Bus Stops and Abandoned Backpacks

“The fascination of shooting as a sport depends almost wholly on whether you are at the right or wrong end of the gun.” -P. G. Wodehouse

**********

This is one of those stories.  You know the kind.  The type where you sit around a pub table at night, talking about things that you still find a little hard to believe.  Yet, you know that it is probably in your best interest to keep these sorts of stories from your Mom.  Because, well, keeping your parental figures from having heart attacks is in everyone’s best interest.  Darn it though, anecdotes want to be told.

I find it rather relaxing to take leisurely strolls.  On one particular route, I rarely encounter another person on the sidewalk.  There is only one stoplight between myself and home.  The route has trees, long stretches of pavement, and is quite low in stress.

Except for that one time.

bus-stop-1452777239g7iThere is a bus stop just as the road curves.  Rarely does a bus stop there in the evenings.  Crowds of people do not cram into that little depot.  It sits quietly, unassuming, content to be whether or not it is serving any real purpose.

On that particular day, its purpose was to play host to a backpack.  It was a rather large, black backpack.  There was no host, no people meandering about that would quickly return for the bag.  It was an abandoned item; a mysterious package.

I have found items of value before and I try to return them.  Thus I unzipped the main pouch, and found large amounts of Mike’s Hard Lemonade.  Plenty of the stuff filled into that backpack.  I really think half of the weight was made of these cans sloshing about.

I started to walk, thinking it would be easier to find some ID at home.  But the bag was heavy and I was curious.  So I opened a second pouch, moved some more Hard Lemonade, and kept trying to arm myself with more information.

Which is when I found the gun.

There are plenty of people who would be alarmed at the steps I had already taken.  “Don’t you listen to the intercom system at any airport?  Like, ever?  Report unattended items!  It could be a bomb!  See something, say something!  Call the cops!  You could have died.”

cardboard-box-155480_960_720Calm down.  People call in bomb threats to create a sense of panic.  They want a sense of fear to permeate the world.  If they can get on the news for forcing a building to be evacuated, then they win.  The world gets shaken up and they get their little excitement.  If they are really determined, then they will make an actual bomb and see how much carnage they can create.

This bag was in the middle of nowhere.  No pedestrians, no houses, located at the base of a rather bare hill.  If it had been a bomb, they would have claimed exactly one victim.  Apologies, but I am not spiffy enough to warrant my own headline, I do not care how slow of a news day it is.  There is a twisted logic to causing terror, and in my estimation, there was no payoff for anyone to leave the bag there.  So that was my thought process when I unzipped the thing.  Take precautions, sure.  But shirk panic.

I once had a woman come into my store.  She was very concerned and nervous.  She asked if I would call security or the police.  When I pressed her, she pointed to a black plastic box sitting outside our door.  It was a mouse trap.  We have them all over the building.

All that said, I do hate guns.  I had no desire to see if it was loaded.  I know enough not to handle a firearm without knowing if it is loaded and I certainly did not want my fingerprints on any more items than they had already touched.

The paranoid folks that worry about bombs will be pleased to know that my concerned side kicked in as I put the cans back in the bag.  What if the owner comes back now?  What if they see me walking down the sidewalk with their gun?  Is this a violent individual who will chase after me and might be carrying a second gun?  What if a child comes across this bag and finds the gun?  Do I need to worry about drugs or other weapons in the bag?  Do I really want to walk this a few miles home?

I wanted that bag gone.  And the closest business was only a few blocks away.

Picture if you will.  You are sitting in a residential business.  You have less than an hour left in your shift.  You have cleared off the clutter of your desk for the day.  Maybe you need to make a phone call or two, telling customers their requests have been fulfilled.  You start pining for the weekend that just cruelly ended; far too soon for your liking.

business-1067978_960_720Then a young man walks through the door.  He is carrying a large bag.  You have never seen this man before.  He comes up to you and says, “I need to use your phone to call the police.  Is that okay?”  When you point to the lobby phone and mildly ask what is happening, he tells you things you would rather not hear.  Things like, “There’s something in, I, the police need to come get this.”  You look to your supervisor, raise your eyebrows a bit, and reply, “If it is a bomb, I’m not sure I want it in here.”

Poor gal.  All the people in the city that carry phones with them and she gets visited by the one guy who does not.  I made the call brief though.  I went outside the building, as far from their business as I could, and waited for the police to arrive.

Not too much later, along came a police SUV.  A calm and pleasant officer approached me, put on her blue gloves, and took the bag.  I gave her a brief recap, pointed to the areas that my hands had touched, and made sure she knew what section the gun was in.  She took it and made her way back to the station to x-ray it.

I considered myself the good little citizen.  I had followed my Sesame Street training and called the authorities.  For all the news stories and controversies about police there are out there, I am glad that there is someone to call when weapons are found.  I decided that all was well, even if I was a little worried about the kinds of people that were out there leaving backpacks with weapons.  Were they part of some Hunger Games-esque, underground reality show where they had to kill or be killed?  Were drug runners moving in and expanding their territory?  Had a government drop off been intercepted?  No matter what my imagination contrived, the gun was off the streets.  No shootings today.

I received a phone call from the officer an hour later.  It had not been a gun.  It had been a paintball gun.  (Which, in my definition, is still a gun.  See the second word there?  Gun.  But I let the officer define terms since it is her field.)   Some ID was inside, so they were calling to have the belongings picked up.

I can sense the admiration from here.  Clearly I am a hero for the masses.  Saving the world from… getting little dots of color splattered on clothing.  Stay back Captain Kirk, I got this!  No red shirts today!  Recreational sports equipment, fear my might!  Rawr!

I shook my head and went back to my life.  The drama had resolved itself, all except for one tiny detail.  What the sam hill was with all that lemonade?

Lawnmower Men

Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best; it removes all that is base. All men are afraid in battle. The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty. Duty is the essence of manhood.” -George S. Patton

**********

“Welcome ladies and gentlemen to an outdoor exhibition like no other. Where champions are made and the defeated are sent home with green on their fingers and shame in their hearts. I’m Bob Roberts—“

“—and I’m Bill Williams. Bob, what we have here is a true battle between styles. The two competitors could not be more different in their schools of thought, their preparations for this day, or their attitudes.”

“You’ve got that right Bill. Why, look at the machines that these two will be operating. Richie, the clear underdog in this bout, is lawn-mowergoing old-school. That push-mower of his has been in the family since before he was born. He told me earlier today that he learned how to curse by watching his father yank on the cord, swear, and yank again. It has become standard ritual for their family to pull, engage in profanity, pull harder, and watch the engine engage. Truly, Richie carries on a sort of rough, rugged, cowboy-like coarseness to his approach.”

“I couldn’t agree with you more Bob. While Richie is all white tennis-shoes stained green and classic mowers stained black by gasoline, Augustus strives to achieve sophistication and prestige in his approach. His rider-mowers are always top of the line. He seems to have a brand new mower every season, don’t you think Bob?”

“I gotta agree with you Bill. I hadn’t seen chrome hubcaps on a riding mower before the great match of 2013.”

“Wasn’t that the one where leaves of all shapes and shades of yellows and brown covered the playing field?”

“It was indeed, Bill. And Augustus made short work of those unsightly nuisances, all while cutting the grass underneath.”

“He certainly has the equipment to get the job done. Now, help me and the audience at home out. Is that a solar-cell on the back of Augustus’ mower? In his unending attempt to tame the green, has the technically savvy combatant gone green himself?”

“No Bill, but I can see where you might believe that. If anyone was going to throw in high-tech accomplishments, “just because”, it would be Augustus. But no, that is a spoiler.   He claims it takes the speed of his vehicle up a solid mile per hour, while deflecting cats and birds from his warm engine.”

“Bob, I’m not sure I have ever seen a cat try to hop onto either athlete’s mower during a match.”

“I’d have to agree with you Bill. However both men are dead-set on their techniques and will tolerate no opinions or interference.”

“Hence the lack of any sort of crew or maintenance workers for these two titans of the turf.”

“You got it Bill. In almost every other sport, you will find some sort of coach, advisor, or at least a guy with a gas can and tires. Not here. Theirs is the first and last call in all decisions. The success, and failure, rests entirely upon their shoulders.”

“But Bob, to be fair, it isn’t often that a tire-change happens during a lawn-mowing event.”

“Indeed, Bill. But you never know when you will have to top off the gas tank.”

“I can’t imagine the stress Bob. That sort of catastrophe could really send a guardian of the grass into a spiral. And yet, both of these men know that they have to tame the terrain completely; no patches can be missed by their well-honed eyes.”

“Bill, I feel that we should pause for a moment and comment on a trend that has yet to be broken.”

“I think I know what you are referring to Bob.”

“I think you do too, Bill. Once again, we have a lawn-mowing competition between two men. Women have yet to break into this sport.”

“You couldn’t be more right, Bob. I asked the family members before the match, and at least from their perspective, they, and I quote, ‘really didn’t see the point”. Harsh words. The sport has been derided by many as ‘pedestrian’ and ‘not an actual sport’ by many, and these two women are no exception.”

“Tell us more, Bill.”

“Take Richie’s mother for example. When asked if she would compete one year, she stated that mowing the yard was Richie’s chore. Why, if he didn’t take the green today, she threatened to withhold his allowance.”

“I thought that was just a rumor.”

“No, Bill. Now, there have been unconfirmed reports that Richie would lose his T.V. time, including videogames, if he made a poor showing here today. But most agree that is disinformation from Augustus’ camp.”

“Now Bob, I notice that once again Augustus’ wife is absent from this bout. Does her legendary disinterest continue?”

“It sure does, Bill. All the neighbors are well aware of Suzanne’s stance on the matter. ‘It is hardly a sport.’ ‘He is competing against a little kid.’ ‘Just mow the yard and leave me out of it.’ Surely she could put up a fight on the field here, but her lack of drive to join in appears to be as strong as ever. I do not think we will see a husband and wife team in this district anytime soon.”

“You never know, Bob.”

“You never know, Bill. That’s what we love about this game.”

“If game is the right word, Bob.”

“Agreed, Bill. Agreed.”

“Why, look at their pre-performance rituals. Richie spent hours and hours resting up. Critics have looked down on his style. They say he is, ‘sleeping in’ or, ‘slacking off’. Yet, Richie will respond to those by saying that he has to get his head right before lacing up his sneakers.”

“Whereas Augustus is up early in the mornings, ready to go. Why, if not for the noise ordinance and the long history of 800px-Early_Toro_brand_riding_lawn_mower_-_NARA_-_285450complaints against him, the man would surely have mowed some practice laps around the neighboring lawns. As we found out from 2011’s infamous three a.m. match, the community simply will not stand for lawn-mowing before a certain time.”

“Bob, the man simply has an eye for detail. He even has a specific wax that he will use beforehand, and I have heard that four coats is the minimum that he will apply.”

“Bill, the outdoors can be tough on a lawnmower. He wants every challenge he competes in to end with gear that looks like new.”

“Can we even call Augustus’ machine a mower, Bob? Experts have derided his choice. Their claims are that he has what is technically a tractor, as evidenced by the mounts on front where a snow-plow might be affixed.”

“Yes, Bill. There have certainly been many eyebrows raised, and not just at the twin cup-holders; which many feel shows a lack of endurance or dedication to the craft on Augustus’ part. Richie’s best friend, Jack, has been quite vocal that, ‘Old Man Aug ought’ta play fair’.”

“True words, Bob. Still, Richie claims that he can defeat his challenger on any mower.”

“It looks like we’re about to find out, Bill. At least, I sure hope so. But those clouds in the sky are a far cry from the blue skies we were promised.”

“Bob, the forecast today only called for a twenty percent change of rain. Even that could spell trouble.”

“Wet grass is clumpy grass, Bill.”

“Don’t I know it, Bob.”

“It appears that Augustus is ready for the clouds. One o’clock in the afternoon, and just like every other match, his headlights are on. Even the high-beams.”

“It wouldn’t be a mow-off if Augustus didn’t turn on the headlights in the middle of the day on an empty lawn. Ridiculous.”

“He certainly took it poorly when you asked him about it several years ago. Would you walk us through that, Bill?”

“Bob, I can’t. Legal says the court’s settlement is centered on my silence.”

“Crap, I forgot. Sorry. Well, no time for that folks! The men have grabbed their controls and they are revving to go.”

“Right you are, Bob. Right you are. As fans know, there is no referee. Anything goes. That includes the start time. Since we strive to have a gentlemanly sport, all matches start off with the head-nod…”

“There it is, Bill! They’ve nodded to each other and there they go!”

“Augustus’ vehicle, as always, starts at the first flick of the key. Why, I can hear the blades whirring away already!”

“Bill, Richie is having trouble getting ‘Ol Beater’ to start up. But that is nothing new to him. There’s the pull. The curse. The pull. Another curse word. The pull. Two curse words– And it’s on!”

“Bob, the one thing that Richie has going for him right from the start is turning.”

“He sure does, Bill. While Augustus may have a fancier mower, the time it takes him to turn with its length and wheel base is considerable. That really costs him in the fine detailing around trees and gardens.”

“So true, Bob. Why, look at Richie navigate his mower. He saw the small patch he missed and executed a perfect three-sixty, then was back on his course like nothing had happened. Unless Augustus has some sort of sensory program installed on his rig, he won’t be able to see missed spots until he’s making his second approach.”

“I can’t get over it Bill. Richie is really knocking out the detail work. He’s already tidied up around the elm that they planted over Sparky’s body. And that thick patch over the sewage pump is already tamed.”

“At the same time, Augustus is struggling to get around the rose bed. His wife may be the one who planted those flowers, Bob, but Augustus is the one that brags about them to any rotary club or floral shop he passes by.”

“Bill, I didn’t know that Augustus belonged to any rotaries.”

“He doesn’t. But he has often felt his wins here should be counted as contributions to the community.”

“Well Bill, his contribution to the course is substantial. He’s finally taken care of the slight hill and the garden. Now he simply has to keep mowing the big stretches.”

“Now Bob, take a gander over at Richie.”

“Yes, he has already gone to his first removal of the bag. This game is all about appearances, and that includes taking the clippings and throwing them onto the compost heap. It takes time to unfasten, carry the canvas bag off the course, and fasten the bag back on. Any other person might turn off the mower, but Richie refuses, knowing how temperamental that start-up can be. He’s already back to work, mowing over the small patch that fell from the un-bagging.”

“Bob, maybe it is for the best that Richie’s mom doesn’t observe these games.”

“Bill, I have heard rumors about Christina threating, ‘I’m gonna tell Mom!’ But so far that hasn’t happened.”

“And the sport is relieved for that small miracle, Bob.”

“Bill, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we officially have precipitation on the field.”

“Yes Bob. I can feel the rain falling on me and my lawn-chair. This could spell disaster.”desert-lightning-1408110525Yi1

“Bill, if any two champions can face the elements and rain it in, it’s these two.”

“Bob, that was a terrible pun.”

“Well this is looking like a terrible situation, Bill. I can see the wet hair and foreheads officially making life difficult for our two warriors.”

“Correct, Bob. The grass may not be soaked yet, but Richie is having a hard time with that second bag of grass.”

“At the same time Bill, Augustus is trying to keep the rain from accumulating on his brand-new mower. I’ve never seen a man try to drive and dry off his mower with his scarf at the same time.”

“This event always brings us something new, Bob. Why, this last second drama reminds us that—“

“Hold on Bill! Thunder! Thunder could be the nail in this match-ups coffin!”

“Bob, if it is up to the two men, that won’t stop them.”

“Maybe not Bill, but I have a feeling… and yes! There she is! Richie’s mom is demanding that he come inside! Trust her maternal skills to keep her child safe from pneumonia.”

“There is also the matter of the lighting, Bob.”

“You got it, Bill. Absolutely.”

“This match might technically go to Augustus now. With no refs, there really is no one to judge if Richie’s removal from the game is outside interference, or a forfeit.”

“Oh! Are you seeing this! Are you seeing this Bill!”

“I cannot believe it!”

“Bill, this is incredible! Augustus, worried about his lawnmower being out in the rain, is driving off the field without finishing! He’s already calling to his wife to bring out some towels!”

“I can’t really see his wife rushing out to help Augustus. She’s a pretty avid reader.”woman-reading-a-novel-in-the-comfort-of-her-home-361x544

“You are correct Bill. I can see her through their living room window. I can’t be sure, but it looks like she is shaking her head. Yes, yes she has officially turned her attention back to her novel.”

“Looks like Augustus will to have to dry off his machine himself. Perhaps deservedly so, Bob?”

“He did cease play of his own accord. This might be considered by many to be a disgrace.”

“His fans would argue that the lightning chased him away. He was only being prudent.”

“Bill, I have a feeling his obsessive cleanliness regarding his tractor is what stopped him.”

“You know I agree with you Bob. But either way, this match is over. No winner; a first in this region. Looks like we’ll have to wait until next year to see who will be Gladiator of the Grass.”

“Bill, it occurs to me that we’re sitting on aluminum chairs. In lightning. Care to join me for a cold one indoors?”lawn_chair_12

“Beer me, Bob. Beer me. For Bill and Bob—“

“—and Bob and Bill—“

“So long, Lawn Lovers!”

Be Kind, Rewind

The salesman knows nothing of what he is selling save that he is charging a great deal too much for it.” -Oscar Wilde

**********

“Come on folks, come on over!”

There are many intriguing sights on the waterfront.  In the early morning the construction workers begin their work.  The paper delivery man fills up the metal stands with the latest news.  The back of his van gathers more and more yesterdays, now much less exciting and imperative than they had been just twenty-four hours ago.

The second set of ferries makes their way to the pier.  Not the first ferries; those early transporters of cars and commuters are the fanatics.  They get up a little too early.  The boats after those, they are the early rising (but not too early) workers that get things ready for the rest of the world.

“It’s never too early for a good bargain!  Why be just any ol’ early bird who gets the worm when you could be the wise and savvy early bird who nabs a salmon?  Why be a boring sparrow when you can be a fearsome eagle, swooping down on only the best?  Yes, my deals are like nothing else out there!”

The water is remains calm, but also dark.  The streets shine their lights, still on a low setting so as not to waken the neighbors.  The beacons, the LEDs atop stadiums and the worker lights can all be seen across the lake.  The artificial lamps add a pleasant orange glow that tides the citizens over until the sun deigns to officially approve of the new day with its presence.  The world will wake up soon, but the bustle and drive has not quite kicked in to full speed yet.

“You say you don’t wanna be taken?  Well I’m the one who should be weeping, what with the low low, bargain-basement prices I’m offering today only!”

No one has yet informed Pete Fanstro of any of this.  In his mind, four a.m. is the perfect time to make that first big sale of the day.  Pete strives for that sale that will make his ledger happy and fill the pages with black pen instead of the dreaded red.   That is, if Pete were to keep a ledger.  He finds such matters as accounting and budgeting to be trifling, stifling, and something best worried about by—”

“Fools!  Fools, I say!  Only a fool would pass up these amazing deals!  The big chains won’t offer ya these kinds of sales!  You can’t go surf for these massive discounts online.  And why would you want to?”

Pete likes to imagine himself an entrepreneur.  He has dreams, or “schemes” as his ex-wife would call them; that he knows for certain are guaranteed hits.  Regrettably, the rest of the world is not in synch with how Pete thinks.  He believes that true happiness has already been offered up to the public and they have rushed past it.  Pete sees himself as an antique dealer, but one with a very specific market.

“VHS tapes!  As great today as they ever were!  Now on sale for your own personal enjoyment!  Relive the childhood days!  Bask in the warm glow of a screen that fast forwards and reverses before your very eyes!  No silly ‘scene selection’ or ‘menus’ to worry with!  No internet connection required!”

vhs-cassette-tape-600x400Pete spent several years trying to collect enough tapes to fill his temporary structure.  To call it a building would be charitable.  The structure is as questionable as the ripped and splotchy cardboard sleeves that adorn some, but hardly the majority, of the hundreds of video tapes.  The walls are made of a metal that resembles tin or steel, however the rust muddies up any attempt to categorize the mystery material.  The garage door entrance that rolls up and down rattles only slightly more than the walls in a rainstorm.  However the brown/gray/green building leaks enough to keep any outdoorsman content.

“High quality goods here!  Some folks would try to sell you SLP tapes at a SP price!  No sir!  I could try to sell you Titanic on one cassette, but I offer you the original two-tape set!  No shortcuts were made to the standards in our establishment!”

The “goods”, have made themselves right at home.  Embracing the waterfront setting, the VHS tapes have taken to the moisture as much as possible.  They enjoy their showers in the rain.  When the tables are bumped just right, the kids’ videos are only too happy to dive into the puddles that have accumulated on the concrete ground and bathe themselves in the grime-infested waters.  Mold makes friends with the cardboard; the two have quite the loyal relationship, never being found far apart.  Batman logos have been faded gray, Superman logos have shifted to white and pink, and Die Hard’s battered container looks the part.

“I’ll tell you what I’m going to do.  We need a little excitement this morning!  So, for the next five minutes, and only the next five, if you come up to ol’ Pete and you buy ten VHS tapes?  I’m going to offer you a dual-deck VHS player for the bargain price of ten dollars.  That’s right, only ten dollars!  These marvels of electronics used to sell for hundreds.  Now one can be yours!  Take the tapes and record back and forth.  How you say?  Well, since we want your day to start off right, I’m going to throw in this blank 120 tape, mint in package.  For you sir, free!  Yes, you put the blank in the record deck, you put the movie in the other, and you can make your own edits!”

Mr. Fanstro tends to skirt the laws and regulations.  He does not pay rent on his space outside the abandoned building.  He knows that one day he will have to move.  For the moment, landlords seem more occupied turning pristine lots into apartment buildings than worrying about empty warehouses show no promise.  Police and federal officials could crack down on Pete for not paying taxes or for encouraging patrons to violate the wavy warnings that show in black and white before each movie.  Yet, the sad truth is that patrons and profits are so unfamiliar to Pete’s stand that it is not worth anyone’s time to enforce any rules.  His is a failed business by most standards.

“I know you’ve got different standards than most!  You want a movie with all the boring parts taken out!  Well you just record and pause, record and pause… and whammo!  Your very own personal edit!  Break the little tab off the corner and it will be yours to treasure forever.  What’s that?  Change your mind?  Why, one little piece of tape over that hole and you can record again!  Make a different tape over and over forever!  Live with one tape for all of eternity and never settle for the studios cut!  The choice is yours!”

Pete is no threat to anyone.  He resembles Saturn in many ways.  He is an oddity, has a large presence in his universe, and consists of the most curious rings.  His head is almost bald, but a small friar-like ring of hair clings on in defiance.  A series of almost-circles covers his head, made up of impossibly bushy eyebrows that often court a uni-brow label, a small patch at the back of his head, and a mustache that is full and comical.

600px-Girl_twirling_Hula_Hoop,_1958Further down he has a triple chin which has slid down his neck and hangs there like a hula hoop, wobbling and swooshing around, but never going away.  His arms are constantly in motion and the way he gesticulates and spins from prospective customer to the tables behind him creates the image of a cyclone of sales spinning faster and faster.

There, in his middle, is quite possibly the biggest spare tire a man has ever had.  Pete has lost quite a few pounds over the ages and his torso shows that.  But this sizeable perimeter of mass has refused to give up the ghost.  It juts out, creating something of a shelf for Pete’s elbows to rest on in those rare moments when his arms are not flailing about.

And then there are his knees.  Rain or shine, cold or warm, Pete insists on wearing shorts.  “Only a stuck-up salesman wears slacks”, he has often said.  “Wearing shorts gives me freedom of movement and makes the people know I’m one of them.  That’s crucial!”

Yet his knees are quite peculiar.  They are quite knobby, but his skin is rather loose.  So it appears that two poorly handled mangos have taken up residence in the middle of each leg.  The pair protrudes like their own little moons, maintaining a lopsided orbit in the solar system that is Pete’s physique.

“Sights like you won’t see again!  Lost World-Jurassic Park, still with the lenticular card that came with it!  Both Schumacher Batman films; complete with their ensemble covers!   And wait’ll you see the deal I offer you on our Jim Carrey collection!  It’s only surpassed by our Adam Sandler exclusive collector’s set!  You won’t find these steals elsewhere, because I’ve got ‘em right here!”

A large percentage of passersby feel sorry for Pete.  They wonder how he can possibly feed his family.  Nearby vendors, those patient or stubborn enough to tolerate his constant huckster calls; have never seen him with enough money to make a deposit.  They do not realize that none of this is for money, it is all for fun.

“Remember fun?  GooniesBack to the FutureAladdin?  Well, we got yer fun right here!  Don’t be a fool, be a memory-maker!  Share these bits of perfection with the whole family and still have some money for popcorn!”

cup-25180_640Anyone who has ever bought a cup of soda has ensured Pete’s livelihood.  There is a plastic lid for most cups.  And those lids have a small x-shaped hole in the top for the straw to go through.  Pete invented that x-shaped slit.  Every lid made, through the wonders of patents, has helped Pete’s bank account.  One would never suspect that the curious person in front of them, sagging in odd places and wearing too-short shorts, is the richest man they’ll ever come across.  But Pete has better things to talk about than money.

“VHS stands for ‘Very Highest Standards’!  Come, embrace the joy of it!  Cherish the memories!  You’ll never come across a store quite like mine ever again!”

Halloween is for the Birds

Drama is life with the dull parts cut out.” -Alfred Hitchcock

**********

Folks might leap to the conclusion that I outright hate Halloween. That is not quite the case. If others want to craft intricate costumes and go to parties, then I have no problem with that. I simply do not have that drive myself.

But I do appreciate when decorations go inappropriately wrong

But I do appreciate when decorations go inappropriately wrong

A large part of that stems from having met my quota for costumes. I work in a movie theater. When we had a big superhero flick opening, I was the one most willing to don the outfit. I was the person that dressed up as Batman four of five times. I put on a Spidey suit more than once. And I am here to tell you that the Iron Man suit is the most comfortable getup you will ever find. (The suit itself was not overly confining and the fake muscles were like little pillows you could take a nap on. ‘twas bliss.)

That being said, I should mention that most superhero movies come out between May and July. As the summer heat starts to really kick in, costumes become more problematic. batguysFor example; consider the setting for Batman Begins. It was Father’s Day weekend. We had invited some rather well-known Batman creators to come hang out with us on a sunny day. Our lobby is an all-glass building. And there I was, in a full-body, all-black, snug-fitting Batman costume, next to creators that I admire and tried not to geek-out over, all as the sun beat down and made that suit feel like my own little oven. I believe the best descriptor would have been “toasty”.

I have met my quota. Let the others adorn silly attire. I would rather not walk through the workplace and be attacked by fake cobwebs, but I chuckle when people squeal at a fake rat or some other harmless decoration. My annoyance at low-hanging skeletons is balanced by seeing those folks freak out over a spider that is clearly not real.

No, what I hate are birds.

Popcorn. When you introduce crumbled and spilled pieces of popcorn around an area that is half outdoors, you often acquire some trouble. Trouble with a capital “T” that rhymes with “P” that stands for pigeons. Oh, how I hate pigeons.

Running after pigeons and waving my arms wildly is beneath me. I am not three. I would rather walk up to them, use my height and loud stomping feet, and lecture angrily. I maintain my calm demeanor when met by the feathery cretins. I clomp around, I yell, and I throw things in the general vicinity of their perch but never actually at them. (I would never hit the little twerps, no matter how much I want to. I believe fear of being hit will suffice just as well as being bonked on the noggin.)

I am, in all ways possible, sick of this crap.

I am, in all ways possible, sick of this crap.

Monday I came across a particularly vexing pigeon. We had just installed some very ugly perch-pokers so that the birds would no longer sit above our entry doors and atop our sign. We thought our days of cleaning gobs, lakes, and assembled masses of poop were over. Sadly, this one pigeon had found a new railing to perch on. So I did what anybody would do and chased it off.

When I ventured back outside a few hours later, there was the pigeon again. “What do you think you are doing?” The pigeon continued to sit there in a curled up feather ball. If it were a puppy or a kitten it might have been cute. But I have seen what these little fecal-factories eat and how often their feathers fall out. “Cute” is not an attribute they possess.

“Hey! Scoot!”

The pigeon looked up a bit. There were elements of sleepiness and a touch of contempt in its beady little eye. There was no trace of repentance for trespassing in that tiny-beaked visage.

I waved my arms towards him as my feet stamped their disapproval onto the floor. Closer and closer I got until it flew up the staircase. I followed it and shooed it some more. Reluctant efforts to escape my badgering were made. At last, I got the pigeon to fly off into the rain. Only a random feather or two and a collection of poop were left behind.

You understand story structure. You know there is always a third arc. You know the villain of the story must return one last time to do epic battle with that noble hero.

(A refresher: I am the hero here. Me. I tear tickets and provide customer service. Pigeons create unsanitary environments and plague my existence. Me-good. Pigeons- harbingers of death and messiness.)

I came out to what I assumed was an empty area. It was after our daytime hours. The crowds were winding down. A pleasant stillness had descended on our grounds as it often does. Everything was okay. Until I saw it.

There was the pigeon. Again. Perched on the stairway railing. Again. Asleep over a giant collection of poop. Again. This time we both played for keeps.

I made my feet beat like warning drums. It ignored me. I yelled. It gave me the look of insolence. I approached closer. That was when the real fun began.

I neglected to mention that this stairway was halfway between the second floor and the ground floor. The pigeon had options on how to retreat. This time, it went down. I chased it, it flew downstairs. I chased it again. It circled to the left and perched on the floor. I chased it again. It circled more to the left, this time threatening to go in the office door. I chased it again. It circled to the left and threatened to go into the bathroom that had its door ajar. I chased it again. The bird circled to the left (Did it know that there was more than one direction to fly? Take a right, mix things up! Further proof that pigeons are idiots) and swooped over my head. I was convinced that the ne’er-do-well was out to scratch me or open its payload doors on my face. Thankfully, I escape unmolested.

After another series of two or three chases, the bird went up the stairs, out the upper courtyard, and flapped away into the rainy night.

I chose to believe that I had really won that time. Despite its greater reluctance to flee, I wanted to believe that our story had come to a conclusion. However, a tiny part of me was still cautious. In horror films, the unstoppable killer that is “slain” often comes back once more.

Those were the sort of thoughts I had as I walked to the downstairs bathroom a few hours later. I was ready to go home. My shift was coming to a close. And if I could just go the bathroom, bide my time in the theater, and keep anything from catching fire then I would be done for the night.

I walked up the railing, hoping that I would not see the same sight as before. It was clear! (Well, the poop was still there. But the giver of gifts had fled the coop.) I had won! Victory was mine. Strutting like a peacock, I walked to the restroom.

The door to the restroom tends to have its door propped open. This is partly to make it easier to find, partly to get fresh air from the outside, and partly to avoid that whole door-opens-into-someone’s face moment. (Which is comedy gold if you are prepared for it; less so if you just want to dry your hands and get out.) I strolled up to the urinal and took care of things. All was well. Or so I thought.

I like to think I have a feel of what is going on in my surroundings. I always recommend having a grasp of any unknown people or elements around you. At that moment by the urinal, my peripheral vision sent a warning straight to my brain.

I was not alone in the restroom.

There, by the sink-counter, was a bird. At least, I was pretty sure it was a bird. It was a large mass perched on the marble surface right by the door. My heart rate shifted into gear. I gulped. I knew exactly what had occurred.

The bird had plotted my demise.

We were in a confined space. Its wings, talons, and beak gave it the distinct advantage. It had been spurned and wanted payback. In order to get out the bathroom door, I would have to get past the beast bent on revenge. I zipped up my pants and did the only thing I knew I could do.

I turned around quickly, inhaled a sharp breath of courage, and charged towards my attacker! I would meet it face to face.

Or, as the case was, face to rubber.

For it was not the dreaded enemy of the skies and discarded corn that faced me. Instead, I was confronted by a fake vulture. The prop had been left there by my coworkers in their festive attempt to liven up the place.

Only the fear is real.

Only the fear is real.

Annoyed and embarrassed, I went back to my pigeon-less existence and finished my shift grumbling,

“fr#@*^-in’ Halloween…”


Hitchcock gets it.

The Mouse, the Pigeon, and the Tanka (Weekly Writing Challenge)

Technically I already answered the Weekly Writing Challenge on my other blog. But darn it, there is a story to be had here.

The early bird may get the worm, but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese.” -Jeremy Paxman

**********

The mouse had a plan.
He’d go out into the land.
Maybe a nice man
Had left a meal he found bland.
Late night munchies from a band?

House_mouseThe mouse ventured out
Towards a quite popular park.
Though he some doubt
About escaping a lark
Or a mean dog who would bark.
 

He became angry,
clenched his jaw and got brave,
Made himself mangy,
And scurried from his enclave,
Looking for food he could save. 

It was there he saw
A rather worrisome sight.
His nerves became raw
As he neared, ready to fight,
The pigeon lit by sunlight. 

The pigeon saw him.
He cocked his head and cooed.
On a simple whim
He lifted a leg, pooed,
And ignored what had ensued.
 

The mouse crept closer
For he saw food in the lane
Right by the grocer.
The bird thought the mouse mundane.
The mouse thought, “Whatta birdbrain”. 

So he took the treats,
Gave the pigeon a quick nod,
Went down the streets,
Took a nibble of old cod,
And felt that the bird was odd. 

untitledHe’s seen the bird since.
Near a park, by a swing.
It never looks twice.
The pigeon pecks at its wing,
The mouse grabs everything. 

With his limbs so full,
Carrying back his next meal,
Pausing in the lull,
The mouse wonders, “What’s the deal?
This supposed ‘threat’ ain’t real!”

Dough is Better than “D’oh!” (Weekly Writing Challenge)

No really. You should use the Weekly Writing Challenge.  Do it!  Or don’t.

“Nothing can bring peace but yourself.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

———-

Work was vexing Alan. Traffic had been terrifying, as usual. Sleep was not nearly abundant enough. And purring kittens were not allowed at work.

However, no one ever said Alan couldn’t make cookie dough at his desk. His hands and soul found a tranquil peace in the kneading and gnashing.

 

lead_chocolate_chip_cookie_dough_560px

Intermission: Horrbily Awry

Howdy,

No, I haven’t given up writing.  I can’t do that.  However, I do worry that my stories start to sound the same.  And I don’t want to crank out the same thing over and over with only little details changed.

However, I ain’t done yet.  Like it or not, I still think I have more stories in my brain.  If you want to jump ship, unfollow, or go about your business; now’s the time.  Be free!

For the rest of you… hi!  Long time no chat.  I find I have stuff to say that doesn’t always fit in a story.  Y’know, personal opinions, jokes, musings; stuff like that.  So, I’m here to officially announce… a second WordPress site!  What!!!

…Of Course, This Could All Go Horribly Awry” is live.  Now.  Click away!  (And follow if you’d like.  Up to you.)  I have thoughts on Jesus’ DNA/ blood.  I have an elevator question up my sleeve.  And you know I have opinions about stupid movies.

If you like my attitude, maybe even my style?  Join in.  These’ll be less fine-tuned (certainly less pictures from public domain), and much more personal.

And if you don’t want to join in?  That’s understandable.  For you, this video so you don’t feel like I wasted your time.  Enjoy!  Gratis!

Phone Your Friend (or, “Phone; Your Friend?”)

Well, if I called the wrong number, why did you answer the phone?” -James Thurber

———-

PHNFGHT

In the battlefield of my mind, all army helmets look like turtle shells

There have been many phones over the course of my life.  I can count them all on one hand but the adventures we went through together are endless.  I was dragged kicking and screaming into the cellular age, and I am still wondering when one of the sides is going to win the conflict.

The first salvo was thrown in the form of a Samsung flip-phone.  This phone was forced upon me.  I have never seen myself as important enough to need a portable communication device.  However, as part of an upheaval at work, I was overruled.  As it was explained to me, it was desired that I be readily available “just in case”.

To ease the transition, the cost of the phone was covered by my boss and I was allowed to charge two-thirds of the monthly bill back to the company.  All that, and I was granted the request that I could keep my phone turned off on Sundays.  Honestly, it was a rather beneficial arrangement; even if it was hoisted upon me.

The phone itself was rather unassuming.  This was back in the days when small was the biggest selling point.  It did not matter that my coworker could not type in numbers on his phone without using the very tip of his fingernail.  He was proud that the battery was bigger than the phone itself, and that when the devil was all put together, it resembled a matchbox car.  Ah, the simpler times of early cellular phones.

My durable little Samsung was about the size of miniature computer mouse.  It fit neatly in a small pocket, and it survived a swim in Lake Washington.  For a first phone, it was benign.  That little guy was an excellent covert operative in the campaign to lull me into dropping my guard.

Then the RAZR marched in a set up camp in my life.  Now, I was not of the elite club.  I did not get my RAZR at the start when everyone else was getting theirs.  I believe I was invaded by the RAZR3.  When RAZR’s were starting to turn pink and everyone was starting to be drawn-in to the iPhone hype?  That was the time when I went “high-tech”.

Yes, this phone could take pictures!  Video too!  And the buttons were raised with glowing lines in-between so the whole keypad looked like an alien insect’s thorax.  Yes, with my RAZR (and the not-so impressive looking plastic case that hung loosely to it), I was ready to go.  800px-Motorola_RAZR_V3i_03I could now play Scrabble on my phone.  I could sneakily take pictures of my friends when they were drunk.  Later I would look at the low-resolution, poorly-lit images and shake my head.  I tried to remember which of my friends now resembled a dark smudge with the beer glass nearby.  The digital age had caught up with me and I was curious at what would come next.

Along came another Samsung product, the Glide.  (After the RAZR, it was nice having a phone that was named after an actual word.)  The Glide encompassed a higher-resolution camera, but it was an epic struggle to conquer it.

This phone was my introduction to commercial touch-screen technology.  I had used touch screen computers and registers, but never one so demanding.  Unlike the last two phones, this screen was uncovered.  Scratches and cracks were now an everyday threat.   No more could I defiantly slam the phone shut with a hinge.  No, I had to use up what could have been dramatic seconds to push my thumb to a button or a screen sector.  The only protective measure I could buy was a bulky rubber case.

800px-Samsung_Captivate_Glide_-_SGH-I927_-_011

brought to you courtesy of Wiki Commons. Specifically, these folks.

To my dismay, when I tried to take a photo my thumb had to go right in the corner, against the high ridges of the case, and try to tap that one little corner “just-so” where the button was located.  To say that the widescreen display and I had a hate-hate relationship is putting it mildly.  However the videos I played on my phone looked better, sounded better, and this phone had a slide-out keyboard!  Texting, by then a must-adopt form of technology, had never been easier.  The phone had a decent weight to it, like a grenade in my hand, waiting to explode.

After growing constantly weary of the bulk of the Glide (sliding keyboards take up valuable pocket space), I waited once again for my plan to expire.  Thus I met my latest attacker of my sanity, a smaller brand that goes by the name of… um… something.

The actual model is as forgettable as the company that sent it into battle.  I chose it because out of the three pages of phones my provider offered, it was the only one that was free and did not require an upgrade.  Despite all the glowing accolades my friends toss my way, I do not yearn for a smart phone.  The quickly-sapped battery, the fully-exposed screen, the double or tripling of one’s bill; it is not for me.

I would not say that this phone has been kind to me.  The receiver volume is far too low and I hunch over to hear what the other person is saying.  (I refuse to believe that this is old age setting in.  It cannot be.  The phone must be to blame.  It must!)  The camera is fine, the mini-keyboard is okay; it is, to sum it up, adequate.  I have a phone that I have no strong loyalty towards, and it clearly is plotting against me.

Why bring all this up?  Why relive a decade of phone usage and the quirks and trials we have quarreled over together?  Well, my biggest complaint about the most recent phones is actually something my provider has done.  At some point, “They” decided that my voice mail should be number one on my speed dial.  That was the cannon-shot that still resonates across the battlefield.

On my first two phones, my best friend was my number one speed dial setting.  I held down “1”, and soon I was directed to her inbox.  (Best friends understand when the other is too busy to answer.  Which for her, is always.)  She has always been number one. CELFGHT Ever since high school, long before “cellular” got shortened down to a four-letter word (in many, many ways), she was my comrade in arms.  She is the one I go to, the one who all “romantic possibilities” are judged against, and the one who knows all the dirt on me.

When a company turned combatant disregards that bond, they have committed a dishonorable affront.  “They” should be number two, not her!  Her birthday is tomorrow.  Can I really face her knowing that some group of satellite dishes and towers thinks she should be demoted the rank of number two?  (She might actually appreciate it.  If anyone likes a good “number two”, joke it’s her.  Potty humor; I tell ya.)

Still, I get my revenge.  The first call that I make when any phone is activated, the number that I have had memorized all this time?  It is her.  I call the best friend first, everybody else come later.  That is how it has been for almost twenty years, and that is how I like it.

Of course, in a cruel way of showing me I can only control so much in the cellular versus human conflict, the call inevitably goes to voice mail.

Writer’s Digest(ion)

I will follow my instincts, and be myself for good or ill.”  -John Muir

**********

Consider this your first and only warning; if you are a person who finds that the sight of someone being sick makes you sick?  Then perhaps this story is not for you.  Hypochondriacs should take this as their cue to exit the story.  Should you decide that a story on nausea will not sit well with your stomach, I shall even give you the moral up front.  Ready?  It all comes back to the beginning.  The third part of a movie trilogy should make a reference to the first part.  Comic book origins will be retold (and in some cases retold and retold and retold; I am looking at you, Superman).  From the ground we come and to the ground we all return.  Food is no exception.

Consider yourself warned.  It's -that- kind of story.

Consider yourself warned. It’s -that- kind of story.

Happily, I tend to be like that episode of Seinfeld.  I throw up once every decade or so, usually less.  When folks ask why I do not drink, my hatred of puking is often cited.  Everything about vomiting sounds horrible.  There is the sight of one’s breakfast returned to them in the evening, the smell, and that tightening of the abdomen that you cannot control.  I do pretty much whatever I can to avoid that sort of occasion.  Still, even I get food sickness.  Again, I am fortunate enough that it does not happen too often.

The first memory that I have of such illness was in college.  I had been working as a cashier the night before and had been on a break.  I, much like Winnie the Pooh, had a rumbling in my tummy.  And the loading dock had a vending machine.  So, in all of my infinite wisdom, I put in my change, made a selection, and chomped away.

Now, in case this is not a lesson that you have learned already, let me make it abundantly clear.  Never, under any circumstances, buy meat from a vending machine.  Certainly not one at work that you know is only sporadically restocked with fresh product.  I know what you are thinking.  “Oh, but it’s vacuum sealed.  That means it’s okay, right?”  I am sure there is some scientific mumbo-jumbo we could throw back and forth, but here is my stance on the matter:  No.  Don’t do it.  Ever.

However, hindsight is twenty/twenty.  I was nineteen.  I was a silly college kid who was munching on two small logs of meat, enjoying the slightly spicy sensation in my mouth.  Had I known that I would soon be reliving that spiciness, I would have been less enthused.  (They later not only moved the vending machines, but they stopped carrying the meat sticks.  Still, whenever I see a vending machine of any variety, I approach it with a wary eye.)

Work ended, I slept, and the school day was upon me.  I was scheduled to perform some sketch in drama class that day, but my tummy was rumbling in a different sort of way.  (Instead of Winnie the Pooh, picture Tigger exercising his right to be “bouncy pouncy” over and over.)  I told the T.A. that I was not going to be up for assignment.  She told me it might affect my grade, and I nodded as I made my way out of class.

Right outside of the drama building there is a small patch of grass.  There are little concrete pathways around the perimeter, the brick building serves as a wall, and a tennis court is visible from its soft green terrain.  In the summer and spring quarters, it is not unusual for the students to set up a volleyball net and have a go at relieving their study-induced stress.  The grass is just big enough for the court and ten to twelve students, but no larger.  In the fall, the leaves lay happily on this patch of greenery.  It is, to put it simply, a pleasant escape from the large dwellings of academia.

I walked down the stairs of the drama building, and not ten steps into that grassy field, I fully embraced my own “escape” onto the grass.  Had I stayed in class five minutes longer I would have become the star of the day.  No one would have doubted my dedication to keeping an audience’s attention.  However, I was always more of a backstage tech than an actor, and therefore I was quite happy that my performance was seen by no one except whatever poor bugs were crawling around in the grass.  I groaned out thanks to God that my vomiting hadn’t occurred inside, and I made my way home.  That was my oh-so joyous food poisoning of ninety-nine.

It only looks like it's your friend.

It only looks like it’s your friend.

Flash forward fourteen years.  I am now an enlightened movie usher.  I know how my stomach works, I have control over my abdomen, and I had just taken the food handler’s permit test the week prior.  For the fourth time in a row, I had scored one hundred percent.  I was much wiser than the college-version of me.  I brought my food with me and happily placed it in the work microwave.  Being a professional food handler, I knew exactly why the instructions on my turkey pot pie warned me to make sure the food was heated to one hundred and sixty-five degrees.  Yet one of the many amenities you will not find near a work microwave (such as forks, napkins, plates, or canaries to sing you a merry song), is a thermometer.  I followed the instructions, thought the food was a little cool in places, but decided that everything would work out just fine.

Again we fast forward to the day after.  I was having a rather quiet day at work.  I had watched an episode of S.H.I.E.L.D., done some reading, and generally kept the store from falling into a state of catastrophe. The usual customers had come in, there was a sense of calm about the place; all was well.

Then I started to feel cold.  Then warm.  My temperature is always pretty steady.  I can wear shorts in the fall, flannels in the spring; I don’t suffer great shifts in warmth.  Yet, the store felt cold all of a sudden.  I looked at the thermostat panel and everything seemed like it should be fine.  A few minutes later I was still feeling odd.

I found myself light-headed even though I was sitting.  I hadn’t moved quickly and I didn’t feel overly feverish.  I started to wonder if the sickness that had been sweeping through my coworkers had finally decided I needed to be dealt with.  My stomach protested the loudest.  I acknowledged its grievances and took action the only way that seemed logical.  I headed to the bathroom.

Like this, but -cleaner-.

Like this, but -cleaner-.

Thankfully my store has a reputation for being clean.  Even the bathroom floors are clean enough to sit on without complaint.  I can now attest to that fact.  Sure enough, with a little effort, some “secret ingredients” that I’m hopeful that the KFC next door has never used were vomited up.  It took a few tries, but I got it all out of my system.  I was rather pleased at how mild a case it had been.  Honestly, an hour later I was feeling much better.  (Which should serve as a lesson on gluttony; never buy two pot pies, nor should you opt for the Hungry Man size.  And if you do, nuke the crud out of those things.)

Now the question you’ve all been wondering.  Why the sam hill am I telling you this?  Am I bragging that I’ve only had food poisoning twice?  Am I this desperate for a story?  Am I a masochist when it comes to masticating?  Nope.  I simply want to point out that what goes around comes around; food for thought, if you will.  And that will become clearer when I share the piece of information that I left out.

Let us revisit the vending machine that I purchased the meat from.  I told you that they moved it, but I did not go into details.  The truth is, they moved it only a few feet, just around the corner.  In its place, they put a filing cabinet.  And on top of that filing cabinet?  Why, they gave us a nice little microwave; the same microwave that I heated up my pot pie in.  I in effect poisoned myself twice; both in the exact same spot.  I returned to the scene of the crime, in more ways than one.  It may take fourteen years, but much like an ill-chosen dinner will prove; what goes around comes around.

Being a Good Friend (Weekly Writing Challenge)

(It’s not my typical way of writing a story, but the Weekly Writing Challenge wanted me to be all personal.  So, I’ll tell part of a story that’s been three hundred and fifty years in the making.)

When we really want to hear, and be heard by, someone we love, we do not go rushing into noisy crowds.  Silence is a form of intimacy.  That’s how we experience it with our friends and lovers.  As relationships grow deeper and more intimate, we spend more and more quiet time alone with our lover.  We talk in low tones about the things that matter.”  Brent Hill, Holy Silence: The Gift of Quaker Spirituality

**********

“Why do I feel like I’m always the one talking when we get coffee?”

“I always feel like I’m unloading on you.”

“Now, don’t tell anyone else I said this.”

Much of my life is spent not talking.  As someone who slings coffee twenty hours a week, you’d be amazed, stunned, and entertained at the things people tell me.  When I go on a walk with a friend, odds are that they’ll have more to say than I will.  Oh sure, I have my opinions.  I spend hours a day thinking and arranging my thoughts.  However I can almost guarantee that I’ll be the quiet one.  And what can I say; it’s all in my upbringing.

Now, my quiet stance can be traced to my family numerous ways.  For one thing, we’re all nerds.  My brother, my sister, my mom, my dad, the in-laws; every adult wears glasses.  For each child that’s born, you should simply start taking bets on when they’ll get the ol’ four-eyes nickname.  It’s a foregone conclusion.  Our idea of “family visiting” is sitting in the same room reading our books or surfing our laptops.  That’s quality together time on our world.  Doctorates, analyzers, engineering degrees; we’ve got ‘em all.  I was taught about DOS prompts (ask your parents) when I was five.  We’re nerds who always have our noses in a computer screen or a book.  However, I think our religious upbringing plays the biggest role in me being slow to speak.

Nine generations ago my family started being Quakers (or Friends, if you prefer).  They tried it out a few hundred years ago, it worked for them, and it carried forward.  Now, here I sit, content with my religion.  Some family members have found different routes that work better for them.  (We still love each other regardless.  Honest.)  For me, I can’t imagine anything other than Quakerism.  I don’t like every single thing about my church, but the history works well.  I like how they treated Native Americans, women in leadership, and their roots in The Underground Railroad.  Also, and perhaps most pertinently to this, they are big on sitting and listening.

800px-Treaty_of_Penn_with_Indians_by_Benjamin_WestThere are two kinds of Quaker service, programmed and unprogrammed.  Programmed will flow like most church services.  There is a message, some songs, and announcements.  But my favorite part is where, for at least ten minutes after the message, we sit and listen.  We listen to the thoughts in our heads, to what God’s telling us, and to what our fellow congregants feel led to share.  Go with me Sunday morning and you’ll sit in a large room with a solid chunk of silence.  In this busy world, it’s quite freeing.

Unprogrammed is a more extended version of those ten or so minutes.  There is no planned message, no edict on how to proceed.  The gathering simply sits and enjoys the quiet until someone feels like they have something to share.  Many times there will be an hour where no one says anything.  Whichever service one attends, programmed or not, there is a concentrated effort to spend time in silence.

That works for me.  I wake up at four in the morning and spend a good thirty minutes reading my Bible, scratching the cat, and making very little noise.  When I get on the bus, that’s another thirty minutes for me to sit still, not listen to music or read, and try to filter out the noises in the world.  By the time I’m at work, I’m about as calm and centered as I can be.

When I find something that bothers me, I sit with it.  I turn it around in my head.  I try to figure out how this one incident fits into the big picture.  I can’t guarantee that I refrain from outbursts altogether, but my go-to behavior is to be quiet and think it out.  Save the discussions until I’ve fully formulated my thoughts.

That’s how I end up being the listener with most of my friends.  Even in school I was the quiet one, though comics certainly helped that along.  But when my friends and I go for a walk, odds are they will be saying what is important to them.  I’ll take what they say and try to listen.  If I feel like I have something to say, then I will.  However most times I’m supposed to be shut the sam hill up and let them vent.  I find that my friends need less advice in their lives and more hugging, so that’s what I do.

And yes, I realize that sometimes it is hard to get a conversation out of me.  I can go months without chatting with a new coworker.  I can spend three days sitting at home without calling or checking in with anybody.  I see the downside to the way I do things.  I’m certainly not the exciting one at any party.  Yet from where I’m sitting, I think it’s better to keep my trap shut, process all my thoughts, and then be sociable.  It’s worked for eight other generations of Quakers, so I’ll take my cue from them.

Avoiding Neverland

A teacher's reflections on preparing teens for life

Late~Night Ruminations

...for all the ramblings of my cluttered mind....

Short...but not always so sweet 💋

Life is a series of challenges ~Happy endings are not guaranteed

Running Away To Booktopia

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guclucy5incz5hipz

Exploring my own creativity (and other people's) in the name of Education, Art and Spirituality. 'SquarEmzSpongeHat'. =~)

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This blog, swallow you whole

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Listful Thinking

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The Byronic Man

We can rebuild him. We have the technology... Drier. Hilariouser. More satirical than before.

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A one-year chronical of no flirting, no more dating and absolutely no sex.

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Workshop Leader, Storyteller, Grantwriter,