Monday, August 31, 2009

Two Wheel Drive

A couple of years ago, my driver side mirror fell off my car. (Okay, I knocked it off because I was walking backwards and wasn’t paying attention.) Then the passenger side mirror fell off (while I was on the highway, so there was no reattaching it). Then on a particularly hot day after the air conditioning went out, my rearview mirror dropped off the windshield onto the dashboard. So I found myself in a zero-visibility, 100-degree furnace with transmission issues. Or what is more commonly called a "deathtrap." I sold it for cash to a man who fixes up cars and resells them in Mexico and said "Adios" to being a two-car family. Then one of my older brothers swooped in to save the day. He let me indefinitely borrow the old truck he used when he delivered mail a few years ago. He had converted a 1995 Ford Bronco into a mail delivery truck by installing a steering wheel and pedals on the passenger side of the car. So he could drive on either side of the car if he so chose.

Okay, sidestory backstory here. This particular older brother likes to fish early in the morning. And he's used to getting up early because of some past jobs (newspaper roller, donut maker, etc.). So he would invite his buddies to go fishing with him and pick them up in the converted Bronco. Then he'd tell them, "I'm actually more accustomed to driving this car from the passenger side, so you can ride in the driver's seat, but I’ll drive from over here." They would blearily oblige and then fall asleep. This would give my older brother the perfect opportunity for a little fun. Because apparently, if you're sleeping in the driver's seat of a moving vehicle, it's easy to convince you that you fell asleep at the wheel. So he'd wait until the sleepy friend was really out cold. Snoring was usually a good sign. Then he'd slowly drift onto the shoulder and lean back in his seat like he'd been drifting off too. Then he'd yell at the top of his lungs, "Aaaaahhhhh! What are you doing! We're going off the road!" I can only imagine what the "driver" went through on this little prank. I freak out when my phone rings while I'm asleep. But to wake up and realize that you're supposed to be in control of a 2-ton beast that's careening off the road must be slightly more terrifying. This is what I imagine the progression of thoughts was for the victim:

1. "What? Why is someone waking me?"
2. "Why is this person yelling?"
3. "I'm driving off the road into some trees!"
4. "I saved us. But why is he laughing all of a sudden?"
5. "I thought I was gonna die!"
6. "I'm gonna kill you!"

7. "Dude, we need to go back so I can change shorts."

I used the Bronco for about two years, but I never got to do that to anybody. He disengaged the steering wheel and brake pedal on the passenger side before turning it over to me. So I just had to warn people to watch where they put their feet when riding with me, so they didn't hit the remaining gas pedal accidentally. Which led to another problem with one of my other older brothers. He decided it would be fun to hit the gas at random times when he rode with me. If I asked him if there were any cars coming from his direction, he would skip the "no" and just slam his foot down on his gas pedal. And let me tell you, there's something very strange about having your foot on the brake and then feeling the car lunge forward all of a sudden. And if we were coming to an empty four-way stop, he'd tap the gas so it was nearly impossible for me to stop before getting to the intersection. Mostly he'd just mess with other drivers, though. If we pulled next to someone on the highway, he'd jerk his wheel towards them like he was running them off the road. It only got bad when I joined in and eased the car towards them too. We only did that once, though. I won't forget that traffic ticket.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Countdown Breakdown

Post FYI: Today's post is a repost of a guest post I posted that was posted on Some of you may already have read it. Sorry if I disappoint anyone again.

I like to consider myself a pretty easy-going person. I don't usually let things get to me, and I don’t stress about much. But I think whoever invented the digital heart attack called "Distance To Empty" in my car is trying to kill me. It's the setting on the overhead trip computer that shows you how many miles you have until you run out of gas. I can just hear him talking about it, mocking my pain. ("Beautiful, isn't it? It took me half a lifetime to invent it. I'm sure you've discovered my deep and abiding interest in pain.")

My minivan, I mean Corvette, has one of those trip computers. And its main feature is the DTE mileage. It estimates how long you have until you're empty. Pretty neat, right? Wrong! It would be neat if it was accurate. But it jumps around depending on how hard you stop or how tilted you are when you park. So I can get in my car and see "DTE = 22 miles" and then back out of the driveway and see it plummet immediately to 13 miles. And then it does that accelerated countdown to zero. It doesn't drop a mile for every mile I drive (because that would actually make sense). Instead, it drops 3 miles every time I pass a gas station. Then it hits zero when I've hit that stretch of road without a gas station for 10 miles. So I have to accelerate slower than a golf cart and coast as much as I can without getting hit by another driver. And just to be safe, I turn off my air conditioner and lean forward (I figure every little bit helps).

My wife thinks I'm crazy. She'll drive on "DTE = 0 miles" for days and laugh maniacally as I squirm in the passenger seat (no, not really). And she'll accelerate for no reason ("Not to fifty!") Then she'll toss the keys to me and say, "Your turn!" It's like playing gas tank Russian Roulette. It reminds me of a show I watched when I was younger (I want to say it was something cool, but it was actually Weird Science) where one of the main characters has a timer that counts down to his death. Watching the DTE drop to zero is like watching the countdown to my own destruction.

I just miss the good old days when I knew that having an empty tank really meant having an eighth of a tank, and you had to see the needle drop an inch below "E" before worrying. But this countdown business is going to put me in the hospital. I don't think I've never had a panic attack, but I'm pretty sure I know what it feels like now. It's like being in some kind of Pit of Despair and having 50 years sucked out of my life.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Cube Wars

My older brother is one of those people that will dedicate a lot of time to wasting time. When he doesn't feel like working or studying or whatever he's supposed to do, he'll find something to distract him from work. This usually results in the planning of elaborate pranks. He plans pranks for days or weeks just so he can really catch someone off guard.

I think this happens mostly at work because of his boring job. He once spent an entire afternoon covering every item in a coworker's cubicle with aluminum foil. He wrapped each individual pen, every binder in the cabinet, and even the paper clips left on the desk. He was ridiculously meticulous. And he bought the foil two weeks in advance in case the opportunity came sooner than expected. Not to mention the fact that he spent 40 dollars on it. He really likes messing with coworkers, too. His favorite thing to do to new people at work is email them when he knows they're at their desk. All he sends is "Turn around." Then he walks to their desk quietly and stands behind them until they get the email. It never fails to freak people out. And since he knows the network at his office is super slow, he always makes it to their desk before the email does. I wish he could get some pictures of their faces when they turn around and see him towering behind them.

One time he waited after hours for a coworker to leave, and then dismantled his PC and put a cell phone inside. He made sure the volume wasn't too high, but he set the ringtone to circus music. Then he put the PC back together and back in place. Then when the guy came in the next morning, my brother called the cell phone every five minutes. And it took an hour before the guy realized the music was coming from his desk. He pulled open every drawer, moved his computer, his monitor, his printer, and even crawled under his desk looking for the source. And once he unplugged everything and broke a sweat in his work clothes, my brother stopped calling. So after the guy decided he had finally eliminated the source and he'd moved everything back, he started calling again. It drove the guy crazy. And worst of all, my brother got everyone else involved too. So everyone else in the office pretended they couldn't here it. But the volume was so low, that the guy wasn't even sure he could hear it himself. Eventually he quit working and went through each item in his desk until finally he pinpointed the source. So after he dismantled his own PC, he finally found it.

In his defense though, the guy is a super cool guy. He would never do that to someone else, and he's always been nice to everyone he meets. I definitely didn't... I mean, he definitely didn't deserve that. Okay, fine... it was me. I still have to think of a way to get him back.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Awkward Box

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.

Top Ten Things That Make You Realize You’re a Fatty

10. The vending machine guy gives you the "expiring-tomorrow" items, and it's the highlight of your month.

9. You receive a cupcake at work through the interoffice mail service, and you eat it. Even though it's been in a hot cardboard box for several hours.

8. You'd rather work on the first floor so that if there's a fire, you're not forced to take the stairs.

7. You know the franchise-specific term for "super-size" at every fast food restaurant.

6. Your day can change course in an instant if you're given a candy bar.

5. If you haven't ordered a pizza by 6pm on a Tuesday, your local pizza joint calls your house and asks if you're alright.

4. You keep food in your pocket.

3. You're always the first person told when there's extra food left over from something.

2. Your sweat smells like fried onion rings.

1. You don't own a scale and your running shoes are not living up to their name.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

You Ain't Got No Alibi

Disclaimer: The following post is simply to be funny. It's just a joke. It's only humor. It's merely in jest. So no comments about how horrible or mean or stupid or vain or shallow I am. Relax and know that I'm just kidding. K?

I think, in retrospect, I'd rather be ugly on the inside. Having been ugly on the outside for so long, I've come to the conclusion that it's easier to hide inner ugliness. Sure, I'd be a jerk. Yeah, I'd be full of myself. I'd probably be a lonely, sad man who cared little for other people's feelings. But I could have gotten as many first dates as I wanted to in high school. And I wouldn't have had to work so hard to convince my wife when we were 19 that I had a redeeming personality. And I definitely wouldn't be compared to a "tired-looking Dan Akroyd" anymore.

Okay, now that I think about it, my wife was not shallow enough to have stayed with someone like that, even at 19. So I guess I prefer it this way. But I still wish I had a little more attractivity. (Yeah, I made that word up. It sounds cool, leave me alone.) It would make life a little easier for me. For instance, I wouldn't have to keep hoping that our kids would take after my wife. My biggest fear when she was pregnant was that they would come out with her great personality but my giant forehead and hockey stick-shaped eyebrows. I've been lucky enough with our children that they take after her completely. And they seem to have a good balance of both of our personalities. So they've lucked out so far. But I feel like I carry a rare genetic disorder that is likely to pass to one of my kids. So I don't know if I can keep trying to beat the odds like this. Cute kids are great. So we may have to be satisfied with having a family of four.

And I promised my wife one thing each time she was pregnant. I told her that I would not be one of those dads who thinks his distorted ugly kid is cute. Because there are different rules for moms. They can look at their Gollum look-alikes and say, "Isn't she adorable?" And they will never catch my sarcasm when I say, "It really makes you wonder why some people don't want to have kids, doesn't it?" See, for moms it's different. They carried the baby for 9 months, so they're biased. But dads can be objective. I know enough about babies to know that they don't have a clue if I make fun of them. So there's no use in sparing my baby's feelings to make my friends feel awkward. I don't think it's nice to make your friends feel obligated to lie about how "cute" your kid is. I told my wife that if we had gangly, Gremlin-like children with faces like the characters in the Garbage Pail Kids movie (see picture on the right), I was going to openly mock them until they were old enough to know what I was doing. And by then, hopefully, they grew out of their ugly stage. But luckily, I didn't have to do that. Maybe we should adopt in the future, though... just to be safe.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Coke + Joke = Choke

One of my older brothers is always the target of my jokes. I don't mean that I mock him or make fun of him or anything like that. I just think his laugh is hysterically embarrassing, so I cater my humor to make him laugh as much as possible in public. Because the more embarrassed he is about laughing, the louder his laugh becomes. So I do my best to get him going and then it's a snowball effect of laughter. I know it's a success when a manager asks us to leave or he snorts something out of his nose. And I've found that the best way to do it is to start small. Like, I'll lean in and whisper to him, "Okay Jay, don't look now, but there's a cross-eyed girl staring at you... and me." And I make sure to time it perfectly with him taking a swig from his drink. I've ruined about a dozen of my shirts from this technique because of the flying drinks, but it's well worth it. And for some reason he continues to hang out with me.

My favorite is in the movie theatre. It's the only place that combines the humiliation of a public setting with the complete anonymity of utter darkness. So I can pretend to be his "special" friend and demand loudly that he buy me a slurpy. And then he looks like a jerk for laughing at me. And for some reason, even though he's a grown man, the sound of fake flatulence still makes him giggle like a little girl. So I wait for the most serious part of a movie (like when a main character is killed) and let out the most realistic-sounding gas I can muster. This ruins the movie for everyone else, but makes it worth my seven bucks. And I get to walk away without a trace of guilt on me. He, on the other hand, has to walk out still laughing. So he reveals to the rest of the crowed that he was the idiot who ruined Schindler's List.

And if we go get coffee or ice cream afterwards, I usually try to talk in broken English or a thick accent when I order. ("You are having chocolate of the mint? I am wanting such mint, please.") And I ensure that I'm directly in front of him in line. But once, I had a stroke of genius. I sat down and pretended that my butt was trying to escape my body. So I was falling down and grabbing the bottom of my chair to keep it at bay (a la Ace Venture: Pet Detective). People were full out staring at me, and he choked on his soda.

So when he ruins some food or drink, I win. Spewing or choking on laughter is the ultimate compliment he can pay me. I remember driving home one night and inventing a "driving dance" where I spun my hands around the steering wheel and slammed my back against my seat to the beat of the music. It rocked my car around and I couldn't really control it. Childish, yes. Spew-inducing, yes. He ruined the upholstery and dashboard in my Geo Prizm, but it was totally worth it. But my shining moment was when I got him to snort a chunk of chocolate cake out of his nose at his birthday party ("It burns!") I don't think I'll ever top that.

Friday, August 21, 2009

If Only Naming Children Were So Easy

I always think of really cool band names, but I'm not talented or focused enough to use any of them. It's actually pretty easy to come up with a band name, though. All you have to do is take a few words out of context in a random sentence until something jumps out at you (immediately awesome example: "Until Something Jumps") So I've decided to share my best band names in hopes that someone uses them and becomes famous and thanks me for the inspiration. So here we go:
If you're starting an alternative rock band, you should call yourselves "Moody Turns Two." Isn't that an awesome name? I was actually talking about a friend of mine turning a double-play in softball, but I realized that a band name had been born.
And if you have a nameless a cappella jazz group, you can use "Second Day Pasta." You know, because pasta is always good the second day, even after it's been refrigerated.
And if you're starting a ska-based metal punk glam hair band, you can be "Murphy's On It." So feel free to use these band names as my musical talent extends only as far as my hands making flatulent noises.
The only band name I've come up with that didn't happen randomly is kind of a little weird. I think it would be kinda funny if a band used the name "The Moment You've All Been Waiting For." That way they could use funny wordplay when they were in interviews and on the radio. And I imagine if they were late to their show, the announcer could say, "Ladies and gentlemen, the moment you've all been waiting for is finally here... The Moment You've All Been Waiting For is finally here!" But no one in the audience would think the announcer was funny. Then he'd get booed off the stage by the raucous crowd and be ridiculed and fired by his boss. Then he'd have to go find a job at a Pizza Hut or some other place even though he had a degree from an accredited university. And it would be great if he were my high school guidance counselor, Mr. Reed because he said I wouldn't amount to anything if I didn't start taking my life more seriously. So take that, Mr. Reed. (which makes another good band name... "That Mister Reed")

Thursday, August 20, 2009


One of the hardest things I've ever had to do was to help name my children. I only have two kids, so I'm not sure what happens if we have more. I don't know if it gets easier because we'll be too lazy to care ("Your oldest brother was given your grandfather's middle name and the first name of my best friend growing up. We're kinda sick of explaining all that, so we named you Tim because it's easy to remember and impossible to misspell."). Or it may be more difficult because of name shortage. I mean, it's not like we would skip a possible name to save it for a future kid. ("Ooh, that's a good one. Let's save it for our fourth child. We'll just use this first one for practice.")

All I know is that the naming process was difficult as it was. You want to pick a name that is unique, but not weird. And it has to be normal, but not boring. And it has to flow with a good middle name and you have to make sure the initials don't spell D.U.D. or something like that. And then you have all your family and friends giving unwanted advice and various opinions. And you start remembering every person you've ever met with that name. And then you have to think about what that name will sound like when they’re a teenager or a parent or an uncle or a grandparent. And then your brain explodes, and you pick the first one that popped into your head when you first discussed it 3 years ago. Fortunately for us, that worked out great. My wife and I came up with two solid names for our kids. We were willing to give up the unique requirement on my son, and we gave up the easy-to-spell requirement on my daughter. So we came out okay for our two. But I've seen some other people who just failed miserably.

I actually saw a baby announcement in a newspaper for a boy named DeHansome Troychristopher. I don't remember the last name (and I wouldn't include it here anyway), but I thought it was pretty sad. That boy is gonna have some major issues growing up. Forget the fact that part of his first name is misspelled. You have two middle names merged together there. It's like they were trying to put a bunch of great band members into one to form one of those super groups. It would almost be better as "Troystopher." Well, maybe not now that I see it in print, but still. If it's a tie between two names, flip a coin. Merging stuff like that never works out. What's next, morphing Joe and Nathan into... Jonathan? Oh... wait.... Okay, bad example. You get the point though.

Top Ten Signs You Have a Girl’s Name (Like Me)

10. When you met your wife, she had to cross your name off her list of possible girls' names for her future children.

9. All your junk mail starts with "Dear Ms."

8. You were named after your grandmother.

7. Every mug and magnet bearing your name at the store is pink and/or flowery.

6. People have described your name as "pretty" or "cute."

5. 90% of the time, if you hear someone yell your name in public, you turn to see a 6 year-old girl running back to her mother.

4. You've had to end a crush early when you found out that she had your name too.

3. You would never consider naming your son after yourself for fear that he would have to endure the relentless ridicule of middle school students, like you did.

2. Your name is Taylor, Kelly, Alice, Gene, or Stacey.

1. The only two famous "guys" with your name are the middle Hanson brother and the Twilight vampire actor.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


My son is sick again, so I didn't have time to write a new post. Instead, here's a joke I made up in 6th grade. I think it's one of my finest.

What do you call two lawyers and an idiot with a lighter standing in a row?
Liar, liar, pants on fire!

Pretty good for a 12 year-old, I think.
Okay, back to holding my son.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

No Thank You

My younger sister is getting married. I'm very happy for her and the guy she's marrying. But I'm glad that my wife and I never have to go through the planning part again. It was just too much hassle and I never seemed to get to plan any of the cool stuff. I was always stuck with envelope licking or thank-you note writing or tuxedo fitting. There was far too much of all that busy work and not near enough cake testing and honeymooning at DisneyWorld. And it wasn't until recently that I was reminded of exactly how much I hated helping with the wedding planning.

We were all hanging out in the living room where my younger sister was writing somewhere in the range of 6000 thank-you notes. I was holding my two year-old son, and he was whining because he was tired. Let it be known that he was not, in fact, tired. He was actually feeling suddenly sick. And the amazing father that I am, I instantly realized that he was feeling ill and gave him the proper care and medication. No wait, I didn't. Instead, I told him to "stop whining" and proceeded to tickle him to get him in a better mood. So apparently, I'm stupid and irresponsible.

So I realized that the tickling was a mistake because he might genuinely not feel good. I then saw (too late) the signs that he was about to vomit. He started to turn pale and then burped a small toddler burp. So again, being the great father I am, I didn't run outside or sprint to the bathroom with him. Instead, I sat down and cradled him. You probably see where this is going. He erupted with an explosion of bright red throw up that covered my shirt, arms, and pants. I've never experienced anything like that before in my life. And don't get me wrong... I've been puked on more than my fair share. And I've definitely been puked on by my son before. But this one caught me unaware and unprepared. And it was the temperature that I imagine liquid hot magma to be. I don't know what it felt like to produce that. So I really feel for my son on that one. All I know is that it wasn't all that pleasant to be receiving it.

It turned out to be a quick stomach bug, and he was back up and running the next morning without any ill effects. But the part that really brought it into perspective for me was the fact that, in retrospect, I prefer to have toddler-grade lava vomit spewed all over me rather than be forced to write thank-you notes.

Monday, August 17, 2009


My older brother is one of those people who likes using metaphors. But he always takes them a little too far. He can't just use a cliche and leave it at that. Here's an example:

"Okay, enough of that. We're beating a dead horse here."
"Yeah, good point. I think we've discussed that enough."
"I mean, the horse has been dead for a while and our beating is not slowing down."
"Yeah, I got it. We can talk about something else. It's fine."
"If the dead horse we were beating were resuscitated and brought back to life, we would have beaten him to death again. So it's like double-beating a double-dead horse."
"Okay, seriously. Enough with the dead horse analogy. I understand."
"So are you saying I'm beating a dead horse with the beating the dead horse metaphor? That's ironic."
"Yeah, it's ironic and annoying... so stop. I'm starting to get frustrated."
"It's actually kind of ironic that you find it ironic. You know what I mean?"

At this point the person he's talking to either leaves or smacks him in the face.

But he's not the only one who does it. I guess he's more of the extreme. It actually happens way more often on TV. It's like the producers feel like they have to validate their title choice for their show, so they try to tie in as many allusions to it as they can fit into an episode. I was watching a show recently called "Shark Tank" where there is a panel of five investors (a.k.a. "sharks") who listened to people's business ideas and decided whether or not to invest in them. And the narrator kept talking about "baiting the sharks" or the boardroom being "shark-infested." It got old after the first time, but they didn't stop. They kept referring to the inventors as "prey" and saying they were trying to start a "feeding frenzy."

But I changed the channel when I heard the narrator say this:
"The next pitchman came swimming in to the sea of sharks to see if he could get them to sink their teeth into his idea for a bluetooth implant. Their Jaws dropped and there was blood in the water when he told them about the implantation surgery."

So now I've added that to the long list of shows I refuse to watch. It's at the top along with "The Hills", "The Bachelor", and anything airing on Fox.

Friday, August 14, 2009


I like playing sports, but I'm pretty particular about who I play with. My skill level varies drastically depending on who's playing. Here's a couple examples on a scale of 1 to 10: I'm a 10 when I play basketball with my younger sister, but I'm a 1 when I play tackle football (without pads) with college kids. So I usually stick to playing with people about the same skill level as me. And I stick to sports that I don’t have to run or jump a lot. That narrows it down to adult softball and bowling.

The one person I insist on having on my team in softball is my older brother. He's slow, he's unreliable, and he makes me look like a pro. I mean, you don't have to do that well to perform better than the guy who strikes out in slow-pitch. And yes, he strikes out in slow-pitch softball... a lot. For those not familiar with hitting a softball, it's an oversized ball coming at 3 miles an hour in a 10-foot arc. And you get three tries to hit it. And my brother, be it from lack of coordination, impatience, or simple stupidity can not get anywhere close to making contact. He just swings wildly three times, yells in frustration, and marches back to the dugout. I guess I feel a little bad for him, though. There are few more humbling experiences than striking out like that and having to walk back to the dugout past all your trying-not-to-laugh-at-you teammates. I tried to think of something to say to make him feel better, but it was impossible. You can't make someone feel better when the game is that easy. It's like when you try to cheer up a friend when they've bowled 11 gutterballs in a row. You try to find the words to comfort them, but you end up just laughing. So you just buy them a Coke and keep your mouth shut.

Did you know Satchel Paige pitched his last baseball game when he was in his late 50s? My father's in his 50s, and I'm not sure he can finish watching a baseball game without falling asleep. My older brother is in his 20’s, and he can't even jog to his position in softball without getting winded. And he plays catcher. I mean, I'm not in any kind of decent shape (except my pear-shaped torso), but I think I can handle a little bit of exercise. After all, I run after the ice cream truck in my neighborhood. And I jog past those people at the kiosks in the mall who try to hand you stuff. So it's not like I'm completely lazy or out of shape. I just have to find the proper motivation.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


My older brother has this dog. It's a rat terrier. She's about a foot and a half long and weighs about 15 pounds. I don't know if you've ever seen a rat terrier before, so let me describe one. You know those cute little fluffy dogs that never bark and just kind pounce around on the carpet and make all the girls go "aww"? Yeah? Okay, my brother's rat terrier is the one that likes to grab those dogs and shake them until they stop moving. Then she runs around in a circle and yips for half an hour.

And I don't know if you've noticed this, but some people's names don't really match them. You'll see a big fat baseball player who has three feet between his shoulder blades, but he has the last name "Kruk". Or you see a much smaller guy and they have to squeeze "Grudzielanek" on his jersey in a big arc. Or it's like those Chihuahuas named "Butch" or those bikers named "Stacy." It seems that names sometimes don't match the name bearers. Well, my brother's dog is no exception. It’s the most vicious, loud dog on the planet. And he named her "Tink." Short for "Tinkerbell." He named his ill-willed, obnoxious dog after a beloved cartoon fairy. And I refuse to use that name for two reasons: 1) the name should match the dog and that dog is no Disney character and 2) I feel really stupid yelling "Tink" when I'm being attacked by an insane dog. So I just call her "Stink" instead. She doesn't know the difference, and I don't feel like a complete moron (a partial moron, yes... but not a complete moron).

And if there's such a thing as Canine ADHD, this dog has it. If you tell her to sit, she'll just hover an inch from the ground. If you start to walk past her, she'll try to weave between your legs, forcing you to choose between stepping on her or falling down. But worst of all, she smells. She stinks worse than any living thing I've ever encountered. She smells like a mixture of firecracker smoke and the air from an empty Super Soaker water gun. Or the unwashed hands of a six year-old. Or spicy bologna mixed with a sneeze. Or a hard-boiled egg mixed with burnt hair.

Okay, I think I've made my point. And I've probably made you gag.

Top Ten Other Things My Older Brother Learned Recently

10. If the new car smell was a food, people would be fat just on that.

9. A tuxedo t-shirt does not count as "formal wear."

8. Apparently, there is a wrong way to eat a Reese's.

7. It's insensitive to say, "Can't you just reschedule your chemo?"

6. Comparing a girl's hairstyle to a wet bird is not an effective pickup line.

5. People don't think you're hardcore because you drink straight tap water without ice.

4. You shouldn't mock children if their parents are present.

3. If you notice a bunch of people pointing their camera phones at you, stop whatever you're doing and just walk away.

2. The blind guy may not see you making funny faces at him, but the other people on the bus will get mad.

1. Peanut butter only works as "glue" for crackers, not for household repairs.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How to Make New Friends

Sometimes it's hard for my older brother to act normal. When he sees a normal situation where no one is violating social norms, I think he feels an uncontrollable urge to mix it up. What that usually means is that he messes with people. And on the rare occasion that his friends and family allow him to venture into the outside world unsupervised, that means he messes with strangers. He'll just think of some random thing to do and then go to the store, stand in front of the milk cooler and say, "This store puts the 'dairy' in legendary!" Just weird stuff like that. Or he'll tell people that he meets for the first time, "On a scale of 1 to Awesome, I'm probably a 31." This all goes along with his desire to shock people or throw them off. Luckily, every once in a while it backfires.

Recently he went to the bathroom at work and saw a man in the stall with his name badge showing under the wall. He had apparently left it on his belt and didn't realize he was showing everyone who was sitting behind the door. So my brother thought it would be funny to come back into the bathroom after a minute or so, eerily whisper the man's first name (like a ghost), and then walk away before getting caught. And I have to admit, that's actually kinda funny. If you follow the natural progression from there, it's a little humorous. If that were done to me and I couldn't trace the ghost voice, I'd probably freak out a little bit. And I probably wouldn't realize my name badge was displayed. So I would have come to the conclusion that one of my friends recognized my shoes and was playing a trick on me. And then I would have asked every male coworker if it was them. And when all of them denied it being them vehemently enough for me to believe them, I probably would have thought there was an actual bathroom ghost at my office.

But, as usual, these things don't turn out the way they're planned. My brother didn't walk back into the bathroom, but just stuck his face in and said "Clint!" in his stage whisper freaky voice. And just when he was about to go back out, the door flew open. It seems that "Clint" finished quicker than my brother would have hoped and was right at the door for the ghost impression.

Brother: "Clint!"
*the sound of a door opening quickly, followed by my brother gasping in shock*
Clint: "Did you just say my name?"
Brother: "Uh, yeah."
Clint: "Why? Do I know you?"
Brother: "Well, no. I just... uh...."
Clint: "So why were you saying 'Clint'? And how do you know my name?"
Brother: "It was on your name badge. I saw it under the stall. I just figured I'd mess with you a little bit. I'm sorry. I thought it was funny."
Clint: "You think it's funny to whisper a stranger's name in the bathroom?"
Brother: "Well, I did... until about ten seconds ago."

And you have to give my older brother some credit. I would have had trouble owning up to it. I would probably have to pretend that I knew a different Clint with the same shoes or fake like I had some social anxiety disorder with a side of O.C.D. So after his disaster, my brother retired that particular routine in favor of safer, less invasive public bits.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

All in Good "Fun"

There’s nothing quite like having your own personal movie night (except a nice MLT, mutton-lettuce-and-tomato, where the mutton is nice and lean... they’re so perky, I love that). A giant bowl of popcorn, three gallons of your favorite soda, and all the lights off. And if you get a good movie, it’s really a great night. But if you pick the wrong movie, it seems like a big waste of popcorn and drink. So I try to be really choosy when it comes to watching movies at home.

And I have a lot of movies at my house. I really do take pride in my movie collection. I’ve got all the great classics, too. But, have you ever noticed when you sit down and say, "I’m gonna watch a movie" that all of your movies look really stupid, and they seem like a waste of time? I’m always like, "Man, I’ve got some great movies here, The Matrix, Lord of the Rings, Top Gun." Then, when I decide that I’m gonna sit down and watch one, all of a sudden it’s, "Man, I’ve seen The Matrix like 90 times, I can’t watch that! And Lord of the Rings is 4 hours per movie! And I can’t watch Top Gun by myself, that’s a little questionable, especially that volleyball scene!" So you end up watching a movie you haven’t seen or one you know is horrible just because you can’t bring yourself to watch one of the good ones.

So a few weeks ago, I was sitting there eating popcorn out of my jacket while watching Speed 2: Cruise Control. And I realized two things. First, Willem Dafoe is the scariest actor I’ve ever seen in my life (he’s like a human-sized evil elf). And the second thing I realized was that I make ridiculous faces when I watch movies. I was home alone and watching a really bad movie that I had very little interest in. But I was grimacing when the "suspense" was "building." And I found myself making the same faces as the actors when they were "conveying emotion." (Are the sarcastic air quotes translating here?)

So I later asked my wife if I did the same thing when we watch TV together. At first, she just laughed. And that confirmed my suspicions. But, then she explained that I’m the only person she’s ever known who does that and how funny everyone finds it. And apparently, I’m well-known for making faces when I watch stuff on TV! My "loving" wife just laughs along with all my "friends" and points it out to people who haven’t noticed it! All this time, I thought she had my back. Now I'm gonna have to watch all my movies by myself. Or maybe I should start wearing a ski mask when we have people over for movie night.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Root of All Evil

I recently bought a game at a Christian bookstore. We were having a bunch of people from our church over to our house and I wanted to try out Bible Scattegories. I bought it on a whim and found that I had buyer’s remorse when I looked at the receipt for the $35 game. It was that and the fact that my wife had some issues with spending that much money on a game we’d probably use once. So I decided to return it at the next opportunity. But the problem is that I feel bad returning things to a Christian bookstore. It’s like I told them I wanted something, and it turned out I was a lying. And usually when I return something to a store, they don’t ask me why I’m returning it. Most stores just ask, "Do you have your receipt?" and "Was there anything wrong with the item?" But apparently, Christian bookstores are too nice to be so impersonal. So the lady at the counter said, "You want to return it? Well was there something we could have done better the next time you come in?" And that made me feel worse.

Usually when I return something, I can say "it doesn’t fit" or "I just don’t want this." But at a Christian store, I feel like I need to be more specific so they know I’m telling the truth. So I had to say, "Well, I had second thoughts when I realized how expensive it was." I felt like I was going back on my word. I had seen the price and agreed to buy the game anyway. So I was essentially admitting that I wasn’t a responsible adult. And she looked at me with this expression like she’d let me down. Like she should have personally made my last trip more enjoyable, so I wouldn’t have to return the item. She was so desperate that I felt like my purchase was keeping them in business. And then she asked the question that made me feel like the biggest jerk in the world. She said, "So do you want to put it back on your debit card or would you like store credit?"

I knew they didn’t have anything else I wanted to buy for $35 in a Christian bookstore, so store credit would be a waste. But I also knew that picking the debit card would break her heart. I figured I’d rather let this nice stranger down than show up at home with $35 worth of inspirational postcards or something. So I told her to return the money onto my card. I felt so horrible. She’d given me one chance to show that I cared and I shot that right out of the air. It was like we were at the end of a first date and she offered to give me her number but I said, "No thanks." I felt like I had tricked the store with a false sale just so I could say "Psyche! Ha ha! You thought I cared, but I didn’t! Suckers!" My shoulder angel was probably really ashamed of me.

So from now on, I’m just gonna buy Bible games on eBay so I can save myself the guilt if I change my mind.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Nobody Puts Honey Bun in the Corner!

I think my older brother has some issues with authority. He’s been fired twice for disobeying a supervisor and he mouths off to every police officer he meets (which made his elementary school D.A.R.E. program pretty interesting). The problem isn’t so much the people in charge, but the fact that someone is telling him what to do. And it doesn’t even have to be someone, it’s even when it’s something. He refuses to buckle up in the car if it has one of those seatbelt warning tones. I guess he thinks that the car shouldn’t be bossing him around like that.

I don’t necessarily believe in karma, because I believe that "time and chance happen to everyone." But I do appreciate appropriate irony and well-deserved comeuppance. My brother has annoyed me for years with his constant defiance. It always reflects poorly on me when he yells at restaurant managers for enforcing the "no shoes, no shirt, no service" rule on him. So when the authority issue finally came back to bite him, I felt nicely vindicated.

My brother is a big guy, like me. And he likes his share of snacky foods and sweet treats. He went to the vending machine at the office where we both worked to get his regularly-scheduled Kit Kat one afternoon. And someone had put a post-it note on the machine:

"The Honey Bun in this machine is VERY expired.

Most people would use common sense and avoid the offending Honey Bun. But not my brother. He took offense to the fact that some unknown coworker was essentially ordering him around. So naturally, he bought the Honey Bun and ate it with his customary Kit Kat. And that’s the day that we both learned how important expiration dates are. As bad for your health as a fresh Honey Bun already is (85% of your daily fat allowance is bad, right?), an expired one is far worse. My brother had to go home early that day and missed three days of work. I think he even considered going to the ER to get treated for his intense stomach pain, but he probably couldn’t bring himself to let a doctor tell him what to do.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Excess Baggage

I used to wear baggy jeans. I’m not proud of it, but it’s who I was. I have skinny chicken legs compared to my oversized torso. And since the alternative was working out to get in shape, I preferred the baggy jeans. I thought if I did that I could at least look proportional. And I know the exact day that I decided to stop wearing them. It just happened to be the day I bought my wife’s engagement ring when we were in college. So August 31, 2004 will forever be stamped with “Life Changing Moment” and “Jeans Style-Changing Moment”. I was actually forced to buy a new pair of jeans that day. Because I headed out of class one day through a door I’d never used before and tripped on my pants on the way out.

Now there are some times when you fall down, that you can sort of play it off. You can trip a little and then turn it into a light jog. Everyone knows what just happened, but you don’t have to endure the laughter of strangers. Then there are other times when you eat it so bad that you just have to laugh along with everyone else. If you slip in the mud and fall flat on your butt, you can throw your hands up and say something funny like, “Don’t worry, folks. That’s what I was trying to do.” But the falls you can’t recover from or laugh about are the ones when your attempt to play it off only makes it worse. And that’s the kind of fall I had on that life-changing day.

As I said, I was leaving class through a door I hadn’t used before. I’d seen other people using it and realized that it was an exit that went straight into the parking lot, instead of around the front of the building. I figured it would save me a good 2 minutes and I could beat the rush of students leaving in their cars. What I didn’t figure was the fact that there were two steps down from the doorway into the parking lot. So I threw the door open, became temporarily blinded by the unexpected sunlight, and stepped straight out into nothingness. My leg went two feet lower than I expected it to, so I lost my balance. And I could have recovered had I been wearing a pair of jeans that was even close to the right size. But wearing carpenter’s jeans three sizes too big meant recovery was not in the books that day. I tried to shift my weight really quickly to my back leg and swing it around to catch my fall. So instead of finding my footing, I tripped on my pant leg, ripped a hole in my jeans on my thigh, and went flying headfirst into the parking lot. And then in my panicked state (with what felt like a thousand people watching) I tried to stand up too quickly and tripped again, landing on my hands this time. And the icing on the humiliation cake was the fact that the tiniest girl in the class tried to help me up. So there I was, facedown on the pavement, getting helped up by someone who was literally half my size. That’ll make you feel really cool.

So now I wear those new "skinny jeans" or men’s Capri pants (manpris?) all the time. I look like an oversized pear on stilts, but I never trip on my pant legs anymore.

Top Ten Things That Make My Heart Drop

10. An "Elevator Out of Order" sign.

9. Waking up on a Saturday and realizing it’s actually a Thursday.

8. Hearing my wife say, "We need to talk...."

7. Hearing glass break in the next room.

6. The check engine light in my car.

5. Pulling into the parking lot and realizing I forgot deodorant.

4. Seeing a minus sign in front of my account balance.

3. Flashing red and blue lights in my rear view mirror.

2. Hearing the words "card" and "declined" in the same sentence.

1. Getting a phone call from my wife that starts with, "Okay, don’t be mad...."

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

"I Love You, Fridge!"

You may remember me mentioning in the past that I'm "a bit of a prude." Well, my older brother is the same way. For instance, neither of us condones recreational drug use. We've never done illegal drugs or abused prescription drugs... on purpose.

A few years ago, my brother had surgery on his arm. It was just a broken bone, but they had to set it with a pin and needed to put him under anesthesia for it. So when he left the hospital, they prescribed him some super-powerful pain killers. My brother was pretty large back then as he is now, and I'm sure the doctor assumed a few things when filling out the prescription:
A) "This guy probably has a high tolerance for medication because of his size."
B) "This guy probably drinks alcohol like most people his age, so his tolerance is probably even higher because of it."
C) "This guy probably knows that if he only wants to take one of the two pills, he can do so."

I wouldn't be telling this story if he was right about those three things. So the doctor prescribed a dose of pain killer big enough to floor an NFL offensive lineman. And he didn't explain to my naïve brother that he could take one pill instead of two if he wanted. So my brother went home and obeyed the instructions on the bottle to "take two as needed for pain." He figured, since he was in pain and he was given this dosage, he could just overlook the fact that the pills were the size of shotgun shells. And this is where I blame my brother more than the doctor. Knowing his low tolerance for medication, he should have tested it out on one pill.

So long story short, my brother woke up screaming because he was being chased by the letter "R" and then cried because the edge of his pillow looked like the top corner of the letter. Then he told us that he was telling his arm all about it later and getting a response. It took a few hours for the effects to wear off, but not before we saw my brother play peek-a-boo with himself in the mirror. And luckily not before he started whispering loudly about how scary the other people in the room were:
"That man over there has an evil forehead, and it's looking at me."
"Okay, that's Mom."

But it always seems that my video camera is not around when things like that happen. I can never get the blackmail material I need. And unless you have video confirmation, it's impossible to convince someone that they were hugging the refrigerator if they don't specifically remember doing it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

You Had Me At "The Club"

When I was in high school, I drove a 1994 Geo Prizm. It was thirdhand by the time I got it. It was my father’s work car, then my older brother’s car, then my car. When it was my father’s car, it was just a small piece of junk. Then my brother used it for two years and transformed it into a small piece of abstract art. The trade-in value depended on how much gas I had in the tank. My brother is about six and a half feet tall, and people of that height are not meant to drive vehicles the size of a Geo. I’m pretty sure they named the company “Geo” because they knew they couldn’t fit any word bigger than three letters on the side of that tiny car. My giant of a brother had to fold like a lawn chair to get behind the wheel. And he had to lean the seat back so far that his head could be seen through the backseat window. The result his size had on a car that small was fairly predictable. He destroyed almost everything he could.

The seatbelt was forever in the “extended” position from being pulled beyond its capacity so many times. This resulted in me having to tuck it into the headrest behind my neck so it didn’t flop uselessly to the floor. And his knees had crushed the dashboard so much that only one air-conditioning knob was left. So I had to remove it and use it on whichever aspect of the air I wanted to change. If I wanted to change the air to cold and defrost my windshield at full blast, it took about ten minutes. It was like a master key for the A/C. And if I ever broke down, I’d need a coat hanger to turn on the hazard lights. His knee had also crushed that part of the dash, so the hazards button was about 6 inches deep and impossible to reach without some kind of improvised tool. And I couldn’t get a signal on the radio, because my brother had grabbed the antenna for support one day while getting into his seat and torn it clean off. And since the CD player was a $30 gift from our grandmother, it obviously wasn’t very reliable. So I was usually stuck listening to a Ray Stevens cassette that I found in the junk drawer at home.

I think the damage to the car was due to a combination of my brother’s size, his clumsiness, and the Geo’s cheap engineering. It was the perfect storm. So by the time I inherited it, he had turned it into a junked up, trashed out eyesore. And let me tell you, your stock with the girls goes way down when you drive a car like that. If there were some high school girls in existence who thought it was funny enough to give me a chance, then I didn’t know them. It wasn’t until college that the car became funny. By then, the shocks had stopped working on the passenger side so the tire scraped the wheel-well with every left turn. And the passenger door handle was fractured, so you could only get out through the window. I took my wife on our first date in that car. As an added joke, I locked the steering wheel with “The Club” from the 80s. She thought it was hilarious. That’s when I knew I’d met my soul mate.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Give Myself a Hand

I consider myself a fairly intelligent person. I’m not a genius by any means. But, I do my own taxes. I went to college. I can add large numbers without using a calculator, pen and paper, or my fingers. So I am not generally confused by a lot of things and rarely do my friends have to say, “Come on, man! It’s not rocket science!” And a long time ago, I vowed to always use my powers for good. With great power comes great responsibility, after all (thank you Spider-Man).

But there are certain times when any semblance of intellect seems to fly right out the window. Like when my alarms go off after just five hours of sleep. I turn into a complete moron, flailing like a crazy person to figure out what is making that horrible noise. The problem is that I have been forced to outsmart myself. I have an alarm clock that my hand has memorized. So when it starts to buzz, my hand wakes up before my brain and skips right past the giant “Snooze” button and finds the teeny-weeny “Off” button on the side. And having a hand with a mind of its own has one drawback in this case. I was always late, because I hit Snooze about 9 times without even knowing it. So after a week of waking up really late, I decided to add a second alarm on my cell phone and then put the cell phone upside down on my side table. I figured that if I did that, my hand wouldn’t have enough time to decipher the cell phone puzzle before the buzzing woke my brain up. I know, absolutely brilliant.

The problem I encountered, and still encounter to this day, is that my brain can’t figure out the two-alarm issue either. I just start hitting stuff and pounding on Snooze buttons that don’t exist. I can’t keep anything sharp within five feet of my side table for fear of impaling my smart hand. And it usually ends with my wife physically shaking me and yelling, “Get a hold of yourself, man!” Then she calmly walks over to my side of the bed, turns on the light, and hits “Off” on both alarms (which have been forcibly moved to the floor). It takes another ten minutes for me to get it together (stop crying) and another five minutes to figure out how to get out of the covers.

So now I have to find a new system that is smarter than my hand, but only as smart as my brain. Otherwise, I’ll have proven that I am actually smarter than myself.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Fall From Grace

I like to race people a lot. Not on foot obviously, but in my car. I like knowing I can beat people to something, even if they’re not aware that we’re racing. So I’m the guy who switches lanes at the last second so he can be first in line at the light. And I’m the guy who crosses the double white line when exiting (I know. Hardcore, right?).

The problem is that my race mentality has started to spill out into other parts of my life. So now I can finish eating in about 3 minutes. I barely taste my food sometimes, just so I can be the first to clean my plate. And it only takes me 4 seconds to brush my teeth. (Top, bottom, spit.) But there is definitely a downside to always racing other people. I now have heartburn, gingivitis, and nine speeding tickets.

A few years ago I decided it would be a good idea to race someone on foot. It was, of course, not a good idea. I’m 6’3” tall and at the time of the race, I weighed about 300 pounds (a.k.a. “peak physical condition”). And I chose to race a friend of mine who I outweighed by about 90 pounds. And before you think I’m a fool for wanting to race this guy, you have to know why I wanted to race him. First of all, I didn’t think I would beat him. In fact, I knew I couldn’t beat him. Second of all, he runs funny. Really funny. He’s particularly slow for someone his size, and he runs like his knees are tied together. It’s like the part of his body from his shoulders to his knees is not allowed to move, but his arms, head, and lower legs can flail about as much as they want. So I figured it would be a good way to embarrass him by challenging him to a race that everyone was watching. Oh, and I forgot to mention that we scheduled this right outside our office building and hyped it to the entire company. He talked a lot of smack and made himself look like an idiot, and I assured everyone that I was going to lose soundly. Everything went fine for the most part. We had some pre-race interviews that we staged, and the “gunshot” to start the race was our boss popping a balloon. Predictably, I was behind pretty early in the race, and lost by a good 10 yards.

Now if I had just left it at that, I would have loved this story. I lose like I’m supposed to, he wins like he’s supposed to, and he makes a fool out of himself by talking smack about being faster than a fat guy. Nothing to lose, right? But instead of losing like I was supposed to, I slipped in the last 15 feet of the race and skidded in the mud across the finish line. I guess all these years of diligently avoiding exercise finally got to me. I couldn't run 200 feet without falling. I slid a good 10 feet and did so while being filmed from two separate angles. So all his ridiculous personality flaws were overshadowed by my youtube-worthy finish. I almost quit my job out of shame. And if you want to see it, look up “race to save face” on youtube. You’ll get some good insight on the reason I decided to lose some weight.