mind too much when they ask. There are a lot of guys in my situation who dwell on the fact that they feel left behind the rest of the group.
I'm a pretty optimistic person. Sure, I'm a little sarcastic at times (see all previous posts) and for the most part, I would describe my sense of humor as somewhat self-deprecating, but I really am a glass half full kind of guy. Listed below are the reasons I love being single.
1) Freedom. I know it sounds callous to some, but being single means that I have the freedom to do whatever whenever. Being married means you've got to get at least one other person to buy in. For example, I recently moved due to the fact that Sean got married and Mary moved in. It didn't take me a week to realize that I had moved into a house that really isn't my style. I'm moving again on Saturday. Try doing that as a married adult. As another example, every once in a while, I get the urge to take off on a road trip somewhere. I pack my car with whatever and go. Sometimes I bring friends along and because they are single as well, the only thing anybody ever considers is whether or not they want to go.

2) Church. LDS singles wards have their drawbacks for sure. All these drawbacks can be summed up by the underlying principle that a singles ward creates the social pressure of going to church to hookup. I have a policy against dating girls in my ward, so that pretty much eliminates all the downsides of a singles ward and that leaves the positives. For instance, every ward in the church has activities outside of Sunday services that involve food, but only in a singles ward does the food part happen twice a month guaranteed. Munch and mingle, break the fast, linger longer and flirt and dessert are all names by which this activity is called, but all the names point to food. That just doesn't work in a family ward. Another huge benefit of a singles ward is that it is quiet in church. Before church and after church, it's as noisy if not noisier than a family ward, but during church, the reverent atmosphere in meetings really helps to maximize what I learn in church. Don't get me wrong. I love kids. My nephew and my niece rank in my top ten favorite people on Earth and they're pretty near the top at that. I even like kids to whom I'm not related. And though I would like nothing more than to be a dad myself, not having any kids around in church is like nothing else. Lastly on the subject of church, I will say that the lessons in Priesthood and Sunday School include much more class participation than I've experienced in a family ward. Since most young single adults are students, it seems that the members of the class are much more prone to be involved in the lesson because it comes naturally. Every time I visit my parents family ward, I feel so bad for that poor sap who is teaching upwards of 30-50 adults with at most five people contributing.

3) Appearance. Most people would think that being single means that you have to maintain your image and marriage is the time to let it all go. For the most part this is true, but once married, your spouse has certain expectations. My brothers and I all decided to grow moustaches once. It's stupid and strange and sophomoric, but it's also something brothers do. It didn't work out so great for my sister-in-law. The contest was over before any of our lip push brooms had the chance to flourish when he shaved at the request of his wife. Contrast that experience with a bunch of single guys in a similar contest and bam, it's like a Tom Seleck wannabe convention. While on hair indiscretions, I have to mention that in the last two years, I've shaved my head twice. This was something I did as a little kid when I didn't care too much about other people's perceptions of me. Junior high and high school brought an end to that sort of hairstyle, but as an adult, I don't necessarily need to be validated by others' opinions of me, so shaving the head is something I can do again. Shaving the head is one thing, but the events that preceded the head shaving included shaving male pattern baldness into my head, while keeping the moustache the first time around and a green mowhawk the second time. I'd like to see if any married LDS guy could get his wife to buy in to that sort of hairstyle.
So there you have it. Freedom, church and appearance are all great aspects of being single. Of course this whole post is just here to reassure anybody who reads the next post that I'm not some whinny little baby who is bitter about my continuing single status. Stay tuned for my list of grievances against the single life.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dress Codes

The wheels of my longboard whir along the asphalt with the occasional tinkling of the loose bolt holding my board together. As I approach the building, I slam my cupped hand holding my employee badge into the post with the badge reader. This serves both to help slow me down and to gain access to the building. This is a daily process and humorous to those who see it for the first time because it always seems that I’m going to barrel right through the glass window that is feet away from the post. But I never have, and today is no different. As for my board, that’s a different story. Up until today, my board has never so much as tapped the glass. My fingers come up empty as I grasp for my board. It continues and is stopped by a thud against the glass. To my exhilaration, the glass doesn’t even chip and I have avoided any possible negative consequences of a broken window.

“You’re fired,” jokes the security guard.
I take his ribbing in stride partly because we’re friends and partly because I’m running predictably late. As I reach the top of the stairs, my eyes scan the second floor for any associate directors, supervisors or the head honcho who has recently gone out of his way to make small talk with me. Seeing nobody in my direct path, I make a move for my desk careful to not let my feet make that enjoying smack against the leather of my flip flops.

This would blow my cover you see because I’m not supposed to be wearing flip flops. I hurry down the rows of neatly lined cubicles with my heels covered by the bottom of my pants. This unorthodox fashion statement is a silencer for the familiar flip flop patter. My desk is right next to the aisle on the way to the restrooms so in order to disguise my dress code violation, I promptly take my seat and neatly tuck my feet away under my desk.

Throughout the day I will need to discuss certain matters with my supervisor, Ben, but when he’s not around, I find the next available supervisor. Most of the time, the next available supervisor is a woman. It is in these circumstances that I find myself faced with a most interesting dichotomy. I approach the female supervisor careful to position myself far enough away from her desk so that the computer blocks my view of the cleavage spilling out of her top but close enough that I meet her eye to eye. This strategic positioning has the secondary benefit of keeping my feet from her view. By walking back to my desk, I’m exposing my indiscretion in footwear choice and I know that she may take me to task for my dress code violation.

Ben returns from his break and my previous encounter prompts an open discussion of the dress code.
“Flip flops aren’t nearly as bad as some of the other dress code violations that go on around here,” I say. I’m careful to be fairly vague about it at first to see if the reaction is that of agreement or a challenge to come up with a specific example. The response is fairly neutral and that’s why I like Ben. Unlike most of management, he doesn’t necessarily see the point in mediating these insignificant issues. Other supervisors would jump at the opportunity to “resolve the concern” by applying a company model that is systematic and almost never genuine. I mention a conversation I had with another supervisor once that went something like this:
“I don’t see why I can’t wear a nice leather flip flop. Women wear flip flops with a raised heel and pass it off as a dress shoe and nobody cares.”
“Well it’s because flip flops aren’t safe.”
“They’re safer than a two inch heel. I can ride a skateboard in flip flops. I’d like to see a woman who can do that in heels.”
“Well they’re unsanitary.”
“How so?”
“You don’t wear socks with them.”
“Do you wear socks with a heel?”
“Well they’re not professional.”
“That’s totally subjective because it’s based in opinion. I disagree, but I can respect your opinion.”

Now there is a difference between subjective statements and objective statements when it comes to determining what is professional. Subjective statements are based in perception whereas objective statements about professionalism have substance behind them. The substance behind extreme cleavage in the workplace is contained in the phrase “hostile work environment.” I borrow this phrase from the landmark Supreme Court case which has given us the most current legal definition of sexual harassment, Vinson v. Meritor Savings Bank. Although many guys don’t consider showing skin a major contribution to a hostile work environment, I would argue that it is using two basic premises to support my argument.

The first is that professionally dressed women can be intimidated by their peers who seem to attract more attention due to real or perceived quid pro quo preferential treatment from male coworkers in positions of authority. To demonstrate the second way in which the cleavage factor creates a hostile work environment, I cite an episode of the popular American sitcom Seinfield. In one particular episode, George Costanza is caught checking out the cleavage of his boss’s daughter when she bends over to pick something off the floor. The boss’s daughter is significantly younger than George and naturally he is labeled as a pervert. In his defense, George makes the claim that he did nothing out of the ordinary. He draws the comparison of men looking at cleavage to looking at the sun during a solar eclipse. Even though you know you’re not supposed to look directly at the source, it’s almost inevitable that it’s going to happen.

Married men, single men who aren’t trying to get a peek, single men who are trying to get a peek and even gay men (probably) look at the blatant display of boob when it’s just out there for everybody to see. This creates a hostile work environment for the married men trying to stay faithful to their wives in both thought and action. It creates a hostile work environment for honorable men who are trying to keep their thoughts focused on the task at hand and off the objectifying of women in today’s society. For those men who don’t fit into the honorable category, married or single, they would be more likely to be the cause of the hostile work environment. This is certainly encouraged by seeing cleavage around every corner.

A hostile work environment is the cause of every major sexual harassment suit in the country. But I can’t wear flip flops because the opinions of some are that flip flops are unprofessional.

This double standard of the dress code is what prompted my initial question directed toward Ben. To further clarify what violations I notice on a regular basis, I continue, “I see women here all the time that walk around with half their boobs popping out, but since they are wearing a dress, nobody talks to them about it.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty bad.”
So I’ll continue to go to work wearing my flip flops all the while fearing some 30-40 something divorcee will come up to me with her boobs hanging halfway out of her shirt and tell me that I’m dressed inappropriately.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Seemingly Brainless on Valentine's Day

"So what are you planning on doing for Valentine's Day?" I ask as I enter the house after work.

"She has to work all night that night so I'm off the hook." my roommate replies.

I go to the fridge as more a matter of habit than anything. I become hyper aware of the void in my stomach as I have only eaten a couple of bags of chips between work and school. It's ten at night and I've got to get something to eat. The void in the fridge matches the void in my stomach as is prone to happen all too often. Sometimes the motivation to go grocery shopping just isn't there on Saturday after I've completed a long week of work and school. I grab my half eaten pint of Ben and Jerry's and put it in the microwave for five seconds just to let it soften a little. It's not the most filling thing, but Cherry Garcia hitting the confines of my empty stomach has never felt so good. I glance around at the canary walls and plop down into the blue recliner to finish my ice cream.

"If she does get out of work early, she'll probably just come over and we'll end up making out," he adds.

If not for this statement, I would have thought he was doomed to suffer an excruciatingly awesome breakup come February the 14th. It is this statement that reminds me of the depth their relationship has displayed on the public scene. And what a public scene it has been. Public displays of affection, or PDA are one thing. The time I saw my boss holding hands and kissing her husband on the cheek at Some Burros was PDA. What I get to come home to on an almost nightly basis is beyond PDA.

It's three days later now and the big day for most men has come. I'm always hesitant to continue or make an attempt at establishing a relationship throughout the holidays because the expectations are too high. Of all the holiday expectations, Valentine's Day is the worst. Men are expected to invest an inordinate amount of time, effort, thought and money in spoiling a woman. Most of the time the hopes for the fruits of their efforts lies in getting lucky that night and that's no guarantee. What's worse is that these poor suckers aren't even in full control in ensuring that things go according to plan. Valentine's Day can be ruined by bad service at a restaurant, inclement weather, other guys trying to make things happen for themselves, or a bad case of the farts and/or sharts.

I read stories of mishaps containing all of the mentioned circumstances in the Boston Globe online. Work is slow on Valentine's Day so I sit at my desk and read online newspapers from other major market cities. Journalistic writing on the West coast just doesn't have the same quality as does East coast writing. Readers weigh in using the online form and describe their worst and best Valentine's Day experience.

I have one earbud unobtrusively hidden in my ear so that co-workers and managers don't notice and I listen to random albums on my iPod. I don't take it as a matter of coincidence that Flogging Molly somehow gets back to back albums played in the queue. The words of Dave King's subdued voice on "The Worst Day Since Yesterday" aptly describes the plight of some of the men calling me about their cell phone bills as their significant others nag in the background. "Well I know I miss more than hit, with a face that was launched to sink, and I seldom feel the bright relief. It's been the worst day since yesterday. If there's one thing I have said is that the dreams I once had now lay in bed. As the four winds blow my wits through the door, it's been the worst day since yesterday. " As much as this represents some sentiment on the most special day, Flogging Molly, in screaming angst, delivers again describing the situation of many others who feel slighted by unrequited love. "Then the ball dropped while everything fell by the way. As your tear drops were falling I forgot to say that I have always loved you."

Drivers pack the freeway and it's ten o'clock at night on a Thursday. Traffic is usually nowhere near this awful. As I pass other cars driving 60 mph where the limit is 65 and the standard is 75, I glance into their windows pelted with rain and confirm my suspicion. It seems that all these slow drivers are guys with a female passenger riding shotgun. These are the same guys who feel it necessary to battle via drag race to beat me to the merge on the onramp. Only tonight there is no over exaggerated show of testosterone. That needs to be saved for later. Logic would dictate that these dudes would be racing home in the hopes that end results are achieved according to plan. Apparently some have taken the more patient approach and are driving very carefully and slowly. They are on the home stretch and driving too fast might derail their plans for the remaining two hours of Valentine's Day.

As I arrive home, the roommate's girlfriend's car is parked in the street. On the counter is a gift bag containing a few items I don't care to notice and a frisbee. The card on the outside reads, "From Amber." The two of them are nowhere to be found but my roommate's truck is out front so I know they haven't gone anywhere. They must be in his room. I sit down at the computer to do my homework only to be bothered by an occasional bump against the wall coming from the other room. The lights are off as I type and listen to random tracks on iTunes. I turn the volume up so that everybody in the house can hear.

Despite my obvious hint at what is left to everybody as only guessing at impropriety going on in the other room (my roommates and I are all Mormons and believe in celibacy before marriage), the love birds seem to be unabashed as they walk out at quarter to midnight. The girlfriend has a curfew and it takes 15 minutes for her to get home.

Earlier that day I had an exchange with my other roommate's girlfriend, Mary. I like Mary. She's probably the nicest person who comes over on a regular basis. She came early in the morning to decorate Sean's room with candy and those awesome sugar cookies she makes with a hint of cream cheese in the frosting. Before she left, I mentioned the awkwardness of PDA and pointed out that quite a bit of it goes on during Valentine's Day. Although I tried to refrain from mentioning anybody in particular, and I was pretty sure she understood who specifically I meant, I decided not to leave any room for doubt and mentioned specifics. She laughed somewhat taken aback that I would come right out and say it and followed with, "I hope we're not like that. Are we like that?"

Of course Sean and Mary aren't like that. Otherwise, they would be the subject of this story. So I am left to wonder at the contrasting couples as I drift along through life alone knowing that this lonely status has the potential to change. And I evaluate how I would like my own potential relationships to be in the future. Sean and Mary have a strong basis of friendship that is the foundation, and this in sharp contrast to the other relationship which I can observe is mostly physical.

This post originally began just before Valentine's Day and it is now early March. Two weekends ago, several days after the big day, I asked my roommate where his girlfriend was. He replied that she was on a date with another guy then followed up with his disdain at this fact stating that he wished they were "exclusive". My thoughts are, if you have to ask or question the fact, you probably aren't and if you bring a girl home three or more nights out of the week and end up making out and that's not exclusive, what is?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Personal Space

So anybody reading this knows already that I'm a pretty passive aggressive person, and this note/blogging thing seems to be a good outlet for people like me to lay out gripes with just about anything. Today, I would like to discuss personal space; more specifically, mine. I understand the need to invade this space at some times. Giving somebody a congratulatory hug, spooning, talking to a hot girl at a party where the music is really loud, and tackling an opponent in football are all situations where it is appropriate to invade the personal space of another. Standing behind me in line at the grocery store is not.

This subject needs to be addressed because as I stood in line to check out at the grocery store recently, I was nearly assaulted by the woman standing behind me. If it wasn't 110 degrees outside, I would have sworn she was trying to huddle up with me to stave off hypothermia. Now if she had just inadvertently stood uncomfortably close by accident and didn't notice, I wouldn't have minded so much. But every time I inched away from her, she made up for the difference as if she half expected a passerby to notice the six inches of space between her body and mine and mistake it for an opening in the line. I even made the attempt to stand away from the check out station a few feet while making a face that obvioulsly said "I am uncomfortable and you are the reason why." I was careful to keep my foot in front of her so that she wouldn't mistake my body language screaming "Yo back the truck up beeyotch" for my leaving the line with my items still on the conveyor belt. Even when I reached the card reader to swipe my debit card, there she was, so close I could smell the sour cream and onion chips she had for lunch.

Now maybe I'm being too harsh. Perhaps she was raised by a pack of wolves and just never learned that whole aspect of American culture. Maybe she is seriously affected with a case of autophobia (look it up). Or perhaps she has lost her sight in one eye suffers from a complete lack of depth perception. So for those of you to whom these conditions may apply, here is a good rule of thumb when standing in line i.e. the security line at the airport, waiting to checkout, entrance to a sporting event or concert etc.: put your hand out and touch the person standing in front of you, measure the distance from your wrist to your shoulder, and that is the closest acceptable distance to stand behind someone. It may be awkward explaining why you "accidentally" brushed up against this stranger, but it will be a heck of a lot less awkward for them. Who knows, maybe this stranger turns out to be a long lost friend? Then it would be acceptable to stand close, but only if the music over the speaker at Albertson's is blaring the muzak so loud that you can't hear your own conversation.

On Blogs in General

In the age of the information super highway, everybody with a pulse is empowered to reach a limitless audience. That said, there are a few problems with blogs in general. There are actually probably more than a few, but for this first posts purpose, I'll include three problems that prevent blogs from attaining their purpose, that is to convince and educate others on a given position, which problems are as follows: blogs are relatively inaccessible to the majority of the internet community, those who seek out a blog by a specific person are relatively few and probably have the same ideology as the writer, and those who reach the blog are less likely to care about what is said given the circumstance that the blogger is your average person and not specifically schooled on finite rhetoric.

First of all, if you are reading this, there's a good chance that I sent you some sort of invitation to read my blog. Anybody who has not received an invitation from me specifically is either wasting time at work or has an unnatural fascination with reading about strangers. In this way, I am reaching next to nobody outside my sphere of influence. Now perhaps if one of those people in my sphere of influence is decided on something I have written, then I suppose that the Venn diagram effect is a possibility. By this statement I mean that if three people are convinced by what I write and are successful in convincing others within their sphere of influence, then they tell three friends, then they tell three friends, and so on etc, then my blog will be a success. However, as I will later point out, this circumstance is highly unlikely and borders on the verge of altogether impossible. Therefore, what I write here remains largely unknown to the world because most of the world has no idea who I am or where to find out what I think about things.

My second point is that most of the people with whom I associate are very much like me. For example, I am a white male age 25 and I've never lived outside of the Western U.S. I am a college student but I don't party because I am a very devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The people with whom I surround myself maintain similar moral standards. They have very similar ideas on most social issues because of the generally accepted Judeao Christian ethic standard that has been firmly established in America. Finally, of all the people I know, there are at most 20 who would be interested in what I write on a regular basis. Of those 20, eight of them are family members. The rest are close friends and have ideologies that are more aligned with mine on a nearly microscopic scale. Because this is the case, does what I write really change any thought process? The answer is a clear no.

Finally there is the subject of apathy. Unless my audience is extremely moved upon by a call to action, they will step away from their computers and say, "that's nice," but give no more thought to what they have read. I would need to posess the combined rhetorical skills of Oprah and Franklin D. Roosevelt in order to get people to buy in to what I say. On that note, does Oprah really have any rhetorical skills anymore? I don't think so. I think her show is a success because she gives away free stuff like cars. Anyway, my point is that without said skills, I would be completely ineffective in convincing others to take action.

So what does all this mean? What is my point? Why have you, the reader, continued to read what I'm saying? The answer to all of these questions is "I'm not sure." But the one thing that I can promise is that this is the last blog I post that is serious in nature. From here on out, everything I write will be observational and hopefully enjoyable to read. I hope you come back and visit often for a laugh or two.