Monday, December 31, 2012

Shopping for Some Happy Holidays

It seemed simple enough. I needed to get out and do some last minute shopping on Christmas Eve. The Wife wanted me out of the house so she could wrap some presents. And, we needed to get a few things at the grocery store. No problem, right?

It started out pleasantly enough. I pulled in to Shopko and, although the parking lot was crowded, I was able to find a spot in the first lane that I turned down. (For those of you who don't know, Shopko is a middle-class department store chain around here.)(Classier than Kmart, but not as "prestigious" as Target.)

It was snowing, so I had to pick through the shopping carts to find one that wasn't wet. The main reason I went to Shopko that day was to get a calendar for The Wife's uncle, who was visiting from New York state. (As opposed to New York City.) The Wife's uncle and aunt have talked about moving to Utah from New York, so we thought it would be a good idea to get him a calendar with scenic pictures from Utah to help encourage them to move here. (We like them. Them's good peoples.)  And I knew, from previous visits to Shopko, that they had two big racks full of calendars to choose from.

But, since I specifically wanted a scenic Utah calendar, the one thing they did not have was, of course, a scenic Utah calendar. Oh, they had calendars featuring butterflies, lighthouses, cute puppies, ladybugs, cows, and Justin Biebers, but no scenic Utah.

(Isn't it annoying when you are looking for a certain thing, and you know you've seen it at the stores, but when it comes time to buy it you can't find it anywhere? The worst such instance for me was the year my brother caught my Mom reading a romance novel titled  The Cowboy Under the Christmas Tree. We teased and teased her about it. That Christmas, I thought it would be funny to get her a toy cowboy as a present, so she could have an actual cowboy under her Christmas tree. But, I could not find a toy cowboy for the life of me. The Wife and I looked at five or six different stores and couldn't find a single toy cowboy anywhere, not even those cheap little plastic cowboy and Indian sets that are like the little army men! Of course, as soon as that Christmas had passed we saw toy cowboys everywhere. They mocked us with their abundance.)

(I now fully expect to see scenic Utah calendars in every store I go to for the next several months.)

Merry Christmas! Please buy some useless stuff!

Having found about 15% of the things that I wanted to find at Shopko, I made my purchases and sloshed my way back to the car. I had one more stop: the grocery store. I could see as I approached the store that it was pretty busy. Usually when I pull up to a store, I'll drive past a few distant parking spots in hopes that there will be one closer to the store. On this Christmas Eve however, that was not my strategy. I immediately determined that I would pull into any spot I could find.

That determintaion didn't help me in the least. The first lane I pulled into was full, from the street to the store. The second lane I pulled down also offered no empty spots. I tried another lane; not only were there no parking spots, but I couldn't pull through because there was a Christmas tree lot at the end of it. (Why, at the one time they actually need all of their parking spots, do they fill twenty or thirty of them with Christmas trees?) (Really, on Christmas Eve those parking spots are about as valuable as gold, frankincense, and maybe even myrrh!)

As I grew more and more frustrated with circling through the parking lot (along with twenty or so of my fellow parking spot seekers, some of whom had started to stalk shoppers heading back to their cars, hovering over their soon-to-be-vacant spots like vultures,) I decided to think outside the box. Based on my experience from delivering to grocery stores in the past, I knew that sometimes there were a few spaces behind the store where I might park. So, I worked my way over and found a spot behind the sporting goods store next to the grocery store. Sure it was a good, long slosh through the slush to get to the front of the store, but at least I had found someplace to park!

I was actually surprised to find a row of about fifteen shopping carts still available when I walked in the store. (When I left the store there were none. Outgoing shoppers were handing their used carts to incoming shoppers like Olympians handing the baton at a relay race.) The store was very crowded. I got the bread I needed without incident, but it was a bit of a fight to get the baker's chocolate that The Wife had on the list. Mostly because the brand she suggested I buy was sold out, so I had to check the labels of the stuff that was on the shelf. And the traffic clog of shopping carts trying to get down the aisle wasn't very patient with me and my slow label-reading skills. (Sometimes that fine print is very fine.)

I got what I needed and headed for checkout. (I looked for a scenic Utah calendar there, too. I'm sure I'll see several on next week's grocery trip.) On a normal day I sometimes wonder why they have so many checkstands. I was not wondering that on this day. All 16 checkout lanes were open. And all 16 checkout lanes had about ten people waiting in line at each one. Each checkout line worked its way down into one of the shopping aisles. It was a long wait to get to the register. And it was full of several exchanges like this:

Dumb guy (trying to get his shopping cart in front of mine): "Is this the line?"
Me (pointing towards the back of the store): "No. That is the line."

Eventually I made it to the register and purchased my foodstuffs. I got back to my car and drove home in the snow. And you know, it's great to have snow on Christmas Eve so you can have a "White Christmas." Until you have to go out and shovel it. (If Bing Crosby were still alive I just might punch him in the nose.)

Still, I made it through my Christmas Eve shopping experience, and we managed to have a very good Christmas! And I hope you all had some happy holidays, too!

Yes. I said "Happy Holidays." I've said it before and I'll say it again.

The term "Happy Holidays" has gotten a bit of a bad rap (or is it a bad "wrap?") lately. Some people think you should only say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" so you don't offend people who don't celebrate Christmas. Meanwhile, other people think that if you ever utter the phrase "Happy Holidays" it means you are buckling under to the politcally correct, and you are somehow trying to take the "Christ" out of "Christmas."

I'm sorry, but I'm going to say "Happy Holidays" whenever I darn well feel like it! (I'm also going to say "Merry Christmas" whenever I feel like it, too.) If you get offended, I'm sorry. Maybe you need to get some thicker skin. I'm not a mother, but I don't get offended if someone says, "Happy Mother's Day." I'm not a president, but I don't get offended if someone says, "Happy President's Day." I'm not a tree, but I don't get offended if someone says, "Happy Arbor Day." (Just for the record, no one has ever wished me a "Happy Arbor Day.") (Maybe this year.)

Back in the day (before the politically correct police and before the politically correct police backlash) "Happy Holidays" was a term that often was used as shorthand for "Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year." You see, the "Holidays" in "Happy Holidays" is plural. (There's even an "s" on the end and everything!) Sometimes, people would even use "Happy Holidays" to refer to the entire season between Thanksgiving and New Year's. And that's okay.

So, just because someone says "Happy Holidays," it doesn't mean they are a left-leaning pinko commie. And just because someone says "Merry Christmas," it doesn't mean they are right-wing, gun-toting redneck. What it probably means, in either instance, is that they are wishing you well. So, don't be offended. Because it's better that they are wishing you well than meaning you harm.

That said, my suggestion is that if you truly want to have "Happy Holidays," you might want to get your shopping done before Christmas Eve.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My Crack Problem

I have a problem with crack.

And once you have a problem with crack, you will always have a problem with crack. It won't go away. It's just a matter of how well you can cover it up.

Some people have no idea they have a crack problem. They go through the course of their life as if nothing is wrong. But, if you truly have a crack problem, that's all anyone else will see. They won't see you as a person, they'll just see you for the crack. So, one of the first steps in successfully dealing with a crack problem is admitting that you have a crack problem.

I know I have a crack problem. My wife has been great in helping me with my crack problem. She has stood by me, not been judgemental, and offered to help in any way she can. And, she has come up with the best solution I have yet found for dealing with my crack problem: Really long shirts.

(I am, of course, talking about my butt crack problem.)

I've always thought of myself as a normal-ish looking guy. As I've said before, if you took 50 guys at random, I would not be one of the ten handsomest, nor would I be one of the ten ugliest. I would be one of the 30 guys covering the middle ground. I'm a fairly big guy, standing at 6' 2" and 240 pounds. Those numbers would be pretty good for an NFL linebacker or running back. (Unfortunately, my belly fat-to-muscle ratio numbers would not be anywhere near good enough for the NFL.) (Besides, as someone once said, "you gotta be fast to play linebacker.")

I never thought of myself as having an unusually long torso. But then, I met my wife. I'm a full four inches taller than her. (Which is a good thing, because standing at 5' 10" she made the decision that she would not date anyone shorter than her. I know it sounds a bit discriminatory, but I'm okay with it because it meant she was still available when I came around.) (Sorry, short guys.)

Even though I'm four inches taller than her, our legs are the same length. This is great for driving, because we never have to adjust the seat in the car. As opposed to when I was young and got in the car after my mom had been driving. I don't know how many times I whacked my knees against the dash and steering wheel because I didn't pre-adjust the seat. (My mom is 5' 2".) (Although some of those poofy 1970's hairdos bumped her up to as much as 5' 5".) So, I don't have to adjust the seat, but, because of my unusually long torso, I do have to adjust the mirrors, because when I get in after my wife has driven they seem to be pointing straight into the ground.

At first I thought that my wife and I having legs the same length was because she had unusually long legs. But then I thought it might be my unusually long torso. (It's probably a little of both.)

It took me a while to admit that I had a crack problem. Sure, I would feel that occasional breeze hit me between the bottom of my shirt and the top of my pants when I would bend over or sit down, but everyone gets that sometimes, right? I would think that my shirt wasn't reaching my pants in the back because of my oversized gut in the front. Maybe it was because my pants weren't tall enough. (The Wife actually thinks this is part of the problem. She thinks I wear my pants too low. It's a fair criticism, but I really doubt she would like it if I went full Urkel on her.) (No one wants to hear, as my aunt once said to my grandpa, "Hey, are those pants a little tight on your armpits?")

So, before I fully came to terms with my crack problem, The Wife was trying to fix it. She started buying me longer shirts. My regular shirt size is "extra-large." (XL) You would think if they made a shirt that was "extra" larger than regular large, that some of that "extra-ness" might go to the length of the shirt. No. All of that "extra-ness" is used to get around the belly and the chest. Adding another "X" (as in XXL, XXXL) doesn't help the length of the shirt. (Besides the fact that those bigger sizes seem like names for future Super Bowls.) (Maybe the Vikings can finally get a win in Super Bowl XXXL.)

The Wife was able to find a shirt size called "XLT," which stands for "extra large tall." These shirts were a godsend. I started wearing them and suddenly I wasn't noticing that butt-crack breeze as much. I could sit in a vinyl chair without having to peel my lower back off of it like a piece of fruit leather. It didn't take long for me to notice the difference between the "XLT" shirts and the "XL" shirts, and start seeking out the "XLTs." I think that is when I finally started to come to terms with my crack problem.

Unfortunately, the "XLTs" are pretty hard to find. Most stores don't offer them. The Wife usually has to scour the interwebs to find them. And even then, not all "XLT" shirts are created equal. Some "XLTs" still aren't long enough for my unusually long torso, especially after a few washings. And some of the "XLTs" are actually a little too long, seeming almost more like a tunic or a muumuu than a shirt. (But, and I think this goes to show how much I am determined to beat my crack problem, I would rather wear a tunic than expose my butt crack anymore.)

There are a lot of people who could benefit from "XLT" shirts. (I work in the truck driver industry. Believe me, there are a lot of people who could benefit.)(And not just the ones who wear the shirts.) I'm surprised an enterprising "XLT" shirt manufacturer doesn't set up shop at a plumber's convention. "XLT" shirts could also find huge sales if marketed as "tramp stamp" covers, especially as the bodies of those women who fell for the "tramp stamp" fad begin to age and sag. (Sorry for that image.)

So, yes, I have a crack problem. I know it, and I'm working on correcting it. It's going to be a lifelong problem. I'm going to have to be diligent about it for as long as I live. Because no one wants to see my butt crack. Not even (maybe even especially) my wife.