Urinal Ettiquette

Oct 14, 2002

I don’t know if the stigma of using a public bathroom to defecate was brought
on by genes, public perception, or just the plain nastiness of the normal
gas station potty but it’s there. When I got to go #2, I’d rather do it
at home – thank you very much. Unfortunately, it isn’t always my choice.

It certainly wasn’t my choice this weekend but there I was. I wouldn’t be
settling down with a magazine or newspaper here.
Just do your business and get out. And get out I did. If you are going to
choose a time to poop clean, this is the time. Occasions like this
are like a little victory, making you want to do a little jig. I did, however, precede to pull up my pants before starting my dance steps.

Aren’t you glad that story is out of the way. Me too. How about one more?

The rules of urinal ettiquette are widely known and generally recognized
within the race of men, the world over. When a soul flaunts these
unwritten agreements, it harms us all folks. These very simple
pronoucements go something like:

  1. Thou shall always choose the urinal farthest from any currently occupied

  2. In the event that all urinals are empty, thou shall choose
    an end, allowing all others to easily follow rule number 1 (see above).

Unfortunately, the person in front of me as I entered the mall bathroom
this weekend must have been from Mars (or Kentucky, you never can tell).

The bathroom in question had a simple row of four urinals. The first three,
starting on the left were the normal, adult-sized urinals. The last urinal,
found on the right, was a child’s urinal (girls, this one has its height adjusted
to allow the short tikes among us easy access). The man in front of me
happily took stand-up latrine number 2, directly in the middle of the three
adult-sized urinals.

Hold up. Foul. Ref, blow the whistle on this guy. Ten yard penalty.
What was I to do? Do I shuffle in next to him and ignore his sad
breach of ettiquette? Or do I suck it up and take the junior pee pot,
glad to get some distance between him and I?

You guessed it. I had to aim down.
I suppose I felt a bit foolish for my choice. At least I didn’t have to worry
about him asking for my phone number.

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Daily Chores

Oct 6, 2002

I mowed my lawn today. Yeah, I know, not the most exciting thing in the world,
but it sure needed to be done. I didn’t want to do it. I really
didn’t. And this time my reasons extended beyond my normal fits of laziness.

I’m not afraid to admit that the tragic
shootings of the last week were
roving around in my brain as I pondered whether or not to strap on
the grass-proof shoes and venture into the yard. However, I am
a bit ashamed that a touch of fear factored into my eventual decision.

The actions of a coward have invaded my little world, much to the
happiness of the person responsible. I don’t doubt that this was
the intended effect and, because of that, anger grips me.
Who’s doing this? Why? Is it some lone wolf who has gone completely
off their rocker? Is it a directed terrorist attack?
Each shooting seems closer to home, closer to family,
and closer to me.
Taken separately, each attack is a horrible occurence, taking advantage
of the daily life of a few to spread anger and fear.
Taken together, these events are truly tragic.
As spoken by the Montgomery County Police Chief this morning, these
attacks are

In starting the mower, a taste of fear and uncertainty swept through
me. I took stock of my surroundings.
The neighborhood was quiet – earily quiet. It was early
and only the sounds of the occasional passing
car accompanied me. It was as if the community were bracing for trouble – people shrouded in their homes, pondering the unknown danger ahead.
The sidewalks and yards were devoid of life, standing in stark contrast to
the simple activities that brighten a normal Sunday morning.

Not long after I began my yard work, the neighborhood slowly, but surely,
came alive. A mower growled to life across the street. The whine of a
weed wacker could be heard coming from a neighbor’s house.
Maybe I broke the ice. Maybe I led the charge back to normalcy,
where panic and somewhat irrational fear
are replaced by the daily drone of life. Maybe I’m giving myself way to
much credit.

It did make me feel better to get out and face my shadow. It made me
feel even better to see my lawn properly manicured. But, sadly,
it’s apparently not over. More of the innocent die. I hope
the bad guys can be captured and quickly brought to justice. The lives of the
innocent are not cannon fodder for madmen of the world and I need
few new reasons to avoid cutting the grass.

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Car Daze

Oct 1, 2002

My Trans Am and I are buddies, despite the fact that cars are, by
definition, female (don’t tell the wife). Unfortunately, my buddy
has run into some trouble of late.

It all started this weekend. Given that my car was dirty, and
the knowledge that I’ve been
that fact for a little while, I decided to
spend some time giving it a clean shave. A trip to the car wash,
some vacuming, and a splash or two of glass and tire clean later
and the car was looking good. Vroom, vroom – happiness abounds.

All that cleanliness did not go unpunished. Wandering out to my
vehicle Monday morning, I noticed something quite distressing:
someone had been kind enough to decorate the side of my car with
a permanent black magic marker. I did not appreciate their artistic
talent, or lack thereof. Great work. Just wonderful, I mused.
I hope to God I can get it out of my white paint. Thankfully, a
mixture of bug and tar cleaner and a little tender use
of brake fluid removed the squiggly line.

(By the way, I learned the the brake fluid trick on the night of my
wedding. The festive invitees of our wedding were kind of enough
to use shoe polish to help celebrate the day,
despite the fact that shoe polish is just a special form of paint. Brake fluid will
work but be careful, its not good for your paint job. Needless to
say, the old Mercedes still said “Just Married” on the trunk when I
sold it several years ago.)

The whole incident pissed me off but I’m over it. I’ll be keeping
a closer eye on my vehicle from now on, particularly when it’s parked
on the street. If I’m ever given the opportunity to avenge
this heiness act, I’d know I’m more creative than physical violence.

A half an hour later, I was finally off to work, happy to put it
all behind me. The scene that awaited me when I approached the
car for a trip to lunch did not put a smile on my face. The
landscaping guys had been hard at work mowing the grass and I,
unfortunately, had parked right next to the building. The vehicle
that I spent a couple of hours cleaning this weekend, was now
partially green.

Thankfully, the drive home that night reminded me why I purchased the
car in the first place. Because of my late arrival and matching exit
from work, there was little traffic to fight. The night air was cool,
the sky was clear, the T-tops were off, and the radio was playing
some sweet tunes. Glad to have you back little buddy. Hope you are
feeling better.

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Sep 26, 2002

Can you return a faulty Kleenex
box? Really, can you? The Kleenex box
in the bathroom stopped working properly a couple weeks ago and
we wait it out, hoping for the arrival of the bottom of the box. Why?
Well, because its just Kleenex.

The tissues no longer poke their head out of the top, just tempting
their use. No, our box now forces you to rummage to the bottom, grabbing
at the thin paper hankie with your finger tips. Is there no justice in this
world? Would the cashier not laugh in derision if I brought it back
for a refund?

The last week has been pretty normal, as normal times go. Saturday was
spent celebrating my father-in-law’s birthday with a
dinner at home and a viewing of
Monsters, Inc. Sunday was relaxing, filled
with a trip to the mall with a friend and his offspring and a viewing of
the newest episode of the Sopranos.

Speaking of Monsters, Inc.,
it’s another brilliant stroke by
a company that just can’t seem to release a bad movie. Each and
every movie is a lovingly crafted sundae, covered in technical syrup for
the geeks among us and topped with wonderful story jimmies for
everyone else. The excellence carries over to the
which is just bursting with sugary extras — commentary, a tour of the studios,
a making of, you name it. Don’t miss the little short with the
birds. It’s just another example of their talent.

Speaking of the Sopranos, the show is just heating up.
Trouble is brewing and Tony’s on the prowl. This season looks
to be bit darker than the last three. The kids are growing up and
calling dad on what he is. The gang isn’t a solid or stable as it
was. The conflict within will surely breed another great series of
shows, a series that displays the best television has to offer. I can’t
help but think that the freedom
HBO offers is a breeding ground
for artistic talent (see
The Wire and
Curb Your Enthusiasm
for more examples). HBO has become well worth the price of admission.

I greeted the rain of today with just a bit of joy, an emotion that any
rain near my house would be unfamiliar with. The land is thirsty
and I think I miss the change in weather that the rain brings.
As a big admirer of the sun, I’m no fan of rain; but the break in
a week or month that a spout of rain can bring is sometimes refreshing.
Maybe it makes the sun shine brighter. If nothing else, it makes
the grass shine greener.

Jeez, look at me getting all sappy. I better go get myself a

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Labor Weekend

Sep 6, 2002

What a busy, busy labor day weekend. The wife finally talked me into
completing a
house project
we started quite a while ago. For those that don’t rememeber,
the project in question was brought about by a small scale war inside of our
closet – a war that neither the wife or I witnessed first hand. Our lack of
attendance, however, didn’t free us from the job of cleaning up the aftermath.

As a result, the closet enjoyed a nice demolition and rebuilding project
more than a month ago. Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you ask the wife), the
closet renovations meant that, all of a sudden, the colors of our bedroom
walls didn’t match our closet at all. The closet was now a nice mixture
of burgandy red and light grey which, not by accident, matched the
bedroom comforter perfectly. The bedroom itself, however, was a
beautiful shade dingy yellow.

Actually, it was the dingy yellow from hell. You might think that hell is painted
with a red brush but my personal hell is probably painted with antique white, the
slightly off-white of the ages.
Somebody, somewhere probably dropped some yellow paint into a vat of white and said, “Wow, perfect.” After all, who doesn’t want walls that look like a mix
of dried parchment and the hair of a ninety year old ex-blonde who hasn’t
quite lost that yellow tinge. We could have pasted the original copy
of the
on the wall and not have been able to tell where it ends and the wall began.

Apparently, antique white was once popular, particularly with the older
crowd. Since we bought the house from a little old lady, I suppose it’s
no surprise that the house was covered with the stuff. That and the
obligatory “old person” smell just came with the territory.
I still have nightmares of trying to rid the house of that stink. I had
always assumed that smell came from a nasty concoction of Ben-Gay.
In this case, it turned out to be mothballs – mounds and mounds of mothballs.
I found them everywhere. Closets, cabinets, the crawl space – no place was
safe from the mothball infection. I found them for months after we purchased the house. But I digress…

Here’s a tip for would-be painters. Never — I repeat, never —
paint a room two different colors. It’s simple multiplication.
Two colors means double the taping, double the painting,
and double the waiting. I suppose,
if you get technical, the physical area doesn’t change (not that I wouldn’t
have sworn it did over the weekend), but where you would normally put two
coats of paint, you now have four. Waiting for four separate coats of
paint to dry is as exciting as it sounds. It made for a long weekend where I
can’t actually say I worked hard, I just worked over and over again.

When it was all complete, the wife and I congratulated ourselves on a job well
done. The room now looks worthy to be our nightly resting place,
making the end result worth the toil. Now its
on to the baby’s room. I wonder how long I can put that one off
(hint – I bet it won’t be more than 4 months).

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In Need of a Hand Job

Aug 29, 2002

I love
Don’t get me wrong. I understand they are bad for the
environment. I know the farmers and plant life of the world need water to
fall from the sky. I’m aware that it that it throws a bit of a wrench into
the normal workings of the world. But rain has never been my thing,
particularly in the summer.

No rain means I rarely wash my car. No rain means my
grass doesn’t grow; my lawn mower is free to sulk in the shed.
No rain means I awaken to the sun in the sky,
nary a cloud in sight. No rain means weather suited for
softball and picnics.

But this is getting out of hand.

The grass in my yard cries out like a bowl of
Cap’n Crunch
when I walk upon it.
The trees in the yard have given up hope, wilting under the pressure and
often tossing their leaves to the ground in protest.
Water restrictions
are getting tighter and tighter, halting me from saving my poor
old grass and, even worse, giving my car the proper cleaning that it deserves.

Keeping my car clean is a bit of an obsession;
an obsession that I started long ago. My first car, a 1984 Ford Escort was
probably the cleanest 1984 Ford Escort on earth. It was clean inside and
out. (Has anyone else seen a clean 1984 Ford Escort? What about a brown one
in 1992?)
It became quite a badge of honor for me and an eventual annoyance for
my wife (who wants a hubby that critiques their car’s cleanliness every
time they enter it?).

The habit of keeping my car spic and spam continued through the years and
a second car. Not too long ago I purchased a
new vehicle, a 1998 Pontiac
Trans Am
(it is still new to me). The cleaning gods rejoiced.

I can’t say I’ve kept it as clean as I like. The problem with a reasonably
expensive car is that you need a job to pay for it. Factor in a house and
a wife and I just don’t have the time to spend with it that I did.
I have my lazy moments, but by and large the sports car has looked sporty
more often than not.

Our current drought has thrown its own tool into my normal cleaning plans.
No longer can I lovingly caress my white little vehicle back to health with
a shammy. No longer can I clean every crease and crevice. I’m relegated
to the community car wash, where even a manual wash cannot get the
Trans Am shine to my satisfaction.

I suppose that other people worry about important things, like the reservoirs
being low or keeping the greens green. But the
of today and yesterday has started a bit of musing.
I’ve got to get out there and wash that car. It’s filthy.

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I’ve come to a conclusion, a conclusion that every store in the world
has yet to grasp: personal credit card swipe machines are useless –
totally and utterly useless.
You know the kind. Stop by the cash register of any store, be in
Best Buy,
Sears, or
and an innocent looking grey or black box awaits a quick slash of your plastic,
just peering at your card like a hungry animal.

Life (at least life in the middle to late nineties) used to be simple.
Ring up my order, grab my plastic, and hand me the paper to sign.
The transaction between myself and cashier was quick, simple, and
largely the same from one store to the next. If you are lucky, they
may even glance at your signature and comment that you look nothing
like you do on TV. Debit and check cards were in vogue – as well they should be
(what is this cash thing I keep hearing about, by the way) – and
all was well with the world.

The ever present push of technology, however, spoiled this simple concept.
Someone, somewhere had the brilliant idea of taking the card swipe away
from the cashier. I’m not real sure on the reasoning here. Was
that act of card swiping just too complicated for the average cashier?
If so, who would think that the average consumer, without the aid of
literally hours of training, would be up to the task? Think
of all the time you’ll save. Yeah, right.

That someone didn’t realize that the average consumer is an idiot. Ever stand
behind someone trying to figure one of these things out?
Despite the fact that they exist in nearly every store in
existence, I’m almost willing to swear that everyone in front of me in line
is seeing them for the first time. They stare at the contraption like

Pandora’s Box
, tempting its evils to be unleashed.
You can almost hear the thought process:

“Where do I slide the card? Do I slide it up or down? Oops, I must have
flipped it around wrong. Nope, maybe I had it right the first time.
What’s this – a question? Is $3.86 ok? I think so. Let’s see, I had
a pack of gum, a bottle of water, and that magazine explaining that aliens
really do exist. Or was it two packs of gum?

“How would I like to pay for it? There are so many choices. I could
put it in on my credit card but the hubby might get upset. I could use
the debit option but I’m not sure what that does. What about my gas card?
Can I use my gas card?”


At this point, the cashier normally snatches the card from the patron
and completes the transaction for them; rendering the little machine
worthless. I happily beam from the back of the crowd.
Thank you, kind sir or madam for ending this travesty.
The machine itself sulks – its impotency revealed for all to see.

Cashiers seem so relieved when I appear to have a brain (note that appearing
to have a brain is normally as close as I often get) and seem to have a clue
how to work the machine. Pause ever so slightly while looking at the display
and a long digit of the cashier is almost certain to work its way in there,
prompting you along, eagerly forwarding this transaction towards
the next.

The fact that every store has a different one, each with its own tricks
and nuances doesn’t help the matter. I’d sign on the digital dotted line
if only I could see the display through all the ink that is written on it.

The department stores, grocery stores, and this and that stores of
the world need to stand up and declare that these things are useless –
totally and utterly useless. Your cashiers don’t like them.
Your customers don’t like them. You were duped. The eskimo bought the
refrigerator. The only result is a social experiment that we all
live every time we make a purchase. Take them away and lock them away
with the other failed ideas of the century, like

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Blogging Away

Aug 10, 2002

I’ve come to the conclusion that blogging is fun, if not at least an
interesting little diversion. Placing a couple of thoughts – be
they be funny, boring, or what have you – out on the web for
public perusal is certainly an interesting form of expression,
even if “public perusal” generally means just a couple of
friends and (very) assorted family.

The simple act of recording a thought, normally
without any real plan of action, often leads to a facinating
result. Sometimes I share an opinion. At other times,
it’s a recent experience.

Often I start writing and just “go with it”. A recent post about
I was reading was supposed to compare and contrast the
bathroom habits of the wife and I (I’ll save this one for later;
I’m sure everyone will be thrilled to read up about it) and
actually ended up being a book review. Sometimes I just want
to write. This can result in something entirely
or the
useless musings
of a man who may be closer to insanity than anyone thinks.

Blogging about blogging, particularly since I’ve only been doing it for
a short while, is sure to create some type of gap in the
time-space continuum; irreverance exposed. But it’s my space
and I’ll write if a wanna.

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The Sky is Falling

Aug 6, 2002

Ever have one of those days (or nights, in my case)?

After some cheerful “veg” time in front of the TV with the wife, I decided to go
upstairs, check my email, and maybe even write my next
That, however, was not meant to be (at least not right away).

I first knew something was wrong when I felt something “squishy” under
my bare foot just outside the kitchen. Anyone who owns a pet just knows
that this is a bad sign. (As a side note, the squishy game is something the pets and I play together every once and a while. Both pets eagerly await the
arrival of our
new child
, as I’m sure the he or she will happily join in and
probably teach them a thing or two in the process.) It seems that our cute
little kitty cat left me a present; a present that must have begun with
no small amount of hacking (again, those who own a cat know the sound).

While attempting to wipe away my cat’s little work of art, a trip up the steps
by my wife revealed that the kitty had been hard at work, obviously attempting
to turn our hallway into her own personal gallery of the grotesque. It wasn’t
really all that bad. After all, two cat pastries is hardly a surprise
anymore (why have one when you can have two) and it probably serves
me right for snickering about a
friend’s post on the same subject
earlier today. Oh Lord, what was that sound?

It came from my left. Did I really want to lift my head from the cleaning job
at hand to see what was the matter? Hey, what happened to the flower pot that
used to sit on the window sill? When did the floor of the kitchen become
the inside of an Indian teepee? Who fertilized the tile? Oh, there’s the flower
pot. It’s now over there. What used to be planted in there anyway?

It’s funny how just a couple of events can break up a perfectly good, and
perfectly peaceful, routine. A couple of bad events in succession
can make it seem like the world is quickly becoming unraveled; even if,
in truth, those events create only minor inconveniences. Maybe I should appreciate simple silence, like the quiet outside of my window right now,
a bit more and maybe I should appreciate the cat’s cute little purr each and
every time. After all, the next noise she makes could be much more

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Toilet Treasure

Jul 30, 2002

I’ve been spending a lot of time on the toilet lately – and not for why
you’d imagine. It seems that my habit of reading on the can has
grown a bit worse because of a recent purchase: Uncle John’s
Bathroom Reader –
Plunges into History.

Plunges into History is a book specifically created for perusal on
the porcelain bowl. It’s basically a collection of short stories of 1 to 3
pages that can be read individually. In this case, the stories themselves
are packed full of interesting little historical tidbits – normally taking the
humourous route of storytelling when available.

Some of my favorite topics include the perks of the black plague and the
“Dirty Secrets in the History of Hygiene”; let’s just say that you don’t
want to know where the phrase “getting the wrong end of the stick”
originated. Each story is well written and I get something out of each
one. Sometimes its just a laugh but one day it may the winning answer
in Trivial Pursuit.

My only problem with the book is the fact that the individual writers don’t
get any credit for their work. The book is rather gargantuan for one
of its type, clocking in at nearly 500 pages, and it is obvious that more
than one writer contributed. However, no measures are taken to present
to the reader the authors whose time and effort went into digging up the
neat little facts at hand.

Regardless, the book comes highly recommended. It has kept me glued to
my seat, so to speak, and that is quite a task when I’m busy with other
business. Not since I was being potty trained did I learn so much within
the walls of the bathroom. Take that as you may.

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