Tuesday, July 31, 2018

We Saw the Wienermobile!

Would you drive 15 miles out of your way to see a vehicle shaped like a hot dog? No? What if you had four kids between the ages of two and ten? Would that change your answer? Of course it would!

I'm not really sure how we knew the Wienermobile would be in town. Someone said something on Facebook or something. (Social media is fantastic when you're looking for important information like the location of the Wienermobile! It's also good for random cat videos.)

I wonder if the Batmobile says "Batmobile" on the front bumper?

When we found out the Wienermobile was coming, we asked the kids, "Do you want to see a vehicle shaped like a hot dog?" They answered, "Why is there a vehicle shaped like a hot dog?" It was a good question, and I had no answer for it. I'm a busy guy, and I don't have time for thoughtful, intelligent questions from my children, so I just asked, "Do you want to go see the hot dog car or not?" Of course they did, even if they didn't understand why.

The Wienermobile!
(I blurred out the random family in front of the Wienermobile to protect the innocent.)

When we arrived at the Wienermobile, we were surprised that there wasn't a line. Didn't everyone from miles around want to come see a vehicle shaped like a hot dog? What was wrong with these people? Oh well, it's their loss. 

As we approached the Wienermobile, we were greeted by the Wienermobile handlers. (The Wienermobilers?) They handed the kids some stickers and little hot dog shaped whistles, and they gave my wife some coupons for hot dogs. (They didn't give me anything. Apparently the Wienermobilers don't think Dads like stickers or coupons.) (They couldn't be more wrong!)

Taking a picture with the Wienermobile is nice, but I would have liked the chance to take it for a spin!

We then posed in front of the Wienermobile and took some pictures. And the more I looked at the Wienermobile, the more I wondered. Is it a car or a truck? Maybe it's an SUV? A station wagon? I'm not really sure how to classify it other than to say it is a vehicle that looks like a hot dog.

And just in case the Wienermobilers weren't sure they were driving a vehicle shaped like a hot dog, they made sure to put a giant hot dog on the dash of the vehicle.

"Are you sure we're driving the Wienermobile?" "Yes, because there is a big wiener on the dash." "Also, the vehicle is shaped like a giant wiener."
And, for added emphasis, the lady Wienermobiler (Wienermobiless?) was wearing socks that had images of hot dogs on them:

"Hey Brenda, make sure you wear your wiener socks today, okay?"
All in all, it was a fun little adventure. The kids got to see a large vehicle shaped like a wiener. We got coupons for discounted hot dogs. And, after we got home, I was able to steal one of these cool stickers from the kids!

"I seen it!"
It was great, but now it's left me wanting to see more vehicles shaped like food. The Broccolimobile? The Oreomobile? The Cabbagemobile? (Question: Would the Pizzamobile be shaped like a slice or round like the entire pizza?)

Friday, July 27, 2018

Dealing with the Crap of Being an Adult

Sometimes it stinks to be the adult.

As kids, we always thought adults had it easy, didn't we? They could do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. They could eat what they wanted, stay up late if they wanted, and had a seemingly unlimited amount of money.

Yup, there would be no crap to deal with when we became adults!

Reality, of course, is a bit different, especially if you have kids. True, I can do whatever I want, whenever I want--as long as it's in our home after the kids are asleep and it's not so loud that it might wake them up. I can eat what I want--as long as the kids don't see, because then they'll want some, too. I can stay up late if I want--but only if I actually can stay up late, because as soon as I get the kids to bed I'm so exhausted I need to collapse. And I do have an unlimited amount of money--as long as I don't exceed the credit limit.

Compared to being a kid, being an adult is powerful. But, it's like that line from the Spider-Man comics, with great power comes great responsibility. Every once in a while that responsibility will slap you right in the face.

I'm reminded of one day when we went as a family to do some grocery shopping. We like to go shopping all together as a family because: A) the kids are too young to leave home by themselves; and 2) I'm always hopeful that I can find some new bacon-flavored food product to sneak into the cart.

On this day we pulled up to the giant warehouse store (for the sake of anonymity I'll call it "CostLo,") and The Wife and the two oldest kids got out of the mini-van while I got The Baby out of her car seat.

Immediately I could tell there was a problem. Not so much a problem as it was a stench. I told The Wife that The Baby was poopy. Being the responsible adult that I am, I figured I had better change her diaper, so I sent The Wife and the other two kids into the store. This was mostly because: 1) I was already holding The Baby, and when it comes to who changes the diaper, possession is nine-tenths of the law; and B) The Wife could do the shopping without me much better than I could do it without her. (Although that might mean we'd be going without bacon-flavored cinnamon rolls.)

Unfortunately, as soon as The Wife and kids were out of view, I discovered that this was more than just a stench; it was a poop-through! The diaper didn't do it's job in damming up the doo-doo.
Diapers, you had one job!
It's moments like this when that "responsibility" crap really slaps you in the face. Because as much as I'd like to ignore all that poop and wish that it would go away, I have to be the responsible one who actually takes care of it.

So, I got out the diaper-changing mat and placed it on the driver's seat of the van. I then put The Baby down on it. The most difficult part of dealing with a poop-through is getting The Baby's clothes off without spreading the poop. I attempted to do this, and thought I had done a good job. I got The Baby's clothes off!

Unfortunately, that's when I noticed there was some poop on her knee. And some poop on her ankle. And some poop on her shoulder. And I was no longer poop-free, either. You've all heard the term "green thumb." Well, while that would be an accurate description of my thumb at that moment, it would not have anything to do with my ability to grow and care for plants.

There was poop on the diaper-changing mat. There was poop on the driver's seat of the mini-van. And, of course, there was poop all over The Baby. While I would have liked to just scream and run away, I got out the wipes and started wiping. I wiped and wiped and wiped. And then I wiped some more. Eventually, the only poop I could find was on the diaper and pile of wipes on the floor beneath the steering wheel.

We've learned to prepare for the poop-throughs (as much as one can), so we always have a change of clothes in the diaper bag. I put a clean diaper on The Baby and got the new clothes on her. I then wadded up the old diaper and pile of wipes as best I could, using a few new wipes around the outside of the wad in the hopes of preventing accidental poop spreadage.

As I carried The Baby and the diaper wad toward the store, the looks I received were about equally split between, "Oh, look how cute that baby is!" and "Oh my gosh, is that a giant wad of poop in his hand?" I dropped the diaper wad in the garbage outside of the store and entered.

Now all I had to do was find The Wife and the other kids...in a store roughly the size of Saskatchewan. Of course, with today's modern technology the simple solution would be to pick up the cell phone and call her to find her location. Except, for some reason, cell signals can't seem to penetrate the giant metal shell of the "CostLo" store.

So, I embark on a grid by grid search of the store while carrying The Baby, which is about the same as carrying a large sack of potatoes, if that sack of potatoes had arms and continually attempted and occasionally succeeded in getting fingerprints all over your glasses. At this point the store was more like "LostCo" than "CostLo."

Finally, I was able to find The Wife and kids near the fresh fruit section toward the back of the store, and I dumped my sack of potatoes with arms into the shopping cart. No sooner had I done so than I was greeted by The Boy with, "Dad! I've got to go potty!"

I looked at The Wife and she gave me the head-nod which was co-parent language for, "No, he's not faking, he really does need to go." I immediately grab The Boy's hand and start hiking to the bathroom, which is at the front of the store, somewhere on the north end of Saskatchewan.

On the way there, The Boy tells me several times, "I've got to go potty," just in case I had forgotten where we were heading. (I hadn't.) We then had to shimmy our way behind someone who was checking out, because the only way to the restrooms was through the checkout lanes.

Finally, after our long and arduous hike we turned the corner to the restroom...only to find the doorway blocked by the janitor's cart, with a sign on it reading, "Restroom closed for cleaning. Please use the Family Restroom."

This is Utah. I'm sure Family Restrooms exist, in theory. But, in my actual experience whenever I find one I am only ever greeted by a locked door.

Surprisingly, the door to the Family Restroom opened before The Boy peed his pants, and he took care of his business. That meant we had to try to find The Wife again in the vast vastness of the "LostCo." By the time we did finally rendezvous, she had finished the shopping. (No bacon-flavored maple syrup for me this week.)

When I was a kid I liked to go shopping sometimes. I'd think things like, "If I were an adult, I'd buy that, and that, and that!"

I had no idea that when I actually became an adult I'd have to deal with so much crap.

Edited from a post originally published on 8/14/2015.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Public Restroom Etiquette

If you're like me, when you think of etiquette, you probably think of fancy dinners and knowing how and when to use your salad fork instead of your regular fork. Or knowing when to hold a door open for someone else. Or knowing that you should not talk loudly on your phone while in the audience at the third grade choir concert.

Etiquette is "the customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group." (I got that definition from dictionary.com.) (Citing sources for quotes is showing proper etiquette.) Or, to put it another way, etiquette is simply knowing what to do in a social setting in order to not be rude to those around you. (I made that definition up myself, so it might not be completely accurate. If you have a problem with that, well then excuuuuuuuuuuse me!)

But, one thing you probably don't think of when I say the word etiquette is a public restroom. "Etiquette" and "public restroom" don't really seem to go together, but I'm here to tell you that they should, because nowhere is etiquette more needed than in a public restroom!

The rules are very simple. I shouldn't have to actually list them. And yet, every time I go into a public restroom at least one of these basic rules has been violated. Come on, people, this is not that difficult! Here are some rules:

1. Flush the toilet--This is about as simple as it gets: If you put something in the toilet, then you should flush the toilet! I don't want to see your poop. I don't want to see your pee. I don't want to see your used toilet paper. Flush the toilet!!! (I realize that some people would like to make an argument about water conservation and how not flushing every time is better for the environment. That's wonderful. These people can hold off on flushing their own personal toilets just once a week if they'd like, but if they're using a public toilet they need to flush every dang time!)

2. Make sure your flush actually worked--When you finish your business in the toilet, you usually will have an inkling whether or not what you left inside the bowl will go down with one flush, or if it's at risk of needing multiple flushes. If you think it might take more than one flush, it is your responsibility to make sure it gets that second flush. You can't just flush once and walk away. It's your duty to attend to your doody. (Because no one else wants to see it.)

3. Do not put paper towels in the toilets--Do you know the difference between a paper towel and toilet paper? Of course you do! And so, you should also know that paper towels do not go in the toilet, they go in the garbage. This isn't rocket science, people!

4. Don't put anything in the urinal (except urine)--Men, they call it a urinal because it is there for your urine. It is not an ashtray or a garbage can. Here is a partial, non-comprehensive list of things that should not be put into a urinal: paper towels, gum, gum wrappers, soda cans, toilet paper, coins, chewing tobacco, ashes, cigarettes, cigarette butts, or butts of any kind.

5. When possible, give people their personal space--If there are multiple urinals or toilet stalls and someone is already occupying one of them, if possible, don't use the urinal or stall right next to them, give them some space. For most people, going to the bathroom is an activity they prefer to do in privacy. No one wants an audience. Of course, this is dependent on the number of stalls and urinals, and the number of people wanting to use them. (I hear this is never a problem in the women's restroom, because they always have several extra stalls--way more stalls than women wanting to us them.)

Good luck finding a restroom this clean!
6. Don't talk--No one should go into a public restroom with the intent of meeting new people or making new friends. The bathroom is not a place for chit chat. Unless you're warning me that the stall I'm about to go into is out of toilet paper, just keep your darn mouth shut, okay?

7. Keep your phone in your pocket--Don't talk on your phone. We don't want to hear your conversation. (And the person on the other end of your phone probably doesn't want to know you're in the bathroom when you're talking to them, either.) Also, since all phones come with camera technology, it's best just to keep them put away--you wouldn't like it if someone was walking around the restroom with a camera in their hands, would you?

When it comes right down to it, this is the kind of etiquette we should all really be paying attention to, isn't it? (Because I really don't care whether or not you're using your salad fork properly.)

Friday, July 20, 2018

You Can't Dry Your Hands with a Wet Towel

We've all heard the saying "size doesn't matter." Well, I completely disagree.

Especially when we're talking about hand towels.

We've all had it happen. You go to the bathroom, wash your hands, then dry your hands on the hand towel. Everything's fine. Until the next time you have to go to the bathroom. Once again you take care of your business, and then you wash your hands. But this time, when you go to dry your hands on the hand towel you find that the hand towel is still damp from the last time you dried your hands on it. It's hard to get your hands dry using a towel that's already wet.

Or, worse yet, you haven't been to the bathroom for hours, but it just so happens you have to go fifteen minutes after Uncle Stinky has gone. ("Uncle Stinky" is not his real name.) (But it probably should be.) You wash your hands and reach for the hand towel, but it is moist. Very moist indeed. You try to find a dry spot on the hand towel, but to no avail. And the worst part is, that's not your moistness on that towel. That's Uncle Stinky's moistness!

(Of course, if we're being honest here, the moistness level of the hand towel might be the least of your worries if you have to use the bathroom after Uncle Stinky. But that's a topic for another day.)

They call it a hand towel for a reason. It's barely big enough to dry your hand.

I understand the concept of the hand towel. It's just fine for drying your hands. Once. But, if you have to make several bathroom visits in a short amount of time (curse you, diarrhea!) or if you have multiple people using the same bathroom (and thus the same hand towel) in a short amount of time, the size of the hand towel really does matter.

Here's a standard size hand towel versus a standard size regular towel.
Yes, size does matter!

In my own bathroom, I've taken care of this problem. On my large towel rack I have two towels: 1) My very large bath towel; and B) My very large hand towel (which is the exact same size as my very large bath towel.) So, no matter how frequently I use my hand towel, I can always find a spot on it devoid of moistness so I can dry my hands with a dry towel.

Unfortunately, this doesn't work for all bathrooms, because most of the time hand towels have a wimpy little round towel-holder or towel rack too small to handle a large towel. If you try to put a regular size towel on one of these wimpy hand-towel holders, you'll get something like this:

The standard size towel on the wimpy hand-towel rack. The towel hangs down into the sink.

So, what is the solution? Well, it depends on the bathroom. But what I would do is have as many towel racks and towel hooks as possible in every bathroom, with a full-sized towel on every rack and hook. It's all about avoiding the pre-moistened towels!

Every towel you add increases the chances of finding one that's not damp.
Is it aesthetically pleasing? No. Is it practical? No. Does it look pretty stupid? Yes.

But sometimes you do whatever you can to avoid Uncle Stinky's Moistness!

Edited from a post originally published on 5/12/2015.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Daddy, Are You a Pirate?

It really should go without saying, but I'm going to say it anyway: Parents shouldn't use curse words in front of their children.

It's basic common sense. If you don't want your kids to swear like sailors, you probably shouldn't swear when you're around them. (You probably shouldn't swear even when you're not around them, but that's a topic for another day.)

So, you're probably wondering, "Joe, how do you avoid cursing in front of your children?" Well, I'm glad you asked. My method is pretty simple, really. Whenever I feel like using a swear word, I simply replace it by shouting like a pirate. Instead of cursing, I'll just yell, "ARRGHH!!!" That's all there is to it. It's really very easy. Since I adopted this strategy, I never hardly ever curse in front of my children!

The only problem is, I yell "ARRGHH!!!" in front of my children so often that I'm afraid I might be turning into an actual pirate. Here are a few of the trigger events that make me worry:

*When I ask the kids to clear their spot at the table, and they throw their silverware into the garbage. "ARRGHH!!!"

*When she yells at me that she doesn't want a yellow plate, she wants a pink plate, even though I am well aware of this preference and am already dishing up her food on a pink plate. "ARRGHH!!!"

*When the boy drinks a mouthful of milk, but instead of swallowing it like most people do when drinking milk, he holds it in his mouth like mouthwash for five minutes until he walks into the living room and spits it out all over the front of his shirt and the carpet. "ARRGHH!!!"

*When you take the time to actually help your child do their homework, then find out she didn't bother to turn it in. "ARRGHH!!!"

*When you're looking to take a selfie of yourself dressed as a pirate, but you can't find an eye patch anywhere. "ARRGHH!!!"

*When you feel obligated to explain to your children the difference between a tablecloth and a Kleenex. "ARRGHH!!!"

*When you ask if he's cleaned his room, he says, "Yes," and then you actually walk past his room and look inside. "ARRGHH!!!"

*When you think you are reading but he thinks you are playing catch, and he hits you in the face with a ball. "ARRGHH!!!"

*When he, unbeknownst to you, decides to play catch with something other than a ball, and he hits you in the face with a Hot Wheels car. "ARRGHH!!!"

*When you spend ten minutes doing her hair so it looks just right, then she immediately runs off and puts on a hat. "ARRGHH!!!"

*When you feel obligated to explain the difference between a fork and a comb. "ARRGHH!!!"

*When you say, "ARRGHH!!!" so often that your three year-old daughter asks you, "Daddy, are you a pirate?" ("ARRGHH!!!")

Friday, July 13, 2018

Don't Order the Fish!

I really wish common sense were more common.

Especially for me.

We were going out to eat at a Mexican restaurant chain here in Utah. It's one of our favorite places to eat, and over the years we've been there many, many times. We've been there so often that I know exactly what I like, and I order it every single time we eat there. I've probably ordered the same thing (pork burrito with enchilada sauce) over thirty times in a row.

For the last dozen or so times we've eaten there, I've wondered if I should try something different, but I always end up getting the same old thing. As we were on our way the other night, I said, "Maybe this will be the time I order something different." The Wife voiced doubt. So, of course, I was obligated.

When we got to the restaurant, I looked over the menu to find something different. There were enchiladas, but how different from a burrito is an enchilada? Is there any difference at all?

Then I saw the salmon. I like salmon. The Wife grilled some a few weeks ago, and it was delicious. And salmon is most definitely different than pork. I was absolutely going to break my routine.

So, I ordered a salmon burrito with enchilada sauce.

We love this unnamed restaurant! I just wouldn't recommend the salmon.

I immediately knew I made a mistake. When I announced what I wanted, the girl who took my order looked confused, turned to her co-workers in the kitchen, and asked, "Do we have salmon?" When the others replied with a collective shoulder shrug, she left to go ask someone else.

It then dawned on me how unwise it is to order something they aren't even sure if they have. If they don't know if they have it, how will they know how to cook it? So, when she came back I was fully prepared to say, "Forget it, I'll just have the pork." But, she came back and was very enthusiastic to report that yes, they did serve salmon, and yes, they did have some. So, I had the salmon.

As I started to eat my salmon burrito with enchilada sauce, it dawned on me that it tasted just like the pork burrito with enchilada sauce, only fishier. And a little more dry. Probably because they cooked the salmon much earlier, and it had been sitting around "warming" for a while. The pork would have been a better choice, because so many people order it that they have to continually cook more throughout the day.

And then, I didn't even get much credit for ordering something different. The Wife said that I ordered the same thing, a burrito with enchilada sauce. All I had done was change the meat.

She was right, of course. I thought about other things, too. I thought about how lacking in common sense I had been when I ordered salmon at a Mexican restaurant in Utah. Utah is not known for its salmon, and most Mexican restaurants are not known for their fish. I thought about how next time I was going to order the pork.

I thought about a lot of things, because I had a lot of time to think about things... as I sat on the toilet at 2:00 AM saying goodbye to my salmon burrito with enchilada sauce. The salmon was not a good choice.

I wish common sense were more common.

Especially for me.

Edited from a post originally published on 8/18/2015.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

You Have Absolutely No Idea....

You think you're pretty smart, don't you? You've got everything under control. You've been around the block a few times. You know what you're doing. You know how things work. You've got it all figured out.

But, there are still some things you have no clue about.

When you go to someone else's house you have absolutely no idea how to turn on their television. Oh, you know how to turn on your own television, but when you go to someone else's house you don't have the first clue. There are somewhere between three and eight remote controls, and you don't have the faintest idea which one turns on the television. Back in the old days you could just walk up to the television and press the "on" button. They don't have those anymore. You'll have to try to figure out which remote is for which exact function. There'll be a remote for turning on the television. There'll be one for changing the channels. There'll be one for volume control. There'll be one for the DVD player. There'll be one for the VCR, which hasn't been connected to the television for about twelve years. Sometimes one remote will actually be able to perform more than one function, but you'll have no way of knowing that unless you just start randomly pushing buttons on remotes, and if you start randomly pushing buttons on remotes, you might end up signing up for Hulu, or accidentally purchasing Transformers VII: Truck Or Robot. (No one wants to accidentally purchase Transformers VII.) You'll eventually just have to hand the remotes to the person who lives there and let them turn on the television for you.

One for the "on" button, one for the volume, one for the cable box, one for the DVD, one for the surround sound, one for the VCR, one for the DVD/VCR combo, one for the....

But, other than that you really are on top of things. Except....

When you go to open a new loaf of bread, you have absolutely no idea which direction to turn the twisty tie, do you? You'll grab hold of the twisty tie and you'll start to twist it. You'll get two or three twists in, with no significant results, and you'll wonder, "Am I twisting this the right way? Am I loosening it, or am I tightening it?" You'll stop, look at the twisty tie, and try to decide which direction to twist it. You'll think, "Lefty-loosie, righty-tighty," but then you'll wonder if that's just for nuts and bolts or if applies to twisty ties, too. You'll try to remember if you've been twisting it left or twisting it right. You'll start untwisting again and wonder, "Is this the way I already started to untwist it, or am I actually retwisting it the way I was untwisting it earlier?" You'll question every decision you've made in your entire life. Eventually you might even get it open and get yourself a piece of bread or two.

I might never be able to get to that bread!

But, you've got a pretty good grip on everything else. Except....

When you go to a hotel, or a motel, or stay at someone else's house, you have absolutely no idea how to turn the shower on. And if you can get the water on, you don't know which way to turn it for hot water, and which way to turn it for cold water. You'll turn the knob in a direction that you think will get you hot water, but you'll put your hand under it, and it will still be cold. You'll wonder if that's because you've turned it to the cold setting, or if it's just one of those showers that takes a long time to for the hot water to get actually hot. You'll give up and try the other way, but it will be cold, too. After going back and forth another time or two, you'll eventually find some hot water. Then you'll try to adjust the water so that it's neither scalding nor chilling. You'll desperately attempt to figure out how to get the water to a temperature that is just right. It's as if you are Goldilocks and this shower faucet is the porridge of the Three Bears, and you just want to find that Baby Bear's porridge! After several small, precise adjustments, you'll land upon a temperature that is bearable, and you'll actually attempt to take a shower. (The temperature may or may not fluctuate several times during the course of your shower.) When you finally finish your shower and exit the bathroom, your travel companions will be wondering what the heck took you so long in there. Whatever you do, don't tell them you were looking for Baby Bear's porridge. They'll think you're stranger than they already do.

But, other than that, you really know what's going on.

Friday, July 6, 2018

A Fat Dad at the PlayPlace

One of my fears in life is that someday I'll end up the subject of a headline like this:

Fat Man Gets Stuck In McDonald's PlayPlace


Lumbering Oaf Collapses McDonald's PlayPlace, Seven Injured


Missing Man Found After Five Days of Wandering In Tubes at McDonald's PlayPlace

Back in my day, there weren't playgrounds at fast food restaurants. Our biggest thrill would be to get to sit at the table with the two swivel chairs. (We would shout, "Oooo, look! Twisty chairs! That's swell!") (We said things like "that's swell" and "neato" back then. It was a long, long time ago.)

The kids really like to go to McDonald's. There are three reasons for this:

1. The food.
2. The Happy Meal toy.
3. The PlayPlace.

Of course, that's not the order in which the kids like McDonald's. That goes something like this:

1. The PlayPlace.
2. The PlayPlace.
3. The PlayPlace.
4. The PlayPlace.
5. The PlayPlace.
6. The PlayPlace.
7. The Happy Meal toy.
8-15. PlayPlace or Happy Meal toy.
16. Ronald McDonald.
17. Grimace.
18. Hamburglar.
19. The food.

Not every McDonald's has a PlayPlace. Believe me, we have scouted out all of the McDonald's in the tri-state* area, and we know which ones have PlayPlaces and which ones don't. Unfortunately for us, the McDonald's closest to us does NOT have a PlayPlace, so we don't go there very often. (It's usually worth the extra ten miles for our sanity.) [*What exactly is the "tri-state area?" I don't know. You have my permission to pick any of your three favorite states.]

"Supervised by a parent?" You do realize I can't fit in there, don't you?

We are mean and make our kids eat all (or most) of their food before they get the Happy Meal toy and/or go to the PlayPlace. Once they've eaten enough to earn their freedom, it's time to take off their shoes and attack the PlayPlace. The shoes come off and go into the "Sneaker Keeper." The "Sneaker Keeper" is a wonderful place, where kids put their shoes while they go to play, and where parents can go "shopping" for new shoes for their kids if they so choose. ("Sneaker Keeper" is also a registered trademark. I am not making this up.) One pair of shoes fits in each cubby of the "Sneaker Keeper." If two shoes don't fit into one cubby, you are probably too big to play at the PlayPlace.

Percentage of parents who read all the rules before allowing their kids to play: 0.041%

That brings me to the list of rules for the PlayPlace. The old adage is that "rules are meant to be broken." No place is this more true than at the PlayPlace. The list of rules includes things like this:

*Children must be supervised by an adult at all times--Not likely. At any given PlayPlace there are probably at least three children who were dropped off there last Tuesday.

*Equipment is designed for children ages 4-12. There is a small children area designed for children ages 2-4.--I guess I'm guilty here. I let my 2-year-old go into the bigger kid area. Often that's because 5'10", 267 pound 13-year-olds are plodding their way through the little kid area. (More than once I've been tempted to throw my weight around at a too-big kid endangering the tiny ones in the little kid area, but I'm afraid of the assault charge and the headlines that might accompany it: "Grown Man Arrested for Beating Up 10-Year Old at McDonald's PlayPlace.")

*Please remove shoes and place in the Sneaker Keeper. Socks must be worn at all times.--Go to any PlayPlace and you'll find just about every possible permutation: Kids wearing shoes. Kids wearing just socks. Kids wearing no shoes or no socks. Kids with one shoe on and one sock on. Kids with one bare foot and one in a shoe. Kids with both feet in Chicken McNugget boxes. Anything is possible.

*Slide one at a time in a forward, seated position, feet first. Please no climbing on or up the slides.--Apparently the people who wrote up these rules have never actually seen kids play on slides before. Either that or they think this will be the only slide in the world that no kid will climb up, or go down head first, or on their belly.

*No climbing or standing on the outside of the play equipment.--There is always at least one member of the Future Rock Climbers of America who feels the need to show off his climbing prowess on the outside of the equipment.

*Please no running.--Because kids at play time are well known for strolling slowly and being thoughtful and patient.

*Please no food, gum, or drinks on the play equipment.--This is a fast food establishment. French fries are known to multiply. They appear at various odd places in the PlayPlace, just like they randomly appear at the bottom of your drive-thru take-out bag. And that's not even mentioning the half-eaten burgers, ketchup (in both stain and packet form), and sticky lakes of spilled soda.

*Please do not bring any toys into the play area.--Most of these kids just opened their Happy Meal toy. So yes, they will be carrying the toy with them wherever they go, because that toy is the greatest toy they have ever played with! (At least for the next 35 minutes or so, at which point they'll realize the toy is lame.)

So, the rules are more like "suggestions" that rarely get followed. Kids will do whatever they want.

It seems like, as the years go by, the PlayPlaces get more and more advanced. More slides. More tubes and pods and portals. They're almost to the point of being as complex as the labyrinth that housed the Minotaur. I'm afraid of ever having to go in there after my kids, because, besides worrying about getting stuck or breaking the tubes because I'm too heavy, I also worry about finding my way out. (That's why I always leave a trail of ketchup stains to follow.)

When I'm with the kids at a PlayPlace, I always try to maintain contact with them, talking with them and such. I do this for two reasons: 1) So I can see where they are at all times so I don't lose them in the maze. And B) So I don't seem like some random creepy guy hanging out by the PlayPlace.

And sometimes, when I'm watching the kids in the PlayPlace, I'll sit in a swivel chair. (Because those twisty chairs are neato!)

Edited from a post originally published on 2/21/2013.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Weekend Getaway (In the Middle of the Week)

Question: When is the best time to go on a weekend getaway?

Answer: In the middle of the week!

Okay, so I know that's cheating. I don't care. I'm tired of playing by the rules.

Question: Why is the middle of the week the best time for a weekend getaway?

Answer: Oh, there are reasons. Several reasons, actually, including but not limited to:

*Less traffic. It's a proven fact that when fewer people want to get to places, there are fewer cars on the roads. And when there are fewer cars on the roads, there is less traffic to deal with. And, generally speaking, more people go places on the weekend than in the middle of the week.

*Fewer people. Most people work during the week and are off of work on the weekend. That's why things are usually more crowded on the weekend. But, if you can get away in the middle of the week for your weekend getaway, you'll find that there aren't as many people around, because many of them will still be at work.

Two people. No crowds. An excellent getaway!

*Better deals. Since there is higher demand on the weekends, places you might go for your weekend getaway can charge more money and get away with it. If you take your weekend getaway in the middle of the week when there is less demand, you might find that the places you want to getaway to will charge you less money. (For example, a bed and breakfast with five rooms will probably be full and charge full price on the weekend. But, on a Wednesday they might only have one or two of their rooms full, and they might charge less in order to entice more people to come to their establishment.)

*Less crowded. Did I mention that there are fewer people at getaway places during the middle of the week than there are during the weekend? I did? Well, I'm going to say it again, because this is a pretty big point. Why? Because people are really annoying. Not all people, but some of them. And the greater the total number of people that are around, the greater the chances that some of those people will be really annoying. In order to avoid those really annoying people, it's best to go to places where there aren't as many people around. And that's why the middle of the week is the best time for your weekend getaway.

Question: So, why doesn't everyone take their weekend getaway in the middle of the week?

Answer: Because it's not always easy to get away in the middle of the week for your weekend getaway. In order to get away in the middle of the week, you must do two things:

*Get time off from your job. This, of course, is very dependent on your job, and how much vacation time/personal holidays/sick days you have. Or how easy it is for you to sneak away without anyone noticing. (I wish you luck!)

*If you can get someone to watch your kids. Remember when I said that some people are really annoying? Sometimes those annoying people are your own kids. (Your own kids are not annoying all the time, but they are definitely annoying some of the time.) So, if  you want to have a great weekend getaway in the middle of the week, it's best if you can con someone into find someone willing to watch your kids for you.

So, to sum up, unless you really like big crowds and spending full price for things, the best time to get away for a weekend getaway is in the middle of the week.