Monday, November 20, 2006

The quickest route from joke to joke is a straight line

A man is walking down a crowded hallway in a public building. He is talking loudly and enthusiastically. He is moving both of his hands in gestures which give added emotion and emphasis to what he is saying. There is no one near enough to be an obvious receiver of his very important monologue. All of this used to mean the guy was not the most emotionally balanced individual in the vicinity. It was also quite likely he would be wearing an elaborate hat made with voluminous amounts of tin foil and a rusty spaghetti strainer in order to block the brain infiltration rays being beamed from the alien mother ship in geosynchronous orbit over these particular longitudinal coordinates. In today’s airports this behavior is seen every few minutes. However, the man doing it is not wearing any Reynolds’s Wrap. He is wearing a Brooks Brothers suit and a Rolex watch. He drives a luxury vehicle and works for a Fortune 500 company. The conversation he is so generously sharing with the general public is being transmitted hundreds of miles through the stratosphere using technology Gene Roddenberry never thought of. The man has a small blinking electronic contraption clipped over his right ear allowing him to have this discussion using something called Bluetooth technology through his cellular phone. This device not only lets him talk to his executive assistant back in San Francisco about the intricate merger financing which needs to be completed by close of business today but it also makes the beaming of brain infiltration rays from the alien mother ship in geosynchronous orbit over the particular longitudinal coordinates of Dulles International Airport much more effective.
Recently I took a trip to the Washington D.C. area because of my real job. (Believe it or not I am not able to support my family writing a semi-weekly column for the local newspaper.) It had been a while since I had traveled any way other than in a car with my kids in the back and my wife riding shotgun. (She actually has a shotgun encouraging the children to refrain from bickering as we roll through the Kansas terrain.) The businessmen carrying on wireless conversations oblivious to the dozens of people around them was just one of the things I found odd upon my return to travel.
Since I taught literature to middle school age students I always thought I had lived the role of the “Least-paid-attention-to-speaker” in the world. Have you ever tried to point out the humor of the verbal repartee between Benedick and Beatrice in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing to seventh graders? Every pair of eyes in the room goes into screen saver mode. Well, I found someone who is ignored even more: the flight attendant as s/he explains the safety information before take-off. As valuable as I think Shakespeare is the information given by the flight attendant may be more important. Granted it is only important if things go horribly wrong, but it is stuff you will want to know under particular circumstances.
If there was an emergency landing on water and the bozo in seat 22B, fumbling for the safety instructions card in the seat back pocket, called out to ask: “What am I supposed to use for a floatation device again?” I wouldn’t blame the flight attendant if s/he replied: “You, sir, will just have to use the carry on bag which you did not properly stow in the overhead compartment. By the way that plastic bag and yellow cup which just dropped from the ceiling is just to keep the little bag of peanuts you stole from the guy sleeping in seat 22A nice and fresh.”
One of the biggest things I noticed on this trip had to do with the difference between fancy hotels and cheap, but not sleazy, hotels. Most of my previous travels involved staying at hotels with a number as a part of their name. This time I was put up at a spot with a much higher standard of living. It is better to stay at the cheaper ones.
Each little service had some sort of fee. I was surprised the shampoo wasn’t included in the minibar fridge amongst the five dollar cans of pop. I had the distinct idea that if I asked the desk clerk where the free continental breakfast was served she would have had an attack of vertigo looking down her nose at me. The Aryan beauty at the desk spoke with some sort of impossible to identify European accent. This helped her maintain superiority over the hick wearing his University of Kansas hoodie asking directions to the nearest McDonald’s. I bet if you ran into her away from work she’d sound like Ellie Mae Clampett.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Greatest Hit

This was on my blog in January of 2005. I just seemed to be fitting to re-post it with the elections happening where this stuff just keeps popping up.

It is a letter to the editor:

Dear Sir,
I want to express my displeasure about an issue in the Kansas State Legislature. I can't believe these people are spending so much time talking about s-e-x. They should be ashamed of the themselves. I don't think s-e-x should be talked about in public places. However, I am going to have to make an exemption.The people in Topeka want to outlaw same sex marriage. This is awful! I only know one way to have sex. I have the same sex all the time. If they make this illegal I don't think I can handle it. I can't come up with a new way to do it each time my wife and I want to have relations. Granted it only happens whenever we change the clocks (and the batteries in the smoke detectors) but after we spring forward I will not be able to figure out a new way to fall back. Those yahoos in Topeka had better come up with some kind of manual if they expect everyone in the state to stop having the same sex. I for one would allow my tax dollars to make some sort of Kansas Sutra to help the less imaginative of us.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Parenthood and boot camp not as different as you’d think

At 1500 hours rendezvous with Offspring Bravo at the coordinates of 1st and Comanche. Transport “package” to home base in order to coordinate combination of forces with Offspring Charlie. If watches are properly synchronized Offspring Alpha will require support at precisely 1700 hours for basketball drills. At 1830 all units will report to the mess hall for nourishment of the battalion. Offspring Charlie will have “domestic assignments” completed and will properly apply an approved dentifrice in preparations for lights out at 2100 hours. Offspring Alpha and Bravo will follow the same regimen for lights out at 2130.
The preceding paragraph does not describe a little known offensive during World War II. Parents will recognize the actions as a regular day in the life of any family with children. The sheer volume of things enumerated on the average family of five’s “To Do List” would make the social secretary for Laura Bush consider applying for a transfer to Undersecretary of Defense in Charge of Making Rumsfeld Appear Less Like a Dyspeptic Cactus.
I do not remember life being so packed with activity when I was a kid. During my grade school years I walked home after school and had a snack while I watched a guy standing on a cheap spaceship set wearing a goldfish bowl on his head in an attempt to look like John Glenn introduce cartoons starring Yakky Doodle Duck or Snagglepuss. I did not have ceramics class followed by Cub Scouts followed by thirty minutes of homework followed by twenty minutes of answering e-mail. Of course e-mail in the middle seventies was as likely as the video watches Dick Tracy and the culturally insensitive Joe Jitsu wore on some of those Major Astro cartoons. (Anybody else remember “Hold everything please.”?) Actually, if you remove the ads I get for shrinking the size of my debt and increasing the size of something else I do not, as an adult, get the volume of e-mail the majority of kids get.
My kids have more going on in their lives than I do. I go to work. Towards the end of the day I call my wife to find out what is required of me in order to make sure each child is properly transported and no one is left unsupervised for an extended period of time. I take care of my assignments with the children and then I go to sleep. That is what my days have become. We have referred to it as “Tag Team Parenting” ever since we first had children. It used to be one parent would hand off to the other parent as we pursued our own jobs, hobbies, and activities. Now our jobs, hobbies and activities are pretty much eaten up with chasing children. To be fair my wife does the vast majority of the transportation and the entire calendar keeping work. I prefer to come home after work, have a snack and watch cartoons.
Earlier I likened family activities to military endeavors. When one enlists in the armed forces one never really knows what it will be like. Oh, they have an idea. They have seen it in the movies. They have talked to other people who have experienced it. They may have even spent some time in quasi-military organizations like R.O.T.C. However, they do not KNOW what it will be until they get there.
It is the same for starting a family. I had seen it in the movies. I had talked to many people who had kids. Heck, I was a kid in a family with three other kids. I even babysat for the neighbors with frequency as a youth. In every one of those instances I was only briefly in charge of a child or I was able to hand it off when things got truly unpleasant.
Talking to other young adults with children about children is not going to give any kind of accurate picture. These people talk about how the unconditional love which emanates from the baby and child gives such a sense of fulfillment they truly do not know how they ever felt like fully rounded people before they had their children. What they fail to tell you is lack of sleep and inhaling the fumes of Desitin ointment causes this Pollyanna outlook on parenthood. Once the person gets a full night’s sleep and a breath of clean air this impression leaves. Unfortunately, that doesn’t occur until the children are about to leave for college and it is way too late.
Running a family of five is quite like a large military exercise. It costs an exorbitant amount of money and there is no viable exit strategy.

Christopher Pyle may not have been as busy as his kids, but at least his after school cartoons featured mice and cats hitting each other with frying pans and not an oceanic invertebrate wearing short pants.