A Day In The Life: Coffee And Chicken Chaos Theory

I’m a lousy cook.

I suppose the first step towards getting help is admitting that you have a problem, but I’m not completely sure I want help since I live in a town with plenty of cholesterol-laden fast food options. The temptation is too great, the service is too fast, and, sadly, most of these places already know my “usual.” (Yep, I’m that predictable.)

The last nutritious meal I made for myself was a tuner fish.
The last nutritious meal I made for myself was a tuner fish.

Predictability is a funny thing. On the one hand, routine is good. I wake up at the same time every day, proceed to my “usual” coffee shop, and drive to work. I check the mail every afternoon when I arrive home. I pay my bills on time. (Okay, that one’s not so much a routine as a necessity. Utility companies tend to leave your electricity and water on when you pay them on time. It’s just a good habit; I highly recommend it if you have trouble seeing in the dark.)

Here’s where predictability becomes…unpredictable. Let’s say I decide to alter my routine…say, by ordering a latte instead of a regular old cup o’ joe. Besides the fact that they have to find the guy with the keys to open the register since they already pre-prepared my order when they saw my car coming, they’re also going to ask me, “You feeling okay today? That’s not your usual.” Meanwhile, the line behind me is getting long and I’m going to be on the road five minutes later than usual.

A chain of events has now been set into motion that, according to Doc Brown logic, could seriously alter the course of history and unravel the space-time continuum as we all know it.

Great Scott!
Great Scott!

(Okay…so, maybe I would only end up altering my day just a tad.  Just a tad.)

Let’s say that in that extra five minutes on this particular morning, a truckload of chickens overturns on the highway, and the goofy birds begin escaping in feather-flying flocks. Well, whaddya know…I happen to be on the highway as the first escapees begin waddling towards a ditch. (They didn’t want to cross the road. They were tired of hearing the joke.)

Let’s say that I’m feeling compassionate and I decide to rescue some of the chickens–say, a dozen, because eggs are packaged by the dozen and I’d like to maintain some sense of normalcy–and I shove them in the car (buckling them into their seat belts for safety, of course) and take them back to the house before heading back to work.

Let’s say that the chickens spend the day hanging out at my place, leaving scrambled eggs all over the patio (sun plus concrete…this is the South) and I find out when I get home that I’m being evicted for violating some long-forgotten city ordinance about barnyard animals after a neighbor, who happens to be allergic to eggs, makes a complaint.

Oh, and I have to take the chickens with me.

Let’s say that I can’t find a place to live right away–because, let’s face it, no one wants to take in a crazy chicken lady–and I have to resort to figuring out a way to subsist off of my only earthly possessions…the chickens.

Then, I remember that I’m a lousy cook.

All this because I ordered a latte.

(Either that, or it’s all because I have a frighteningly wild imagination.)

*No chickens–or eggs–were harmed in the writing of this story. And, no, I don’t have a clue which one came first.

An Observation: The Irony Of Going Paperless

My spam filter catches a lot of…waste.

I recently checked my junk email folder just to make sure something hadn’t slipped past me that I needed to see. I found something I wasn’t expecting.

I found dozens of messages about toilet paper.

Deal after deal for discounted toilet paper.

Naturally, it raised a couple of questions.

Question No. 1: Why?

Question No. 2: Why?

If you think about it, this is the definition of irony.

Email is an example of a way to distance oneself from the use of paper for communication. “Go paperless!” is the modern mantra. People the world over are trying to eliminate as much paper as possible in favor of electronic communication.

I’m kind of “old school” in a few ways. I prefer to hold real books, I like to buy actual CDs or vinyl albums, and I do most of my personal writing in a journal with a pen and–you guessed it–actual paper. And most people I know still prefer actual paper when it comes to the use of restroom facilities.

So, once I’d logged out of my email account, I estimated that I’d sifted through a few dozen pieces of electronic correspondence advertising…paper.

“Going paperless” is all well and good, but I guarantee nothing motivates a return to “old school” paper quite like realizing you’re down to the last roll of Charmin at 10:00 on a Sunday night.

In the event of a disaster, such as a flood, earthquake, tornado, or all-out nuclear holocaust, “going paperless” would be its own disaster that could break down the remainder of society. Think about it. If you’re one of the “lucky” survivors, you’d better hope you stocked up at one of those warehouse club stores…and hope the other survivors don’t find out about your stash.

Oh, the irony of realizing that you’ve just posted this ironic observation to a blog…

(Okay, so I’m a hypocrite. Just watch this little throwback to the 80s. He never went paperless and managed to do quite well.)

An Annual Event: Happy Valentine Birthday

i-won-t-keep-calm-my-birthday-is-on-valentine-s-day

Being born on Valentine’s Day isn’t as cute as it sounds. My whole life, I’ve heard from people who would say things like, “Oh, that explains why you’re so sweet. How precious!” or “Your parents got such a special gift that day!”

I’m happy for them. But, really…what did I get from this whole deal? As a lady who isn’t exactly enamored with the color pink or frilly, overly-girly things, all I really think I got was an annual explanation for the flower delivery guy.

“Here you go, ma’am. Happy Valentine’s Day.”

“Thank you, but it’s actually my birthday. My parents sent the flowers.”

Now, before you go calling me a stick in the mud, I do like chocolate, so I suppose that’s been one saving grace. And you have to admit that it’s at least somewhat special to go through life having been born on a holiday (albeit a rather polarizing holiday). It’s all I’ve ever known, but it’s a little…strange.

Then, there’s another issue under the surface…sibling rivalry. You see, my brother had to go and make his grand entrance into the world one year and a handful of days after I was born. (He thinks he’s here because our parents didn’t get it right the first time…and he’s the last-born because he was perfection.) However, this minuscule age gap created years of what I once considered unfair birthday rituals.

Because his birthday is the week following mine, in order to save time and resources, childhood birthday parties took place in between the two dates.

In other words, after my actual birthday, but before his.

Unfair.

(To be fair, I always received my actual gifts on my actual birthday. I’ll give credit to my parents for that one. I owe them a LOT, when you get down to it. Like…my life, for starters. Best birthday present I ever received.)

Our party on my sixth-plus-four-days birthday and my brother’s not-quite-fifth birthday was the first time I really remember noticing the issue.

My mom put together the party. She created a very short table for the two of us and our very short guests. After she added pillows to the floor for seating, we had our party room.

She also gave the party a theme–airplanes. Instead of “Pin The Tail On The Donkey,” we played “Pin The Propeller On The Airplane.” The tablecloth was decorated with clouds. The shared birthday cake was decorated with planes. If the party really got out of hand, flying ice cream would have been within the realm of possibility.

When the day of the big “Sixth-Plus-Four-Days and Not-Quite-Fifth-Birthday-Party” arrived, our little guests sat around the table playing with party favors while the mothers and big sisters and aunts and grandmothers served cake, organized the games, and generally kept us from breaking bones. We were each allowed to invite four friends. With my brother being younger and not quite in school yet, one of his “friends” was a default younger sibling of one of my friends. (Neither of them knew four people at the time, so we succeeded in expanding their social circle that day.)

I only have three pictures from that day, and they are mostly typical birthday party pictures. Two of them focus on all of the kids sitting around the little table. While the mothers and big sisters and aunts and grandmothers were all smiling and laughing and joining in on the games and watching us behave like kids, the dads and big brothers and uncles and grandfathers had slipped away to another corner of the living room.

The third picture shows the dads and big brothers and uncles and grandfathers.

By the looks on their faces, you could tell that the whole “putting these birthday parties together” thing wasn’t their style.

The next year, our party was at McDonald’s.

In time, the rituals began to change, and we grew to think it was pretty cool that our birthdays were so close. (I don’t think we’ve completely grown up, though. We’ve been mailing each other the same birthday card for a couple of years now.) And I grew to accept the fact that our arrangement for parties just made sense for the adults in our lives.

I still haven’t completely embraced the idea of Valentine’s Day–a lot of people haven’t–but I can at least enjoy the birthday part of it. So, if you’re like me and you’re not the biggest fan of Valentine’s Day, just take a few minutes to think about those of us who simply call it “Happy Birthday.”

And we’ll try to smile when you wish us a “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

An Observation: Not-So-Standard Units of Measurement

One mile is comprised of 5,280 feet. One foot is comprised of twelve inches. Inches are divided into halves, quarters, eighths, and so forth. As Americans–who have proudly shunned the metric system since the first wheels took shape–we commonly accept these as our standard units of measurement.

Science tells us this. We cannot argue with it because, after all, science is an exact science. Now, to be fair, it’s exact in the right hands; sayings such as “measure twice, cut once” exist because someone, at some time, was being careless with their exact scientific measurements.

Somewhere along the way, human beings begin to eschew standard units of measurement in favor of convenience (or laziness). For example, asking a hairdresser to trim “about” one inch of hair is usually measured with a thumbnail or on the bottom of a comb. “About,” in the aforementioned case, renders exact measurements null and void by virtue of the Principle of Exact Estimates. (Plus, not all thumbnails or combs are created equal. Thumbnails chip. The comb could have been a little too close to the hair dryer one day, for all you know. Plastic has been known to melt.)

This eventually progresses to “just a little off the top” at barber shops, further eroding the exactness of the standard unit of measurement and leaving your hairstyle in the hands of potentially catastrophic variations of interpretation.

In the areas of life in which standard units of measurement begin to erode, interpretation takes over, and this is where my thought process goes into overdrive.

Let’s explore this idea, shall we?

Let’s begin with music. My livelihood.

The expression “close enough for jazz” really angers a lot of jazz musicians. How close is close enough for jazz? From personal experience, I can tell you that most of the improv solos I’ve ever attempted haven’t been close enough for ANYTHING. Jazz is a non-standard unit of measurement, I suppose…depending on who you ask. The expression is meant to imply that jazz has no real standard unit of measurement, angering the purists among us who try desperately to perform in the correct style for any given jazz situation. Clearly, whoever came up with this expression never had to sit through a six-hour rehearsal and listen to a lead trumpet player repeatedly fuss over the exact length of a staccato eighth note.

Moving on…

Pros and cons.

People are always weighing pros and cons.

Well, okay. How much does one unit of pro or con weigh, exactly? Do you begin with a starting weight for each one? After all, not every point in an issue that warrants the weighing of pros and cons carries the same level of gravity.

Hmmm. I’d like to take my friends out for seafood. I really want to invite Timmy. But…Timmy is deathly allergic to shellfish.

Let’s weigh the pros and cons here.

Pro: Get to hang out with Timmy for the evening.

Con: He might get to ride in an ambulance if we pass him the shrimp cocktail. He might even spend a little time in a coma. The starting weight for this con is about sixty units of…something…to the five units of…something…for the pro. Maybe I should even this out by seeing if everyone wants steak.

Sheesh. When are they gonna set up some standard units for the weight of pro versus con?

However, aren’t pros and cons fairly fluid concepts, anyway? Say a con becomes a pro while you’re thinking about them as they go onto the scales. Does that con truly become a pro? Or would you refer to it as an ex-con? Captivating thought.

Next up…a boatload.

Technically, this is a boatload.
Technically, this could be a boatload.

I suppose this one is simply a relative term, seeing as how my first paddle boat uncomfortably seated two. Hence, its maximum boatload capacity was a grand total of two. The rich and famous have access to yachts, and a boatload to them might be a staff of six with four passengers (you know, to maintain enough personal space to ensure the luxury of the experience). A boatload could also refer to cargo, which might be packed in like sardines, which opens a whole other can of worms in this whole “standard unit of measurement” discussion.

However, seeing as how most people don’t use “boatload” in the nautical sense (it actually does have a nautical definition…I think…), its degree of relativity is open to all kinds of interpretation…although most would generally agree that a boatload is supposed to be “a lot.” (Another non-standard unit of measurement.) We’ll just leave it at “a lot.”

Finally–for now, anyway–one last phrase.

A lifetime.

As far as units of measurement go, this one irritates me the most.

I thought about it after I watched a documentary about a child prodigy. A well-established expert in the child’s area of talent claimed that it would take most people a lifetime to achieve the level of accomplishment that the young boy had reached in his mere twelve years of life.

Umm…yeah. Thus far, in this boy’s life, it has taken all twelve years of it to reach this particular point. Therefore, it has taken him a lifetime. His lifetime. Another more standard unit of measurement really needs to be used in this case, because everyone has taken a lifetime to get where they are today, no matter where they are.

I suppose the expression could be taken to mean “a lot” of years, which then defers back to “boatload,” depending on the size of the boat…which is making my head spin enough to call it a day…or night.

Or perhaps I could call it an evening.

It’s all a relative, non-standard unit of measurement anyway.

A Reality Check: Lottery Loser Forced To Go Back To Practical Dreaming

Wahoo, Neb.–After a week of entertaining thoughts of leaving his job at a local air hockey manufacturing center for relaxation on a private Caribbean island, local Powerball loser Joe Goodefornuthin reluctantly made plans to shift gears to a more practical train of thought upon realizing that the winnings had gone to someone else.

“I plan to start daydreaming about my 401(k) next week. Today, though, I just need a little more time to make the cabana in my mind look like I think it could have.”

At press time, Goodefornuthin was driving home from work contemplating who he would have taken with him to the island, a small, uncharted tropical hideaway fully-stocked with a fifty-year supply of Cheetos and 25-seat private screening room set to play “The Godfather” on a continuous loop.

A Picky Observation: Bovine Illiteracy

For many years now, a well-known chicken chain restaurant has used cows in its advertising campaigns. The cows write messages on billboards to encourage potential customers to spare their lives by indulging in more poultry. (I’ll let you figure out the restaurant. Here’s a hint…they probably only sell right wings. Figured it out yet? Good for you. That one was easy. Don’t worry. There won’t be a quiz later.)

It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to observe that almost all of the words on the billboards are completely misspelled.

I may be the only one, but I feel for those poor cows.

And not for the reasons you might think.

We all know what’s expected of a cow. We all know what the future holds for the typical cow.

Do we ever stop to think of what these cows really have the potential to become? I feel that we have failed the bovine community by not encouraging them to expect more of themselves than ending up on a skewer.

(What time is it? Gettin’ hungry here…)

Have you ever stopped to ask a cow what they think their future looks like? If you ask a cow about their future, they stare forlornly and continue chewing on the very feed that will ultimately lead to their demise. You might get the occasional “moo,” but they have not been given the tools to adequately express themselves.

Bottom line–a limited vocabulary limits your potential.

When it comes to functional literacy, they are challenged by dexterity–it’s true–but, as far as I know, not too many people have actually taken the time to help them navigate those obstacles. If they could write more easily, perhaps spelling skills would follow.

(I haven’t eaten dinner yet. I shouldn’t be writing this while I’m hungry. What to eat tonight…hmmm…)

We’re not doing a very good job of emphasizing their positive attributes, either. All too often, you hear stories about farm kids disrupting a cow’s peaceful slumber by pushing them over for sport. Cow tipping.

And let’s not even talk about the degradation that is cow patty bingo.

No, it’s time to do something. The next time you see a cow grazing the day away, go read them a story. Give them a paintbrush. You could even give them drumsticks so they can put their bells to use. They deserve a chance to become something other than an under-cooked outbreak of E.coli.

(Or become something other than a really, really, REALLY good rib-eye…with a baked potato on the side…with sour cream…)

You know what? Just forget I said anything. I’m gonna go fire up the grill.

A Sunday Satire: Vehicle Resting Comfortably At Home

Turkey Feather, Ark.–Local authorities in Turkey Feather have called off a Ford Alert issued after 37-year-old Gina Stockdriver called police about a lost pickup truck. According to the report, Stockdriver entered the Turkey Feather General Store at approximately 3:40 p.m. and returned to the parking lot at approximately 3:50 p.m. unable to locate her vehicle.

Police discovered the 1997 Ford F-150 in its original parking spot after an extensive three-hour ground search. It was determined that a recently-applied car mustache had rendered the vehicle unidentifiable by its owner.

“I bought the car mustache so I could get around town without anyone noticing me so much,” said Stockdriver, who claims she was tired of everyone in town knowing where she was going before she did.

The vehicle was released back to the owner after being observed and treated at a local garage.

An Advice Column: Social Media And Your Parents

News Flash For Adult Children: Your parents are going to discover the wonders of communicating through electronic media.

It will happen.

It’s inevitable.

I still remember the first text message I received from my mother. I was at our alma mater’s first home football game of the year, and I suddenly felt my pocket buzzing. Being there with four friends, I thought I was already there with the only people who knew me who would think to send me a text message. (I didn’t even text all that much at the time seeing as how it was such an arduous process to punch the keys four or five times to enter the desired letter or number.) I opened up my flip phone (again, this has been a few years), and proceeded to exchange a few short messages filling her in on the score.

I then turned to show my friends that my mother had figured out how to text.

It was, to me, akin to how she must have felt the first time I figured out how to get out of my crib on my own…albeit on a much smaller scale. (Or something like that. I really wouldn’t know. I’m just speculating.)

In the years that followed, social media began to explode–exponentially–and she eventually discovered it as well.

She’s become quite handy at using at the Facebooks…the social media outlet of choice for parents.

Now, before you go thinking that this is a post about how retirees have comically embraced the digital age with amusing results, just calm down and have some milk and cookies. It’s already been done. They know…trust me.

Trust me. They know. (Image from weknowmemes Above Promotions Company Tampa FL 2013)
They know. Trust me. (Image from weknowmemes Above Promotions Company Tampa FL 2013)

No, this post is more about what you–the adult child–can do to ease the transition for yourself.

Here are a few pieces of advice that will help you in the long run.

1. Don’t help your parent (or other parent-like relative) set up a social media account over the phone. It’s a tedious process that could drive a wedge into your relationship. I’m talking about the potential for permanent damage here.

Think about it. If you’re trying to talk someone through a setup process on the phone and you don’t work in tech support for a living, something will go wrong and your Aunt Mabel may think the entire internet just ended up with her credit card number. She receives her next credit card bill and, unbeknownst to her, your Uncle Mortimer had just bought her surprise Christmas gift with the card. However, she doesn’t know that you don’t use a credit card to set up a free social media account. She just knows that you sent her name out into that mysterious cyberspace and now she has a mysterious charge on her card–mysteriously–from her favorite jeweler. Awfully personal information. Who else could have known that she wanted that gold bracelet with the engraved initials? You become Public Enemy No. 1.

No, just go visit her when she says she wants to set up the Facebooks. Do it for her. She watched your school plays when you were nine. You can do this much for her.

(Okay…maybe this post will be a little bit about how retirees have comically embraced the digital age with amusing results. However, I have my mother’s permission. I promise.)

2. Briefly explain social media etiquette. I’m not talking about the “ALL-CAPS-EQUALS-SHOUTING” rules or warning them of the dangers of autocorrect. No, tell them to keep away from two things if they want to keep their new “friends”: politics and religion. (That’s actually good advice for everyone.) A post or share once in a while is okay–moderation is good–but sharing every photo and un-vetted meme from questionable news sources will end their social media experience before it even starts. Then they start calling to wonder why their friend count is shrinking and why Cousin Doris doesn’t even appear on their list anymore.

(Honestly, this is just turning into a catch-all advice column for ANYONE who uses the internets.)

3. Along those same lines, the “like” button needs some ‘splaining. Remind them to use it sparingly, and only on items that they actually like. If they “like” that status about how Uncle Mortimer woke up to a flat tire, six inches of water in the living room due to a burst pipe, and a kidney stone, they might have some trouble at the next face-to-face family function.

These are just a few pieces of advice to make your electronic lives easier. I’m sure there are others, but these will get you started.

And, yes, I do have my mother’s permission to write this.