Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Upset Of The Century

According to the AP, the boy picked to most likely win this year’s national spelling bee (you mean people actually care enough to rank the favorites) has been ousted from the event. It’s a stunning development, especially when you know all of the circumstances surrounding his ouster.

Fortunately, I do. The boy was given the word ‘clevis,’ which is apparently a type of fastener. If you haven’t heard of ‘clevis’ before, it’s probably because you are more familiar with its other name, which is ‘fastener.’ The boy thought that the judge had given him the word ‘cleavage’ and giggled his way through the spelling of ‘c-l-e-e-v-u-g-e.’ He was stunned when he was told that not only had he spelled it incorrectly, but he had attempted to spell the wrong word.

Ok, I made most of that up. The word was clevis and he did spell it wrong, but I added the cleavage part to punch the story up a bit. The AP says that the boy’s mom is appealing his loss. I’m not sure what that means or how they decide on the appeal. Do the judges confer in a backroom and watch tapes of the contestant spelling out the incorrect word in slow motion? Do they ask the boy to spell it again? I wish there were things in my life I could appeal like that, but that’s for another day.

The excitement I don’t feel about the national spelling bee got me thinking of ways to create more buzz about the event and liven up the competition aspect of it. I thought about having the participants play a form of dodge ball with those old heavy lawn darts we grew up with to determine who moves on to the next round. The only problem with that is it might deter some people from competing. Obviously, death or stoning as the penalty for an incorrect word would be appealing, but I’m not sure the national spelling bee folks could get the appropriate permits for a venue to hold the event. As you can see, there aren’t a lot of options.

That leads us to the spelling part. I guess we could tinker with that a little. Since anyone can memorize the dictionary maybe we should broaden our pick of the words used for the spelling bee. How about making up words? This would really keep the competitors in check and create suspense for the viewers about what the next word would be and how it should be spelled. ‘OK, spell the word puthemoligticalousness, as in the puthemoligticalousness of the patient will be tested when the patient gets to the dairy…’

I would watch that. Heck, maybe there could be a contest tie-in where the best-submitted words and definitions from across the country are chosen for use in the competition. The kids could also be asked to spell Eastern European, Polish or Middle Eastern last names. That should raise the level of difficulty just a little. As would the addition of words from the category ‘Czechoslovakian town names.’ Is it just me or does that sound like a category on Jeopardy? Leafing through a medical journal would add a twist. Having the judges intentionally mispronounce words would be fun, too. Lastly, I think there should be a category of words titled ‘words and names from the letters Q and K in the Residential Listings of the phone book.’ I don’t think we’ll see that one on Jeopardy any time soon. Imagine the highlight reel as the children attempt to spell all of these different difficult words. We’re talking America’s Funniest Home Videos material here!

I don’t know if anyone will listen to my ideas of how to improve the national spelling bee, but I can tell you that sometime tonight, the next champion of the spelling bee will be crowned. Will anyone care? Who will notice? Just a thought. By the way, is it spelled ‘defence’ lawyer or ‘defense’ lawyer, as in ‘I had better go get me a defense lawyer to defend me against the national spelling bee.’

6/1/07 STORY UPDATE: I would also like to point out that the winner last night was a Californian! Woo Hoo! I guess the part about nobody noticing was slightly incorrect..Oh well, at least the winner proved that we Californuns are gud spelurs, right?

I also woke up this morning with an irregular heartbeat, so stay tuned for some good tales from the emergency room. Hopefully they won't shave my nipple this time...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Top Ten (And A Half) Things Said Before Or After My Open-Heart Surgery

I had trouble today deciding what to write about. I had it down to two topics. First was the woman suing Wal-Mart for unspecified negligence because she slipped in vomit there. I have a possible reason for it. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that there was vomit lying around?

I also thought of writing about the fact that Yoko Ono ate meat from the Queen of England's favorite breed of dog to protest the Queen's husband's (or Prince to make it easier) killing of a fox. Really, first she ends the Beatles and now she eats dog meat?

See the problem is that after each of those punch lines (and let's be honest, they weren't that great to begin with) I could not come up with anything else and that would have made today's post very, very short. So, even though it's only two months old, I'm reposting the top ten (and a half) things that were said either before or after my open-heart surgery for valve replacement. This is one of my favorites because I wrote it in the bathroom of a hotel in the middle of the night while on vacation. See, I like saying that I wrote things in the hotel bathroom because it makes me sound like a rock star. Seriously, try it. Ok, here's the top ten (and a half) things said either before or after my open-heart surgery for valve replacement:

11. That saw isn’t dull, is it?

10. Now, when you cut out the old valve, you’ll wake me up so I can see it, right?

9. Oh, you say you stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night?

8. Say, did you hear the one about the anesthesiologist who dated the narcoleptic?

7. When I run from now on, will I make sounds like Lee Majors in the Six Million Dollar Man or is that extra?

6. Doc, you did a great job. Let me buy you a steak. Oh, the cow is sacred to you? How about pulled pork then?

5. Does this new valve make me look fat?

4. Can I go home now? I’m starting to lap the old guys when I take my mandatory walks around the nurse’s station.

3. What do you mean you can’t find one of your surgical clamps?

2. Seriously, no one else hears that ticking sound?

And the number one thing said either before or after my open-heart surgery…

1. You’re working on my heart, so explain to me again why you have to put that tube up my…

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Day After

Today is one of my least favorite days of the year. Actually I guess all Tuesdays following a three-day holiday weekend are. I can tell you one thing for sure – whoever invented the shirt collar and the tie obviously never spent three straight days playing and working in the sun! I think I may now permanently have a red neck. In fact, without even realizing it, I parked my truck up on the front lawn yesterday. I guess the symptoms of my red neck crept up on me slowly. After all, I watched NASCAR (Jeff Gordon crashed and was relegated to a 41st place finish – woo hoo) and smoked ribs on the grill while Lucy and Ethel played with our dog Mabel this weekend. I didn’t really connect all the dots until my neighbors asked me if I was going to keep my truck where I had parked it. Me yelling at the neighbors and mumbling something about gettin’ my danged old shot gun outta the house was what really made me notice how red my neck had become. I don’t think anyone named Aloe or Vera can help me with this.

I got through the weekend without further alienating myself from my neighbors and went into work at 4:30 this morning since I couldn’t sleep. I don’t know if it was me succumbing to the fear of my impending death
(see post below) or the fact that I had about 6 Mountain Dews (MMMMMM, White Lightning…none of you are likely to get that reference, but I had to do it) from about 7PM on last night. I was alone when I entered the office and (gulp) everything was still upside down. Knowing it would disappoint most of my coworkers, I resisted the temptation to put everything we had turned upside down in Female Coworker’s office back to its correct angle. I spent most of the time I was alone at work writing good-bye notes to my coworkers. I also had to make the difficult decision of which employee was going to get my desk toys. I decided I would split them up. I asked that if I were to be cremated I wanted my remains to go in the trophy I stole for our office from last month’s company awards luncheon. It probably violates the building’s codes, but I also instructed my fellow surviving employees to just say they were cigarette ashes and the trophy was a very expensive ashtray. Although that would lead code enforcement to inquire about why there needs to be an ashtray in our office, which really doesn’t help my fellow employees’ cause and directs the attention away from them honoring me.

When Female Coworker finally arrived, I couldn’t bring myself to look her in the eye…or look at her at all for that matter. This did not go unnoticed by her. She grilled me to find out why I wasn’t looking at her and then she mentioned IT. I feigned stupidity (although for some reason no one noticed any difference from my usual self) and claimed to be unaware of what she was speaking about. Then she asked whose idea her big cubicle redecoration was. Since I had prepared for death all weekend, I took the bullet for the team and spoke first. My answer was brave, honest and concise. ‘It was Mr. Coworker’s idea,’ I stuttered. Female Coworker’s piercing stare drove me to immediately regret that answer, especially when I had to admit that I had just lied to her and while the idea was Mr. Coworker’s, I was the one that ‘elaborated’ upon it.

Female Coworker said that I had earned her wrath and not to ask her for any help today. She said she had been in the office over the weekend when she noticed what we had done. She did have the grace not to exact her revenge upon our offices but made it clear that she was going to make our lives unusually difficult for the foreseeable future. I gave her my best game show host grin, tried to give her that cute face that Puss and Boots gives Shrek and said I would have offered to help her clean up her cubicle if she had not already taken it upon herself to do so. I don’t think she appreciated that gesture. I say this because she gave me a gesture of her own. I think she also mumbled something about watching my back.

So, long story short, I have been given at least a temporary stay of execution. You can believe that the first time Female Coworker asked for help today that we all ran to her aid. I just wonder how long until she figures out that we gave her the wrong info. Bwa-ha-ha-ha…

Monday, May 28, 2007

Tell Me Again Why We Thought This Was A Good Idea…

First off, Happy Memorial Day to everybody. Secondly, unless I can say second off, this will probably be my last blog post. There’s also a very good chance that today will be my last day on this nice little planet. Why you ask? Well, I fully expect to be killed fairly early tomorrow morning. I’m no fortuneteller, but I can say that the time of my death will be approximately 8:34 AM.

See, that’s usually around the time that Female Coworker arrives at work and gets situated in her office. When she does that tomorrow, she will notice the ‘truly good natured prank that went awry’ that Mr. Coworker and I played on her in her absence Friday afternoon. The later it got at work Friday, the more bored we got. It became so bad that when Mr. Coworker approached me and asked if I wanted to play a prank on Female Coworker, I was in the middle of licking stamps to see if I could detect even the slightest of flavor differences among the various priced pieces of postage. Naturally, I said sure. It was at that exact moment that the great king of symbolic imagery hammered the last nail into my symbolic coffin.

Mr. Coworker’s prank idea was innocent enough. We were just going to turn a wall map and a calendar on her padded cubicle walls upside down. Surely the price for that would have been a broken arm or busted nose at the hands of Female Coworker. We knew those risks and were willing to accept them. Being the chronic overachievers that we are (well, not at work), we kept going. I say we, but the idea was mine. Basically every inch of Female Coworker’s walls have something on them and now every one of those items is upside down. Again, if we had stopped there, the penalty would have been the loss of an eye or a blow to the head with a blunt instrument. However, caught up in the excitement, I again insisted we keep going. We turned all of the family pictures on her desk upside down, her phone upside down, all of her desk supplies, her trash can and her in and out boxes (which didn’t make our secretaries too thrilled) upside down. It really was the master prank, but then that’s the risk you take when you are bold enough not to be in the office for the Friday of a three-day weekend.

It’s no stretch to say that we fear Female Coworker. Nor is it a stretch to say that she could (and now will) easily destroy us with her bare hands. As the hours went on Friday, I began having severe doubts about the prank we had played. I came to grips with the fact that it would be my last weekend alive and I hadn’t even seen Lucy and Ethel grow up yet, I can’t find my other blue sock, I’m still working on my musical version of ‘Welcome Back Kotter’ with Squiggy playing Horschack, I’ve never eaten fries with gravy on top and I still haven’t found the gopher ruining my backyard. Clearly, I had a lot to live for. Mr. Coworker and I made a pact that we would do whatever we could to prevent each other from going back in and undoing the prank. Clearly, the thrill and the fear forged a bond that made Mr. Coworker and I much closer. Well, at least until the clock struck 5.

While the bond may have strengthened, cracks began to show. When I proudly photographed her office to have a permanent record of our tomfoolery (I have been waiting 323 posts to use that word), Mr. Coworker mocked my brilliance for having taken images of our crime. He said that it would make it much easier for HR to bust us. I told him to relax and that no one would know where on my hard drive I had saved the photos I took, which had been placed in a folder called ‘Office Redecoration.’ Oops, forget that last sentence. A little later in the day as other people began milling around Female Coworker’s office amazed at our feat of ‘prankness,’ Mr. Coworker began distancing himself from some of the things we overturned. We were brothers in arms suffering under the stress and weight of our responsibilities.

We recognized that we were turning against each other and did the one thing comrades do when the battle becomes too intense. We walked across the street to Dairy Queen to get ice cream and praise each other for what we had done. We ended our triumphant, albeit last Friday by laughing, recalling the tales of our adventure, accepting our imminent deaths at the hand of our coworker and yes, writing our statements to HR knowing that we would be asked for them Tuesday morning prior to our executions.

If you email me, I’ll be sure to save you something in my will. And now, I must take my leave of you to enjoy my final sunset and sunrise. My premature departure is sad, but I guess when it’s our time to go, there’s nothing we can do to change it. Don’t feel bad for me. I knew the risks; I accepted them and am ready to face my fate. Besides, the timing of my impending death couldn’t be better. I haven’t finished the big report due for my boss tomorrow morning.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Repost Sunday: Mona Lisa Unveiled, In A Manner Of Speaking

I rerun some of my older posts on Sundays as a way to highlight stories that you may have missed. Just think of it as 'thought recycling' and a day off, or that I am incredibly, incredibly lazy. Also, there are about 1100 miles of auto racing on TV today and my neurons are way too tingly and over-stimulated because of that to have come up with anything new.

To enhance your reading experience for this story, I would recommend playing Nat King Cole’s “Mona Lisa” in the background. Here’s why: newer 3D technology has revealed secrets behind Da Vinci’s famous Mona Lisa portrait. The biggest of them being the fact that it appears she was pregnant when she posed for the painting. By scanning the original painting with their newfangled equipment, scientists found a thin veil Ms. Lisa (if I can be permitted to say that) was wearing over her dress. The veil was what soon-to-be mommies wore during her times, also referred to as back in the day. It’s fascinating technology.

The one aspect of Mona Lisa that admirers of art have always wanted to know pertains to her smile. Is it actually a smile, a tiny grin or nothing at all? What could she be smiling about? Did she have a torrid affair with Da Vinci or knew a secret she could never tell? Was there someone else in the room trying to make her laugh by doing those funny Renaissance impersonations? Well now, for the first time, the secret behind the smile can be revealed. Mona’s slight grin was because she had gas. I guess deep down that’s what a lot of us always suspected.

The best part of all this 3D technology is that it can be applied to other pieces of famous and historic artwork to reveal more about them. This science will allow us to fully understand the techniques that make certain pieces of art so important and show us things that can’t be seen with the naked eye.

Art historians have already presented their wish list of pieces they want to learn more about. At the top of that list is the original “Dogs Playing Poker.” By scanning the painting, they hope to answer questions that have plagued us all since the painting was debuted in 1903. Among them are whether or not the dogs were really inhaling the cigar smoke, who had the best poker hand at the time of the portrait and whether or not the room they were playing in had wallpaper and if so, what was the print. Perhaps the most controversial discovery will be whether all of the dogs depicted were actually males.

The second painting that historians are salivating about is “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” which shows pop icons Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Elvis and Bogart in a corner diner. It has long been rumored that instead of a diner, the setting could actually be the first Starbucks and now we might be able to know for sure. By examining the detailed imaging from the 3D scans, they also hope to see visual references which might indicate the approximate year or even month the painting was made to determine how in the world the artist was able to get four of Hollywood’s brightest stars together while virtually no one else was around. Historians are also keen to find out why Elvis was moonlighting as a soda jerk.

Finally, historians want a closer examination of “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” painted in 1853. Since it was completed many years after the original crossing, historians want to find out who stood in for George Washington. If they can conclude that it actually was Washington, they want to see if he was wearing his wooden teeth. The interest is if the wooden teeth tend to splinter when the person wearing them shivers and if that can be detected by examining the painting as closely as possible.

As you can see, art history has entered a very exciting time. In the coming months and years, scientists and lovers of art hope to gain better understanding of the artwork they have admired for years and want to literally add new dimensions to these faded glories. Be sure that someone out there will pervert the technology and apply it to photography. Then we’ll know who was really on the grassy knoll and if we actually landed men on the moon. Maybe we should just leave all this stuff to the imagination. Dang science…

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Things I Learned This Week: 5/26/07

Because I want to spare you from experiencing some of the things I endured over the last few days, I post “Things I Learned This Week” each Saturday. It’s educational, sometimes insightful and for some reason it never makes me look good. I hope that knowing about at least one item on this list will make your upcoming week much easier. So here are the “Things I Learned This Week” for the week of 5/20/07-5/26/07.

First of all, thanks to everyone who joined the carnival yesterday. It was a lot of fun. Now, onto the stuff that makes me question my intelligence…

! I learned that listening to Margaritaville while offroading isn’t really the image I should be going for. This was made plainly evident by the heavy rock music offroaders that were laughing at us as we drove by. Looking back now, maybe we shouldn’t have been singing along, either.

! I learned that under no circumstance should I make a joke about my boss’ new haircut. Seriously, I mean never.

! I learned that if Lucy or Ethel cough in my face for three straight days that I will in fact get their cold.

! I learned that it doesn’t help my career any when I get into the office an hour late and then take a two-hour lunch with my coworkers who were there on time. This is especially true when you forget to invite your boss.

! I learned that telling a female coworker that while I did notice her new hairdo, in my personal opinion, it looked better the old way probably isn’t the best thing to do. That reminds me, does anyone know of a good gift idea for a male employee to give a female employee.

! I learned that twin four year olds are not too young to repeat things they have overheard their father saying to the individuals that he was saying them about, like ‘I really wish the twins grandma would stop hassling me about not seeing the girls very often.’ That also reminds me, does anyone know of a good gift idea that a son can get his mother.

And lastly,

! I learned that I need to be a little surer of what internal office extension I am dialing when making prank phone calls to the people that work in my building.

Friday, May 25, 2007

It’s Carnival Time…On The Beach!

Well, here in Southern California, Memorial Day Weekend, the official beginning to summer, is upon us. I’ve got my Beach Boys music, a couple of half-burned tiki torches, a ¾ bag of charcoal, my Dukes of Hazzard beach towel, coconut scented sun tan lotion, a bunch of meat, a cooler full of drinks and a beach ball that I just now realized has a hole in it. I know what you’re thinking…it could only be time for church.

Nope, it’s time for the ‘start of summer’ Carnival of the Mundane (or Carn-E-Vahl, if you prefer). Mundane is my middle name, so hosting the carnival just seemed like the natural thing to do. I want to thank everyone that I pestered (or begged) into writing something for this carnival as well as Postmodern Sass for allowing me to host. I’m betting she won’t do that again. OK, here we go, but before we start, I have to say that the only lobster claws here this week will be on the grill…

Silver Neurotic gets us started appropriately enough with her explanation of why August is the most mundane month of all. Hint, it has something to do with the heat, which in inland Southern California is downright miserable in August. Actually, I made that up. I have no idea what the heat feels like in August because I don’t go outside between then and Labor Day. Odat was nice enough to give up her weekly Happy Dance Friday for me so that she could participate in the Carnival too. I told her she could do the Beach Blanket Bingo, but she wisely declined. She wrote a great poem of her mundane summer memories, which I had to read yesterday and then somehow muster the excitement afterward to go to work. I can almost hear the seagulls gulling (is that what they do??).

Sam and Beckyboo's Owner writes for us about a favorite tea she recently served visitors she had with her. And what is the perfect compliment to tea (besides Splenda…that’s now $50 you owe for cross promoting your product, Splenda)? Yep, the good ole bagel. Well, Tracy's summer got off to a bit of a rocky start when she discovered her cat had eaten her bagel. It’s a lot better than my cat, which used to try and eat my hair after it had been washed. On second thought, don’t ask…I retract that statement.

Apparently, summer can be steamy in other places. This week’s carnival is no different. Mist 1 writes for us about her UPS guy’s shorts. Sadly, I will now never, ever again sign for another delivery at our office the same way. Thanks Mist! Continuing the hotter side of summer, Glamour Puss tells us about what summer reminds her of and how a little mystery is still important between the men folk and the lady folk. I couldn’t agree with her more and that’s saying something because mystery to me is usually what tie matches my shirt.

Summer is a great time to be in the sun, unless you aren’t wearing protection (I mean SPF people). That isn't a problem for Mark, who has a 55 SPF lotion. Yikes, I bet nothing gets through that! Kat could have used something like that when she got the sunburn that inspired her to write a great poem about her pain. I really think she’s the consummate pro since she chose not to rhyme itch with b - - ch. Although I guess it’s easy to be professional when you live somewhere that is cool enough to serve fries with gravy on top. Speaking of sunburns, Patti has a great way to avoid them. She would rather not to go to the beach (although she still listens to the Beach Boys -- maybe it's their car songs). I tried not going to the beach for a year, but I went into withdrawals not having sand in every one of my body’s cavities. In a sad turn of events, Lizza says that summer is coming to an end (well, just for this year, I mean) in the Philippines. Fortunately she wrote about a traditional summer drink there that helped me dry my tears...I wasn't crying. Did I just say I was crying?

Token dropped by the carnival to tell us about the pool that she and her hubby aired up and filled with water (Pool Party!!) and to say hello. After reading what Phil had to write, he would prefer that is exactly what you say to him. He doesn’t appreciate when someone walks by and asks how he is, only to not wait for his actual response. Wow, I thought that was just what people did to me. It’s too bad too, because I usually have a pretty good story to answer that question with…if only someone would listen.

Karl teaches us about the love bugs that seem to be invading where he is right now. Before reading it, I couldn’t possibly see what was wrong with floral painted VW Beetles driving around, but then I saw the picture accompanying his story. My reaction was ‘wow, I have those things in my driveway!’ Isn’t it great when people have things in common?

Well, it looks like the sun is beginning to set, so I better wrap this carnival up and get the beach fire started. I think it’s legal on the beach, but if it isn’t, I’m sure the cops will be by shortly to let us know. As Eden reminds us, ‘if you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.’

It’s probably a sure bet that I left a few people out accidentally. If I did and you’ll kindly email me with your displeasure, I will gladly include you. Too many years in the sun has made things like preparation, order, memory and organization pretty difficult for me, dude.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Holy Cow

It seems that proper preparation for tomorrow’s big Carnival of the Mundane (which I’m hosting by the way, just in case I forgot to mention that Monday or perhaps Tuesday or maybe even today) has made it very difficult for me to prepare a full post for tonight. Well, that and the fact that I fell off the hood of my truck while trying to replicate the Bo Duke 'Dukes of Hazzard' hood slide for a coworker. Apparently dress pants and an unwashed hood don’t make for good sliding, just plenty of friction…and a dry cleaning bill.

It’s too bad that I can’t devote the time to share what I was planning on writing about today. Well, I can share a little bit of it. It involved a Philly Cheese Steak, a map I had made for work that cost me $60 bucks (despite the fact that it had 14 errors), my coworker that got hit by a car while he was riding his bike the other day and his tour for us of the crash site during lunch, the theme song to The Fall Guy, Female Coworker’s two-tone hairdo and what happened when I told her it looked better before the big change, Willy Nelson’s ‘Pancho and Lefty’ and the fact that Harry Caray gave me advice in a dream last night. I really think it would have been one spectacular post, especially when it got to the part that involved the female tow truck driver that was trying to hit on me, or as I told everyone – trying to ‘hook’ up with me. Maybe I can revisit what would have been today’s post some other day.

For now however, I need to prepare for hosting tomorrow’s Carnival of the Mundane. The last thing I hosted was a big car show with mayors, celebrities and members of congress present. Hopefully this time around I’ll be a lot better with names and not half delirious because of heat stroke…

See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Road Trip

Often as part of my job, I get to do field visits and daylong ‘road trips.’ Yesterday was one of those days…with one teeny-weeny little exception. My boss (code name Boss Hogg) went along with me. Now I’ll preface all of this by stating right up front that I enjoy working with my boss immensely and I like his company, but the thought of driving him around and allowing him to see the way I do business was a little intimidating. Please keep in mind that I used to bet people in high school that they could run over my foot with their cars without me getting hurt, so it takes a lot to intimidate me, except when it comes to urinal cakes. Those things freak me out and turned me off of cake eating forever.

The day didn’t quite get off to the start I had hoped for. As usual, most of the reason for that lay squarely on my own shoulders. I’m a fan of the Beach Boys and I happen to know that Boss Hogg is as well. So, I stopped on the way in to buy the new Beach Boys CD yesterday. Of course there is no such thing as a new Beach Boys CD, it’s just the same songs in newer packaging, but I thought it might please Boss Hogg. Since I was already running late yesterday morning, I figured it wouldn’t harm my case any by stopping in at Target anyway. 45 minutes, two Beach Boys CDs, two packs of mints, three new t-shirts, one bag of charcoal and a Frank Sinatra style fedora (that I already have returned) later, I got into the office. I strolled into my padded cubicle and my boss was happily and patiently sitting there waiting for me. I apologized for my usual tardiness and mumbled something about my sick cat (who died a month ago) as the reason (yes, excuse) for being late.

When it was time to leave the office, it was intimated that I would be driving. Here’s what intimated sounded like: ‘Michael, you’re driving, right? Where are you parked?’ We got into my truck and I told Boss Hogg about my new Beach Boys CD, I put it in and then he asked about my performance and my clients. Yes! This day was going to be a lot of fun. As if the bad start to my today wasn’t enough of a hint that I should have called in sick, I found myself going the wrong direction on the freeway. Now certainly we have all done that from time to time, but it’s not always that we have the boss with us and find ourselves heading in the direction of home. There wasn’t much I could say other than ‘oops, it’s just a habit I guess.’ It was only after uttering that when I realized giving my boss the impression that every time I’m in the field it’s a habit to drive home might be a bad thing.

Once we got past that, I had about an hour of smooth sailing. We met with our first client, it went well and then Boss Hogg said we should go get some lunch. Again, that’s an invitation for awkward. We found an exit that had a lot of restaurants and fast food places and decided to get off there. Then he asked where I wanted to eat. I had a dilemma. Do I choose bad fast food, which would convey I don’t care about what I put in my body, do I choose a fancy restaurant knowing that by company rules he would have to pay for my expensive meal or do I choose something middle of the road? I was really craving ice cream, but decided that was out of the question. I also didn’t want to give him the old ‘I don’t know, what do you want to eat’ line. Fortunately after about 10 minutes of indecision, he decided that the Sizzler salad bar sounded good. I thought I performed fairly well having only gone back twice and had yet to spill anything on me. I also tried a witty remark on him when I came back from the dessert bar by saying ‘you know, soft serve ice cream is really the underappreciated ice cream.’ I thought it was clever but it had clearly missed the mark.

Merging back onto the freeway once again showcased my real ability to Boss Hogg. As I was trying to show him my excellent accelerating skills, he politely said to me in a very nice tone that I needed to watch out because I was about to hit the vehicle in the lane I was merging into. Let’s be honest, there is no real way to recover from that. I laughed, said oops and proceeded to cut off the car behind me. It probably didn’t help much when that rather upset motorist sped around us as I waved to him. If anything, Boss Hogg will remember me as one friendly guy.

A little later we discovered (actually he discovered) that I had gone too far past our next destination, which happened to be on a pretty well traveled 4-lane highway. Knowing that this was the time to salvage my reputation as a good driver, I executed a perfect illegal u-turn and then again somehow went past our destination. At least this time I was on the correct side of the road, right? No big deal I thought, so I engaged my hazard lights and reversed back towards our client’s driveway. Turns out I’m not good at this, either. I kept straying into the lane of the traffic trying to pass me. Wow are big rigs’ horns incredibly loud.

Finally, our trip was over and we were free to head back towards our office. Boss Hogg said he felt it had been a very productive day and that he felt good about the trip. That is probably where I should have thanked him again for lunch, for traveling with me and just agreed with him. Unfortunately, that type of logical, clear thinking didn’t occur to me until this morning. Instead, I told him we should just blow off the last two hours of the day and go bowling because that’s what I usually do. Yeah, he didn’t laugh…

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ooooh, Sweat Is Holy

People in Nepal were getting all hot and bothered (that’s a sweat joke, not a sex joke) over a stone idol this past weekend. Gheesh, I only went off-roading this weekend, which now seems, well, mundane (that’s a shameless shelf promotion/Carnival of the Mundane reference. Did I mention I’m hosting this Friday?). Apparently, when stone idols in Nepal begin to sweat, it’s a sign of impending doom. Wow, look how different our cultures are. When an idol sweats here, it’s usually a Wednesday night results show and they are standing next to Ryan Seacrest. Out! Sorry, had to.

What if, and I’m just going out on a limb here, someone had just washed the idol and forgot to dry a part of it? That would mean the sweat isn’t real and everyone in Nepal will be bracing for bad news that won’t be coming. Maybe that’s the best thing that could happen. Everyone will be on their best behavior in anticipation of the worst possible thing happening. Maybe it was an intentional act by the Nepalese (or Nepalian) government to get their people to act better. Granted, I have no idea how the Nepalites (just a guess) normally act, but what a great motivational tool.

I now find myself wishing that I had some tool like that at home or work. Perhaps I could convince my coworkers that when our wall of shame drips whiteout or something, it is a sign that we are about to get a horrible directive from upper management or that layoffs are coming. Then, I could come in early one morning (or maybe just pay someone else to) and apply the fortune telling whiteout to the wall. The ensuing panic would put everyone on their best behavior and the office would become a nice and peaceful place to work where everyone would speak in harmonious tones and other people would buy lunch and coffee for me. Yes, what a wonderful world it could be.

And it couldn’t come any sooner. Earlier today I told the lady I work with (who I refer to only by last name when talking to) that I was almost ready to call her by her first name, but because she gave me a hard time I was sticking with only using her last name even longer. And to drive my point home, I told her I was now going to say her last name really fast because she had become monosyllabic to me after taking her attitudinal tone with me. Now obviously this was kind of a joke, but it kind of wasn’t taken that way. Yes, we definitely need the office wall of shame to leak white out now. I guess I just can’t be on my best behavior without the fear of religious retribution, or cash.

The Nepal sweaty idol trick could also be used to my advantage at home as well. Lucy and Ethel adore their Cabbage Patch dolls. I could convince them that when their dolls cry real tears (or water from the fish tank) it is a sign that they need to behave or bad things will happen, like all of the cookies in the house will suddenly become carrots or the only channel that will work on the TV will be C-Span. No, the Speed Channel. Yes, that’s much better. The only problem with this grand scheme is that Lucy and Ethel at 4 ½ years old are far, far smarter than I could ever hope to become. Although, the one day that I could probably get this hoax to work on them would be wonderful. Maybe I can also convince them to do what I say. No, that’s just asking too much. I’d better happily stick to the Speed Channel thing. If I have to watch The Wiggles one more time, I just might take my own eyes.

Of course the sweating idol in Nepal (another great name for a rock band, by the way) could be attributed to all the rain they had over the weekend, but that’s just me. Yeah, I made that up. I have no idea what the weather was like in Nepal last weekend. Oh no, I gotta go. The Charlie Brown on my desk just coughed up syrup. I wonder what that means…a sticky situation is on the horizon perhaps.

BIG OLE FAVOR ASKING/BEGGING/REMINDER TIME: I am this Friday’s host for the Carnival of the Mundane (pronounced Carn-E-Vahl if you want to feel important). Mundane seems like a good fit for me, so I figured I’d give it a go. If you are willing to write something mundane about any aspect of summer (like Spring or Winter or sunshine or used needles on beaches or SPF numbers) on your blog Friday, please let me know and I’d be glad to link to it. Just email me and I’ll get you all the details.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Patch It Up, Baby

Sorry, that’s an obscure reference to a song from Elvis’ semi-country period. Combing the annals (or perhaps anus) of the calendar, I discovered this morning that today is ‘I Need A Patch For That Day.’ I keep promising myself that I’m going to try to come up with more original daily posts, but when I see a holiday like this, I just can’t help it. Of course, this means that I’ll end up spending the rest of the day singing the old Clarence Carter classic, ‘Patches.’ You remember… ‘Patches, I’m depending on you son…’

While I have been subjected to medical inducements ranging from stomach tubes, to chest tubes, to IVs, to regular pills, I have never gotten the pleasure of receiving meds from a patch, unless you count the emergency room electrical shocks that have been delivered to me through very big patches that burn and take off a layer or two of epidermis when removed. I used to have patches on my jeans, but that served no medicinal purpose, other than ensuring that my friends would make fun of me on the elementary school playground. I can assure you that I will never get to try a birth control patch, unless I get really bored and want to stir up my hormonal balance. I will also probably never get to try a stop-smoking patch, so I can only hope that make a patch for me one day.

Hopefully the big medical companies will come across this because I could really use some help. The first patch I wish they would make would be one that is applied to the back of the neck and is used for controlling what comes out of the mouth. Of course, the patch could just be placed squarely over the mouth, but that isn’t a very attractive option and it would immediately signal to all you meet that you have a tendency to say stupid things. That type of revelation should usually be reserved for after someone has gotten to know you. The ‘talk-smart’ patch would force the brain to evaluate what is being said and would provide enough of a delay and analysis so that things could no longer ‘slip out’ when you might otherwise speak without thinking. Hopefully the patch could be engineered to deliver meds in 24-hour cycles because I’m not sure whether I would need this patch more at home or at work.

Then there’s the ‘action-x’ patch, which would prevent me from doing stupid things. The use of this patch would help me avoid a lot of trouble, like helping me refrain from posting pictures for all to see of how poorly my coworker parks or my regular AM playing of ‘Take This Job and Shove it,’ which I play as regularly as the ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ is recited at school every morning. It’s the type of patch I could use for assistance in stopping me from placing my hand directly on the iron to make sure it’s hot enough to use or giving Lucy and Ethel Oreos in bed. I could have used the ‘action-x’ patch yesterday while I was weed whacking the yard in sandals while looking up at the planes flying overheard or when I always think that a waitress uttering the phrase ‘careful, this plate is very hot,’ is a challenge instead of a warning. Perhaps the ‘action-x’ would have made me think twice before I placed the stool Lucy and Ethel use to wash their hands in their sink right next to the toilet. I say this because apparently when one is four-years-old and sleepy and needs to use the facilities in the middle of the night, squatting down to use a stool (wow, I don’t like the sound of that) feels the same as squatting on a toilet. What’s the only obvious difference you ask? The stool doesn’t flush. Lastly, I would use the ‘action-x’ patch prior to cruising around while blasting Ronnie Milsap. Actually maybe a patch to help me accurately gauge what is cool would be more appropriate here.

I feel I have barely scratched the surface of what patches I need. Actually, they probably make a patch for scratching the surface as well. I could use a patch to help me accept my hatred of Mondays, patches that would make my padded little cubicle feel cozy and warm and a patch that would help me be more tolerant. Don’t worry, I don’t suffer from racial, ethnic, age, class or lactose intolerance, mine is much more serious. I suffer from Gordon intolerance. I hate Jeff Gordon. This disease has alienated me from many people, although when I stop to think about it, if someone roots for Jeff Gordon, they have no place in my life. See, I was just intolerant again. Sorry, I recognize I need help and I’m pretty sure that is the first step in dealing with it, unless the first step is denial, which in that case, I have no idea what you’re talking about and leave me alone!

I guess I should hope for a patch that makes me a better worker but working better would mean working more and that wouldn’t be as much fun and then I would need a ‘happy patch’ to cope. Also, a patch that allows me to eat a meal without melted cheese on top would be nice, as would a patch that makes me respond to Lucy and Ethel in a way other than, ‘sure, do whatever you want, just as long as I can hear you and you don’t tell your Mommy.’

So, if you are a patch dependent person or are hoping they make a patch for that special reason (whatever that may be…and don’t feel you need to share it), I wish you a Happy ‘I Need A Patch For That Day.’ I know what you’re thinking…when will they make a patch for dealing with stupid holidays. Let’s hope never; it’s just too much fun celebrating the completely obscure. Although eventually, maybe I’ll get gifts for one of these days. Remember: lobsters or money.

BIG OLE FAVOR ASKING TIME: I am this Friday’s host for the Carnival of the Mundane (pronounced Carn-E-Vahl if you want to feel important). Mundane seems like a good fit for me, so I figured I’d give it a go. If you are willing to write something mundane about any aspect of summer (like Spring or Winter or sunshine or used needles on beaches or SPF numbers) on your blog Friday, please let me know and I’d be glad to link to it. Just email me and I’ll get you all the details. What I’m really saying here is: PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE WRITE SOMETHING FOR ME…PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE. IF YOU DON’T HELP ME, I’LL NEED TO TAKE A PATCH TO DEAL WITH THE REJECTION.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Repost Sunday: Who You Gonna Conference Call? Don’t Conference Call Us, We’ll Call You…

I rerun some of my older posts on Sundays as a way to highlight stories that you may have missed. Just think of it as 'thought recycling' and a day off, or that I am incredibly, incredibly lazy.

After posting helpful suggestions for surviving the dreaded staff meeting, I figured I’d follow up on my ‘how not to succeed in business’ seminars with the obvious companion piece: how to make the teleconference more fun. It was inspired by me getting a last minute email today about a department wide conference call tomorrow. Oh great, a conference call with the department big wigs on a Friday. At least that’s what I was thinking until I recalled a few ways to make that boring old conference call a lot more fun.

Any conference call I have ever attended begins with several minutes of beeps, tones and ‘ahems’ or people clearing their throats and announcing they have joined the call. That is followed by acknowledgement of whoever has just introduced themselves and sometimes even little mini conversations between attendees that no one else wants to hear. This is usually a good time to speak up and let a little fake gossip slip from your lips. After that, what more fun could you have than saying you are someone you are obviously not? As many upper managers barely know who works under them, your voice will not be recognized. This is the perfect cover for you. Introduce yourself with a name you made up, a colleague who may be out sick or on vacation, or better yet, your sworn office enemy. I’m sure no one will notice that the same name was called twice. For a really fun reaction (and a test to see if anyone is paying attention), say you are a recently retired employee or an employee who has left the company for another job.

My most fun thing to do at the beginning of a conference call is to get on the line with a made up name and announce that I think I’ve joined the wrong call. This will surely get noticed, especially when you ask if anyone knows the call-in number for the conference call about the downsizing of the department you and all your fellow departmental colleagues work in. As you disconnect, make sure to press every button imaginable to make your exit as raucous and clumsy as possible and then mumble something about how you never understood management budgeting for that department to begin with.

Once the call is in progress, there are still a lot of great ways to keep entertained. For all of these, I strongly suggest being able to make eye contact with the employees in your office. It turns the game into a competition and you might be surprised what your friend in the cubicle across from you will try to do when egged on. A good thing to start with is taking your phone off mute and calmly asking if anyone else hears that high-pitched beep. Make sure your fellow office workers also say they hear it and then wait for all of the conference callers to chime in about whether they hear it or not. If you’re lucky, someone will say they do, providing you with a great workplace story to tell for many years to come. All of this is sure to eat up valuable conference call time.

Next, you can crumple up paper beside your phone’s earpiece and when management asks where the noise and static are coming from, you can tell them you are calling in from a cell phone while in the field. If you can make it obnoxious enough, you just might be excused from the rest of the call. You can get on the line, excuse yourself for interrupting and then identify yourself as your office mate and ask if you can go to the restroom. The downside of this is that you’re boss will probably reprimand you for such behavior. Perhaps the simplest way to entertain yourself during the conference call is to repeat in question form the same exact point that the conference call’s facilitator just made. This will of course make you look like a dolt, but if you cared in the first place you wouldn’t be trying any of these.

What’s the worst thing you can do during a conference call you ask? Well, fortunately for you I have done just that thing and can share it with you. First, ensure that your speakerphone’s mute button is off and that you can be heard and then say something to the effect of ‘can you believe this guy’ under your breath. Hopefully no one will recognize your voice and if you were paying attention to my second paragraph, you won’t have to worry because you identified yourself as someone else. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go find my whoopee cushion and duck call before I leave for work tomorrow.

Of course, if this post is read by anyone I work for, I’ll then have to go looking for another job…Perhaps I should sign it as being written by someone else? After all, my annual employee review is coming up in a few weeks. Maybe I’ll be voted most like to succeed…

Friday, May 18, 2007

Start Your Engines…

Of all the senseless holidays I have tried to bring to light, today’s holiday makes them all pale in comparison. The only difference is that today’s holiday is in no way senseless. Well, at least I don’t think it is. Today my friends is NASCAR Day. That’s all I can tell you. I really have no idea what the holiday is for or how one is to set about celebrating it but I celebrated it in my own special way…at work.

My excitement began last night when I laid out my best racing outfit. Normally, I am to fashion what a mole is to an elephant, but when it comes to racing gear, I can dress with the best of them. I had a dilemma: do I wear my Dale Earnhardt Senior #3 shirt, cap and jacket or my Dale Earnhardt Jr. #8 baseball jersey, cap and jacket since he is still racing? Then my mind wandered to how out of fashion I will me in my #8 regalia next year when he changes teams and car numbers. I chastised myself for breaking my cardinal rule of only rooting for deceased or retired drivers since their apparel will never be out of style. In the end, I went for a combination of #3 and #8 gear and if I may speak highly of myself for just a moment, I made those clothes look good (in a redneck, crazy fan, obsessive sort of way).

I got to work and the first thing I immediately noticed was that I appeared to be the sole participant in NASCAR Day at my office. I passed the receptionist area with all eyes on me. I could hear a few whispers that sounded something vaguely like ‘what the he - - does he think he’s doing,’ but I didn’t let that phase me. I greeted everyone out front and wished them all a Merry NASCAR Day. All I got in response was a bunch of sighs and rolled eyes. Then I tried wishing them a Happy NASCAR Day but that didn’t help any. As I turned the corner to head towards my office area, I could hear everyone I just left erupt into laughter. Wow, they got into the NASCAR spirit in a hurry.

My secretary was the first to greet me. She looked up at me and sighed, ‘oh yeah, that’s right, it’s NASCAR Day. I didn’t think you would bother coming in today, but I see I was wrong.’ Have a mentioned before how much I value her? Next up was Mr. Lay Low who said ‘nice duds, dude.’ He wondered why he didn’t get the memo for the costume contest and I just laughed that off politely. My boss came down the hall and literally did a double take when he saw me. Well, maybe he didn’t see me. I suppose he could have been reacting to the huge #8 flag I draped across the back of my cubicle. He told me good morning and then made sure to mention that I should know I couldn’t wear what I was wearing to work. I acted surprised. It’s the first time in a long while that my one semester of high school drama classes paid off.

I then explained that this was an officially recognized holiday and that it gave me the right to celebrate it as a NASCAR fan. He said he would verify that and get back to me. The moment he left my padded cell, I mean cubicle, I grabbed my well-worn copy of our Employee Manual. While there was mention of holidays and celebrations, I could not locate the exact paragraph that stipulated NASCAR Day as one of the holidays recognized by our company. I’m sure it’s just a page missing from the manual. My boss got off the phone with HR and then came back to ask me a few questions. He said that HR could not establish that NASCAR Day is an official holiday and there was no mention of it in our list of recognized holidays. I expressed my surprise that HR’s manual was also missing the same page as mine.

My boss asked how I knew that the holiday was an officially recognized national holiday. A-ha! I now knew that the balance of power had shifted towards me, so I confidently explained that NASCAR Day was official because I had seen commercials about it featuring Kelly Clarkson as official NASCAR Day spokeswoman and that the NASCAR website had a link and a logo about this holiday. I figured that faced with such irrefutable evidence my boss would issue an email telling everyone to go get a NASCAR shirt so that we could all celebrate the holiday as a team.

Unfortunately, that’s not what ended up happening. First, he made an announcement that three of us (including myself) had each won $500 dollars in a contest dealing with our recent performance. I joked that had I known about the contest and drawing (despite the 13 posters throughout our office reminding us about it) that I would have actually tried. Well, that comment wasn’t received too well. Then, my boss apologized and said that despite my valiant efforts I could not celebrate NASCAR Day at work by wearing ‘sporting paraphernalia’ and must return home until I could come back to work wearing appropriate business shirt and tie.

Although I should have been embarrassed as I left the office with my flag, hat and Dale Jr. jersey, I kept my head high. It was half way home that I realized how much I had just lucked out. It’s a Friday, I was headed home to ‘change my clothes,’ it’s NASCAR Day, there was almost 10 hours of NASCAR related programming on the Speed Channel and I had an extra $500 dollars in my pocket that I didn’t have earlier that day. Yeah, it took me about 3 hours to ‘change my clothes’ before I returned to work…Happy NASCAR Day everybody!!!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Mayflower Pilgrims, America Thanks You

Because I am so busy finishing my last minute preparations for the big 'Office' season finale party I'm hosting in a little while, I'm reposting tonight. OK, you got me, I'm actually busy with some work I brought home from the office...sorry, that's not even believable enough to bother finishing the thought.

On this day in 1620 (for those of you joining us late, this is a repost from September. I have no idea what the Pilgrims were doing on this actual day in 1620), the Pilgrims left England bound for America. The Pilgrims were persecuted in England for their religious beliefs and were allowed to come to America so that they could practice their religion without being made fun of. It’s a known fact that religious persecutors are not nice people and they are often compared to the neighborhood bully or domineering PTA mothers like the ones in 'Harper Valley PTA.'

In fact, there has long been a rumor that the Smithsonian Museum has physical proof of the persecution that the Mayflower Pilgrims suffered. The museum is said to have the nameplate that the persecutors nailed over the original one on the front of the Mayflower the night before the Mayflower left England. It reads “HMS Ship Of Fools” and was removed by the Pilgrims when they discovered it the morning of their voyage. When the Mayflower set sail a few hours later, the religious bullies all lined up along the dock sarcastically waving goodbye and making fun of the pilgrims’ hats and shoes.

It’s no surprise that the Pilgrims would want to escape that type of treatment. It’s also no surprise that the New World was selected as their destination. That's the whole basis for urban renewal - go with the new and discard the old. There was already a colony at Jamestown (where the Pilgrims were officially headed before being blown off course and ending up in New England) and it was known that America had ample rivers, plenty of space, very few fellow Englishmen to persecute them, a great selection of wildlife, plenty of trees for wood and carving initials, TiVo, Oprah, Wal-Mart and a Starbucks on every corner.

When folks attend the churches of their choice here in America, they should think of the Pilgrims and everything they did to be able to attend a church of their own. Americans should also thank them every time we attend an all you can eat buffet, but I’ll write more about that during Thanksgiving (again if you are late, this reference worked better back in September). In the city I live there are about 5 churches all lined up on one single street. No, it's not named Church Street. Why ever would you ask? Every religion and culture you can think of is represented in those churches and they can all thank the Pilgrims, among a few others, for their right to assemble and worship there.

I know I was thanking the Pilgrims this morning (this was written on a Saturday, I had to work today and was not thanking anyone about that). I was able to get all of my Saturday morning chores done by only visiting church row. I got breakfast at St. Anne’s bake sale, my truck washed at the Lutheran church and a lawnmower to replace my busted one at the Protestant Church. If it gets boring tonight, we’ll probably go play bingo at the non-denominational church across the street. Mr. and Mrs. Pilgrim, you certainly gave us a lot to be thankful for and I tip my buckled hat to you.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Riddle Me This…

I got to drive 175 miles for work today. Ok, actually it was only 61 but since work is paying per mile, we’ll call it 175 and I’ll get you something a little extra. That gave me lots of time to think, which is a bad and unproductive thing. It also means I wasn’t able to concentrate enough on just one topic, which makes blogging for me kinda difficult. I also like to ask questions. These aren’t the Phil Donahue/Oprah types of questions; these are the 4 year-old one question leads to seventeen more types of questions. I ask many of the questions in my mind so I never get to ask them out loud or have them answered.

I thought since you all were so helpful in suggesting all the cities I forgot to think of for yesterday’s Sitcom Travel post (thanks a lot by the way, now there will have to be at least 3 more volumes), that I would ask you some of these questions in the hope that you might be able to answer them for me. These were all things that occurred to me today. Here goes…

Why does my fine city have to water all municipally owned blades of grass at the exact time I run (mostly walk) every morning?
I also want to know whey they need to water the sidewalks as well and who is responsible for calibrating the city’s sprinklers, but that’s more like a sub question. When I go running (I know, walking) every morning before work, I get soaked. There are other walkers out that time of the morning and they too face the dilemma of being struck by a car if they walk in the street or getting watered like an elephant at the zoo. It’s not fair to all of us trying to become healthier. I’ve tried varying my walking time by as much as thirty minutes, but the same dang sprinklers are still on. What gives!

Why do I do my best writing when I leave comments on other people’s blogs?
I’ll spend an hour laboring over every single word (I made that up…I try not to labor over anything other than a grill) and then I end up writing something ten times better commenting about someone else’s post. Hopefully commenting will one day supplant blogging. I've got dibs on the naming rights to ‘Commentspot.’

Was Lorne Green better on Bonanza or Battlestar Galactica?
There’s an obvious follow up question for this one: Was Dirk Benedict better on Battlestar Galactica or the A-Team? Other follow up question – did I really just ask that in public?

Why do I have about 43 cds in my truck when I only listen to the same 4 over and over again?
I’m sure at some point I had a good reason for putting the soundtrack to “High School Musical’ in my truck, but I just can’t remember why right now. I’m sure it had something to do with Lucy and Ethel, yeah Lucy and Ethel, that’s the ticket.

How the heck did I get here?
You probably won’t be able to answer this one. It turns out that I should have gone left on highway 79 instead of right. North and South can be so confusing sometimes.

Why do my coworkers despise me so?
Never mind, I’ve got about 50 blog posts that help answer that question and I’m sure I’ll add to the reasons when I get to work tomorrow. Just as I did yesterday when Male Coworker sent us all an email asking if we were going to get mystery shopper cards that we could use with male names on them. I replied to everyone that he should just say he had an operation if anyone asks. Yep, I’ll be in the HR manager’s office at 10:15 sharp tomorrow morning. They were kind enough to block that time out for me every Thursday about 2 months ago.

Well, these are just some of the thoughts and questions that occurred to me today. I am turning to all of you for assistance in helping me figure them out.

Useless Afterthought: Did you know that you could buy happy meal toys without buying the happy meal? I learned that at the 3rd McDonalds I visited today. I also learned that the lady working the counter there didn’t appreciate me asking which toys they had and then saying ‘never mind, I’ve already got those, thanks anyway’ after she goes in the back and gets them all out for me. I guess I should at least have bought a Coke from her or something.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Traveling (Pop Culture Style)

If there is such a thing as a pop culture savant, then I am its poster child, well, poster man, but that sounds creepy. Poster child it is. Whether it is lack of intelligence or a shallowness that I possess, I am a sucker for a good pop culture reference. One of my favorite bloggers, Mist 1, the Belle of the Dirty South and I were recently discussing travel. I made a lousy joke linking Mary Tyler Moore and Minneapolis and she suggested what a great idea it would be for a travel show about sitcoms. She called it Sitcom Travel. It is an absolutely brilliant idea and I unabashedly stole it, after asking permission of course. So, if anyone from the Travel Channel happens upon this (which is a pretty high likelihood given that I am emailing this post to every Travel Channel email address I can find), I cannot and will not take credit for this idea because it was Mist’s. That is unless they want to make it a weekly half-hour program hosted by me. Then I’d have to take credit – Lucy and Ethel will need to go to college one day. Unless I am successful in convincing them otherwise.

I often find myself daydreaming about other places. The fact that I do this during work hours is probably very closely related to the fact that I view my office cubicle as a prison, though the good news is that if I behave the rest of the day, I may get time in the yard this afternoon. Many of the places I dream about are places that I have become familiar with through TV, music and film. So, here are the things I would do if I got to travel to some of the following places…this is where you close your eyes, cue the dream sequence and faintly hear ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’ in the background.

Though I have been there many times before, I would go to San Diego first. There’s a great symbolic reason for this: it’s the closest to home. I would go down to Seaport Village just to yell ‘Stay Classy San Diego’ from Anchor Man. Then I’d head to Vegas. Perhaps this city doesn’t count because I always do this next thing whenever I drive to Vegas. There is a point when Interstate 15 descends down into the valley where you can see the strip in the distance and the night sky and clouds illuminated by all the neon below. That is the point when I put Elvis’ ‘Viva Las Vegas’ on and sing at the top of my lungs. Sadly, I have never been in the car with ANYONE who has wanted to do this with me. Sometimes I follow that song with ‘Diamonds Are Forever,’ because it is the only James Bond film that takes place in Las Vegas.

Next would be Hawaii. And you know there is only one thing to reference when you are thinking about Hawaii (well, that is excluding the oft used phrase ‘lei me’). Yes, it’s Steve McGarret and Hawaii 5-0. I love that theme song and once spent practically the entire 5-hour flight there humming it. I have promised myself that the next time I plan a trip to the islands; I am going to search long and hard to find a travel agent named Danny or Dana. That way, when we are about done with the travel plans, I can stand on my chair and yell ‘Book it, Dana or Danny or Danno!’ Seriously people, I do this lame pop culture referencing stuff all the time. Just ask the last phone operator with our company who had to listen to me serenade her with Jim Croce’s ‘Operator.’ You could also ask the girl who sat behind me in High School science. Her name was Brandy…although I seriously doubt I was the first (or last) person to sing that song to her. Also, never glance at yourself in a distant mirror while in my presence. Doing so will make me sing ‘You’re So Vain.’ I’ve tried to stop it, but I’m helpless.

Even though I already referenced it, if I ever get to Minneapolis, I will have to locate the exact square where Mary Tyler Moore tossed her hat at the beginning of the Mary Tyler Moore show. I would have someone take a picture of me doing it while I sing ‘You’re Gonna Make It After All’ and then I would email it with a catchy phrase to all of my friends, none of whom would bother to reply back to me about it. I’ve often toyed with going to Boston just to visit the Bull and Finch pub (the Bar that served as the exterior for ‘Cheers’). I would go in, offer to pay everyone a couple of bucks to yell ‘Michael,’ or even ‘Norm’ when I go and walk back in. Then with my luck, I would walk back in and everyone would forget to yell. I’d ask for my money back and everyone would tell me to get lost. The trauma of it all would prevent me from ever returning to Boston again, which is a real shame because I really like eating lobsta and clam chowda.

I’ve often wanted to go to Texas. If I did, I would have to visit Dallas and the Ewing’s famous South Fork ranch. All I’d want to do there would be push a well-dressed rich woman into the ranch’s pool and yell something like ‘Don’t mess with JR, Sue Ellen!’ Of course, I would then be banished from the South Fork Ranch forever, but it would be so worth it! I have literally had daydreams of going to North Carolina and finding the pond where Andy and Opie went fishing. I would whistle the theme song and the world would be perfect. At least it would be perfect until some local resident laughs at me and says ‘son, that pond is in Los Angeles. It ain’t here and it ain’t never been here.’

That would lead me to Los Angeles and the famous Wisteria Lane from ‘Desperate Soccer Moms,’ or whatever that show is called. I could personally care less about that show (sorry), but that street is also the location of The Beaver’s House and The Munster’s mansion. I get giddy thinking about the pleasure I would derive from strolling the sidewalks just like the Beav did. If I ever find myself on a flight to Cincinnati, I’m sure I will annoy all of my fellow passengers as I sing ‘WKRP in Cincinnati.’ I would arrive in that fine town sing my song and then get right back on the plane and fly to Milwaukee. When in Milwaukee, I would have to go visit Richie Cunningham’s home (only to be told that it too is in LA) and the closest brewery. At that brewery, I would grab the nearest brewery worker and sing the ‘Schlemiel, Schlimazel’ part of Laverne and Shirley. After that, I would corner a Milwaukee native and recite the following part of ‘Wayne’s World.’

“Isn’t Milwaukee an Indian name? Yes, it is. In fact, it was originally an Algonquin term meaning the good land. I think one of the most interesting things about Milwaukee is that it's the only American city to elect three Socialist mayors.”

Some day I would also like to visit Georgia. I’m going to have to take a lot of time off to do that though because I can only go there on a train that has a departing time of midnight…Woo Woo. So there you have it. Those are just a few of the places I would one day like to visit and what I would like to do while there. OK Travel Channel execs, you know where to reach me.

Useless afterthought: There are probably several cities I forgot, so please feel free to point them out to me and I will do a Travel Volume #2 if necessary.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Lunch With The Guys…For Possibly The Last Time

Ever done something you knew you were going to regret even as you were doing it? Of course you have…and so have I. With Female Coworker not at work today, all the guys figured we’d go out to lunch, eat, be slobs and talk about guy stuff like where we bought our ties and the great sale on dress pants at Kohl’s. Yeah, I’m kidding. We were going to talk about radial tires, the best type of ballpoint pens and the newly stocked sodas in our vending machines.

Well, that was until be went to the fast food joint that has served a lot of people (like billions) and has certain yellowish colored arches (you can never be too safe in the litigation happy state I live in). The guys ordered their burgers and fries and sat at the booth with their serving trays. When I sat down, I noticed that all conversation stopped. It’s funny how quickly my thoughts went from wondering if they had been telling a joke about me to noticing that they were staring at my food…or more to the point, the containers my food was in. The next thing I heard was someone say ‘Dude, is that a Happy Meal,’ followed by the kind of intense laughter that I hope would only be associated with someone reading my blog. Despite the two happy meal cartons in my hands, I fumbled for a decent excuse but all that came out was ‘uh, I got two cups here, anyone want an extra Coke,’ followed by ‘check her out.’ This was easily the worst thing I could have said because when all the guys turned around, all they saw was a 70-year old hunch backed grandmother that I obviously had failed to see. Yep, my important social standing at work was now over. In the office, my name would forever by synonymous with Kiddy Meals and not-so-hot grandma lust.

Obviously one cannot overcome a social set back like that. Defeated and disgraced, I took my place in our booth and tried to steer the course of the discussion by asking ‘can you believe what Female Coworker did on Friday.’ My course correction failed as the answer I received was ‘well, at least she doesn’t eat Happy Meals and ogle the elderly.’ Clearly, it was time to eat. I reached into my Happy Meals and noticed that I got the same toy in each. So now, not only had I disgraced myself in front of my male counterparts, but Lucy and Ethel would be upset that they both had the same toy. My mind raced with my options. My coworkers noticed this so I explained that these were Shrek Toys and would look great on my desk. Judging by the look on their faces, I clearly should have gone with option 2, which was ‘the twins love Shrek.’ Who figured that would have been the excuse that worked.

So, I did what any father who is completely controlled by his two young daughters would do. I asked the girl at the register if I could exchange one of the Shrek toys for a different one so I would not have two of the same because I had twins (while all of my ex-friends from work laughed and snickered in the background). She said, ‘yeah, but wouldn’t your kids each want to have the same toy so they wouldn’t fight over them?’ I just smiled and said ‘not my two girls.’ If I had only stopped there. I followed that by saying ‘seriously, they’re not for me.’ Have you ever gotten that yeah, sure buddy look, because that’s the one I got.

After about fifteen minutes of not-so gentle ribbing at my expense, the guys became like animals that have beaten, killed and partially eaten their prey only to become bored with it. They moved on to trying to find the restaurant’s (and I’m using that loosely) calorie breakdown. We found it and then went down the list of all the calories associated with this place’s food. Let’s just say my meal came to a premature end when I realized that everyone had focused on what I was eating and how it had the most combined calories, though I’m sure it wasn’t intentional on their part. We noticed in the corner of the eatery that a management team was reviewing their numbers and the cleanliness of the facility. They all decided to eat while we were there, so of course we paid great attention to what they were eating with our handy little calorie list. Yep, just as we had figured. It was salads all the way around. We wanted to ask them what was wrong with the burgers but for some reason I’m still not clear on, decided against it.

I got back to work and took solace in the fact that while I was completely humiliated and the story was already spreading throughout the office, at least I had done something special for my little girls. Well, that was until the twins called me at work. Just guess where Lucy and Ethel’s grandparents took them for lunch. And just guess what they got in their little kiddy meals…

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Repost Sunday: Evolution In Progress?

I rerun some of my older posts on Sundays as a way to highlight stories that you may have missed. Just think of it as 'thought recycling' and a day off, or that I am incredibly, incredibly lazy.

Now before we do anything else, I want to wish all the mothers out there (not muthas, because I already made that mistake) a Happy Mother's Day. Here's something fun to try: call up your Mom and to the tune of the famous Andy Williams holiday song 'Happy Holidays,' sing 'Happy Mother's Day.' Trust me, your Mom will be impressed and you'll score major points. You can thank me later...with cash...or lobster.

I’ve heard of the phrase “jump the shark” to describe when a TV show does something completely unbelievable to capture ratings and then the show’s creativity and popularity both decline. It was coined when Fonzie literally jumped a shark in an episode of “Happy Days” when ratings were slumping (ok, that’s enough Cliff Claven useless trivia for the day).

But now I’m reading about a walking shark? There is an AP story out about a new shark found in the waters near Indonesia that walks on its fins. I think the Walking Sharks was also the name of a popular street gang in the ‘50s, wasn’t it?

Maybe the scientists witnessed evolution in motion when they found this little guy. It has long been proposed that we evolved from the oceans and became land dwelling mammals. Of course I’m skipping several million years in one sentence, but you get the point. Perhaps the walking shark is just a few years from getting up out of the ocean, walking off the beach, putting on a 3-piece suit and becoming a high powered executive of a multimedia company. Or maybe he’ll become a professional pool player. You know, pool shark. Or for the classic Saturday Night Live fans out there, maybe he’ll just hang around on land, knock randomly on people’s apartment doors and become a land shark. Oh well, never mind. I’ll get back the point.

I think it’s interesting that this shark was only recently discovered since it obviously did not just show up in the ocean from thin air. Though it does beg the question about whether it’s a walking shark or a running shark. If the shark uses its fins to run, it could explain how it has eluded discovery for so long. I would imagine its chances of hiding increase exponentially by running than walking.

I think ocean creatures are amazing. I am a little disappointed in this newly discovered shark though. It seems like a pretty lazy species. It chooses to just walk around when it could be swimming, which has been proven to burn a lot more calories. Maybe the walking shark was the unfortunate conclusion of creation’s indecision.

“Let's see, a snake, no a shark…it can walk, no swim…on land…no on sea. Oh, forget it!”

Whatever the reason behind its existence and evolution, we should welcome this newfound species to our humble little planet. One thing is for sure though, if I’m ever snorkeling off the coast of Indonesia, I’m going to be on my best behavior. The last thing I want to do is upset a shark that can walk right up the beach and come after me!

Author’s note: In hindsight, after rereading what I’ve just written, maybe this blog has finally “jumped the shark." We all knew it would happen sooner or later.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Things I Learned This Week: 5-12-07

Because I want to spare you from experiencing some of the things I endured over the last few days, I post “Things I Learned This Week” each Saturday. It’s educational, sometimes insightful and for some reason it never makes me look good. I hope that knowing about at least one item on this list will make your upcoming week much easier. So here are the “Things I Learned This Week” for the week of 5/6/07-5/12/07.

! I learned that when Female Coworker shows me the Body Mass Index chart that she has and under the weight column there is nothing less than 200 pounds, I should not declare ‘Where is the 100 weight category? I weigh less than 200.’ Pretending like I was having trouble reading the chart before I said that really didn't help either. In fact, it created a little animosity.

! I learned that when I’m sitting at a stop light next to some very attractive ladies in a convertible, they aren’t flirting with me. They were only laughing at me blaring the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack with my windows down. Seriously, who doesn’t like a little Jive Talkin’ every now and then?

! I learned that when I am out driving for work, I have left what I know of as civilization when I pass an old house with a sign out front that reads ‘worm molds for sale.’ Having to pull out on a two-lane road to pass a tractor with tires taller than my truck was only the exclamation point to the experience.

! I learned that I need to be more careful when using Lucy and Ethel’s T-Ball set. Ethel doesn’t seem to appreciate accidentally being struck in the back by whiffle ball when she’s playing in the yard and doesn’t expect it. And I want to know when a 4 ½ year old learned to say things like ‘see what you did Daddy, see what happens when you are careless!’ Talk about the student teaching the teacher.

! I learned that the fact that I was home watching the big Dale Earnhardt Jr. press conference on the Speed Channel will NEVER been seen as a good excuse for being 1 ½ hours late to work…at least not in stupid Southern California.

! I learned that saying my desk phone is acting up and all of the static makes it hard to hear so I need to cut my phone calls short works very well. Of course, my phone was replaced a week ago, but I don’t need to acknowledge that yet.

And lastly,

! I learned that no one in the office found the humor in me saying ‘Happy Mother’s Day to all you Muthas’ when I left work yesterday. The reaction I received begs the question of whether I should really even bother going in on Monday.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Creatures Of Comfort

I am participating this week in the Carnival of the Mundane (it was a perfect fit since that is apparently my legal middle name). The Carnival is being hosted this week by a great blogger and true Belle of the Dirty South, Mist 1.

When I decided to write something mundane for the carnival of the mundane, I got a rude awakening. I came to the realization that everything I write about is mundane and since I write mostly about things I have personally experienced, I therefore must be mundane. And what is the most mundane aspect of my life? Why, my office cubicle of course. You can’t get any more mundane than that. By the way, is there an award for whoever uses the word mundane the most? I’m hoping I’m in the running. Mundanely, of course.

A few Fridays ago were all told to put a certain sticker on our chairs if we wanted them cleaned by the special chair cleaning company that was coming in to clean them that weekend (I used a Post It note on which I wrote the word ‘sticker’). Sadly, this was the collective highpoint of our Friday afternoon. We shrieked in anticipation of returning to work Monday to sit in our clean office chairs.

Then came the highly anticipated Monday. As we all sat down you could hear the grumbles and groans coming from everyone’s cubicles. It turns out that while the stickers on the chairs identified which chairs were to be cleaned, they did not specify who was the owner of each chair. It seems the commercial chair-cleaning experts had neglected to return even a single chair to its rightful owner. Mine seemed especially uncomfortable. I tried for a while to get used to my new hindquarters padding, but it just wasn’t happening. After all, studies have shown that an uncomfortable worker is not a productive one and if you have learned one thing from my blogging, it’s that I’m all about being productive at work…no seriously. Now granted, the study I am referring to is my own and was based solely on the one-hour of agony I experienced while sitting in someone else’s desk chair, but I’m sure that’s plenty of data to base a theory on.

Since no one in the office was going to take the initiative (or cared about their productivity, just in case my boss is reading), I decided I would look after myself and find my chair as one would search for a lost sheep or a CD that hasn’t been played since 1994. Not knowing exactly where to begin, I first started sitting in the chairs in the cubicles closest to mine. Sure, my coworkers were annoyed, until I explained that I was on a mission to reclaim my misplaced chair. After trying four other chairs, I realized this was going to be harder than I thought. So, I asked my secretary for list of serial numbers that were assigned to our chairs (you know she loved handling that request). Yes, my employer puts serial number tags on everything. I can understand doing that on computers, monitors, cubicle walls and #2 pencils, but really, chairs? Unless somehow our managers were smart enough to foresee this coming. No, that can’t be it.

It turns out that while there are serial numbers on our chairs, there is no registry of them. At least that’s what my secretary told me and for the sake of office pleasantries, I chose to believe her. There was only one thing to do: try every chair until I found mine. To say I felt like the Prince from Cinderella would be an understatement…and very foolish. Along about the 13th chair, I realized I had left a trail of very irritable office mates in my wake. I explained the secret of ‘butt-groove’ technology and the belief about comfortable workers as it relates to productivity and that was all it took. Soon everyone was looking for their chair. It did nothing to help productivity as everyone in the office scurried around looking for their perfectly molded chair, but that was only a temporary setback.

On the 29th chair, I finally found mine. At least I think I did. The patented ‘butt-groove’ felt similar so I just assumed that the chair cleaning experts’ methods slightly changed the way the chair felt. The chair was in the cubicle of a coworker who is out on leave for several weeks so if I did indeed get the wrong chair, I won’t have to hear about it for a while. Now, if I could just find who took my staple remover. Did I ever tell you about how ergonomic office supplies relates to worker productivity…