What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. I left the house a little later than usual. Where the street I live on dumps out into the local county road parents and their SUVs were stacked up like cord wood. There they sat, engines running, more or less blocking the road, and making sure their little princelings had enough heat while they waited for the school bus. It was just below freezing, not exactly polar explorer weather. Basically a decent coat and a good pair of socks would have been enough to make it tolerable for a few minutes. I can’t help but remember my own childhood where if you didn’t walk to school you at least walked to the bus stop – and that’s back at a time and place where temperatures below freezing weren’t cause for any particular alarm, being part and parcel as they are of the winter weather season. These kids have never been allowed to run through the woods throwing rocks at each other and it shows.

2. ISIS brides. The last few weeks have been thick with reports of women and girls who ran off from western civilization for the fun and adventure of becoming ISIS brides. Now, with the dream of an Islamic caliphate collapsing around their ears, they come out of the woodwork claiming to have learned the error of their ways. Here they come crawling “home” after years of providing aid and comfort to the enemy. I’m not a scholar of international law nor does my heart bleed for their reaping the results of traitorous decisions. They wanted the wonder of life in the belly of the beast, the best thing that we can do now is let them have it.

3. Fentanyl. I keep seeing news stories wherein a drug ring has been busted in possession of enough  Fentanyl to kill 375,000,000 people. Look, I know we can’t really aerosolize the stuff and indiscriminately launch it from a mortar tube, but maybe we hold back on making these arrests for a hot second. I mean, look, people are basically awful so with enough of this floating around in the underground economy it seems to me the problem with those who habitually associate with a culture of heavy drug use could significantly reduce the demand side of the market by simply dropping dead. If a subset of the population is committed to continuing  to inject a substance they know full well may kill them more or less instantly, I don’t feel any moral force compelling me to intervene between them and and their apparent desired end state. I’d rather spend a much reduced budget on saving the small minority whose exposure to fentanyl or other high powered narcotics is accidental or that happens in the line of duty. Don’t tell me I never see the bright side, damnit.

They’re not all shitbirds…

Temperatures are supposed to rise over the next few days. Even if it were going to stay cold,  firing up the snowblower for the two inches that fell yesterday would have been overkill. I was happy enough leaving things be and letting sun and warmth do their thing. 

Around 10:00 my doorbell rang, which is unusual enough in and of itself to be noteworthy. Standing on the front porch in all of 20 degree weather was a kid of about 12 wanting to know if I wanted the driveway shoveled. His partner, had already started pushing snow around the end of the driveway (which is a pretty shrewd sales tactic by the way). 

We always bitch about kids today who want something for nothing. But here, in a neighborhood where I would least expect it, were two kids looking to work for a little pocket money. It didn’t strictly need doing, but playing my part in this little life lesson felt like the right thing to do. My wallet is $20 lighter, but I feel like it means a hell of a lot more to them then it did to me. 

I won’t say My faith in humanity has been restored or anything… though I do now have some hope that they’re all not going to turn out to be shitbirds.

Managing up…

I should give almost all of the writing credit for this post to a friend of mine who brought to my attention her belief that raising a toddler is effective practice for dealing with the average kind of management one encounters in the workplace. Now I’m just assuming these ideas are work to toddlers because I have no direct personal experience, but I can attest first hand that they can and probably should be applied to your interaction with management

The abridged list of ways to deal with the bosses that is also applicable to dealing with the tiny dictator of your own creation is:

– Explain that you can’t do multiple things at the same time. If possible, make them prioritize.
– Limit the choices you give them to just 2 or 3 things. Otherwise, it will take too long and they’ll come up with something crazy.
– There is great power in routine
– Lay the groundwork well in advance for any changes to the routine
– Catchphrases and jingles are your friends
– Celebrate the little things, like pooping in the potty. Sure, you figured it out a long time ago, but it’s important to validate their pride in doing something grown-up.

Set expectations, create a routine, and make sure you celebrate the little successes your local manager has. I’m quite sure these few steps will have you managing up your chain of command in no time at all.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Kars for Kids. I hear their two octaves too high jingle every morning at 5:45 AM. I know this because almost without fail it comes on the satellite radio station I’m listening to almost precisely when I’m starting to shave. Mercifully the throat it makes me want to slit is not my own. I have no idea what organization Kars fronts for nor do I know what portion of funds raised go to support their good cause of the day. It doesn’t really matter because with their deeply agitating icepick-in-the-ear method of early morning advertising if they were providing free food for life to every kid in America.

2. Getting wet. Spending two hours milling around a parking lot is bad enough by itself. Add a heavy does or rain and you to spend the rest of the day squishing around in sodden shoes. Here’s a pro tip for you – having a pair of dry socks is important, but dry socks don’t mean a damn think when you’re sticking them back into waterlogged boots. Lesson most definitely learned.

3. Thursday. Why on earth isn’t Thursday the day before the weekend starts. Instead, it’s mostly just Monday #4 and I hate it for that.

Overthinking childhood, or Body by Barbie…

I noted with passing interest last week that apparently now Barbie will come in many shapes, colors, and flavors. That’s well and good, I suppose. What Mattel does with their flagship product is really of very little interest to me personally aside from the fact that the “news” report of this “dramatic change to a beloved toy” triggered a bit of a wander down memory lane.

Growing up as a boy in the early 1980s, I didn’t play with dolls, but I did play with an inordinate number of what some marketing executive cleverly labeled “action figures.” For their diminutive size, my GI Joes were all basically caricatures of Charles Atlas. Sure their plastic molded hair and facial features were all a bit different, but there they were, these 4-inch tall super men with their outsized biceps and chiseled good looks. I had a shoebox full of the things and yet somehow even as a child it didn’t occur to me that in order to be a successful adult that I’d need to look like a damned GI Joe.

Maybe it was a function of the time in which we lived, but I don’t remember spending any part of my childhood enamored with the cult of body image. It simply didn’t matter that my toys didn’t look much like me – or much like anyone else for that matter – because, well, they were toys. We played with them without benefit of (or need for) deep psychological consultation and analysis. The fact that it’s even a discussion today leads me to wonder if it’s the kids who are troubled by their toys or if they’re just reflecting back the fear and loathing of their parents own insecurities.

To listen to the media, we live in an age that’s apparently driven by body image. The modern man, right along with his female counterpart, is even beset by eating disorders and longing to cut just that one more pound to be “perfect.” I seem to have missed the boat on that. As a kid it just wasn’t something I thought about. As an adult I’d frankly rather be fat and happy than thin and miserable.

We were a generation of kids who were allowed/encouraged to play with pointy sticks and rocks and we all (mostly) turned out to be reasonably self-assured and productive members of society. I’m not a fancy big city psychiatrist and I’m certainly not a brilliant advertising executive, but it feels a bit like maybe we’re overthinking this whole childhood thing just a little. Fortunately I get to leave that fight for others and focus on the important things bulldog skin conditions and the endless pursuit of a better dog food.

Prune juice…

While I’ve been fiddling around on the internet this week I’ve gotten a steady stream of reminders that friends from high school are becoming parents of high school graduates themselves. I’ll just sit here for a minute and let that sink in. Their kids are finishing something I feel like we just finished ourselves a few years ago… Except of course we didn’t. As I was reminded when I saw someone mention the impending arrival of our 20th high school reunion next summer. How exactly that happened, I have no idea. It’s like I turned around to get something on the other side of the room and 19 years snuck away while I wasn’t paying attention.

I won’t get into the realization that these days 50 is way closer than 15. Aside from the occasional ache and pain (and other assorted indignities), I don’t feel like that could possibly be true. It is, though. Don’t bother to consult a calendar. Trust me. It’ll be unnerving if you do the math.

So if you’ll excuse me I’ll shuffle off to the kitchen now to enjoy a refreshing glass of prune juice and see if my dentures need scrubbed.

Absolutely inconceivable…

inconceivableSure, I’ve been a curmudgeon for as long as I can remember, but the flood of pictures this weekend of many, many of my friend’s kids heading off to homecoming left me feeling a bit like I’d stepped through the looking glass. I mean weren’t we the ones going to those dances just a year or two ago? It’s inconceivable that anyone I grew up with could be old enough to comment about their offspring’s high school milestones.

Despite my 9PM bed time, constant state of near exhaustion, and the nagging aches and pains that seem to accompany me everywhere now, I don’t feel like all that much time has passed. I don’t feel that far separated from our younger selves. Maybe I’m better informed, a little more cynical, and a lot more medicated, but I still feel a strong connection to that dopy, awkward version of me.

Seeing so many of the next generation on the cusp of adulthood themselves is absolutely inconceivable. So if anyone needs me, I’ll be busy rejecting reality… and possibly checking to see if we can get a group discount if we all order our Life Alert systems at the same time.