Top Ten Unsung Heroes of Invention

We remember Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell and, of course, Eli Whitney (most of us still have no idea what the hell a cotton gin is, but we will always remember good ol’ Eli was the dude who made it).  But if you look around you, almost everything you see was invented by someone.  So why don’t we remember them?!  They made some really cool stuff!  So I’d like to take this opportunity to tip my cap to ten of the overlooked greats.

10. Conrad Gaiser

One of the things that really makes my skin crawl is peeling apart laundry that is stuck together by static electricity.  That snappy, rippy, feeling really skeeves me out.  And that is why I love my buddy, Conrad.  He got sick of watching his lovely wife, Audrey (okay, not sure what she looks like, but I’m guessing Conrad thought she was pretty foxy and that he’s the kind of guy who used the word “foxy”), run up and down four flights of stairs to add fabric softener to the laundry.  So Connie (Audrey and I call him Connie – you probably shouldn’t, he doesn’t know you that well) invented the dryer sheets. Besides taking care of all that static – let’s talk about the smell!  Who doesn’t love walking by a house that’s doing laundry and smelling the dryer exhaust coming out on a spring day?!!  I mean it’s the one time a person can do something like that – if they stop in front of your house and sniff your drying laundry when it’s hung up outside, it’s creepy.  If they do it when the exhaust is blowing that dryer sheet smell in the air, it’s totally understandable.

9. Henry J. Brownstein

Ladies, this one is kind of for guys only.  Boys, you may not know Henry, but you know his work.  You’d think with a name like “Brownstein” he’d stay as far away from bathroom notoriety as possible – but, oh no, not our Henry.  He perfected the modern day urinal cake!  Ladies, if you’re not familiar with this little doodad, it is a minty fresh smelling circle of solid disinfectant that sits in the bottom of men’s room urinals that A) helps to keep things sanitary and B) helps us pretend we are playing a fun little carnival game whenever we have to go wee wee.  Henry was not the man who invented the original – that genius is still shrouded in mystery – but he is the one who perfected today’s design.  I also have no idea who came up with the idea of adorning them with images of politicians, team logos, or even your own personal photographs, but they definitely get an honorable mention, too.  Got a urinal?  Interested?  Go to PeePeeFace.Com.

8.  Whitcomb L. Judson

First of all, let’s pause and give this guy kudos for having the best name on this list! Seriously epic name, dude!  Whitcomb L. Judson (because with a name like that, I feel obligated to use it in its entirety every time) has been all over everyone’s crotch because Whitcomb L. Judson is the inventor of the zipper.  Where would we be without Whitcomb L. Judson?  We would all be stuck wearing sweatpants and other elastic waistbanded trousers and knickers every day and, as a boy who did that a few times in middle school, I can tell you that leads to a few different awkward situations that I (and Whitcomb L. Judson) would prefer not to get into right now.  So thank you Whitcomb L. Judson for helping keep our clothes fastened securely.  Whitcomb L. Judson.

7. Julius Sämann

Julius saves us when we least know he’s there, but when his influence is ab-scent you wish you had his little invention with you. Whenever you bring chili dogs home for dinner or whenever one of your passengers had too many chili dogs before they got into your car, Mr. Sämann has your back…and your rearview mirror.  This magnificent mind of our time put a whole bunch of good smelling juju in an adorable little tree shaped piece of hangable cardboard!  So, next time the Marlboro Man asks you for a ride or Fido gets a little carsick on the way to the vet – thank your lucky stars that Julius created a whole forest full of nice stinking evergreens to combine these noxious odors with more pleasant olfactory experiences.

6. Forest P. Gill

While Julius Sämann helps take care of odors in your car from passengers’ behinds, Forest P. Gill helps to beautify the behind of your car!  Forest P. Gill (whose name is way too close to Forest Gump for me not to giggle) is the inventor of the bumper sticker.  As I have said before, I am not a big fan of driving – but I do love me a good bumper sticker.  Classics like “Unless you’re a hemorrhoid, get off my ass” and “My other ride is your mom” probably aren’t what Mr. Gump…er…Gill had in mind but I’m sure even he would be surprised how many people out there want us to believe that they’ve run a marathon or vacationed in the Outer Banks (you know you can just buy those bumper stickers without doing those things, right?) but I believe there would be a special place in his heart for a bumper adorned with “Life is like a box of chocolates…” (I usually like to finish that phrase with “it’s usually full of nuts”).

5. Peter Talbot

Anyone who is a fan of A Christmas Story or Home Improvement or pushing the limits of your home’s fusebox knows the greatness of Peter Talbot’s legacy.  The almighty power strip. When shortsighted contractors thought that you only needed to plug in eight electronic devices in your living room, Pete said, “No way, José!”  How Peter knew your contractor’s name was José, I have no idea, but I looked it up and he’s right – weird.  Mr. Talbot made it so each of your outlets can be turned into an INFINITE supply of power!  Plug a power strip into a power strip that’s already plugged into a power strip and there is no end for the amount of electronic goodness you can get flashing and humming…except an electrical fire…that does put a damper on things.

4.  Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, & Jawed Karim

We would never have been blessed with the majesty of the cat video, or the inspirational wisdom of the double rainbow guy, or the dulcet tones of the “Ain’t Nobody Got Time for Dat” autotune remix if it weren’t for Chad, Steve, and Jawed.  They sat down one day and said something brilliant (I have no idea how this came to pass, I’m sure it’s a safe bet one of them said something really smart at some point) and YouTube was born.  Sure, they’re to blame for “Fred,” Justin Bieber, and that weird guy under his sheets crying about Britney Spears – but they also introduced us to a man in a leather kilt with flame-throwing bagpipes and a large Pacific Islander being used as a one-man drum corp, so they’re all good in my book.

3.  No Clue

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I researched for longer than I’d like to admit and could find nothing about the origin of the French Fried Onions, but, come on, whoever is responsible for this is a national hero! Although, if they were to be a national hero, we would have to change the name to Freedom Fried Onions, wouldn’t we?

2.  Miles Gilbert “Tim” Horton

Okay, so the guy doesn’t make the top ten list for role models given the whole drunk driving, high-speed crash way he left this planet, but I cannot speak ill of the dead when they are responsible for one of the tastiest cups of coffee ever to grace God’s green earth! If you are not from Canada or the Northeastern United States, you may not be familiar with this NHL Hall of Famer turned coffee/doughnut connoisseur.  We who do live around these parts are pretty sure the coffee is laced with some sort of highly addictive narcotic that keeps us needing to visit one of the 4.7 billion franchises (I’ve counted) multiple times a day – but we won’t complain because it’s RIDICULOUSLY good.  We are also grateful that he had the nickname “Tim” so we wouldn’t have to ask people if they want to meet us at Miles Gilbert Hortons for a cup of coffee.

1.  Raffaele Esposito

Though, like Henry Brownstein, he is most likely not the inventor of the original – he is credited for making his version the most popular.  Back in 1889, Raffaele, a restaurant owner, wanted to impress Queen Margherita of Savoy who was visiting his hometown of Naples, Italy.  So he took his specialty flatbread and topped it with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil – and the pizza was born.  C’mon folks – what could top pizza?  Why don’t we scrap Columbus Day and give it to this guy?

***Got something you think should be on the list?  Let me know!!!***

“The digital camera is a great invention because it allows us to reminisce. Instantly.” ~ Demetri Martin

Shell Shocked

I hope you all had a happy, sugar-laced Easter.  Personally, I was in heaven.  You give this man some lamb and chocolate coated marshmallow eggs and he is a happy camper.  Yeah, I said lamb – I’m that guy – bring it on PETA!  And that goes double for you marshmallow rights activists!

However, my favorite part of the holiday has to be the Easter Egg Hunt!  It has taken a huge turn since I became an adult, though.  One of the things I looked forward to the most as a child when I thought about growing up was being one of the egg hiders!  The annual egg hunts were always a big deal to my family.  We always had one with all the cousins at my grandmother’s house and all of our parents stuffed and hid a hundred little plastic eggs all over the place.  And these people were ruthless!  There were eggs in people’s pockets, up inside ceiling tiles, buried in houseplant dirt, and even once inside the purse of someone who left before the hunt was over!  But, oh how their tunes have changed now that we are no longer the little ones.  This weekend my cousin and I were discussing egg hiding strategies and these HYPOCRITICAL FORMER EASTER EGG HUNT BARBARIANS tell us to be nice because “they’re just little kids.”  So were we…so…were…we…  Sure, we may have used the words “drywall saw,” “long stick and duct tape,” and “drive around and make them chase you” but I’m still standing beside the fact that those would have all been AWESOME hiding places.

My parents also always took me to an egg hunt that was sponsored by a local men’s club that the whole town could go to.  This one was a wee bit more chaotic.  It was like all of the nice old grandpas who were members of this club wanted to give the local children a memorable holiday event but also wanted to relive all the fun they had storming the beach at Normandy.  These guys got up before the crack of dawn with bushels of Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs and a couple handfuls of classic plastic eggs wrapped in special foil and spread these treasures over a couple treacherous acres of muddy, swampy woods.  When the hunt was set to begin, they lined up all the children – about a hundred or so – on one end of a field across from the woods and running along side of a rocky embankment down to a frigid creek (these were the 80s, kids, before we worried about things like insurance and lawsuits – we weren’t pansies like you). They had also strewn a couple candy eggs around the field just far enough away for kids to be able to reach their top running speed before reaching the target. There weren’t enough for all of the kids, or even a tenth of the kids- just enough to cause a few really epic melees!

Then a booming voice came over the bullhorn and signaled us all to abandon all sense of self-preservation and run like hell into the fray in the hopes of finding a special egg so that you could trade it in for a genuine hollow milk chocolate bunny EXCLUSIVE to winners of this hunt (and anyone who shopped at any of the local grocery, drug, or five-and-dime stores).  The bush league kids ran straight for the decoy Reese’s Eggs in the middle of the field – diving across the wet grass and clunking their heads together in the hopes of being the first to the ten cents worth of chocolate. Some of the loose canons did kamikaze dives down the rocks into the icy creek – these kids were the nutbags in your classes in school; the ones who would show up on the first day in a cast on some part of their body and stories about the screws the doctors had to put in them over the summer.  The pros made a beeline for the woods; we knew how this worked.  The prize eggs wouldn’t be out in the open and they wouldn’t be gained by the easily distracted kids just looking for their sugar fix.  Nor would they be in the really treacherous areas like a craggy drop-off into a hyperthermia inducing mini-river. They would be in a rotted out log or a knothole in a tree or possibly at the mouth of a woodchuck den in a pile of leaves.  Oh yes, it would take a true egg hunting Rambo to find these coveted trinkets.

You find a couple Reese’s Eggs here and there – in a mud puddle, on a rock, uncomfortably close to a small pile of what looks like but probably isn’t Milk Duds – and you quickly eat them to gain sustenance for the long, arduous task ahead.  It was always cold and rainy and windy on the day of the hunt. The woods were dark and silent save for a snap of a twig, a scurry of a small woodland creature, or a wheezy puff of some asthmatic kid’s inhaler. You rub some mud on your face to camouflage yourself from your competitors.  You wander deeper and deeper into the woods.  How long have you been out here?  Hours? Days?  You check your Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle digital watch and see that you’ve been at the mercy of nature’s harsh elements for almost twelve minutes…you are a true survivor.  You reach down and unwrap a Reese’s Egg – you take a small bite trying to ration it, you’ll need it to last.

Screw it.

You shove the whole thing into your face like the fat kid on Willy Wonka – modesty be damned, this is war and no force in Heaven or on Earth will deny you that peanut buttery goodness.

Finally, you see it – a glint of foil deep between the roots of an old evergreen.  You quickly check your surroundings making sure that there aren’t any egg hunt snipers waiting to see you make a move for the treasure just so they can swoop in and steal your bounty.  Your path is clear to the egg and you scouted a clear exit route back out of the woods.  You go for it – lunging at the coveted bauble (sure, you hit your head off the trunk of the tree- so what, small price to pay) and you turn and race out of the woods.  You race back across the open field past the concussed bodies of the candy fiends who have lost the Walmart version of the Hunger Games. You grab a neglected Reese’s Egg from the hand of an unconscious hunter and shove the whole thing, wrapper and all, into your mouth for a last burst of energy (and another step closer to giving yourself diabetes by noon) to make it across the footbridge. The bridge crosses the creek and you allow yourself a glance down to the creek bed where more unfortunate hunters are licking their wounds and congratulating each other on gnarly hang-times as they jumped off the rocks (you’re pretty sure you can see a bone sticking out of one of them). You make it back up to the pavilion and hold out your hand. A hush falls across the crowd. You are handed a boxed bunny. You nod your thanks to the head gamemaker and he nods his approval in return.

You tear open the box and pluck the little sugar eyes off the bunny’s smug face with your dirty, bloodied, frost bitten fingers and then bite off the ears to savor the sweet taste of victory…and diabetes.

“Sometimes I think that the one thing I love most about being an adult is the right to buy candy whenever and wherever I want.” ~ Ryan Gosling

The End?

VICTORY!!!  A post per day for every day of Lent!

When this all started, I was just doing it to see if I could.  It has been a dream of mine ever since I was a child to be a writer and I have written a number of different occasions – but always with some sort of purpose in mind.  I never just wrote for the sake of writing.  And the things I wrote, I didn’t really put out there on display – I mean, yeah, I wrote plays and I wanted people to come see the shows, but that was because I wanted them to see the shows, not to say “Hey, look at this, I wrote it!”  You know?

This was the first time I wrote for me and put it out there.  I honestly was scared to death the first time I published this site to my Facebook feed.  I have 952 Facebook friends (yeah, I know, be jealous) – and that is a whole lot of people to throw this out at.  But I knew that I would never keep up with my goal if I didn’t have some form of accountability.  I didn’t expect many people to read it and after my first morning, I logged in and saw 144 people had viewed it over night.

Then people started liking my posts, and commenting, and sharing it on their Facebook feeds encouraging other people to read it.  Then the most astonishing thing started happening – all of those things started happening again with people I have never met from all over the world.  Now when I check my site’s stats, I see this little map.

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I have friends in the U.K., Japan, and Canada – very supportive friends that I care deeply about.  However, I know nobody in India, Ireland, Mexico, or New Zealand.   And look at the U.S.?!!  By tomorrow I will have broken 2500 views!  When I see this, two thoughts come to mind:

#1 – What is wrong with you people?!  Have you already seen everything on Netflix?  Dear Lord, play a board game or something!

#2 – Thank you.  From the bottom of my sometimes cold, shriveled, walnut-sized heart, thank you.

Tonight’s post will be short because I have no real story to tell and because I have two little boys who are hoping the Easter Bunny visits overnight and, as you all know, the Easter Bunny won’t come unless we’re all in bed sleeping.

Which brings me to my final point…well, my final point of the night.

One of the best feelings I’ve gotten from this whole experience was when I started getting messages and comments asking me to not stop writing after Lent.  To know that there are people who look forward to reading my ramblings as much as I look forward to writing them is a feeling I’ve never experienced before.  And it’s awesome.  I’ve had 909 people visit this page (and if you do the math, that means 43 of my Facebook friends haven’t visited and it is my new goal to hunt down each and every one of you and post the Puppy Monkey Baby video on your page everyday until you atone for your sinful neglect).

So, I’ve decided to take this “project” a step further.  I met with my business adviser (yeah, I know, I have a business adviser, be jealous) and my tech support guru (and my wife of course) and the team of us have decided to see how far we can take this thing.  So, over the next week a few things are going to start happening:

  1. bobbingforpopcorn.wordpress.com will cease to exist because we have purchased our own domain and www.bobbingforpopcorn.com will rise like a phoenix from the ashes…which I would imagine would smell like when someone keeps popcorn in the microwave too long and charred bird feathers.
  2. Bobbing for Popcorn will no longer be popping (heh heh, see what I did there?) up on my personal Facebook feed – it will have it’s very own Facebook page.
  3. Bobbing for Popcorn is also going to try to embrace other online doohickies like Instagram and Twitter – so for all of you Grammers and Twits out there, we’re heading your way!

But this is where I need YOU!  The people who have made the past 46 days such an incredible experience.  You’re all part of this team, too and you have to come with us!  So please, stick with me, I’ll tell you where and when to subscribe and follow – I’m not leaving any of you behind!  You guys are awesome!

Stay tuned!

“We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don’t know.” ~  W. H. Auden

I Don’t Get It!

Okay, I’m feeling pretty dumb.

I had challenged myself to write 40 posts in 40 days to cover my Lenten obligation.  I wasn’t counting because I just assumed that the day before Easter (tomorrow) I would have 40 posts if I did this right.  But for some reason I looked at my post count and saw I was up to 49.  This struck me as strange because I had only written five posts before I started my challenge.  So that leaves me with four extra posts.

I double checked my calendar and found out there are 46 days in Lent, but Sundays don’t count.  DON’T COUNT?!!  How many of you knew that and didn’t tell me?!!  For years I could have had coffee on Sundays, or I could have sworn at stupid drivers!  I didn’t know you get six days off!  So I guess this was actually my 46 posts in 46 days challenge (I’m not going to wimp out now that I’m so close!) and I just didn’t know it.

But, that’s just one of a bunch of things I just don’t understand.  I could probably have done my whole blog on stuff that I can’t wrap my mind around.  I’m not selling my brain short, I wouldn’t say I’m an idiot (no, you don’t get a vote), but there are some things that no matter how hard I try I can’t seem to comprehend.

Sticking with the subject of Lent – what’s up with the meat vs. fish thing?  I can’t eat meat on Friday, but I can gorge myself on fish and shrimp and lobster and crabs and any other seafood I want.  But why?  I get the whole “don’t eat meat” part – but I don’t get the “fish aren’t meat” part.  How are fish not meat?  They have a face right?  Once you take the scales and bones away, what’s left?  What do you call the…well…the meaty part of the fish?  Is it a cold blooded thing?  Can I eat alligators on Fridays?  Or is it a lives in water thing?  In that case I could eat otters!  If fish isn’t meat, tell me, what is it?  AND YOU CAN’T SAY FISH!  Cow is cow and pig is pig and chicken is chicken but cow, pig, and chicken are all meat.  So what’s the deal with fish?

What about babies?

***WAIT!  We’re changing subjects!  We aren’t debating whether or not babies are meat – they are – you shouldn’t eat them on Friday or ANY day.  There’s your Bobbing for Popcorn public service announcement: Don’t Eat Babies***

For the most part, babies are in their mothers’ stomachs for around nine months.  Baby is growing, developing, changing, learning stuff, doing stuff.  So THEREFORE, on the day the baby is born, why aren’t they considered 9 months old?  If they’re growing and developing, doesn’t that mean they’re aging as well?  If not, that means from the moment of conception (kids, if you’re reading this, make sure you ask you parents how that works – parents, you’re welcome) until the moment of birth they are the exact same age despite having time advance 9 months for the rest of the world.  That makes a woman’s uterus some sort of Doctor Who-like timey wimey black hole where all time stands still.  So which is it: does time hit pause in a lady’s belly or are we all 9 months older than we get credit for?  And, if you see things my way think about when your birthday is, go back 9 months, and start figuring out who owes you a birthday present because they are way late!

And then there’s the whole thing with colors.  Who named colors?  How do we know blue is blue?  Here’s what really gets me – how do we know that the color I think is blue isn’t the color you think is orange?!!  Our eyes could see things completely different!  You could look at a stop sign and see what I would call purple, but our parents, Sesame Street, and society in general all pointed at stop signs and told us all “This is red.”  So no matter what shade we see, we associate it with the word red!  And it’s world wide!  Every language has different words for the colors, but whether the person says “red,” “rojo,” “rouge,” “‘ahmar,” or “aka,” we will all point at the stop sign.  Mind blown, right?

Fashion blows my mind, too.  My wife has not learned this yet.  She still comes up to me and asks me if her shirt goes with her pants.  I know she wants to know about color, style, and a number of other criteria.  But the only thing I can go on is if they meet in the middle.  Your arms and head are in the shirt, your legs and butt are in the pants, and the shirt doesn’t stop at your ribs or go to your ankles and your pants follow the same guidelines – yup, they go together.  I have well over 100 ties the VAST majority of which have some sort of cartoon character on them.  I have five pairs of shoes – three of those pairs are sneakers, the other two are dress shoes that are exactly the same except one pair is black and the other is brown.  I have socks with tacos on them.  DO I SEEM LIKE THE PERSON TO ASK ABOUT FASHION?!  I remember walking with my wife when we were in college and her feet were getting torn up by her “cute” shoes.  First of all, shoes aren’t cute – puppies, kittens, babies: cute.  Footwear?  Not cute.  And even if I were to find some sort of cuteness in this article of clothing – the ones she was wearing wouldn’t qualify.  I don’t get the “chunky” shoes – I know they’re fashionable and “cute” and I know who shares that opinion: Frankenstein.  Anyway, she was in so much pain and her feet were torn to shreds by the time we got back to our dorms and I asked her why she even wore them (because this wasn’t the first time – so she knew they would hurt) and she said she liked them and they went with her outfit.  You know what I like best about my shoes?  Not bleeding.  You know what doesn’t go with my outfit?  Ironically, bleeding feet.

Most recently, the biggest thing that confuses me is retirement plans.  I really don’t get this whole concept.  I work and get a paycheck and part of that paycheck is saved for later (I get it) and my employer gives a chunk for me to use later (I get it) and then someone takes that money and invests it so I may end up with less money (I don’t get it).  If I were to come up to you and tell you to give me some of your paycheck so I can bring it to Vegas for you and then come back and tell you, “Well, it was a rough week and you actually lost money,” you’d come at me like a deranged badger on bath salts!  But we have a company do it and send us statements and we just keep rolling with it?!!  And, it’s my money right? I know it is because I put it in and I get it when I retire.  So, when I needed some extra money to fix my roof, I was allowed to borrow some from my retirement (I get it) but I need to put it back before I retire (I get it) and they gave me a really great interest rate (I don’t get it).  Wanna hear a great interest rate?  0%!!!  THAT is a great rate because I borrowed the money from myself!  Why would I charge myself interest?!!  Just to be sure, I had a meeting with the borrower (me) and the lender (me) and both parties agreed that there is no need for interest!

The saying goes, ignorance is bliss.  But it’s also pretty fun to talk about these things that I’m ignorant about and see the looks I get from other people when they try to figure out how to deal with my way of thinking.  I guess I just have a different idea of bliss!

“People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.” ~  Isaac Asimov

Thank You, Little Bean

Great things come in small packages.  Never has a statement rang more true than when one looks at a coffee bean.  Truly, nature’s little superhero.

There is an old anecdote that teaches us about adversity.  Seeing that her daughter was having a hard time, a mother boiled three pots of water.  In the first pot she places a carrot, in the second an egg, and in the third coffee beans.  After a while she shows her daughter that when faced with the adversity of the hot water, the carrot turned soft and weak when it started off strong.  The egg was hardened by adversity.  But only the coffee beans changed the water to be more like itself.

So who are you like: the carrot, the egg, or the coffee beans?

Myself?  None.  I would be the one who would deal with the adversity after drinking pot number three.  Oh, sweet nectar of the gods!

Yeah, yeah, yeah – fables, lessons, morals – whatever, give me a good strong cup of joe and I’ll buy whatever you’re selling.  The fact is there is a lot of adversity in our daily lives and that magical little bean helps me face it head on!  How many mornings have I been able to conquer – how many challenges have I been able to face – how many lives of difficult people that I’ve needed to deal with too early in the day have been saved – all by that one amazing little bean?

I’d go so far as to say it is the most amazing thing that we consume!  Don’t believe me? Allow me to prove it to you with two really cool words: Kopi Luwak.  Also known as civet coffee.  Also known as cat poop coffee.  The coffee bean isn’t actually a bean; it is the pit of a cherry-like fruit.  Kopi Luwak is created when the Asian palm civet (which is a funky looking cat/rat/badger thing) eats the fruit, partially digests it, and poops out the coffee beans.  They are washed and sent out as one of the most expensive gourmet coffees in the world (it’ll cost you about $200 a pound).  It is one of the most sought after coffees!  Now what other food or drink would people hunt down and be willing to pay that much for after a cat crapped it out?!!  Would you do that for a taco or a bagel?  Oh hell no!

Coffee has been an obsession of mine since high school.  It’s what my friends and I used to do more than anything – go out and get coffee.  We knew where to go, where not to go, how to make it – we were connoisseurs of java.  We knew all about the lattes and the cappuccinos long before Starbucks became a world-wide staple.

Early in the morning there would be a bunch of little old men griping about the youths of today over their hot morning mugs and in the evening the youths of today would sit there grumbling about old people drinking the same drink.  If only we knew then what we know now maybe we could have found some common grounds…see what I did there?   Grounds…?

I remember one time a couple friends and I were spending the night over at one of our other friend’s houses and we wanted to pull an all-nighter.  We thought the only way to achieve this was to brew the strongest pot of coffee known to mankind.  How does one do that?  You brew a normal pot of coffee.  Then you brew a second pot of coffee, but instead of using water, you use the first pot of coffee.  Then you do it again.  And again…and again…

Our final pot was brewed with six previous pots.

Did you know caffeine had a taste?  Like the actual caffeine – kind of sour actually.  The coffee itself?  Horrible – godawful – a disgusting abomination of our beloved beverage.  Of course we drank the whole thing and quit blinking for most of the evening.  BUT we did manage to stay up all night.

Crashed like a meteor around noon the next day and felt like puking for a day past that…but that’s besides the point.

Then, in 1997, my life changed forever.  Yeah, it was the year I graduated and met my future wife…but besides that.  I went to Disney World for the first time.  It was a school trip, I was a senior, and I had my own debit card…party time.  I had a job so I had socked away quite a few paychecks leading up to the trip, plus my family had given me some spending cash because they rock.  I didn’t plan on spending extravagant amounts of money – a couple souvenirs here and there and something to bring home for my parents, sister, etc.  But then it happened…I saw it…this strange new term I had never seen before…

ICED COFFEE

How can this be?  Coffee is a hot drink.  Waitresses and waiters come to my table and ask me if I need a “warm up” when my cup is running low.  However, this is Florida – I’m hot – and I love coffee…

I took a sip and the angels sang.  I had epiphanies.  All my sins were forgiven.  I had become a man.

I would suck down a large glass of it and toss the cup of ice before I passed the next refreshment stand so that I could buy another one.  Over the three-day trip it was nearly the only thing I drank (with the exception of breakfast – I had hot coffee then; I’m not a savage).

I looked over my receipts from the trip on the bus ride home and realized that I spent over $150 on iced coffee in three days…I don’t want to jump to any conclusions, but that may have been a bit excessive.

I have cut down on my addiction quite a bit (at it’s peak – while I was student teaching – I was drinking ten to twelve cups a day) and I usually enjoy a cup in the morning – maybe two on the weekends.  And I was fortunate to marry a fellow coffee enthusiast (met her the same year as I met iced coffee…coincidence?).  Luckily for me, she likes her coffee like she likes her men…lukewarm, pale, and weak.

“I have measured out my life in coffee spoons.” ~ T.S. Eliot

Road Trippin’

I’m not a huge fan of driving – in fact it’s one of my least favorite activities in my day-to-day life.  I’m a classic example of a grumpy driver – everyone driving slower than me is an idiot and anyone driving faster is a maniac.  I’m not a fan of braking too much or having to pass people or semis or construction or motorcycles or people with stupid bumper stickers or garbage trucks or weird surprises like almost hitting a horse in a major city…

***Did you know they have horse lanes in Louisville, Kentucky?!!  I didn’t!  I took an exit off the highway and pulled right into a horse lane in downtown Louisville and almost rear ended a horse LITERALLY!!!***

I wouldn’t say I have Road Rage – other people in the car with me would say that, but I wouldn’t.  It’s gotten to the point where my three-year-old is trying to be my counselor when we’re out on the road.

“Move!  Turn!  C’mon – let’s go already!”

“Daddy mad?  Look at the trees, you like them.”

How can you argue with that logic?

The one thing that keeps my mind off of the craziness of the road is the quirkiness of my family.  We’re an odd brood to be sure, but our eccentricities seem to develop a life of their own when we’re in the car.  It’s to the point that these strange traditions are second nature and I had to take a step back before writing this to realize, yup, that’s really weird; most people don’t do that.

We’re major car dancers.  Now you might be thinking, “So what?  Everyone does that.”  HEY!  Do I interrupt your blog?  No.  Now let me finish.  The operative word being “major.”  Just about everyone will bop their head, sing along, do a little steering wheel drumming…we have full on mosh pits and rock concerts!  Just a couple days ago, I jammed my middle finger on the steering wheel while dancing (like a jam you wold suffer playing basketball).  Now, don’t worry, I dance more conservatively while I’m driving – I save the slam dancing and head banging for when I’m a passenger.  The most epic in-car dance party occurred when my sister and I started dancing to “Jessica” by the Allman Brothers and the rule was we couldn’t stop dancing – or driving – until the song was over.  Not familiar with the song?  Look it up.  It’s seven and half minutes of quick-paced bouncy music.  When we finally put the car in park, we were huffing and puffing and had sweat pouring off our faces.

Usually the bad ideas in our sibling duo sprout from my mind – but I’m pretty sure that was her brainchild.  I say that because it wasn’t the first time she decided to do dumb things in the car.  Unfortunately, she usually saves her really bad ideas for when we’re driving through customs at the Canadian border.  My parents had taken my sister, wife, and I up to Canada for a small family trip.  Both my sister and wife have long hair.  And, as people with long hair do, they start playing with their hair and coming up with funky new styles to amuse themselves.  At one point (as we were approaching the border back into the United States) one of them created the “Amish Ponytail” which was when they pulled their hair under their chin and used a hairband to hold it in place.  After referring to each other as Ezekiel and Jedediah for awhile and cursing the evils of electricity, my sister decided that she also kind of resembled a goat.  That’s when the goat noises began and they made sure they both let out a good solid “Mah” while looking the border guard in the eye with their “hair beards” as we drove back into the good ol’ U.S. of A.  Thankfully this happened before the big push for tight border security and cavity searches or else I’m sure I would have gotten to know a pair of rubber gloves very intimately.

Most of our car rides aren’t long enough to necessitate that much activity – just the daily commutes.  However, my wife and I have passed along some traditions to our boys.  Some parents teach their kids family recipes or give them their great-grandfather’s watch.  We have taught ours to cheer on any dead possums on the side of the road (they might just be faking it, you know) and dogs you see who are hunkering down to do their business.  Hey, everyone needs a little encouragement now and then – we’re just doing our part.

We also HAVE TO beep the horn whenever we smell a skunk.  This is a must.  No exceptions.  I can sense your furrowed brow as you read this and I appreciate that you didn’t interrupt me again by asking, “Why?”  I’d love to tell you there’s a good story behind why we do this – there isn’t.  My friend did it a long time ago and I adopted it.  No reason, we just sniff, gag, and beep.  Hey, you just read in the last paragraph that we root on pooping dogs – do we really need a reason for beeping the horn for skunks?

In all actuality, we should be commended.  Most kids need an iPad or a DVD player to keep busy on long car rides.  Mine just sit quietly and contentedly, looking out the window in the hopes they see a squatting dog.  Parenting win!  Boom!

“My grandma’s the most careful, safe driver in the world.  You put her in a rental car, and she’s doing doughnuts in the K-Mart parking lot!” ~ Jeff Foxworthy

Top Ten Words That Need to Go Away

I’ve received a lot of great feedback from last week’s Top 10 Tuesday – so I guess we’ll make it a regular thing!  So today I was talking with my family and we got on the topic of words that are infecting the English language and need to make their exit from our vernacular!  Now some of these have formed partnerships with other equally ridiculous words, so we do have some combo entries.  In any case, these cringe-worthy words pop up all over the place and if they have crept out of your mouth, hang your head in shame!

10. Staycation

Oh I get it, when you’re on vaCATION, but you’re STAYing at home!  You know what else you can call that?  A vacation.  You know what you call a vacation when you go somewhere? A trip.  Your vacation is no less vacationy if you never leave your house.  So, if you are taking advantage of your much needed time off by playing a game of “reclusive hermit” you go right ahead and take pride in it!  Don’t let anyone cheapen your glorious week-long pajama pants and Netflix marathons.  The only word you need to use to describe this type of vacation is “AWESOME.”

9.  Hi-Def

Now that pretty much all electronic devices have the ability to show things in “Hi-Def” do we need to keep pointing out the fact that things are in Hi-Def?  “Hey, wanna come over and watch football in Hi-Def?”  “This Boogey Nights looks so amazing in Hi-Def!”  “Quick, Sharknado is about to start!  Turn it to the Syfy Hi-Def channel!”  You know what else is in Hi-Def?  Everything.  The world is in brilliant quabillion pixel 3D Hi-Def – from the majestic Niagara Falls right down to the annoyed look I’m giving you every time you needlessly say Hi-Def.

8.  Data

I don’t care if you pronounce it DAY-ta or DAH-ta.  Just stop pronouncing it.  This one is unfortunate because it’s a word that is actually needed and useful and it has been beaten like a Donald Trump piñata with a kick me sign on it.  Data analysis, data plans, unlimited data, data reviews, collecting data, data driven, data based, data, data, data…BARF!  Stop!  Just stop!  Data has been used so much that no one even knows what kind of data you’re even talking about anymore!  Remember that lame saying “That’s my name, don’t wear it out” that annoying kids used to say in school?  Dear God, they were right!  You can wear a word out!

7.  Yummo, Yummers, Delish…

Dammit, Rachael Ray!  Thanks to you these weird synonyms for “tasty” keep popping up.  I’ve never been a big fan of “yummy” but it’s tolerable due to the fact that cute little kids say it.  But the word has an age limit – unless you are a parent and you’re using it with your small child, the word just starts sounding creepy and ridiculous after a certain age.  Picture a 40-year-old man with a deep voice and a lumberjack beard saying, “Thanks Mom, this cake is really yummy.”  It’s just not right.  But then we just make it worse by taking a nonsense word and making it more nonsensical!  Yummo?  Delish?  How can words meant to describe something that taste amazing sound so unappetizing?  “You want some of this pie?  It is de-lish!  Yumm-o!”  Well, I did until about 2 seconds ago, now I’m going to have to pass AND never speak to you again.  There are so many other words – REAL words – to describe something that tastes really good like, oh I don’t know, “this tastes really good.”

6. Vape and e-Cig

It is a great accomplishment if you can quit smoking.  If you need one of those vaporizers to do it – more power to you!  I have a couple good friends who use them and if they want to use them in my house I hope they get the chocolate mint flavor, because that smells pretty darn good!  However, if they use the term “e-cig” or tell me that they need to “vape” their flavored water vapor will be traveling a more southerly route, if you know what I mean!

5.  Cray

When something is crazy, but you need to describe it in a much more incoherent way, this may be the term with which you choose to infect my ears.  Whether you are using “cray cray” in its entirety or sticking with “cray” for the sake of brevity – you’re sounding pretty “stup” (see what I did there?  I just used the first syllable to describe what your one syllable version sounds like).

4.  Bae, Boo, Wifey…

I’m married.  I’m out of the dating scene.  However, let’s pretend for a second that I’m not.  If I was to be dating someone who referred to me as their “bae” or their “boo” it would be time for us to see other people.  “It’s not you, it’s me…no actually it’s you.”  And “wifey” – seriously?!!  Wife isn’t enough of a term?!!  If we had managed to stay together all the way until the wedding, avoiding all the “boos” and “baes,” and my bride-to-be used the word “wifey,” even if it was in her vows (and YOU KNOW someone has done that – probably more than we want to know), I would walk out of the church with my hands in the air swearing off dating (and possibly speaking to people) forever.  It should probably be grounds for instant annulment.

“Wait, you guys got divorced?!  What happened?”

“He called me his ‘wifey.'”

“Oh, well that’s understandable.  I never liked him.”

3. Chillax

Like “staycation” – this is one of those words created by someone who thought they were clever little wordsmiths.  But, like the word they created, they are just so sadly wrong. But, unlike staycation, this combines two words to create a new word that doesn’t mean anything different than each of the words that make it up.

chill: (v – informal) to calm down and relax
relax: (v) to calm down or become less tense

IT’S THE SAME THING!!!  Do you say you’re going to make “dupper” (dinner/supper) after you come back home from your daily “rog” (run/jog)?  NO!!  BECAUSE IT MAKES YOU SOUND LIKE A MORDIOT!!!

2. Jelly

“You’re just mad because you’re jelly.”  Grrrrrrrrr….. No, I’m mad because you felt the need to shorten the word jealous into a word that 1) takes just as long to say, 2) sounds almost exactly the same, and 3) is already a word for something else!  And furthermore, I will NEVER be “jelly” of anyone who uses the word “jelly!”

1. Swag

I’m angry just typing this word.  Every time I hear this word it’s like parading Justin Bieber wearing a pair of crocs in front of me.  Again, like “data,” this used to be a useful word – and then it got dragged down into the depths of verbal asininity (boom – take that wannabe wordsmiths)!  It became like a sneeze to the millennials!

“Hi Mary!”

“Swag.”

“I got new shoes.”

“Swag.”

I’ve even heard adolescents laughing at a joke – legitimately laughing – and say swag in the middle of a chuckle!  “Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaaa!  Swag.  Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaaa!”  WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN?!!

And NOW there are kids who are making fun of the word “swag” and using the word “sweg” as a way of not using “swag” anymore.  HOW IS THAT ANY BETTER?!!  You know how to stop using a word?  STOP USING THE WORD!

“Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.” ~ Edgar Allan Poe

***But that’s enough from me – feel free to comment and add your own ear assaulting words!  I’d love to hear from you!***

And Nothing But the Tooth

Dentists.

***I will stop there and let some of you shiver and cringe until you’re ready to move on***

Not going to lie – not my favorite person to visit even though most of the dentists I’ve had in my life have been awesome.  They were awesome people (one of them was one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met in my life) – but it doesn’t change the fact that they’re, well, dentists.

For the longest time, I had awesome teeth (I’ve always needed braces and never got them, but that’s besides the point) – I didn’t have my first cavity until college.  After that, I’ve had a few, but, for the most part (knock on wooden teeth) they’ve been awesome. Strangely enough, even though I was extremely phobic of doctors for most of my life (up until my little “almost dying” thing a couple years ago), I never really had a fear of dentists.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t hop around gaily strewing confetti and flower petals on dentist day, but I didn’t dread it either.  Of course, there is one thing that dentists find a little strange about me…

I don’t want Novocain.

Now before you get a picture in your head of Bill Murray from Little Shop of Horrors, no, I’m not some wacko masochist.  I just had a terrible fear of needles and I was more afraid of the needles than I was of the pain of having a cavity filled.  It’s a weird phenomenon – believe me, it sucks – but the pain doesn’t last nearly as long as the pain from the shot does after the Novocain wears off!  The drill gives you a cold, dull pain – but as soon as the drill comes off your tooth, the pain stops.  By the time I’m leaving the office, I feel like nothing happened.

Most of my dentists didn’t have a problem with this – or anything really – they were laid back, roll-with-it kind of folks.  I just had a bad habit of picking dentists that were nearing retirement so I never got to keep one for more than a couple years.  But there’s always one bad apple…

My dentist had recently retired and I needed to find another one fast – I had lost a filling.  I looked through the phonebook and found one that was taking new patients and I made an appointment.

I should have known I was going to have issues when I had to go around the back of another business and up the back stairs to an unmarked office to find this guy.  I checked in at the front desk; the receptionist handed me a clipboard and pointed to the chairs.  No warm fuzzies there!  I filled out the patient information and brought it back to the receptionist who then pointed at the door to the office.  I walked in and saw the dentist sitting at a little desk in the corner.  He turned around and looked at me as I entered and told me to have a seat in the chair.

He was all business.  Asked me a couple questions and then had me open my mouth and got to work.  During the exam, he started scolding me.  I knew he was scolding me because before he started he said, “Now that you can’t talk back I’m going to scold you a bit.”

Who says that?!  I chuckled a bit because there was no way this guy was serious.

He was.

He said my gums were angry.  Angry?  They always seemed pretty chipper to me.  They held my teeth pretty solid, I treated them to some Juicy Fruit now and then – we had a good relationship.  They never voiced their opinion to me; never once told me that they were unhappy in the least!  What hurt the most was that they wouldn’t tell me themselves, I had to find out through a stranger – one with psychic gum reading abilities, no less!

He said I needed a much stiffer brush (I chuckled again, not because I thought he was joking – just because I’m not mature enough to handle the word “stiffer” – he was not amused) and I needed to brush my gums until they bled.

Hold up…I’m SUPPOSED to have bleeding gums?!!  1) How would making them bleed help my gums with their anger issues?  If anything I was sure that would piss them off even more!  And 2) what kind of weird bizarro doctor wants you to cause yourself to bleed?!!  If I were to go to my general care physician and tell her that I exercise until I bleed, she might have an issue with it.  If I go to my optometrist and tell him I put my contacts in until I bleed, he might steer me in a different direction.  If I go to my proctologist…okay, never mind.

He went on to tell me if I keep neglecting my gums like I do my teeth would fall out by the time I was 35.  Um…just turned 37…still NOT making myself bleed…and still have all my choppers nice and secure!  BOOYAH!!!  If I wasn’t scared to death of that guy, I’d go back and give him a serious “I told you so!”

Then came the main event.  The drilling and filling.  He brought in the needle and I cringed.  I told him of my phobia and I told him I didn’t want the Novocain.  He looked at me like I just farted in his chair.  “What do you mean you don’t want it?”  Now what I wanted to say was how most people get a shot in their gums that numb the area before he starts to drill and I want the same thing except the exact opposite…but I figured my usual sarcasm and sass should not be used on this man.  I explained again politely and he slowly put the needle behind him, never taking his eyes off me and never changing his look of dumbfounded disgust.

I gripped the arms of the chair and took a deep breath and he started drilling.  At one point the drill hit the nerve and I winced.  He stopped and yelled – “Well, it’s not going to feel good!”  That’s when I snapped.

I pushed his hand away, stood up and got in his face.  I yelled, “Look, doc, I’ve had just about enough of your attitude. I didn’t complain, I didn’t even whimper, I think I’m being pretty badass here and I’m even saving you some time and medicine in the process.  So how about you do your damn job so I can get out of here and we can go our separate ways.  Or you can keep this crap up and I’ll report you to the ADA for harassing your patients!”

…okay, none of that happened.  I just nodded sheepishly and closed my eyes again.  Seriously, I think the dude was crazy – not even sure he was a real dentist – I wasn’t going to get lippy with the guy drilling into my face!

He finished drilling, put in the filling stuff, and asked me to bite down firmly.  Then he told me to open up and repeated that two more times.  Then he said, “Okay…” like you would before you said or did something else.  He went into the next room.

Ten minutes later the receptionist came in and yelled at me.  “Why are you still here?  He’s done.  He already went to lunch.”

Dude!  I still had cotton in my mouth!  I was still wearing the little bib thingy!  He just up and left!!!  So I cleaned up my little area and walked out.

I still don’t have a problem with dentists…but I did develop some slight abandonment issues thanks to that guy and, needless to say, my gums and I have been in counseling so that we are no longer afraid to share our true feelings with one another.  It has made all the difference.

“Happiness is your dentist telling you it won’t hurt and then having him catch his hand in the drill.” ~ Johnny Carson

Like Shooting Crackers in a Barrel

When we were in college, my wife-to-be and I practically lived at our local Cracker Barrel. It bordered on addiction.  It may or may not have something to do with some massive weight gain during my college years, but I’m not one to point fingers, or jump to conclusions, or state the obvious.

It was a sad day when they shut it down – we both went through the DT’s.  We didn’t have one where we lived – it was a minimum two-hour round trip to eat at the closest one. Needless to say we haven’t partaken…partook?…partookened in the lardy loveliness that resides on the Cracker Barrel menu. And, like most things, you need to take a step back to really see things clearly – which is exactly what happened tonight, when we returned to the infamous Barrel o’ Crackers.

I remember one episode of That 70’s Show where the main characters thought they came up with the best ideas when they were in their weed smoking circle in the basement so they decided to record their next session so they could have a record of all the brilliant brainstorms they had and when they listened to the recording the next day when they were completely sober they heard a mash-up of the most incoherent rambling they could imagine.

This is how I picture Cracker Barrel coming into existence.  A bunch of stoners sitting around with a mega case of the munchies and they start bouncing ideas off each other.

“Hey man…you know…you know what would be cool, man…fried chicken…and mashed potatoes…and Beanie Babies…and a buttload of rocking chairs…”

“Yeah man, why can’t you buy Beanie Babies and rocking chairs at a restaurant?  Then you could sit on the rocking chair and play checkers with your Beanie Baby!”

“No way, dude, I’d be too stoned to see those little checkers…”

“Naw, man, not the little ones, our restaurant would have those big-ass checkers that are the size of your head!”

“Yeah, man!”

And there you have it!  The birth of Cracker Barrel!  Where else can you go and have a whole friend chicken, fried potatoes, an assortment of other fried vegetables, and apples…fried, of course (I didn’t even know you could fry an apple!)…and then while you pay your bill you can do all of your Christmas shopping for people who you marginally like.

We pulled into the parking lot, our car dwarfed by the huge sign beckoning to everyone from the highways traveling in every direction.  We walk toward the front door and pass by dozens of rocking chairs and it strikes me, how many people do you know who buy rocking chairs from Cracker Barrel?  It must be a hot seller – there are literally dozens of them.  I want to know the sales statistics – has the world’s leading rocking chair exporter been breading my chicken strips all these years without me knowing it?!!

We make our way to the hostess station and I nearly knock over a ceramic frog in a straw hat fishing in a birdbath.  We leave our names with the hostess and begin to browse the store while we wait for our table to be ready.  There is nowhere else in the world where you can stretch your arms out, spin around, and touch large scented jar candles, Confederate flag trucker hats, rubber band guns, greeting cards, singing animal heads, prayer beads, fart putty, ambiance music CDs, and a DVD full of classic Andy Griffith episodes.  If you mixed Alice in Wonderland with pure grain alcohol, you’d come up with the Cracker Barrel gift shop.

Then the quirky kitschiness doesn’t end when it comes time for your meal because you are seated underneath the most unsettling decor imaginable.  All sorts of old tools, signs, pictures, and various whatnot from days gone by are tacked on the walls.  I believe that whenever a new Cracker Barrel opens, an Amish family somewhere nearby gets robbed. Poor Jedediah Yoder goes out to his barn and finds it completely emptied out.

“Elizabeth!  We’ve been robbed!  The curséd English must have opened another Cracker Barrel!”

“Oh, Jedediah, we might as well pack up the children and move on because that will ruin our rocking chair business as well!”

***I apologize to any Amish people who are reading my blog***

And if your appetite isn’t set off by having an axe and sickle hanging over your head, the photos on the wall might do the trick:

These are the kinds of photographs that steal your soul if you stare at them too long. They’re from the days when families dressed up dead relatives like they are still alive and pose with them and you never really know which ones they were because NO ONE smiled in those pictures!  Think about that the next time you’re munching on your okra!

Once we finished our meal, I went to pay (after I bought my younger son a beanie baby and my older son a couple packs of squishy zombies…no joke) and my Cracker Barrel experience ended the only way that it could – I was asked by our cashier if I would be interested in buying a 5-pound box of Jelly Bellies.

Not gonna lie…I thought about it longer than I should have.

“Always remember you are absolutely unique.  Just like everyone else.” ~ Margaret Mead

Jehovah Witness Protection

At the very beginning of this 40-day Lent challenge, I explained how I am Catholic.  My father is Lutheran, which was kind of like “Catholic Lite” (same great wine taste, now with half the guilt).  I went to his church a few times growing up and I really didn’t see too many differences.  Although not everyone in my family grasped the concept of our family’s religious background.  I won’t name names, but it was the only other child my parents had.  When discussing marriages, she firmly proclaimed that she would not wear a little hat to my wedding.  It was one of those mouths-open, crickets-chirping kind of moments.  After a few more questions we deduced that she meant yarmulkas.  The rest of the conversation went kind of like:

“You only wear those if you’re Jewish.”

“I know.”

“We’re not Jewish!”

“DAD IS!”

“DAD’S LUTHERAN!”

“That’s sort of the same thing isn’t it?”

More open mouths.  More crickets.  And a much needed theological discussion.

However, I guess my beliefs can’t really be pigeonholed into one or two organized religions.  I looked it up once and found out that my beliefs make me a “pantheist.”  I know, be jealous.  I have friends from so many different religious backgrounds: Jewish (like real Jewishy Jewish – not like the Lutheran kind), Muslim (back off, Trump), Buddhist, Mormon, and Atheists.  I listen to what they all believe and, I’ve got to say, everyone has valid points.  Even if I don’t believe in everything they do, who am I to say I’m right and they’re wrong?  How do I know I’m not wrong?  By the time we figure out who got it right, it won’t matter anyway.  I think, like our forefathers (and stop misquoting them to fit your agenda), that everyone should believe what they want to believe.

Except the Pastafarians – you people are idiots.

I only have two rules as far as religious beliefs are concerned – #1: Don’t be a jerk.  Sure all of the holy books have it in there more eloquently than that, but the bottom line is: if you’re being a tool to other people, you’re doing this wrong.  #2: Don’t force your beliefs on anyone else.  If you think you’re a better person because you have a superior religious belief, please see rule #1.

However, there seems to be a blurred line with my rules.  The Jehovah Witnesses.  They keep coming up to my door and trying to get me to hang out with them.  That breaks rule #2.  But they are so nice, so they obey rule #1.  Usually, we can avoid these visits by doing the “duck and cover” routine from World War II.  Sometimes, when it’s obvious that we’re home, I will answer the door and tell them that I’m not interested as politely as I can. They ask if they can leave me with a Watchtower and I tell them yes, I love Jimi Hendrix – they don’t laugh and I am left to wonder if I insulted them or if they don’t get the joke.

Recently, those wily Witnesses found my weakness.  Little, old,  Italian grandpas who speak broken English.  And that’s when they started sending Tony to my house. Tony came to my house the first time and I saw him out my window and had no idea what he was there for (yeah, I was kind of being kind of “books-by-covers-judgey”) and then he started talking to me about the problems of the world and judgement and probably other stuff but his accent was so thick I didn’t understand most of what he was saying.  We talked (well, actually, he talked) for about twenty minutes.  Then he gave me TWO issues of Watchtower and said, “Okay, I come-a talk-a yous again?”  And I said, “SURE!”  C’mon – he was wearing one of those old cab driver hats, smelled like too much cologne, and he said “come-a talk-a yous” – how could I say no?

He came back, as promised, when I wasn’t home and talked to my wife.  Apparently, she wasn’t as charmed because she just gave me a look, handed me my Watchtower, and told me my “friend” had come to visit.

He found me at home a week or so later and told me he met my “woman.”  I found that pretty funny.  My wife thought it was funny when I told her he said that.  She didn’t find it as funny when I started referring to her as “woman” (which is totally a double standard if you ask me).  And I was going to do the polite brush off this time, but then he wanted to read something to me and he had forgotten his glasses so I needed to read his religious stuff to him!  C’mon – could you have resisted that?!

However, he started making these visits with friends…and his friends started to creep me out.  He still was his usual short, stocky, straight-off-the-boat “papa” self, but his friends were always tall suited gentlemen who did nothing but stare at me silently.  Once it was a guy around my age who definitely looked liked someone who has had his picture taken while holding numbers under his chin.  The next reminded me of the creepy guy in the black hat from Poltergeist II.  That was the last time I would bare witness for my little Witness.

The next time he showed up I was expecting a friend to come over so I quickly ran to the door and I saw Tony and the Poltergeist dude on my porch looking out at my yard so they hadn’t seen me approach.  I panicked and like a small child, who really sucks at hide and seek, I pressed myself as hard as I could against the back of my front door, in between the windows on either side.  Whether or not the two men saw me I have no idea – I’m guessing they didn’t because I had my eyes closed and as any child, who really sucks at hide and seek, knows, they can’t see you if you’re eyes are closed. They knocked and rang the bell a few more times and then they must have walked away.  I stayed there (eyes closed, arms hugging myself to make myself smaller, nosed smooshed against the wood) for five more minutes just to be sure.

“When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.” ~ Abraham Lincoln