Scenes From a Suburban Household

[SCENE — UPPER LEVEL OF A SUBURBAN HOUSE FATHER TRYING TO DRESS HIMSELF AND TWO YOUNG SONS MANAGES TO SHOWER AND GET DRESSED, AND GET ELDER SON TO DRESS HIMSELF, AND FINALLY, WITH MUCH STRUGGLING, DRESSES TWO-YEAR-OLD SON]

FATHER: Okay, guys, time for you to go get breakfast.

ELDER SON: Okay, Dad! I want donuts!

FATHER: Okay, go get a donut.

[ELDER SON DUTIFULLY EXITS SCENE DOWNSTAIRS TO GET DONUTS]

YOUNGER SON (crying): No!! Don’t want donuts!

[YOUNGER SON LIFTS HANDS INDICATING HE WANTS FATHER TO PICK HIM UP. FATHER PICKS UP YOUNGER SON, PLUS AN ARMFUL OF OTHER IMPLEMENTS.]

F [TO DOGS]: Okay, dogs, time to go downstairs!

[PAN TO TWO DOGS: THE ELDER ONE A FRIENDLY BUT ENTIRELY UNINTELLIGENT YELLOW LAB, THE YOUNGER ONE A FRIENDLY AND SLIGHTLY LESS UNINTELLIGENT BLACK LAB MIX. AT THE WORD “GO,” THE DOGS THUNDER DOWN THE STAIRS MAKING SLIGHTLY MORE NOISE THAN A HERD OF ELEPHANTS ON METHAMPHETAMINE.]

​F: Okay, Eat your breakfast. I’m going to let the dogs out.

ES: [DUTIFULLY EATS DONUTS, FOR SOME REASON COOPERATING FULLY WITH ALL REQUESTS]​

YS: [CRYING ABOUT SOME REAL OR IMAGINED INFRACTION COMMITTED BY THE DOGS]

​[FATHER LETS THE DOGS OUT TO THE SUNROOM SERVING AS THE DOGS’ ROOM. HE CONNECTS THE YOUNGER BLACK DOG TO THE TETHER AND LETS HER OUTSIDE. HE GOES BACK INSIDE TO HERD THE CHILDREN INTO FINISHING BREAKFAST, AND INTO THE CAR. THEN IT’S OFF TO SCHOOL.]

[END SCENE]

I know what you’re thinking: “he obviously left a bunch of stuff out, especially with respect to all the stuff you have to do for dogs.” ​Not so fast. Cue the next scene:

[FADE IN TO FATHER IN A PLACE THAT IS NOT THE SUBURBAN HOME]

FATHER: (startled, to himself) SHIT! THE DOGS!!

[CUT TO A VERY SUBURBAN SUV PULLING INTO A GARAGE, AND OVER A FENCE WE SEE A SMALL BLACK LAB MIX WHO HAS SPENT ALL MORNING HANGING OUT IN THE BACK YARD, CALM BUT HUNGRY. INSIDE, THE YELLOW LAB, WHO IS ALWAYS VERY HUNGRY, IS DELIRIOUS. FATHER LETS BLACK DOG IN, YELLOW DOG OUT, AND SHEEPISHLY FEEDS BOTH]

[END SCENE]

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Tricky Business

I am learning that there comes a point in your children’s lives where they start taking things they hear and experience outside of what you thought of as their sphere of influence, and use them in everyday conversation. I realized this when our four-year-old son started blaming certain mishaps on “The Tricky Leprechaun.” I have no idea where he heard about this “Tricky Leprechaun.” It’s not anything my wife and I have ever brought up, it’s not a story we’ve read to him, or in any of the cartoons he watches. But lately, when we’ve asked things like who made a given mess, or who dropped something, he’ll answer “The Tricky Leprechaun!” when it was clearly him (As opposed to one of us or one of the cats—I know there’re no leprechauns, dammit.)  He’s even taken to blaming the Tricky Leprechaun for dropping paper towel on the bathroom floor at his preschool.

What’s amusing, to me, is that everyone seems to humor him when he invokes the Tricky Leprechaun. “Haha, that crazy leprechaun,” we say, probably because it’s kind of a funny “kid thing” to say. In essence, it’s been kind of a “get out of jail free card” for him. Which is kind of amazing, really, given that it’s a clearly false statement. I’m not sure which has me more annoyed: the fact that Joey gets away with it—or the fact that I can’t. I just can’t see that strategy working out in real life:

MANAGING PARTNER: Did we really lose the appeal in the Smith case?

ME: It, uh… It was, the ummm… It was the Tricky Leprechaun.

MP: Shit! That goddamn leprechaun fucks us every time! Well, what can you do, right?

Although, I have to admit that that would be pretty cool…

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It Takes a Lot of Heart

A guy in Detroit had a heart attack, and, as you might expect, called 911. And, as you might also expect, one of the EMTs did CPR on the guy while the other one drove. But then, in the middle of giving a guy CPR for a heart attack, the EMT has a heart attack of his own. You might expect that a guy having a heart attack while doing CPR on a heart-attack victim would maybe try to get some help for himself, right? Not this guy. Instead, he kept on doing CPR on the guy. Is this guy a badass or what?

Despite his own distress, the 40-year-old EMT finished caring for his patient. Hardman warned his partner, who was driving, that there’d be two patients instead of one once they arrived at DMC Harper University Hospital.

I can only imagine that this guy has a hard time putting on his pants in the morning because of the enormous balls. Anyway, he got his guy to the emergency department alive, and then became a patient himself; apparently both survived.

That takes some serious dedication right there. Now, I take my job pretty seriously, but fair warning: if you retain me to handle your appeal, and I have a heart attack in the middle of writing your brief, I’m going to stop working on it (at least long enough to, you know, have someone look into the whole heart-attack thing).

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Big Brother is Watching… and Bored Out of His Mind

I recently read a post that describes some new location-tracking features coming soon to the next iPhone operating system, iOS 7 (which is still in beta). Location tracking isn’t new, but these features apparently keep track of where you go, and eventually figure out where home, work, and other places you frequent are, and how long it will take you to get there. Even that isn’t entirely new (iPhones and Android phones using “Google Now” have had some similar functions for a while), but the article discusses some new ways it might be used. The actual substance of the article was interesting enough (discussing stuff like how your iPhone might warn you that you’re running late to work based on its calculation of travel time between where you are now, and there). But even more interesting, to me, was reading an article on a tech-oriented blog talking about location-tracking services that wasn’t all “ZOMG! YOUR PHONE IS TRACKING YOU, AND TRACKING IS EVIL, BECAUSE SOMEHOW YOU SHOULD BE EXPECTING TO BE ABLE TO USE STATE-OF-THE-ART TECHNOLOGY WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY MAINTAINING AN OFF-THE-GRID LEVEL OF PRIVACY THE UNABOMBER WOULD ENVY!!!” Instead, this particular piece posits that the new capability is potentially “awesome” and explicitly refutes the notion that your phone knowing where you are is inherently evil:

When Google started correlating searches and locations with Google Now in late 2012, pundits called the service creepy, which is certainly how some users may feel about the IOS 7 frequent locations feature, but if Apple leverages it right it’s going to be pretty awesome.

So this post hits the other extreme from the tinfoil-hat-wearing Luddite extreme, asserting that these tracking functions will be “awesome.” As with life, however, the truth probably lies somewhere between the extremes.

For example, once my iPhone starts keeping track of my locations, it’s going to get pretty bored pretty quickly:

  • Home
  • Drop son off at daycare
  • Work
  • Pick son up from daycare
  • Home
  • Drop son off at daycare
  • Work
  • Pick son up from daycare
  • Home
  • Drop son off at daycare
  • Work
  • Pick son up from daycare
  • Home
  • Grocery store
  • Home

… and so on. At some point, Siri will probably spontaneously activate and say “holy shit, are you ever lame!!” Instead of telling me how long it will take to get from home to work, or work to home, my phone will probably suggest a few hobbies, or that I try getting out more (“Get a life: there’s an app for that!”). So, probably somewhere short of awesome, in other words. But at the same time, I’m hardly worried about secret black-helicopter-riding government agents, either.

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A Really Useless Engine

Our son is two and a half, and like many toddlers, he enjoys watching the standard toddler/pre-school fare of such TV shows as Yo Gabba Gabba, Dinosaur Train, the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, (God help me) Barney the Dinosaur, and Thomas the Tank Engine (with his many Friends, of course).

For the most part these shows are (at least on the surface) lighthearted romps of childlike glee and amusement, blah blah blah. My son loves Thomas the Tank Engine and all of his locomotive friends, who work cheerfully on the Island of Sodor for the gruff but fair Sir Topham Hatt. The engines appear to be the primary mode of transportation and shipping for the Island’s residents. The apparent primary goal of any good Sodor-dwelling engine, according to the show, is to be “a really useful engine.”

Ironically, however, most episodes feature Thomas being the exact opposite of “a really useful engine.” One episode has Thomas being asked by a farmer to fetch some soft straw because the farmer’s pig is about to give birth to some piglets.[1] Thomas agrees, and sets off in search of the soft straw the farmer asked for. But along the way, Thomas wonders if there’s anything else the piglets might like. He runs into a few other allegedly “really useful engines” who tell him about the cargo they’re carrying. At each stop, Thomas decides that his friends’ cargo might be something the piglets would like, and he asks for it. And, for some reason, they give it to him.[2] For example, Thomas runs across his friend Percy, who’s tasked with delivering milk. Thomas asks Percy for some of the milk for the piglets, and Percy obliges. Another engine is at an orchard, waiting to deliver some apples; this one cheerfully agrees to hand over some of the apples to Thomas. Then he runs into a bunch of kids who are picking chestnuts, and the kids agree to give Thomas some chestnuts for the piglets.[3] After all of that farting around, he finally shows up—way late—at the farm where he was supposed to do his one job, collecting the straw. The straw farmer, understandably pissed off at waiting for Thomas to show up, points out that there’s no room for the straw thanks to all the other crap Thomas has piled up on his flatbed. Instead of trying to come up with some way to get the straw onto his flatbed and deliver it, he decides to blow it off, and “hope that the piglets like [the other shit] just as much as straw.” And off he goes.

He pulls up to the pig farmer’s place all proud of himself for bringing a bunch of stolen property no one asked for, but the farmer was distraught because what he really needed was soft straw to use as bedding for the piglets. Which is, you know, what he asked for in the first place. Thomas “felt very silly” for not doing the only thing he was asked to do, and then, after wasting time unloading a bunch of unwanted crap, took off to get the straw while the farmer likely lamented the fact that UPS had yet to set up a Sodor branch. While heading out (again) for the straw, Thomas says “I must hurry” and that “there can be no delay.” Bad enough that Thomas took so long in the first place, but he then almost immediately stops to talk to one of his friends, for the sole purpose of telling him he can’t stop. Thomas eventually gets the straw and pulls up with it just in the nick of time.

After about the six thousandth time my son watched this episode, it occurred to me: the shipping situation on Sodor is more inefficient and corrupt than the Detroit City Council. In fact, it’s kind of hard to keep track of how many people got screwed over and all the ways they were totally jerked around in this fiasco. From the farmer’s point of view, all he wanted was some straw to make a bed for his piglets, and he was told he’d get it right away. But then Thomas pulls up—late—with a bunch of shit he doesn’t need or want, and all Thomas says is “well, I thought your piglets would like this stuff the same.” Imagine ordering a laptop from, say, Amazon with two-day shipping, and four days later, they show up with a calculator, some underwear, and a book on pilates, and say “oh, yeah, we ran out of room for your laptop, but we thought you’d like this other stuff just as much as a laptop.” Pop quiz: would you be really pissed off, or super pissed off?[4] Now imagine you’re the one who produces and sells the milk or the apples. You entrust the shipment of your product to the local shipping company, expecting them to deliver your precious products to your valued customers who have a valid, contractual expectation of getting the goods they paid for. Except you find out that the shipper has decided to hand out some of your product to someone else because the shipper’s employees thought that other person “would really like it.” You know who else would have really liked it? The person who fucking paid for it, that’s who! There are so many crimes and civil breaches here that even the most sadistic law professor would think twice before using this episode as a final exam question.

You might think that this was an isolated occurrence, but apparently learning from one’s mistakes is not something the tank engines of Sodor know how to do. Almost every episode features Thomas making some pigheaded or arrogant mistake (often because he refuses to listen) only to realize at the end what he should have done. In fact, another episode featured Thomas deviating from his one assigned task and stealing stuff from the people who foolishly shipped their products on the Sodor railway. Thomas, after being tasked with transporting the famed statute the “Lion of Sodor,” doesn’t realize that the crate has a statue in it, and instead thinks it’s a real lion. So he stops and steals some maple syrup and fish because he thinks the lion might be hungry, and some straw (which he had such a hard time delivering to the one person who actually asked for it) for the “lion” to lay on. He has all of this stuff dumped into the closed crate, and when he arrives at the delivery location, the crate is opened only to reveal the beloved statue all encased in a sticky fish-straw-syrup disaster. Quiz question two: how enraged would you be to, say, order a large screen TV only to open it up and find a hellish mixture of syrupy fish and straw smeared all over it?[5] Other episodes feature Thomas causing damage and destruction because of his desire to be a hero by creating problems and then solving them (kind of like Congress, but with slightly better ethics) and causing damage and confusion by spouting off a bunch of nonsensical orders after being put in temporary charge of a railway building without paying any attention to feedback from his staff or to the mayhem resulting from his mandates (also kind of like Congress).

Basically, Thomas is kind of a jackass. Now, you may wonder why I continue letting my two-year-old watch this sociopathic asshole and his band of mechanical idiots. Clearly, you do not have children. If you did, you wouldn’t have to ask, because you’d know that you’d be able to broker lasting peace in the Middle East before making a two-year-old Thomas fan give up watching that show. Instead, I’ll have to watch him very closely to make sure he’s not picking up bad habits from it (“Why didn’t you brush your teeth like I asked?” “Well, Dad, I thought you’d like me picking my nose, shitting my pants, and pulling the cats’ tails just as much as brushing my teeth …”). And, well, it could be worse: he could be hooked on American Idol.

 


[1] If you wonder how it is that I know so much about the plot of this show, it is proof that you are not a parent of small children. Small children will watch something they like approximately ten billion times, with at least two billion of those viewings being consecutive.
[2] Yes, Thomas’s friends, the “really useful engines,” frequently hand out cargo presumably belonging to other people on a whim. More on that later.
[3] At least this wasn’t a train engine deciding to hand over someone else’s cargo this time.
[4] Either answer is correct. Also acceptable is “I’d be fucking enraged.”
[5] The correct answer is “Extremely,” although credit will be given for “homicidally” or something similar.
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Welcome

To those of you who are new readers, welcome.  This is basically a spot for me to indulge my love of/pathological need to engage in writing.  What you’ll see here is basically any number of posts about anything that happens to interest me at the time.  Most of the time, it will be humorous (or an attempt at humor), so the “humor” tag/category will be reserved for those posts where it might not be obvious to some people that I’m just trying to be funny.  TV has close-captioning for the hearing impaired; I have the humor tag for the humor impaired.

To those who remember my old blog, and are wondering where those posts went, well, they’re all here.  I took the unusual step of going from managing my own WordPress install to moving to WordPress.com (most people do it the other direction).  I figure this way, they handle backups for me, they keep the software and plugins up to date, and I can spend more time just writing the damn thing.  When I moved, I moved all the old entries here, but I unpublished them.  From time to time, I may release some of the better ones again, once I get an idea for what’s good and what sucked, and so on.

I also figured that starting over might spur me into actually writing more often.  Clean slate, and all that.  I hope that ends up working.  And I hope you enjoy what’s written here.  I’d say it doesn’t matter, because I’m just writing for me, but if I were just writing for me, I’d hardly have to do it here where everyone could see it, would I?

Thanks for stopping by, and enjoy.

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