A Study in Chaos: Move It

There’s no greater litmus test for the performance of your chosen brand of deodorant than moving twice in the South in one summer. It’s also an excellent test of your patience, general physical condition, and level of sanity (see also: crazy).

The only people who should be undertaking such quick-succession moving adventures are professional movers and college students. Well, I’m very obviously not a professional mover, and I graduated from dorm living quite a few years ago, so you’re probably thinking, “What possessed you to do THAT?!?” (Although you could be thinking about what to make for dinner or how to MacGyver your way out of an isolated mountain cave should the situation arise. I don’t know. I’m not you. Since you’re here, though, I’ll explain my scenario.)

It starts with stuff. Lots of stuff. And when you need to go somewhere else to live, you have to have a place to put all of that stuff–usually on a deadline.

As one deadline approached (see also: end of lease), I found a place that would take me and my stuff. All the while, I had it in my mind that I would also be looking for a permanent place for me and my stuff, which I anticipated might take a few months at the least.

Yeah, that’s how things work for most people.

I’m not most people. If it can be made as complicated as humanly possible, I’ll take that path.

The day before I made the move to my “supposed-to-be-there-for-a-few-months” residence, I found a “gee-I-like-this-place-I-think-I’ll-buy-it” residence, which meant another move within approximately one month.

scared family guy GIF

My friends were supportive. I believe the magic quote was, “Only keep out what you need to survive.”

So, me and my stuff did just that. (Sorry about the grammar. Me and my grammar are tired.)

Move No. 1. A long, sweaty Saturday. Stairs at both places. Deodorant status = NOPE. Although I had hired movers for the first trip–and they did a wonderful job–all of the little things end up being the most frustrating parts of a move. Once you’ve made twelve trips up and down the stairs for laundry detergent, vacuum cleaners, and socks you just knew you’d never see again, you begin to question your life choices (and the stability of your calf muscles).

First casualty of the first move–an end table. Snapped leg. However, there’s some mighty fine glue on the market these days, and the table was salvaged. It’ll limp for the rest of its life, but it’s still with us.

I navigated around boxes for a few weeks, reluctantly sighing each time I knew I had to dive into one for something I needed for survival, like a fork. A fork at the bottom of a pile of boxes.

Where are my towels? Oh, they’re in a box? Labeled “BREAKABLE”? Yeah, okay, it was late.

You see, when you start to make a move, you carefully pack each of the first dozen or so boxes. Then, when you realize you’ll never find everything again anyway and that you’re going crazy trying to Tetris your way through the process, shoes and light bulbs become roommates with VHS tapes (yes, really) and coffee pods.

Just as I had begun to figure out which light switches operated the major illumination devices…it was time to go again. This time, though, it would be a mile-long bucket brigade of sorts, as I had found a place in the same neighborhood as the temporary residence.

Move No. 2. Stairs at both places (again…whyyyyyyyyy). Deodorant status = USELESS/ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!? First casualty of the second move–decorative plates for the end tables. No amount of glue was fixing those. I’d moved them a few times over the thirteen years I owned them; alas, the thirteenth year was the unluckiest, and it was time to bid them farewell. I found them smashed in the bottom of a box marked “FRAGILE” with a “THIS SIDE UP” arrow pointing the opposite direction of the eventual resting position of the box.

My fault. Oops.

However, all things considered, me and my stuff are settling in for a while.

The litmus test on the deodorant told me that it’s time to switch brands…or, you know, NOT MOVE AGAIN FOR A WHILE.

An Observation: Driving Thru Drive-Thrus

We live in a world in which you can find millions of pieces of information with the single click of a button.

Need to know all about geothermal power plants? CLICK! DONE! Want to make a scrumptious Baked Alaska for your dinner party? CLICK! RECIPE! JUST ADD CHEF! Traveling to Aunt Gertrude’s new house? WHAT’S HER ADDRESS? CLICK! HERE ARE ALL THE ROADS!

You can even get ahead of lines in some places. I’ve done it before when I needed a haircut. You can actually check in ONLINE. Pretty neat stuff.

Not only can you access seemingly unlimited information these days, but you can also control chunks of your day simply by pressing a button…unless…

Sigh.

Unless you’re scrambling to pick up a last-minute meal at the drive-thru.

The technology revolution wasn’t going to eliminate every hassle. Let’s face it, a lot of times the technology IS the hassle. Still, one might believe that all of these technological advances might eventually lead to a better experience in line at the drive-thru.

Not necessarily.

You see, it’s dependent on people, like everything else. It’s dependent on people in cars following the unwritten etiquette of the drive-thru.

Wait…there are rules?!? Where?!?

The servers, cooks, cashiers–they have a pretty big job during high-volume times. As a consumer, you can do your part to keep the line moving efficiently by taking a few pieces of advice and applying them to your next drive-thru experience.

First of all, just put down the phone, please. You can look up the history of coffee filters later. Instead of googling how much Bugs Bunny weighs or watching that video of the baby goat that your third cousin twice removed said you just have to see, pay attention to the movement in the line and respond accordingly. Paying attention to the task at hand keeps things running smoothly.

Here is my next suggestion–and this is the big one:

Do your part to keep a reasonable distance between you and the bumper in front of you.

I cannot stress this one enough.

Unless you have a self-driving vehicle that can regulate distances, you have to make adjustments.

drive parking GIF

There’s a fine line here, though. While you don’t want to be close enough to the next car bumper to be able to read the driver’s odometer, putting a three-mile gap between the two cars isn’t very helpful, either. When someone does that, you’re soon an uncomfortable foot and a half away from the speaker, having to face the awkward scenario of either yelling your order and risking the miscommunication or waiting to pull forward and saying, “Hello?” to a silent speaker to make sure the server is still ready for it.

Finally, please be patient. I know, it’s tough sometimes, and we’re all on tight schedules, but getting irritated won’t help anything. Keep the end goal in mind–FOOD.

These are just a few more pieces of information to add to the gazillions of pieces of information you can find just about anywhere.

A Mini-Travelogue: Tired

I was fortunate during my time in the city in that my daily commute was easier than any other commute I’ve ever had. No joke. I never encountered the problems that the freeway commuters have to fight each day because I could use less-congested roads.

Traffic Late GIF - Traffic Late Early GIFs

When I do have to take the freeways at certain times, though, I get a taste of “rush” hour.

Today was a typical Monday. I was headed out of town to take care of some errands related to the majesty of moving (another story for another day). At all of the major interchanges, I had enough time sitting still to take in the “scenery,” and by “scenery” I mean scattered litter and smoke-belching tractor-trailers. I always budget my time to account for any potential problems, so I wasn’t rushed, which is good, because there’s nothing rushed about “rush” hour.

Three days later–or thirty minutes later, I think–I crossed the river into Arkansas and watched as the traffic began to thin. I figured I was about two towns away from being able to turn on the cruise control.

Before I was past the first town, I was rounding a corner with one tractor-trailer on my left, keeping pace with me the whole way. An on-ramp was to my right.

Annnnnd directly in the middle of my lane–there it was. The banana peel of the Interstate Highway System.

A big ol’ industrial-sized chunk of tire tread.

I guess you could say I had some options to weigh:

  1. Swerve to the left to avoid a tire and hit a giant truck instead.
  2. Swerve to the right and potentially hit a car in my blind spot (I couldn’t tell if there was one there or not–hence the term “blind spot”) trying to make their way on to the interstate via the on-ramp.
  3. Swerve to the right to miss the tire, over-correct before the potential other car can hit me from the on-ramp, and hit a giant truck instead.
  4. Hit the brakes and cause a forty-two-car-pileup.
  5. Try to straddle over the tire tread and hope the damage is minimal.

Oh, and I had about 2.463814 seconds to consider all of the above.

With about 0.294532 seconds to spare, I chose Option Number 5.

Option Number 5 seemed to be the choice with the lowest likelihood of significant personal injury and/or I-don’t-wanna-think-about-it-other-possibilities.

The thud was significant, and I pulled over to wait for all of the bells and whistles on the dashboard to tell me I wasn’t going anywhere.

That never happened. In fact, I couldn’t even hear anything rattling, nor did anything about the vehicle feel different when I made my way to the next town over to pull into a gas station for a better look.

Everything seems to be okay for now, oddly enough. I hope it stays that way. The dealership also gave it a good look, and they even washed the car before I left. I’ll say this, though–I’m a huge fan of coffee, but nothing in the world can keep you awake, alert, and paranoid on a commute quite like a large object in the middle of the road.

In the words of Forrest Gump, “I’m pretty tired. I think I’ll go home now.”

“Tire”d indeed.

An Overthought: Pun-ishing

It’s long been a dream of mine (since I first heard this was a thing about five whole years ago) to go to Austin, Texas to compete in and win the O. Henry Pun-Off.

Obviously, I won’t be going this year as I didn’t take a good look at the dates until the time was u-pun and ultimately past us (heh), but it got me to thinking…

How does one efficiently prepare for such a contest?

In my possibly unpopular o-pun-ion (ha), it wouldn’t be easy.

Why, you ask (besides the obvious–that you’d need to be really good with puns)?

This is not a fence post. Well, okay, the picture has a fence post (more than one, actually) in it, but the blog post isn’t about a fence, and that’s where I was supposed to add some kind of clever pun and…yeah. Just look at the pretty sunset and roll your eyes at me.

Well…I’ll make a list.

1. In order to prepare, you’d probably want to practice with someone. And they’d need to be better than you in order to keep you on your toes, which could potentially lead to a crisis of confidence. That’s the part where you start thinking, “Gee. If they’re so good, why don’t they compete instead of me? Why are they helping? Should I be encouraging them to take my spot? Or was that the strategy all along? Yeah, that’s it. Very sneaky, o worthy adversary.”

2. I’m not sure if I have a second item to add to this list. Technically, this means I don’t have much of a list and I should have just written a couple of paragraphs. Darn. Now I have to come up with a third item to make this a real list. I don’t even have a good pun to add, meaning that I probably shouldn’t even be thinking about doing this contest in the first place. (See also: Item No. 1 on this “list.”)

3. Oh…wait. Maybe I do have something to say. If you practice with someone, you might also want to involve a third party to judge each pun’s worthiness in the practice sessions. Still, if they’re able to identify them that easily, they could also be better at this than you are, once again beginning that self-confidence spiral.

overthinking GIF
Try not to look directly at the gif.

It’s a pun-ishing prospect, isn’t it?!?

A Thought: Sneezonal Allergies

A sneeze is a wish your nose makes.

lisa simpson sneezing GIF

Yeah, okay. Not really.

Sneezing is nature’s way of telling me that I should refrain from any and all outdoor excursions in the springtime. As an added bonus, I like to top my suffering off not only with sneezing, but with all of the available options on the seasonal allergy menu. If it’s between my forehead and my chin and it can sneeze, wheeze, or water, it will. At Firehouse Subs, they’d call it “Fully Involved.”

I call it March through May.

It’s a shame, too. Springtime is so pretty. It’s deceptive. I guess it’s comparable to the Sirens in Greek mythology, luring me outside so that my violent sneezing can…oh, I don’t know, transfer dandelion seeds to places where they can flourish miles away. (I’m not sure that’s how it works. I’m not a botanist or a Greek mythologist or an allergist. I just know that my sneezing creates its own jet stream this time of year.)

Beautiful? Yes. Or is it…?

Yes, it’s a trap. Much like the heartbreaking discovery that I have a severe cat allergy but happen to love the little creatures, I’m also a landscape and nature photographer who is allergic to springtime. Sometimes, I’ll even feel a twinge of sympathetic itching in my eyes when I just look at a photo of a pretty flower newly dressed for the season.

Still, I’ll brave it for the perfect photo. The way I see it, if I can get two or three good pictures before I can no longer hold the camera steady due to a sneezing fit, I’ve had a successful outing. Bonus points if I can make it home before my eyes water and swell shut.

However, if a sneeze is a wish your nose makes, I wish it would decide not to sneeze anymore.

A Few Thoughts: Thought Stew

I tried.

Author’s Note: This is what a typical brainstorm looks like to me, although sometimes the ideas are a little more chunky than smooth. Occasionally, I find a great idea from something like this. Very occasionally. I’ve had a really goofy quote from a movie in my head and I thought I’d write down some of the most random thoughts I could articulate in a time span of approximately three minutes.

Enjoy.

I don’t think stories should always start at the beginning. I’m usually jumping into the middle of someone’s story every time they have a conversation and mention people I don’t know. It’s like a disorganized grocery list that has you running for bread and then bacon and then apples and then trash bags. Good exercise, bad planning. That is, if you follow the list in list order instead of store order.

I hated playing Red Rover when I was a kid. Of course they were always going to barrel towards me at 900 miles per hour. The drawstring on my backpack was thicker than my arms. Doing handsprings on the grass was much less violent. A kid tried to push me off a ladder on the slide once, though, so I guess nothing was ever totally safe; I tripped over my own foot on my way to a class in college and fell on a sidewalk. Expensive textbooks kept me from breaking my face–I fell on one of those first before my nose could actually hit the concrete. (Reading is important. It could save you from a concussion.)

I can only make one kind of paper airplane. Whether or not it flies is always a mystery. I have to throw-test it and I would feel bad if any passengers had to be along for that ride. They have no landing gear. Oops.

Why did Bill Paxton play a character named “Bill” so many times? It may have only been two times (possibly three–I should look that up), but it’s still noticeable.

Writing stories longhand is my preference, but I’m not sure what I’ll do someday when I get arthritis. I already have a tough enough time getting my pen to keep up with my thoughts.

If you kick a tree, will the squirrels throw acorns at you? You’re trespassing on their home. Or are you? I suppose they have a right to defend their home, but doesn’t the tree belong to the tree?

Do your thoughts talk to you or do you see them in writing? What about subtitles?

I like words. I should learn more of them.

A Thought: Life Hacks For Writers

I really despise the term “life hacks,” but it’s what people know right now, so I guess I’ll use it. I don’t know about you, but I associate the word “hack” with images of chronic phlegm sufferers, axe murderers, or computer geniuses sending out viruses, although that could just be my imagination running amok. (You may feel differently. I can’t know that, though. I’m not you.)

Perhaps the word “advice” is more appropriate, but I’ll stick with current nomenclature and call this a “life hack” (eww) for writers.

I first introduced this idea to someone looking for a suggestion on how to keep up with projects or ideas they wanted to revisit in their old journals. The idea was simple, really, which is the point of a “life hack,” (bleh) I suppose.

I should preface this “life hack” (ugh) by saying that I am a proud card-carrying member of the “I Handwrite My First Drafts and/or Ideas in a Real-Life Journal” club. We have no cards, though, so that “card-carrying” bit was a lie. Sorry.

Anyway, back to the “life hack” (meh).

If I have a topic, incomplete story, or even just one line in one of my many journals that I want to flesh out or revise later, I mark it with a paper clip. I like to use colored paper clips because they stand out a bit more.

touring on a shoestring post its GIF by Soundfly
Wait…no. Paper clips. They’re much more durable. And they send a clearer message. I think.

Then, when I’m ready to work, I simply open the journal and sort through the clips. Some ideas may not be worth my time, but some need my attention.

As I transfer and complete a draft or project from the journal to the computer, I remove the paper clip. You can begin to see progress as the paper clips dwindle and that particular journal becomes less bulky.

You also have the added bonus of more paper clips to use again for all of your paper clipping needs. Real paper clips. On real paper. Where I prefer to write first ideas and drafts.

Oh, hey. Of course I remember you. You used to watch me write term papers. Very closely, if I recall. Where have you been? Your brothers and sisters have been holding my ideas together for me in a leather-bound journal for a while now. I’m just going to finish talking about this “life hack” (sigh) now, so run along. Nice seeing you…I think…

Because my journals tend to be very scatterbrained (which could possibly be attributed to the user), I will clip the exact spot on the page where the idea sprang forth. That way, I don’t necessarily have to read the entire page to try to remember which idea I wanted to revisit.

I don’t know if this is an approach others have tried, but it seems to work for me (when I actually make myself do it). It frees up some of my time for eating, sleeping, and other similar hobbies.

sleep sleeping GIF
Best hobby ever.

Give it a try! Let me know what you think! And if you don’t need the paper clips after you’ve finished sifting through your journals, send photos of the stylish necklaces and bracelets you can create with them.

An Experiment: The De-Evolution of Bob Ross

The title reads like an Oscar-nominated documentary, right? It’s not, but I can assure you that it’s a quite accurate description of the forthcoming tale. Two things you should keep in mind as you read:

  1. This isn’t about the real Bob Ross, and…
  2. Even a Chia Pet can get a little out of control.

Yes, the fine people of the Chia Pet dynasty have marketed a Bob Ross Chia Head in their line of products. It was a no-brainer on their part, really. Aside from his artwork and his happy little soothing approach to life, his most distinguishing feature was his hair. As the story goes, he created the trademark look after he realized he wanted to save money on haircuts. Therefore, he had it permed to reduce the necessity for trips to the barber shop. And—as the story also goes—he wasn’t crazy about the style, but once it was intertwined with his personal brand, he had to keep doing it.

Lucky for all of us. Otherwise, his Chia Head wouldn’t exist.

I received one as a gag gift. Since my ability to keep plant life alive is marginal—and that’s really stretching it—I decided to give it a try while keeping my expectations low for a full ‘fro harvest.

If you’ve never planted a Chia Pet before, here are a few of the (paraphrased) steps:

  1. Soak the planter, preferably for an hour.
  2. Mix the seeds in 1/4 cup of water. The consistency is the tricky part; they have to be slimy enough for moisture to facilitate growth, but dry enough not to slide off Bob’s contoured skull.
  3. Take a spoon, knife, fingers, or other object and spread the seeds evenly over the planter.
  4. Don’t water the planter for two days. The seeds have to dry and stick.
  5. Wait.

The “spread seeds evenly” part is just as tricky as creating the right seed-to-water ratio. The first attempt I made, most of the seeds slid off of his head in a gooey, clumpy mess. The second, more successful time, I used less water, so I had fewer gooey, clumpy messes; still, they happened. I doubt that “even distribution” is completely possible on a grooved surface like ol’ Bob’s noggin.

I watched Bob carefully after I applied the coating, using a plastic knife to spread renegade seeds back on to his head if they began to melt away. I was redistributing seeds almost every thirty minutes that first day. I wasn’t about to sacrifice sleep over a Chia Head, so I went to sleep that night and hoped I wouldn’t wake up to find a pile of hair plugs in Bob’s drip tray.

When I woke up the next morning, most of the seeds that decided to slither went down the nape of his neck, meaning that I was in danger of raising a Chia Michael Bolton if I didn’t fix the situation. They were still somewhat spreadable, so I redistributed more to the top, and, for the most part, they stayed.

Think of it like frosting a really lumpy cake made of brick.

As everything dried over the next 24 hours, I thought I had a fighting chance of my Bob Ross looking like the picture of Bob Ross on the box.

The following day, the seeds had sufficiently dried, so I watered the planter as directed.

Now, to wait.

Slowly, but surely, Bob started to sprout. Sure, he had a few bald spots, but he was already looking better than my first attempt…in which I had accidentally turned the faucet on his head and created a reverse mohawk. He also had a renegade sprout growing near his eye, but it gave him character.

Happy little sprouts.

What they don’t tell you is that, like any other hairstyle, you only have a window of about 24 hours that it’s exactly the correct length for your taste. One day past that window, Bob was looking somewhat disheveled.

Two days later, he looked like years of paint fumes were really doing a number on his state of being.

Looks like he picked the wrong week to quit…oh, never mind.

Finally, when he started to resemble Einstein’s crazy nephew that no one in the family talks to anymore, I declared an end to the experiment, putting Bob in the sink for a shave.

Medusa’s inspiration.

I’m sure I’ll buy more seeds for future adventures with the happy little guy, but for now, I’m taking a break from gardening after proving that I can keep plant life alive—and some.

An Observation: Have A Good One

I’m guilty. You’re guilty. We’re probably all guilty.

Guilty, you say? Of what?

True, on a philosophical level, we’re all guilty of lots of somethings, so I suppose I should specify this particular instance of guilt before you all start beating yourselves up over other transgressions.

How many times have you said/heard/overheard/responded to this statement?

“Have a good one.”

You know you’ve said it. You’ve also been on the receiving end of that statement. And I know that the linguists and comedians of the world have covered this topic (probably better than I can), but this is my blog and it’s my turn, so there. If you don’t like it, too bad. So sad. Love, Brad (whoever Brad is).

happy brad pitt GIF
I kinda hope it’s this guy.

As I said, it’s probably already been said, so, for my own personal record, I’ll say it.

ONE WHAT?!?

Okay, okay, I get it—it’s a substitute for “day.” Why, though? “Day” is the same number of letters as “one,” it’s just as quick to say as “one,” and it happens to be my middle name (a bit off-topic, sure, but I like my middle name). How did “day” morph into “one”? The “a” in “have a good day” along with the singular nature of “day” is already indicative of “one” being the understood unit of measurement in that statement.

However—to get back to the crux of this post—how does anyone “have a good ONE”? What is a “one”? It has to be a “one” of something—understood as “day” in this situation, as we have established, but someone might have missed the memo the day (or “one”) that it went out—and I’ve just gone and massively complicated a simple pleasantry usually exchanged at drive-thru windows and banks in the name of the typical analytical paranoia that follows me around on a one-to-one (see also: day-to-day) basis.

I should take a nap.

A long one.

An Observation: Very Secondary

I was plucking my eyebrows a few days ago when I had two thoughts: 1) ouch, it still hurts to do this, and 2) the VERY FIRST time I did this, it took about three hours because I was eighteen years old, ignorant about a lot of beauty-related things, and, as a result, was dangerously close to having a unibrow.

miranda sings eyes GIF
I’ll say.

(Okay, those were several thoughts. Sorry about the math skills.)

Anyway, it’s never been much fun and it almost always makes me sneeze to tweeze. Guess the follicles are connected to my sneezer switch or something.

Anyway, anyway—back to one of those thoughts. I was thinking about the VERY FIRST time I plucked my eyebrows.

Does anyone ever call a “second something” the VERY SECOND instance? You rarely hear the word “very” as a modifier of “second” in that context.

Language study time. Do you think that at the second performance of the 1812 Overture, it was introduced with the word “very” in front of “second”? (They’d most likely have been speaking Russian, so just pretend they spoke English to make this easier.)

“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the VERY SECOND performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture!”

If you’d been in the audience (and if you’re reading this, I’m assuming you weren’t, because it was a long time ago and if you are still alive and remember the performance with any degree of clarity, you need to call a medical research facility pronto because they’ll want to run a few tests for everyone’s benefit here—have someone show you how to use a phone), you’d probably have heard something more like this:

“Tonight the orchestra will be playing the second performance of the new 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky. Please express your final wishes to your families now in the event that you are injured by the cannons.”

Seems like everything that happens the first time is expressed as the VERY first time.

“Oh, look! He’s taking his VERY first steps!”

“She just lost her VERY first tooth!”

“We just went to her VERY first graduation! Preschool! We only have thirteen more of these to go before she actually earns a real diploma!”

The only times you ever hear “very second” is when someone is referring to a minute unit of time. (Minute? See what I did there? Haha, yeah…at least I thought it was funny.)

“The very second he jumped out of the plane, he wished he hadn’t.”

“They timed that race down to the very second.”

No one ever says, “You remember the very second time we went to that new barbecue joint?”

Of course they don’t! If the trip was memorable for some reason, they’d just say, “You remember the second time we went to that new barbecue joint?”

“Very” is an interesting modifier that writers are told to use very, very sparingly.

Just something to think about the next time you talk about a very first…or second.