Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Another Reason Nelson Mandela Is Cool

I really like talking to people with accents (with one specific exception). I can't really explain it, but a person with a good foreign accent is just awesome. A radio station in town has an Irish traffic lady, and I catch myself listening to her in the mornings even though I only travel on two streets to get to work. It just puts me in a good mood when I hear an Irish person say "three-car pileup" or "expects delays."

And I found out today that one of the prompts on our help desk 800 number switches to a recording of a Scottish guy explaining the different options. I've called it four times today even though I don't need help with anything.

So you may wonder what the one exception is to this (unless you have ADD and already forgot the first parenthetical of this post). Well, it's South African. But don't get me wrong. It's an amazing accent. I think it sounds really cool. But I'm completely unable to imitate it. All the other major ones I can impersonate to some degree. English, Irish, Indian, Spanish, French, German, Russian, Australian… no problem. In fact, even though you can't tell, I'm actually writing this post with a Scottish accent (not joking).  And I occasionally order at the drive-thru window with a weird accent just because it's fun (and because my wife hates it).

But for the life of me, I can't pin down the South African thing. But it's not for lack of trying.  I've seen Invictus like 150 times.  And I made friends with South African people just to study their dialect.  But I make no progress.  And it haunts me. I just know that I'll be "discovered" one day for my dialectical talents (like a male Meryl Streep) and they'll offer me a part in a big-budget Hollywood film. But they'll fire me and laugh me out of my expensive trailer when I'm told the movie is based in South Africa. And my dreams will be crushed.

If you want to know how this feels, try saying "mama" with your mouth wide open. Don't let your lips touch. It sounds like nGa-nGa, doesn't it?  See how frustrating that is?  You know you can do it, but no matter how hard you try, you can't get it to sound the same. That is my curse.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It's Just A Cup, But I'm Neurotic

Everyday, there is a paper coffee cup on the counter in the men's bathroom. But there is never a potential owner of said cup in the bathroom with it. And the cup is dry, inside and out. And it doesn't have any trace that it's been used to hold coffee. And everyday, I pick up the cup, and look inside to find it utterly empty and unused. Then I throw it in the trash, shaking my head.

One day I decided that it was probably just weird timing. Maybe someone brought it in there and the few days I found it, they were about to waltz back in to grab the forgotten cup. So I left it there. And it sat there in the same spot for two days. So I threw it away again. And the next morning, a new cup was on the counter.

I've also paid attention to where it sits on the counter, thinking it might be to catch a leak from the ceiling that starts after I leave for the day. But the cup is in a different spot every time I go in there. And one day I saw it at 8:15 in the morning. So I threw it away. And lo and behold, when I went back in at 10:00, another cup was there.

And I've come to a conclusion that you must have come to while reading this post. I am steadily going insane. "It's just a cup, what do you care?" you might ask me. But it's not just a cup. It's a series of cups with no perceivable purpose. And someone who doesn't know me (because nobody in this office knows me) is doing this simply to mess with me. And they're destroying my slowly unraveling mind.

I don't think I can win this one. They have an unlimited supply of cups, and I can't stand in the bathroom and wait to catch them because that's frowned on (it's in the handbook). But if I leave the cup in the bathroom, my brain will explode. So short of leaving an ill-received passive-aggressive note, I'm not sure what to do.  I think I have to quit.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Preventing Daddy Issues

I have this fear as a parent that I'm going to miss a big event in one of my children's lives. I'm not sure why I have this fear. Oh wait… yes I do. It's because there are so many movies where parents miss important events because they're selfish or career-driven. And if you need proof, go watch the movies listed below; because of each of them has a plot element where the parent misses something and the child is hurt by it. And in most cases, the relationship between the parent and the child has been damaged almost beyond repair.

The Sixth Sense
Austin Power 3
Despicable Me
Save the Last Dance
Liar, Liar
Man of the House (1995 Chevy Chase/J.T.T. film)

And since I believe any theory that's present in at least seven movies must be irrefutably true, I know that I can't miss a single important event in my kids' lives. So I can't miss any ballet recital, no matter how lame, or any school play, no matter how laughably boring. And I certainly can't miss a sporting event, because there will be last-second heroics that I won't be there to enjoy. And if I do miss an event, the only valid excuse for it is a near-fatal car accident.

So anyway, my son's last soccer game of the season was Saturday. And I had a tee time to play golf across town that required me to leave halfway through his game. So my big fear (given the examples above) was that Andrew would score his first goal 30 seconds after I drove off. Then he would look to the crowd with his hands raised and try to make eye contact with me for that perfect moment of paternal validation. And all he would find would be an empty chair next to my wife (who would be silently weeping).

But that didn't happen. He did score his first goal, but I was still there to see it. And he was wholly unaware that he had even scored due to the fact that he's four years old. So there was no meaningful eye contact. He was too busy sliding on his shin-guards for the fun of it. But I'm very glad I didn't miss it.  When he gets older, I have to start planning better. I don't want to ruin his life over a round of golf.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Let The Good Times Roll

If you ever want to feel like an idiot, do what I did today. Drop a roll of toilet paper when there's someone else in the bathroom at work. And make sure it hits your foot and rolls under the stall door and goes 15 feet to the other side of the bathroom and stops at the paper towels. But be sure it rolls so that it rolls off the roll as it travels, leaving a 15 foot train of toilet paper as it goes. Then, instead of just leaving it there, try to pull it back by end you're still holding. It won't come back to you, but it'll roll in place while you collect a giant wad of paper. That'll ensure that it rolls right on out the door.

Then, just to make sure you've thoroughly embarrassed yourself, make sure to speak to the person that now thinks you're a moron. And don't just say, "Sorry." Begin a ridiculous conversation with your unnecessary explanation. In fact, say exactly what I said, "Sorry. That got away from me. It bounced right off my foot!" And then, when it dawns on you that they might try to return it, say, "But don't worry about it.  I'll pick it up when I get out. There's another roll in here, so I don't need that one."

Also, make sure your voice cracks when you nervously say all that. And make sure one of your legs is asleep so when you try to stand up a minute later, you almost fall down. And be certain that your name badge is clipped to your belt during the entire episode so it's visible under the wall when this goes down.

There you go. That should be all you need to know.  Now you're guaranteed to be completely humiliated. Just trust me on this one.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I'm Lazy And You Probably Haven't Read This Post From August 2009

I think someone should write a list of elevator etiquette rules. Because sometimes I don't know what to do. Like if you're on the elevator with an old guy on a Segway. Do you offer to hit the button because he's old and he's on a motorized vehicle? Or do you warn him to watch his head on the way out? I did the former. But he said, "I got it" and zipped up to the buttons and pressed his floor, then zoomed right back to the wall next to me. So I felt really weird standing next to a towering man on a glorified scooter who I'd just implied was impaired. I guess that's a pretty rare scenario, though. But there are plenty of situations that happen all the time where I don't know what to do.

There are some rules that are unwritten, but universally understood. For example, if you're waiting for the elevator and someone you don't know walks up to wait with you, you are required to look at each other and give a half-smile while raising your eyebrows. No need to make small talk or say hello. That's just protocol. It's an unspoken agreement that basically says, "We're about to ride for an undetermined amount of time in a closet-sized space where we are required to look forward the entire time. Let's not make it awkward by interacting before we even get in there." And if you want to see me squirm, turn around and face the wrong way in the elevator. Nothing makes that ride more awkward than trying to avoid eye contact with someone who's facing you from two feet away. It's just unnatural.
But where I really need help is repositioning after someone exits. I was on an elevator the other day with four other people and we were all lined up against the back wall. We stopped once and the three people on the right got off. So that left me and the other guy standing really close on one side of the elevator. I wanted to move over so I didn't have to stand so close to him, but I didn't want to make it seem like I had to get away as fast as possible. I didn't know what to do to convey, "I don't think you smell bad, but I don't want people thinking I'm purposely standing right next to you." So I had to kinda shimmy down a little, leaving enough room so we weren't almost holding hands, but not moving so far as to imply that he had cooties. I think I did the right thing, but I still felt weird.

The only thing I've found to be a concrete rule (for me anyway) is to wait until the doors open before making your exit move. I can't tell you how many times I've made the mistake of taking the preparation step towards the door only to wait 10 more seconds for the doors to open. So I look like I'm trying to sniff the doors while everyone else just stares at me. If I weren't so lazy and overweight, I'd just take the stairs.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Two Things

There are two things I know for sure about my milk allergy. First, I know that as soon as I say it, people think I mean lactose intolerance. But that's not the same thing. Second, I know that after I explain the difference between the two, people will simply file away in their brains the memory that Taylor is lactose intolerant. The problem I have with that is they will inevitably see me eating cheese or the occasional bowl of ice cream and they'll say, "I thought you said you were lactose intolerant." And the fact that they didn't listen to me will somehow turn into me being a liar.

No, I am not lactose intolerant. There are no digestive consequences involved with my consumption of dairy products.  I have an allergy to milk, specifically a protein in milk called sodium caseinate (thank you, Google, for teaching me about this). What that means is that if I have too much milk and/or ice cream, my throat starts to hurt and my nose starts to run, and I get sick slowly. And the really sad part about that is that I'm a sucker for cereal. I have yet to try a cereal that I didn't like. I could literally eat cereal everyday and not get sick of it. I would get sick from it, but not of it.

I tried soy milk a few years back and decided it would be better to die of my milk allergy than drink soy milk ever again. I hated it. And it contains the protein I'm allergic to, so it's useless in my fight against my condition. But a fortnight ago (that's two weeks), I tried almond milk for the first time. I put it in some Raisin Bran, and gave it a shot. And I was surprised to find that it tasted good. There is no perceivable difference between regular milk and vanilla-flavored almond milk when added to a bowl of cereal (except my lack of an allergic reaction). It's like I've been reborn. So I've gone a little crazy on the cereal since then. I'm eating two very large bowls a day. In the past week and a half, I've gone through four boxes of cereal by myself.

And I realize two things now. First, anyone reading this is going to think I'm a weirdo for loving cereal so much. But I don't care, because it's awesome. And second, everyone reading this is only going to remember that I'm lactose intolerant.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Just Sayin'

Things You Won't Hear Me Say:
- "Sixths" - (it's too difficult to say unless you say it in slow-mo)
- Any words with "th" in the middle of them, like "mythic," "method," or "lethal" - (they make me think I have a lisp)
- "I'm a hugger."
- "I think just a salad this time."
- "Extra mustard and pickles."
- "I'm buying."
- "I just finished the Twilight series."

Things I Regret Ever Saying:
- "My kids will never do that."
- "It's okay, I don't think the mold got on the other end of the loaf."
- "I think it'll be easier to lose weight once I get married."
- "I can't wait to see King Kong."

Things I Regret NOT Saying:
- "Wait, are there free refills on this mango juice?"
- "Dude, you have a booger."
- "Dude, your fly's open."
- "Dude, you have something in your teeth."
- "No, that's okay. I'm full."
- "Andrew, do you need to go potty before we get in the car for 3 hours?"

Monday, May 9, 2011


My older brother decided at a party once that he needed to impress a girl. He thought she was cute, he wanted to take a chance, so he talked to her. And he decided he'd try his hand at lying.

Sidenote, here. My brother is not a liar. He's a very truthful, albeit somewhat boring, person. So this was out of character for him.

So to try to impress this girl, he told her that he played football. And being about 6-foot 5 with the build of a lineman, that's not a stretch. He's definitely got the physique of a football player. So he told the girl that he was on the offensive line for the University of Houston Cougars. He figured it was a safe lie because most girls don't follow collegiate sports enough to call him on it. And in this case, he was wrong.

Her response was excitement, as he had hoped. But her excitement was that she had met one of her boyfriend's teammates. She said, "No way! My boyfriend plays left tackle for the Cougars! So you must be a friend of his!"

I wasn't at this party, but I wish I had been just to see my brother's face. He realized immediately that this was a bad idea. She has a boyfriend - strike one. He plays football and you just pretended to do what he does in order to impress his girlfriend - strike two and three.

So my brother had to try to quickly explain his intentions before the boyfriend showed up again. And he thoroughly embarrassed himself by explaining that he'd never played football, and he was just trying to impress her. I don't think she even responded out loud. She just looked at him in disgust and then walked away.

I assume he left pretty quickly in case of retribution from a giant boyfriend was coming. And I honestly feel a little sorry for him. The one time he decided to lie. But I also have to give him credit. He at least picked a persona that she'd like.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

How To Make Other Parents Mad

There's a moment in the life of every parent when they realize that no matter how careful they are and how pure their intentions, they just can't win. This moment came for my mother when my older brother was a little kid (maybe 5 or 6). He invited a whole bunch of friends to his birthday party, and he was getting excited about getting gifts. And he wondered aloud what each kid would be bringing him. But my mother, being a well-intentioned woman who's always looking out for the feelings of others, gave him a little heads-up. She told him that some of the kids who were coming may not bring a gift, and that he shouldn't be upset if they didn't bring one. And when he asked why, she explained nicely that some people don't have a lot of money to spend on birthday gifts for other kids, but that was okay because the party was about having fun, not having money. And she left it at that.

But come time for the party, my brother got a gift from every kid there. And he opened one gift to find that it had cash in it. And instead of thanking the person like he'd done for every other present, he looked right at my mom with a confused look and said, "But Mom… I thought you said they didn't have any money."

So that was the day my mom learned that you just can't win sometimes. And I'm not sure we ever saw that family again.

Well, my day to learn that lesson was this week at my son's soccer practice. I was trying to help Andrew learn to be a little more aggressive on the field. And kicking the ball away from people and putting your hand out to get around them is against all the stuff we've taught him outside of sports. So I explained to him on the way to practice, as best you can to a four-year old, that he needed to be a tad more aggressive in his attempt to get to the ball. I didn't tell him to be mean or hurt anyone. But I thought it would be more fun for him if he really committed to playing the right way. And while my intention was for him to improve, it blew up in my face. Here's how it went at practice:

Andrew (yelling to me from the field): "Daddy, I pushed that boy like you said!"
Me: "Let's not push anybody, pal."
Andrew: "But you said in the car that…"
Me: "Okay buddy! Go kick the ball!"