Archive for August, 2007

Hot Flashes

Random tidbits that aren’t long enough for columns by themselves: 

I look back sometimes at the things I did when I was younger and wonder just what exactly I was thinking about.  For example:  I used to roll up the legs of my jeans for no good reason, but at least all the other slaves to fashion were doing it.  Other things, no one else did.  A case in point: 

When I had my first car (a 1984 Subaru GL-10), I was somewhat ashamed by the fact that it had an automatic transmission.  The fact that the car had a digital speedometer, power windows, and a sunroof did not make me feel any better about the fact that it was an automatic. 

So, when I was starting from a stop light or driving down the road, I would sometimes pretend that my car was a standard by moving my hand as if I was shifting the gears.  I wasn’t doing this out of frustration because I wanted a standard; after all, I had no idea how to drive a standard car.  I was actually moving my hand around so that other people would think that I was shifting the gears manually. 

First of all, I was in a Subaru, a car low enough that anyone driving next to me could clearly see that I was just moving my hand around and not shifting gears.  Second of all, what in the world was I thinking? 

Perhaps I was thinking that the people next to me on the road would go home and say to their spouses, “You know, dear, I was driving this afternoon and I was thinking that the pimply young gentleman in the car next to me was somehow inadequate, until I saw that he was driving a standard automobile.  Now I think he is the perfect man to introduce to our daughter the beauty queen.” 

I’m sure that, in truth, no one actually noticed me during my time of ridiculous vanity, but I am reminded of it when I’m the passenger in an automatic car with a driver who is used to driving a standard shift.  Without even noticing it, their foot will depress the non-existent clutch pedal and their hand will reach out for the stick shift.  It’s fairly amusing, but at least they have a reasonable excuse… 

…As I’m writing this, the Yankees are 6 games behind the Red Sox.  I’m starting to feel a little better about the whole thing. 

I was at a softball game the other day while new addition Eric Gagne was endearing himself to Red Sox Nation by blowing his third game – this time against the Angels – since arriving in Boston.  My team was in the dugout when my friend Joe got a text message from his wife (a rabid Red Sox fan).  It read, “Find out where Gagne lives.  We need to pay him a visit.” 

She was kidding.  I think… 

…My coworker from Australia visited our office this week and brought with him some foreign cookies called “Tim Tams.”  The closest US equivalent I can think of for these cookies is Twix, but they are a bit different, in that Tim Tams just seem more, well, I want to say “British,” even though they are from Australia.  No matter where they are from, they are a little slice of all right. 

On his first day here, Mr. Aussie Man taught the people in my group how to do a “Tim Tam Slam.”  How this works is that you bite off each end of the Tim Tam, dip it into a cup of hot coffee or tea, and use it as a straw.  Then, when you feel the cookie begin to disintegrate, you pop it into your mouth and enjoy.  If you aren’t quick about it, though, things can get a little messy and you will end up with “Tim Tam Shirt.” 

Anyway, at the end of his first day in our office, The Man from Down Under was staring at his desk in shock.  Concerned, I asked him if everything was ok.  He looked up at me and said, “You people…went through…five packages of Tim Tams in three hours.  Five.  I thought those would last the entire week, and they didn’t even make it through half of one day.” 

 American gluttony is a beautiful thing… 

…And finally, the thing I feel badly about this week: 

I was pitching a game for my softball team recently, and we were behind in the game by about 15 runs (no coincidence there).  In one of the later innings, one of their hitters smoked a line drive into the gap and decided to stretch the hit into a double.  The runner got to second base just ahead of the throw, but decided not to stop there, instead continuing on to third base without pause. 

This irked me a bit, as they were up by quite a few runs already, so when our shortstop threw the ball to third I may have yelled something like, “Tag him in the face.”  I didn’t really mean it, it was just meant to display my displeasure with the runner’s actions more than anything. 

So, of course, our third baseman tagged him in the face; ok, maybe not the face exactly, but definitely in the head.  Oops.  Our third baseman usually never listens to me at all. 

Surprisingly, there wasn’t a fight, or even an argument.  I have to assume that other team balanced the value of their teammate’s complexion against the quality of my pitching and decided that it was more important that I stay in the game.

Sports &The Day to Day Grind Tim 24 Aug 2007 No Comments

Itchy’s Dilemma

I was resting peacefully, as only a college student can, on a Sunday morning in the mid-1990’s when the phone in my dorm room rang. The voice on the other end said, “I’m gonna get fired.”

“Who is this?” I asked, concerned.

“It’s Itchy,” the voice replied, “and I’m in big trouble.”

Itchy was one of my fraternity brothers, and he was a scruffy guy who was built like a cross between the old Tim Conway character “Dorf” and a fire hydrant: a very big, strong torso featuring a beer gut, Easter Island-sized head, and very stubby little legs and feet. He was, like me, working in the dorms as a Resident Advisor (or “RA”). I had recommended him for the position, actually, since I knew that he could use the free room and reduced-cost meal plan, and from what I had heard, he was doing a great job so far.

The name “Resident Advisor” sounds like it would require someone to serve as a sort of big brother to other students; helping them to make good decisions about their college future. There was a bit of that in the job, but for the most part it was about being Big Brother; keeping an eye on the residents in an effort to prevent them from: Burning down the dorm, doing drugs, drinking, making noise, and having any sort of fun that might be considered “unacceptable.” An example of the type of enforcement was when a freshman student mooned a fellow student and his RA turned him over to the campus police, who promptly arrested the mooner.

Speaking of 1984, there was even some Newspeak going on with the residence life program. The powers that be were concerned that the word “dormitory” had negative connotations, so instead of doing any actual cosmetic work to the buildings, they simply began using the word “residence halls” to spruce things up a bit.

Being an RA helped to make college more affordable, however, and there were some rewarding moments (like the time I ran a scavenger hunt and listed my friend Brian – without his knowledge – as one of the items to collect. I specified that he had to be handcuffed with a pillow case thrown over his head, and he was chased all over campus by rabid packs of residents, but I digress).

Anyway, not being an RA would mean paying full price and now Itchy was afraid that he was going to get fired. I was concerned. “What happened?” I asked.

“Well, I was over in a friend’s room in another hall, and I stayed a little later than I had planned. I was really tired when I left, and tried to leave through a side door, forgetting that those doors are now alarmed after 5pm. When I hit the bar, the door alarm went off and I panicked. I turned around and ran full-speed, directly into the wall behind me. That seemed to daze me a little, but I was still freaking out and confused, so I got up and RAN RIGHT INTO THE WALL AGAIN (caps are mine). I then got up and ran out the side door, setting off the alarm again, and ran all the way back to my room.

“Anyway, I think that they are going to check the video tape from the door cameras, and when they see me going out the door illegally I’m going to get fired. What should I do?”

My body hurt from my attempt to control the wracking spasms of laughter that were welling up from the bottom of my lungs. My eyes were bulging slightly from the effort as I attempted to keep my voice cool and even while saying, “Geez, Itchy, I don’t think they’d fire you for going out the wrong door. Are you ok? I mean, did you break anything?”

He assured me that only his pride was injured, and while we talked he seemed to calm down a little as I continued to assure him that he wouldn’t be fired.

As soon as we hung up the phone, I raced over to the scene of the “crime” to get a copy of the video tape. I was sure that he wouldn’t be fired for such a small offense, and I had dreams of accepting a large cash prize from the good people at “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”

There was no tape in the cameras. Budget cuts.

Itchy wasn’t fired, but he was so afraid that I actually did have the tape and that I would show it at the year-end RA banquet (I was in charge of the year-end video) that, despite my promises to the contrary, he refused to go.

I miss college sometimes.

Back in the Day Tim 10 Aug 2007 1 Comment


I’m in bed, trying desperately to fall asleep so that the alarm does not hurt quite so much tomorrow morning.  I am usually the type of person who can fall asleep immediately upon impact with the pillow, but tonight for some reason I am not taking the express train to the Land of Nod.  I look at the clock and think about the alarm, which is set to begin singing to me an hour before I have to wake up for work.  Sure, I should get up early and work out, but at this point the possibility of waking up early is merely foolish optimism. 

My wife, The Megger, is in Philadelphia at a conference, leaving me alone at home with the dog.  The dog is sleeping peacefully on the floor at the foot of my bed while I stare at the ceiling and deal with the whirlwind of thoughts that are spinning through my head. 

I think of the woman on the train this morning.  She was with her husband and newborn baby and, upon boarding the train, saw that someone she knew was in the car.  She then began to shout at her friend and laugh at completely random things.  For example, “I’M GETTING MY STITCHES OUT TODAY!!  HAW, HAW, HAW!!!”  This would be accompanied by an actual knee slap.  Her husband stood next to her, quietly staring at his sneakers, and I felt a certain amount of pity for the man. 

For five stops, the train resounded with her laughter.  I quickly gave up trying to connect what she was saying with the outbursts of mirth and just tried to bury my head in my book and ignore her.  It wasn’t easy. 

Wait, what was that?  A noise from downstairs; over the fan, it sounded like a door slamming shut. 

I get up out of bed and make my way downstairs, armed with only my stunning wit (for those of you out there who are considering breaking into my house, “my stunning wit” is what I call my high-powered automatic rifle).  Everything seems to be in order downstairs, and when I return to the bedroom, I notice that my trusty watch dog is still asleep, twitching slightly as she chases imaginary rabbits through fields of green grass. 

I climb back into bed and stare at the ceiling for a while longer while I listen to the rhythmic snoring of my dog.  My thoughts travel to earlier in the day; in the afternoon a group of us at work were telling ghost stories.  I always scoff at ghosts until it’s late at night and I’m awake for no good reason.  I can feel fear creeping into the back of my brain, perhaps from my pillow, but then I wonder if dogs can see ghosts.  Probably not when the dog in question is asleep, I guess.  It’s nice to be able to think about stupid things and feel better. 

The night moves closer to morning, and I feel a slight pain in my chest.  I’m sure it’s just gas, but I remember that as a younger man I used to drink gallons of soda and then stay up at night wondering if those pains deep in my body cavity were heart attacks.  I am told that when your heart begins to seize it feels like an elephant is standing on your chest.  This feels more like being stabbed by a plastic butter knife, so I’ll probably be ok.  The pain eventually passes, and I look at the clock:  1:00.  Ugh.  Tomorrow is going to be a long day. 

I think about turning on the light and reading, but that feels like giving up.  I have what it takes to fall asleep, I know I do, I just need to close my eyes and refuse to open them until I fall asleep.  I close my eyes.  This isn’t working.  I’m never going to fall asleep.  Well, maybe if I think about something…like dictionaries…maybe an entire parade of dictionaries…fighting an army of text messages…the iPhones are winning…whoa, is that Godzilla coming down the street…I look up at him and feel with my tongue that one of my teeth is loose…geez, I hope it doesn’t fall out…who is that talking…zero down? 

Without opening my eyes, I can tell that it’s a commercial for a car dealership.  It doesn’t feel like I’ve slept at all, yet my alarm clock has just attempted to wake me up in time to hit the gym before work.  Valiant little alarm clock, with your big snooze button.  I swing my arm toward the nightstand and promise myself that I’ll go to the gym in 9 minutes; anything for just a little more sleep.  Funny, I must have slept through the dog barking at the newspaper delivery person. 

In past years, I used to put my alarm clock on the far side of the room, but I found that I was perfectly willing to wake up, take 3 steps, hit the snooze button, and return to bed.  I did that for a whole year; back when I was single, and never got up to work out once.  I’m not proud of that, but a fact is a fact.  I’m older now:  Wiser; still optimistic about getting up early, but less willing to walk across the room when I can just reach over to buy myself more sleep (plus, The Megger would kill me). 

The window right next to my bed is open, and I wonder if the people outside can hear my struggle to get up in the morning.  It must be lovely for them if they can:  Snoring…alarm…9 minutes of snoring…alarm; lather, rinse, repeat. 

The alarm goes off again, and I give up and reset it for another 45 minutes of sleep.  Hey, I was up late, and after all, I can always work out tomorrow morning.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 08 Aug 2007 No Comments