Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Doing the Wave

I grew up in the small town of Arimo, Idaho, population about 300 people. All of the people in the town could fit into a single movie theater, and not just the big screen at the megaplex where they show the new releases, but one of the outer screens where they show the movies that have been out for five weeks.

The business district of Arimo
It's been about 30 years since I lived in Arimo. (Dang, I'm getting old!) I went back there this weekend and I realized that I don't know hardly anyone who lives there anymore, and they don't know me. But that didn't stop them from waving at me.

One of the things about living in a town as small as Arimo is that everyone knows everyone. And because everyone knows everyone, whenever any car drives by, you wave at the driver because the chances are you know who it is. And if you don't know the driver? No big deal, it's just a wave.

In the two days I spent this weekend in and around Arimo I got waved at more often than the entire seven years I've lived in my current "city." (The "city" I live in has a population of less than 10,000, but that still makes it 30 times bigger than Arimo.) I didn't know most of the people who waved at me, and they didn't know me, either. But that didn't matter. When you live in Arimo, you wave at everyone.

In the small town way of thinking, waving at someone you don't know is much more acceptable than not waving at someone you do know. Because of this, you wave at absolutely everyone. (For those of you who are old enough, think of the closing credits to The Beverly Hillbillies, where Granny, Uncle Jed, Jethro, and Ellie Mae stand there and wave at the audience for the entire song.)

When I was a kid there was an old guy who lived all the way across town (about three blocks away) who owned some property near us, so he frequently drove by our house. Every time he drove by our house he would wave at us. But he would never look at us when he waved, he would always be looking straight forward as he drove. We couldn't decide if he had the greatest peripheral vision in the world, or if he just raised his hand and waved every ten seconds, regardless if anyone was there or not, because he didn't want to miss waving at someone.

You can't really do this in the city. If you tried to wave at everyone who went by or everyone you saw, you'd get a sore arm. And, you'd get a lot of strange looks from people. A lot of strange and confused looks.

While there this weekend, I took the kids for a drive out to see some of the farmland my Dad and Grandpa used to farm. (Who am I kidding? I took me for a drive to see the old farmland. The kids weren't very interested, and were just along for the ride.) As I drove, I went past a house where a guy was on a riding lawnmower taking down some of the weeds around his mailbox. As I approached, he waved at me. I waved back and drove on by. But somewhere in the back reaches of my mind I thought, "Hey, was that Jim?"

Jim was one of my best friends growing up. I hadn't seen him or talked to him in several years. About a mile down the road I drove past the house where Jim grew up. And then I thought, if that was Jim, I need to go back and say "Hi." So, I turned the car around. When I got back to where he was, sure enough, it was Jim! We talked for a few minutes, and I was glad that I turned around and went back.

He said he saw me coming and waved because he thought I was one of his neighbors. If he hadn't waved, I probably wouldn't have even thought about stopping. I was glad he waved.

I think I'm going to try to adapt the Arimo attitude. I think I'll try to wave at more people. I'm sure I'll get a lot of strange, confused looks. But, who knows, maybe I'll actually start to get to know some people, and they'll actually wave back!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Our First Date: The Day I Almost Died

As far as first dates go, it wasn't a total disaster. I mean, I didn't actually die, right? Yes, there was a near death experience. But that's to be expected on first dates, isn't it? And I did manage to survive to tell the tale. So here it is.

Let me set the stage. My future wife and I first met at a dinner that was staged by a mutual friend. The evening went just fine, and the next day I got an e-mail from The (not-yet) Wife letting me know she might be interested in getting together again. (I covered this in more detail in: "The Fixer Upper")

Over the next two months we sporadically exchanged e-mails, but we were both pretty busy. She had just bought a condo, and was spending almost all of her time gutting and remodeling it. (I have never had a desire to tile a floor, and after hearing stories of her experience with it, I never will.) Meanwhile, I was driving to Idaho on most of my free weekends to be with my Dad, who was dying of cancer. (He passed away about a month after The Wife and I first met, and about a month before our first real date.)

Finally, the time came for us to actually go on a date. I called her up and asked her if she'd like to go to dinner and a movie with me. (Yes, I'm very clever and very original. I don't think anyone ever had thought to combine dinner and a movie as a first date game plan.)

This was the summer of 2006, and there were three movies that we considered going to see: Superman Returns, with Brandon Routh as Superman and Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor; Pirates of the Caribbean II, with Johnny Depp and crew; and the Disney/Pixar movie Cars, with Lightning McQueen and Mater. I hadn't seen any of these movies.

Unfortunately, The (not-yet) Wife had already seen Superman Returns, and Cars. So, that left us with Pirates of the Caribbean II, which I had absolutely no desire to see. (Two hours of watching Johnny Depp do an impression of Keith Richards sounded about as exciting to me as two hours of watching my toenails grow.) Luckily for me, The (not-yet) Wife acquiesced and said she was willing to go see Cars a second time. So, the date was set.

I got in my car, Trusty Rusty, and made the drive from Salt Lake, where I lived, to Orem, where she lived. I called my car Trusty Rusty because at the time it was an 11-year old car that I had owned for 10 years. I had spent relatively little on it mechanically over the years, (hence "Trusty,") but it did have a few large spots of rust growing in patches at various areas, (hence "Rusty.")

I got to Orem about a half an hour earlier than I needed. (Those who see me come in to church ten minutes late every week might not believe it, but I used to be way early getting places. Having a wife and kids can change that.) With some time to kill, I fueled Trusty Rusty up, then drove around a bit to kill the extra time.

With about five minutes to go until the prearranged date time, I started heading toward her house. I was heading west on University Parkway, just west of State Street in the middle lane when it happened. An RV was passing me in the left lane. Suddenly, something came flying at me from the direction of the RV. I'm not sure if it was a bottle or a rock, but whatever it was shot right toward me, hitting Trusty Rusty in a spot that, if not for my windshield, would have struck me right in the face!

The windshield didn't completely shatter, but the impact did produce large, round, spider-webby cracks that covered the entire driver's side of the windshield. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that if not for my windshield, I might have died that day.

Here's a picture of what it looked like:

Trusty Rusty on the day of the First Date. I might be dead if that windshield hadn't shielded me! (If you look closely at the bottom of the driver's door, you'll see one of the reasons I called the car Trusty Rusty.)

I quickly pulled over into a parking lot. Tiny shards of glass had sprayed from the windshield into the front seat of my car. I cleaned them up as best as I could.

Having stared death in the face (kinda, sorta), I told myself, "This date hasn't killed me yet! I might as well keep going and see what happens." I drove on.

When I got to her house I was more than just a little embarrassed by the appearance of my car. Here I was, picking her up for a first date, in an old, rusted-out car with a shattered windshield. I felt that it looked like I drove the car straight from a junkyard.

When she got to the door, I apologized profusely for how my car looked. She was cool about it, seemingly unfazed that she would be getting in a car that looked like it had been on the losing end of a scrape with the General Lee on The Dukes of Hazzard. After a quick chuckle, she made it clear that the appearance of my car didn't matter at all.

We had met once before, but I hadn't realized how tall she was. She's 5'10" and was wearing shoes with a bit of a heel to them. (I didn't actually notice the shoes, just the height. It turns out she was glad I was considerably taller than her, because it freed her up to wear the heeled shoes she couldn't wear around shorter guys.)

I opened Trusty Rusty's passenger door for her, and she sat. I was worried that I might have missed some glass shards on her seat, but apparently I got all the ones big enough to matter.

We went out to eat first, at one of Orem's finest dining establishments. (It doesn't get much fancier than the Outback, does it?) The dinner went well. The food was good, I didn't spill anything on myself, and I didn't make any audible bodily noises. (No burps or farts!) And, the first date chit chat had been just fine, without any incident. Yet.

We got in the car and started to drive to the movie theater. That's when the chit chat took an unexpected turn. I had just turned 40 years old about three weeks earlier, and I knew she knew this fact because her neighbors (my high school friend and his wife; the ones who initially set us up) had been to my birthday party and told her about it.

I knew she was significantly younger than me. I was thinking late twenties. So, I decided it was time to ask her exactly how old she was. But, I knew better than to directly ask a woman, "how old are you," because some women don't like to tell you their age. My way around this was brilliant, or so I thought. I asked her, "So, what year did you graduate high school?"

Me, I graduated high school way back in 1984. (We're the best, why say more? We're the Class of '84!) I knew she was quite a bit younger than me, so I was prepared for any answer that began "Nineteen-ninety...."

I was most definitely not expecting "2000."

What?! 2000!?! That can't be possible! When I graduated from high school, the year 2000 was the far-flung future! 2000! That's a difference of 16 years! (It turns out the difference is only 15 years and 3 months, but still.) All I could think of was the old Conan O'Brien sketch where they would, in a high, falsetto voice, sing "In the year 2000," about the distant, distant future.

The chit chat pretty much came to a grinding stop. I was a bit dumbfounded and a bit flabbergasted.

We made our way to the movie, and it was enjoyable. (I sometimes wonder how and/or if our lives would have been different if we had seen Pirates of the Caribbean II instead of Cars. About a year later, after we were married, we rented Pirates II and tried to watch it, but after about an hour of it we shut it off because it was just so bad.)

The movie was good, and although I was a bit hung up on the age difference, it didn't seem to bother her. At one point during the movie, our knees were almost touching, and The (not-yet) Wife had moved her hand down on her knee in a signal I took to mean she was looking to hold hands. What she didn't realize is that she was dealing with Slow Joe from Arimo! You don't get to be a 40 year old virgin by holding hands on the first date! Still, it was nice to know she might actually want such a thing to happen.

After the movie we got some ice cream and then she showed me the condo she had bought but hadn't moved into yet because they were still doing renovations. But, all I could think of was, "In the year 2000."

At that point I figured this first date would be like most first dates I had been on, meaning there probably wouldn't be a second date. But, luckily for me we kept talking some, and in that conversation two things came up. 1) I had always wanted to hike to the top of nearby Mount Timpanogas, but I had never done so. And B) that very next Saturday her dad happened to be volunteering as a ranger at one of the trailheads for the Mount Timpanogas hike.

Before I knew what was happening, we had agreed to go out again on a date the next Saturday, and that date would be to hike the Mount Timpanogas trail.

When I dropped her off at her house, I actually felt a little guilty. Because of the age difference, I didn't think there was much of a chance that we would have any kind of a real relationship. I felt that I was using her that next week in order to do something I had always wanted to do, to climb that mountain. I felt kind of bad for using her in that way. Of course, it turned out I needn't have worried about it.

As I got back in Trusty Rusty, I looked at the splattered windshield and thought about how I had "narrowly" averted death. Little did I know that my life was really just about to start.



Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Art of Returning the Cart

It's happened to all of us. You go to the store to do some shopping. It's often a struggle to find a good parking spot, but today you actually see one. You start to pull into the spot....only to find that some lazy crud-juggler has left his shopping cart right in the middle of your parking spot!

It really isn't that difficult to return the cart to the cart return, is it? I don't think it has ever taken me more than one minute to take my cart, find a cart return, and put my cart there. It's not rocket science. Or brain surgery. Or rocket surgery.

You're doing it wrong!

And yet, if you drive into the parking lot of any major store, you're likely to find a wide array of shopping carts scattered hither and yon. What's especially annoying is to see how many of the random carts are within twenty feet of a cart return.

Looks like we're going for a cart in every parking spot!

The justifications and excuses for not returning the carts are numerous. Here are a few of them:

The I'm Too Important--These folks are too important to be bothered with putting their shopping cart away. That's something for lesser people to do. (These are the same arrogant jerks who park in the fire lane at the front of the store because, well, they're that much more important than everyone else.)

The I've Got the Wheels Up On the Curb--These people care, at least a little bit, about where they leave their shopping cart. They don't want it to just be rolling around loose, so they put the front wheels up on a curb so that the cart won't wander.

At least it's not rolling anywhere, right?

The Drop It Like It's Hot/I Ain't Got Time For This--These people just leave the cart in the exact spot where they unloaded it. They can't be bothered to move it an inch.

This is where I unloaded it. This is where it's staying.

The I'll Move It Between the Parking Spots--These people will move the cart up near the front of the parking spot, possibly even between two rows of parking spots, in an attempt to get it most of the way out of the way. (Note: "most of the way" is never fully out of the way. I think we've all had the experience of pulling into a parking spot where the cart was almost out of the way, so we inch forward and we inch forward, trying to get as close to the cart as we can without hitting it. And then, of course, we bump into the cart and it rolls away in surprising and dangerous directions.)

The I'm Just Doing What They Were Doing--These people will see one cart that's not where it's supposed to be, then think that it'll be okay if they put their cart next to it. The idea being, "he did it first, so it's okay if I put mine next to his."

Everyone else is putting them along here. Why can't I?

The Lazy--These people just can't muster the effort to push the cart ten feet to a cart return.

The Jerk--This guy is trying to be a jerk on purpose, so he parks his shopping cart in such a way that it obstructs as many parking spots as possible.

Hey look, it's a Four Corners cart! One wheel each in Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico!

The They Pay People To Do This--These people (usually "I'm Too Important") will justify leaving their cart willy-nilly because "they do, after all, pay people to come out here and gather the carts."

The Where the Heck Is the Nearest Cart Return?--Sometimes, parking lots are designed by idiots. Occasionally you'll get your cart unloaded, look around, and not see a spot to return your cart within 100 yards. I'll admit, this has happened to me a few times, and it's about the only time I haven't taken my cart to a proper cart return. (In those instances I have, once or twice, settled for an "I'm Just Doing What They Were Doing" situation and put my cart near a bunch of other carts.)

Where exactly is the cart return?

The I'm Just Going to Shove My Cart In the Direction of the Store--There's no cart return nearby? Well, I'll just shove my cart in the direction of the store. It's not my worry anymore!

The loneliest shopping cart in the world.
These are just a few of the reasons/excuses people have for not properly returning their carts. About the only justifiable excuse I can think of is:

The I've Got Small Children and I Don't See a Cart Return Nearby and I'm Not Leaving My Kids Just So I Can Track Down a Place to Return My Shopping Cart--That's one excuse I'll accept.

Of course, just because I almost always return my shopping cart to the proper place, it doesn't mean I'm perfect. Usually I'll line my cart up with the cart return, then shove it as hard as possible from as far away as I can just to hear/see it smash into the other carts that are already there. (I've got to be a rebel somehow!)

Friday, June 19, 2015

Father's Day vs. Uncle's Day

I used to have it pretty easy. I was an uncle.

I wasn't just any uncle. I was the Fun Uncle. I was the Silly Uncle. I was the Crazy Uncle. I was the Favorite Uncle. (At least, for some of my nieces and nephews.)

The great thing about being an uncle is that it is all of the fun with none of the responsibilities. I could be the uncle who bought them the best Christmas presents. I could be the uncle who would roll around on the floor with them, acting as a human jungle gym. I could be the uncle who played Hot Wheels with them, or helped them get that dress on their Barbie.

Here's "Uncle Joe" being a jungle gym.

But, when the kids started misbehaving and getting a little wild, I could be the uncle who went home. When they pooped their pants and needed their diaper changed, I could be the uncle who passed them off to Mom or Dad. When they started crying uncontrollably, I could be the uncle who said, "Here, you deal with this."

Things changed when I became a dad.

When you're a dad you can't "go home" every time things get a little tough with the kids. You can't say, "Here, you deal with this," to anyone, because you are the one who is going to have to deal with it.

An uncle can sleep soundly at night. When you are a dad, you might never get a good night's sleep again for the rest of your life. If the baby cries in the middle of the night, you have to get up with her. If the seven year old wakes up screaming in the middle of the night because of a bad dream about spiders, you have to get up with her. If your sixteen year old comes in late from a date, you have to be up to make sure she makes it home.

By the time your kids are old enough that you don't have to worry about them in the night, you will be so old you'll have to get up a couple of times in the middle of every night to go to the bathroom. So, no, you might never get a good night's sleep again for the rest of your life.

There's a reason we celebrate Father's Day, but no one has ever heard of Uncle's Day.

(As I wrote that last sentence, I realized that the greeting card industry wouldn't let a good opportunity like that slip by without giving it a try. So, yes, this year on July 26 you can celebrate Aunt and Uncle Day, an "unofficial national holiday looking to be recognized in the United States." Be sure to purchase a greeting card for each and every uncle and aunt that you have!)

(And don't forget National Cousins Day on July 24th! Even those distant cousins need a card!)

Of course, even though I'm a dad now doesn't mean I'm not still an uncle. I am an uncle, and I'm glad that I am! I love all my nieces and nephews! Some of them might be too big to use me as a jungle gym anymore, but I hope I can still be the Fun, Crazy, Silly, Favorite Uncle.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Curious George Is Not My Friend

Everyone loves Curious George, right? What's not to love? He's a cute little monkey who just innocently happens to fall into mischief because of his natural monkey curiosity!

I used to love Curious George when I was a kid. His misadventures were always fun. Plus, the Man With the Yellow Hat was quite the fashion icon. What kid didn't think it would be cool to dress as a tall walking banana? (Heck, I'd be happy to find myself a nice yellow suit today, but I don't think The Wife would approve.)

How could you not like a cute monkey and a guy in a yellow hat? (And shirt.) (And tie.)

I used to think Curious George was the best!

But then, I had kids.

As a parent, I look at Curious George in a completely different way. The first time I read my kids a Curious George story, I could tell they were enjoying it. Everyone loves that funny little monkey. But, I turned each page with growing trepidation.

Why? Well, pretty much every Curious George story follows the same format:
     1. The Man With the Yellow Hat tells Curious George not to do something.
     2. Curious George does it anyway.
     3. Trouble ensues.
     D. It all works out in the end.
     5. George and the Man With the Yellow Hat have a good laugh.

Is this really the kind of lesson we want to be teaching our kids? "It's okay if you disobey me because no matter what happens it will all work out in the end and we'll have a good laugh about it."

Luckily for Curious George, the mischief he makes is mostly mild: He makes paper boats out of the newspapers he's supposed to be delivering; he trespasses; he gets a puzzle piece stuck in his throat; he lets an ostrich eat a bugle; and so on. I mean, really, who hasn't done most of that stuff? (If I had a dime for every time I've let an ostrich eat a bugle....)

What I'm waiting for are the stories with more serious consequences that can't just be laughed off at the end. The Man With the Yellow Hat tells George not to play in the street and he gets hit by a bus. Or, the Man With the Yellow Hat tells George not to touch the stove and he ends up frying his hand on the burner. Or the Man With the Yellow Hat tells George not to play with guns and he ends up shooting someone in the face.

In real life, our actions have actual consequences. It doesn't matter how cute of a monkey you are, there are some things you just can't laugh away.

So, I may be a mean dad, but I try to steer my kids away from Curious George. I don't really like the lessons he teaches. That said, I'd much rather deal with Curious George than this guy:

The Cat In the Hat: serious troublemaker!

I love Dr. Seuss books. I really do. He tells some great stories, teaches some great lessons, and has some great characters. That said, I cannot stand the Cat In the Hat.

In the book you've got a mother who leaves her two young children home alone with their only supervision coming from a semi-intelligent talking fish. They, of course, open the door to the first creature to appear, a furry beast wearing nothing but a hat and a bow tie. This beast then proceeds to boss the kids around and wreak total havoc upon the house.

This guy makes Curious George seem well-mannered and well-behaved. Where Curious George is just mischievous, the Cat In the Hat is downright malicious. 

And yet, Curious George and the Cat In the Hat are both widely heralded children's characters, with seemingly unlimited books, television shows, and movies with big-name stars like Will Ferrell and Mike Meyers to showcase their misbehavedness.

People love Curious George and the Cat In the Hat. I don't get it. To me, they're just a couple of troublemakers. And the kids and I find enough trouble on our own. So, thanks anyway, George. I guess I'm not that curious anymore.

Friday, June 12, 2015

My Five Year Old Back Seat Driver

When I grew up in Idaho, it was legal to get a drivers license at age 14. In the farm town I'm from, most kids had already been driving some for a couple of years before that. I've been driving for a long time.

Not only that, but I have been a professional driver for over 25 years. I got my first professional drivers license, way back when they were still called a "chauffeur's" license when I was 21 years old. They're called a "CDL" license now, and over the years I've driven a lot of trucks a lot of different places.

I'm a very experienced, professional driver.

Which is why it probably bothers me so much when my five year old boy tries to tell me how to drive.

At first, I thought it was cute. I was quite proud of The Boy. He would point out stores as we drove by them. "That's the Spanish Fork Costco," or "That's Grammy's Walmart," or "That's the food Macey's, not the clothes Macy's." (Around here there is a grocery store chain called "Macey's" and a department store called "Macy's." The Boy likes to make sure we know which one he is talking about.)

Then, he started naming off the towns and the exits as we went by them. ("Springville has two exits, Daddy!") I was proud of the little guy.

The Boy has enjoyed driving from an early age.

And then, he started telling me how to drive.

It started on a trip to Grammy and PopPop's house, a drive we make frequently. There are about five miles between the exit before we get off for Grammy's house and the exit we actually take. One day, as soon as we got past the exit before Grammy's, The Boy started yelling, "DAD, THIS IS YOUR EXIT!"

"Yes, I know. Thanks," I said.


"Okay, I'll be sure to get off the next exit."


The problem, in The Boy's mind, was that I was not yet over in the right lane. My exit was the next exit, so I should be over in the right lane. Unfortunately, with four or five miles to go until that exit, I don't really want to be locked into the right lane yet. If I get over in the right lane immediately, I might get stuck behind someone who is actually going as slow as the speed limit. (In Utah, this is a major sin.)

Eventually, I will get over into the right lane, and The Boy will be appeased. At least momentarily. Because if, after I get off the exit, I don't quickly get into the left lane, where I need to be to make the turn to Grammy's house, I'll hear from him again.

He'll now also keep me posted on speed limits and stop signs, as well.


"Yes, son, I know."


"Yes, son, I know."

It's almost like I'm 14 years old in the driver's ed car with Mr. Yearsley again.

But, this is not to say that little kids should never be back seat drivers. When I was seven years old (and my brother was 11) my Mom drove the family from Idaho to Virginia to visit her parents. If my brother and I hadn't been there, we might not have ever made it back to Idaho.

How lost did Mom get sometimes? Well, we were in Norfolk, Virginia and we wanted to go to the Atlantic Ocean, which we had never seen. My Mom couldn't find it. My brother and I kept telling her to just keep driving east and we'd run into it, but Mom literally could not find the ocean!

When we went to leave Roanoke, Virginia to head back to Idaho, our route was to take I-81 southwest for 20 miles or so to Blacksburg, and then we would shoot up through West Virginia for a bit. Well, when we went to get on the freeway and Mom saw it said "I-81 South," she froze up. She knew Idaho was north of Virginia, so she thought we should take "I-81 North." The problem with that is that "I-81 North" would take us northeast, back toward Washington D.C.

It took a lot of determined, passionate, and confident backseat driving from my 11 year old brother to convince my Mom she was going the wrong way. Luckily, Mom eventually listened and we made it home. (Not completely without incident, though. Once, when my brother and I were asleep, she got turned around and went the opposite direction for about an hour or so.)

So, there are times when a young backseat driver can be a good thing.

I guess I'm glad The Boy knows a few things about driving at this young age. I just need to be patient. Because it won't be too many years before I'll be the one in the back seat, yelling at him, "BOY, THIS IS YOUR EXIT!"

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Kidney Stones Are a Blast!

I am a bit late with my post this week. I hope you'll excuse me. I was too busy wearing a pretty gown.

I recently had some trouble with kidney stone pain. (See: "I'm Stoned, Again".) So, yesterday I was scheduled to have a lithotripsy, which is where highly trained medical personnel use ultrasonic shock waves to break up the large kidney stones into small kidney stone dust or kidney stone gravel small enough to pass out of the body during urination.

I say "highly trained medical personnel" because not any ultrasonic shock wave will do. I've tried strapping a boom box to my side and blasting some Quiet Riot at full volume at my kidney stones, but all that did was make everyone around me question my metal health (and mental health.)

It's strange that they call lithotripsy a surgery, because there is no incision. But, other than that it is like a surgery. They wheel me around on a surgical bed, pushing me down in to an operating room. They use anesthesia to put me all the way out. And then…well I don't really know, because I'm completely out. They might play tic-tac-toe on my stomach with magic markers for all I know.

Anyway, they call it a surgery, and they bill it as a surgery, so I'm going to trust that what they do is pretty much a surgery.

I'm an old veteran when it comes to kidney stones. This is the third time I've had lithotripsy surgery. (Nine more times and my punch card is complete for a free one!) My first one went off without much of a hitch.

The second one, however, wasn't a very good experience. First of all, when they tried to put an IV in my hand through which to give me the anesthesia, they had trouble finding a vein. No, that's not right.  They couldn't find a vein. Finally, someone attempted to find a vein in the middle of my hand, and they tried it with a great deal of force. They weren't successful, and the ensuing pain, which felt like someone had taken a knife and tried to stab it through my hand to the other side, was much greater pain than any of the pain that I had ever had from the kidney stones.

Also, when I woke up from the second one, I was disoriented, confused, cold, and a little damp.

Fortunately, I had a much better experience this time. This time, the only negative was the long wait beforehand. I was originally told to get to the hospital at 11:30. Then, I was called and told to come in earlier, at 10:30. It turns out 11:30 would have been fine.

The Wife and The Baby came with me to help me check in. I had been on pain pills and it's sometimes an adventure to fill out all of the paperwork when you are a little woozy from the pain pills. So, The Wife was there to show support and to make sure the paperwork was all filled out correctly.

The Baby was there because she's so darn cute.

They took me back to my little waiting room area and gave me the magic hospital gown. This time, for the first time I remember, the hospital gown came with some incredibly large pull-up blue underwear. The Wife thought I would think the large blue underwear was hideous, and it was. But, anything that makes the hospital gown even slightly more modest is a plus for me.

In my beautiful gown with my beautiful baby!
I was in my gown by 11:00 AM. A while later, the nurse came in to put the IV in. I was gripping the bed rail with my other hand, a sense of dread running through my entire body. Then she said she was done. What? I hadn't even felt a thing! Pat the Nurse was my hero for the day!

But, then the nurse left, and I was there waiting in my bed with The Wife and The Baby by my side. The Baby ate. The Baby slept. The Wife and I played word games on her phone. For hours. (We're a pretty good team on those word games.)

Finally, a little after 1:00 PM, they were ready to wheel me off to the operating room. (I'm glad I was there at 10:30, he says with a large dose of sarcasm.) They wheeled me through the labyrinth of hallways to my operating room. (I'm usually pretty good at directions, but put me in a hospital and I couldn't tell you the difference between north and New Hampshire.)

They put an oxygen mask over my nose and I saw them putting something into my IV. And that was that.

And then, I was waking up. My kidney stones had been blasted. Unlike the last time, I woke up lucid, warm, and not even the least bit damp. I got a Sprite and a vanilla pudding. (They hadn't let me eat or drink all day before the procedure.) When I finished, they asked if I wanted anything else. So, I got another Sprite and another vanilla pudding. (Why mess with a good thing?)

Soon enough, I was ready to go home. But not before there was some wrangling over the insurance. (There is always wrangling over the insurance.) Then I was wheeled out to the mini-van and sent on my way.

If you've ever had kidney stones or lithotripsy before, you know that's not the end, though. You see, in theory they break up the big kidney stones so they all pass out easily. In actuality, sometimes there are still some decent sized fragments left that can still hurt on their way out.

That's where my fun new toy comes into play. Yes, for the next several days I get to pee in a funnel with a sieve on the end, trying to collect all the kidney stone fragments that I pass. Yes, I get to be a kidney stone collector! (I'd much rather collect comic books, or coins, or maybe even stamps.) (Okay, probably not stamps.) It's kind of like panning for gold, except different.

Kidney stones: They're a blast!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Have It Your Way

I don't like tomatoes. Never have, never will.

So, when I go to a burger joint and say, "No tomatoes, please," what I mean is that I don't want tomatoes on my hamburger cheeseburger. If I wanted tomato on my cheeseburger, I would not have said, "No tomatoes, please." It seems pretty simple.

And yet, there have been many times when I have been served my cheeseburger and I look under the hood and find those horrible, terrible, pink-ish, red-ish circles of disgust!

When I said "no tomatoes" what I meant was "NO TOMATOES!!!"

As a kid my Mom would always say, "You like ketchup, don't you?"

"Yes, Mom."

"And you like tomato sauce on pizza and spaghetti, don't you?"

"Yes, Mom."

Yes, but it's not the same thing! There is a big difference between the taste and texture of a tomato and the taste and texture of pizza sauce. (Or spaghetti sauce. Or ketchup.) (Or catsup, for that matter.) It's like saying you like peanut butter, but you don't like peanuts. That's okay. They are two different foods with two different tastes and two different textures. It's okay to like one but not the other.

But, it's more than just tomatoes. (If it stopped at tomatoes, The Wife would be very, very happy!)

Actually, when I order a cheeseburger I'll say, "No tomatoes or onions, please." I don't want onions on my cheeseburger.

"But you like onion rings, don't you?" Oh, just stop it! Yes, I like onion rings. And I like grilled onions on my patty melt. You see, I like cooked onions. In fact, I love cooked onions! But, I can't stand raw onions on my cheeseburger. Raw onions taste different. A raw onion can overpower everything around it, including the cheeseburger I'm trying to enjoy. (There is a reason raw onions make people cry!)

Of course, you can't talk about food that overpowers all the flavors around it without bringing up my arch-enemy: the green pepper! This is where The Wife and I have the most difference of opinion. She loves green peppers. Me? I loathe, hate and despise green peppers! With a passion!

For years I've had people who like green peppers on pizza tell me, "If you don't like them, just pick them off." That's nice, in theory. However, in practice, if you pick a green pepper off of the pizza, do you know what you have? You've got a pizza that still tastes like green pepper! It's impossible to "pick the green pepper off" because they are so horrible and insidious that they leave their smell and taste wherever they have been. (In that regard, they're like certain stinky truck drivers that I used to have to work with.)(Believe me, sometimes the smell never comes out of a chair.)

It's not just the green peppers I don't like. I'm also not fond of the red peppers, orange peppers, or yellow peppers, either. But, unlike their evil green cousins, the red, orange and yellow peppers aren't as infectious and invasive. They don't spread their taste and smell to everything else.

I don't like them, but at least they are better than their stinky green cousins.

This is where The Wife and I have reached a compromise. When I'm around, she doesn't cook anything with green peppers in it. Meanwhile, if she cooks anything with red, orange, or yellow peppers in it, I will eat it and not complain about the peppers. (Every once in a while I'll catch myself starting to complain. I've got to do better. Meanwhile, sometimes she'll be especially nice and keep the colored peppers out of my portion of the meal. Just the other day she kept the yellow peppers out of my omelet, and I was very appreciative.)(I think she was feeling sorry for me because of my kidney stones.)

But wait, there's more.

I don't like ice in my drink. There are many reasons for this, the main ones being:

1) I'm a guzzler, not a sipper.
2) Because I'm a guzzler, I don't need ice to keep the drink cold. (It'll be gone in just a few seconds.)
C) The added ice waters down my drink. (I ordered a root beer, not a root beer and water.)
D) I don't want ice slamming down into my face when I try to get the last of my drink.

The Wife can put some ice in a cup, put some drink in it, and sip on it for a day and a half. Not me. If I'm going to have a drink I want to have that drink. I'm going to drink that drink. If I don't have that drink dranked dranken droke drank drunk finished within five minutes, I must not have been very thirsty.

Putting ice in my drink means that I have to drink it with a straw (it's hard to guzzle with a straw) and/or I'm going to be straining the ice with my teeth, and I'll be left with a bunch of ice at the bottom of the cup when I'm finishing up.

Hey, there's still some root beer hiding down there in that ice!

I do not want that big bunch of ice, whether it be cubed, crushed or in some other weird form, to come shooting down the cup into my face when I tip the cup up to get the last of my drink! (And, dagnabbit, I am going to drink the last of my drink!) There's nothing quite like that wall of ice slamming into your nose while you try to get that last drop of beverage.

Here come the avalanche of ice to smash into my nose! (And yes, there's still root beer hiding in that ice!)

I'm sure everyone has some foods they want left off of their order. If you've got any that I didn't cover, I'd like to hear about them. (Unless it's bacon. I don't want to hear about anyone leaving bacon off of anything on purpose.)

So, hold the green peppers, please! (And if you are holding the green peppers, you'll want to wash your hands really good, because that smell with stay with you.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Day I Kept My Pants On

[WARNING: The following story contains a fair bit of nudity.]

[And a whole lot of stupidity!]

I wonder what it was like for them.

A young couple out for a mountain adventure. Hiking through the high elevations of the Bridger Wilderness in Wyoming, miles away from where the nearest vehicle can reach. Enjoying each other's company and enjoying the beautiful, natural scenery of the mountains, lakes, streams and forests.

They probably heard us before they saw anything. When hiking that far away from civilization, people usually try to respect the privacy of their fellow hikers. (You don't go up in the mountains to have some yappy strangers talk your ear off.) So, when they heard us they probably figured they'd just give us a polite wave or an obligatory head-bob.

I really doubt they were expecting to see two butt-cracks and a penis.


It was the summer between our junior and senior years of high school. It was our last chance for a big High Adventure campout. (We called it a "High Adventure"if we had to hike in at least five miles from where we could park the truck.)

Another exciting day in Arimo.

The town I'm from, Arimo, is so small that there were only four boys my age in the entire town. For the sake of some slight anonymity, I'll be referring to the other guys as Chuck, Sparky, and C-Dog. We liked to call ourselves the "Arimo Mafia" because we thought it made us sound funny and tough.

For our High Adventure that summer we went up in the mountains of western Wyoming to a place just out of Pinedale called Bridger Wilderness. I'm not sure how it worked out, but as we were planning, it was decided that some guys from the nearby town of Inkom (rhymes with "stink 'em") would make the trip with us. Our adult leadership consisted of three men, led by our scout leader Jimmy. Jimmy was a grizzled, experienced veteran of many mountain excursions. The other two adult leaders were a grown son and a son-in-law of Jimmy.

The first day of the trip consisted of a lot of hiking. Usually we would get most of the hiking done on the first day, then set up a base camp from which we would go fishing and hiking to other lakes. At one point Chuck and C-Dog got out ahead of the rest of us. When Jimmy decided it was time to stop and set up camp for the night, there was still no sign of Chuck and C-Dog. So, while the adults and the Inkom boys set up their tents and such, Sparky and I were sent to go up the trail to find Chuck and C-Dog and bring them back with us.

We eventually found them, and just as we did, Chuck had a "brilliant" idea. He wanted to get a full-body tan. So, he attempted to do just that. He put down a blanket, took off his clothes, and lay there with his derriere in the air.

Butt But, before he could get much of a "tan," some clouds started to roll in. It was then that we learned a little something about weather in high elevations: it is more intense and it moves pretty quick. What started out as a couple of clouds rolling in suddenly turned to thunderous, dark storm clouds. (Yes, it was a dark and stormy night.)

We raced to get back to Jimmy and the others at camp before the storm hit, but we were unsuccessful. It rained, and it rained hard. While everyone else had their tents up to provide some shelter from the storm, the four of us were unable to do so because of the downpour. We couldn't put our tent up, so we used it sort of like a blanket to keep some of the rain off of us and our sleeping bags. It rained most of the night, and I got little to no sleep. It was one of the worst nights of my life.

It stopped raining and we tried to dry out as best we could in the morning. But, we were pretty soggy. And moist. And damp.

Drying out the morning after the rain storm.

High Adventure waits for no one, however, not even the damp Arimo Mafia, so we were soon back on the trail. After a few more hours of hiking we reached the spot where we wanted to set up camp for most of the week. We set up two camps, with the Inkom boys being near but not immediately adjacent to us.

Having set up camp, the leaders and the Inkom boys were eager to get out and do a little fishing. The Arimo Mafia, on the other hand, thought it was a good time to rest, relax and dry out.

We put our sleeping bags out on a big rock, and we laid on our stomachs with our faces in the middle so we could do what we always did when we were off in the wilderness camping: we played cards and talked about girls. (Our leader, Jimmy, always joked with us that when we were down in civilization and could actually do something about the girls, we always talked about camping, and when we were camping we would only talk about girls.)

It was then that Chuck again thought it would be a good time to try to get a full-body tan. I asked if he was sure that was such a good idea, because when he tried it the day before we were met with a rain storm of biblical proportions. But no, Chuck was undaunted. He pulled off his pants and laid on his sleeping bag on his stomach as we continued to play cards.

I didn't understand it, but I was then even more flabbergasted when Sparky and C-Dog decided to join in. Soon, there were three bare bottoms playing cards. Me? I went so far as to take my shirt off, but I kept my pants on.

My friends may have been seriously lacking in good judgement that day, but they were good enough friends that when I told them I could think of no discernible reason why I would want a tan bum, they didn't make fun of me or try to pressure me into joining them in their nudity.

After a while, Chuck had another "brilliant" idea. If he was going to be tan, he wanted to be tan on both sides of his body. So, he flipped over to get a full-frontal tan.

Sparky and C-Dog weren't sure what to make of this. While the idea of a full-body tan intrigued them enough to the point of them taking off their pants, the slightest possibility of a burnt wiener kept them from joining Chuck in flipping over. They continued in their bottoms-up position.

I can't remember if it was me of Sparky who saw them first. I just know for sure that one word was spoken in terror: "Hikers!" Never before have four teenage boys moved so fast! Each of us instinctively grabbed our sleeping bags and pulled them over ourselves. (Yes, me too, even though I was only shirtless.)

We were embarrassed and en-bare-assed, so much so that our blushing faces were probably as red as our soon to be blistering bodies.

While the social norm would be to give a polite wave or an acknowledging head-bob, the hikers walked through our camp with their eyes straight ahead, acting as if they had seen nothing out of the ordinary. But, I think I saw a laughter-suppressing smirk on the face of the woman.

The invasion of the hikers put an immediate end to the nude sunbathing session, but it wasn't soon enough. Another thing we learned that day is that at greater altitude the sun is much more effective. The higher the elevation, the quicker the sunburn. (And we were over 10,000 feet in elevation.)

By the time Jimmy and the others got back from their fishing trip that afternoon, Chuck, Sparky and C-Dog were already feeling the effects of the sunburn.

When he found out what we had done, Jimmy, the experienced mountain man, shook his head at us and exclaimed, "For the love of cat sh#t!" Looking back now, I still have no idea why he said that, because it is a pretty silly phrase. I just know that a couple of us thought he said, "For the love of ketchup!" Of course, neither saying makes much sense. I just know that, in the context of his chewing us out, "For the love of cat sh#t!" was his way of saying, "I thought you idiots were smarter than that!"

Our leader, Jimmy. ("For the love of ketchup!")

For the rest of the week, Chuck, Sparky and C-Dog were absolutely worthless. All they did was lay around and moan in pain. I got so tired of their moaning that one day I went off on a fishing/hiking excursion with the Inkom boys.

It seems a bit unfair since the whole thing was his idea, but Chuck was actually less effected by the sunburn than Sparky and C-Dog, probably because he spent a few minutes flipped over sunny-side up. (He was just very lucky that the hikers came through before his front side got sunburned, too.)

Looking back, it's not surprising that I was the one who kept his pants on. It's that overly cautious part of my personality that helped lead me to become a 40 year old virgin.

And, I still don't understand what those guys were thinking. A full-body tan? Really? What's the benefit of that? It certainly makes me think, "For the love of ketchup!"