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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Day #127: Plant Your Pineapple

The Story:

“Remember people, aim low; you can only go up from there,” Herbert the ‘motivational speaker’ looked around at his audience of 106 eight graders, smiled and let the microphone drop to the floor. Well, that went well, he thought to himself sarcastically as he headed for the backstage exit of the school gymnasium.

After twenty-six years of similar engagements, Herbert could confidently say that things had officially hit ‘rock bottom’ in the school systems. For years and years Herbert’s message had been a simple one, work hard, don’t expect anything to be handed to you and stay away from people who try to bring you down. He stressed the importance of believing in one’s self as the core principle, encouraging students to use their creativity and intelligence to obtain their dreams.

There had been many success stories, students who took special inspiration from Herbert’s heartfelt words and used them to change their lives. Doctors, humanitarians, a few teachers-of-the-year and one Senator could all look back and point to Herbert’s presentation as the moment they knew they could do great things.

Herbert was fond of using a particular analogy during those early days- the story of growing a pineapple. Using this analogy he would compare the fruit to the cultivation of one’s self. That a person could enjoy the benefits of the fruit once and then dispose of it or they could replant the top and with a lot of patience and a willingness to nurture the slow-growing fruit they could have pineapple over and over. Herbert thought of the pineapple as kind of a fruity manifestation of what could happen if someone were to nurture their goals and motivation. They, like a pineapple, could be a one-time indulgence- a flash of possibility, or with work, time and stick-to-it-iveness they could be rewarded with a bounty of the fruits of their labor- a lifetime of achievement.

Then, slowly things began to change in the schools and for their students. Tests became the hallmark of the education system and creativity was soon squeezed out of the curriculum. But Herbert kept on delivering his message, hoping it would fall on at least a few ears that hadn’t been stuffed to the brim with another message- you’re only as good as this test says you are.

Little by little, nervous administrators began to ask Herbert to ‘alter’ his message ever so slightly, after all, filling students with the impossible hope that they could do anything if they worked hard enough was not really all that possible, now was it Mr. Herbert?

And now, finally, having whittled down his message according to the insistence of these administrators, Herbert was left with, aim within your reach, anything above that is impossible. He had stopped using the pineapple analogy years ago when he realized that the students’ spirit had been pummeled so systematically that a can of processed pineapple bits in high fructose corn syrup was as high as they were interested in striving.

Herbert walked to his beat-up station wagon and just sat in the driver’s seat, wondering if he had it in him to continue on or if it was finally time to hang up his hat. Sighing in defeat, Herbert reached to turn the ignition when he noticed something on his windshield. Heaving himself out of the car, Herbert walked to the front of his car (making a mental note to take it through the car wash on the way home) and removed what turned out to be a photo from beneath his windshield wiper. Adjusting his glasses, Herbert couldn’t help but grin at the image of a smiling girl of about sixteen holding up a small, golden pineapple. On the back, written in neat cursive he read:

Dear Mr. Herbert, I just wanted to say a small thank you for speaking to my class two years ago. I’ve never been excited about anything but when you spoke about growing our goals like pineapples I really wanted to try. It’s been two years since that day, and I finally see the ‘fruit’ of my labor. My own pineapple! Something I did all by myself! In addition to my pineapple I now grow lavender, sage, sunflowers and even grafted my own herb which I call “Herbert” in honor of you (it’s great with grilled pineapple!) So thank you for planting that seed of excitement, because of you I found my goal and plan on exploring a career in botany.

Sincerely,
Amelia Rodriguez

Amelia had found her ‘pineapple’ and in so doing had reminded Herbert that he still possessed his.

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The Not So Fantastic Reality:

The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:

Enjoying the fruit of my labor, delish...

ONE:      I love when I start a story with no stinkin’ idea which direction it will take. And then, as I hammer out the words, hoping that they make some kind of sense, I find myself at the end of the story and everything has somehow come together. It may not be the best story in the world, hell, it may be one of the worst, but the experience of writing and ‘watching’ the different components of the story fall into place on their own accord is really fascinating (to me anyway). I started writing tonight with one goal, write about pineapple, and BAM! a story busts out. Neato cheeto. After a long day at work, I really only wanted to accomplish one thing when I got home- cut up the pineapple that has been sitting on my countertop for the last few days and plant the top. You see, I’ve got it into my head that I would like to grow my own pineapple, a two-year endeavor mind you, but for some reason it’s something I feel inclined to do. I know, slow down Sam, you’re shooting for the stars on that one! Thinking about my ‘big goal’ for the day made me wonder about setting the bar low, which inevitably led me to thinking about our pathetic education system in this state. That’s a whole other story that my current good mood will not allow me to delve.

The effects of too much sugar before bed...

Love & Squirrels.

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Day #126: Old Enough

The Story:

“I’m still in a bit of shock,” Lizzy said breathlessly as she stared wide-eyed at Vicki.

“I mean to call me that? ME??? Can you imagine? I mean who does she think she is, anyway?” Lizzy went on, shock growing to outrage.

“In all my life, to be referred to as that? Of all the four-letter words, I think that is the most offensive. No I’m serious, Vicki,” Lizzy said as Vicki made signs of protesting. “I’ve been called a lot of things, a lot of not-nice things, but I have never felt more insulted then I did today,” Lizzy leaned back as if she meant to catalog aloud all the ‘not-nice’ things she’d been called in the past.

“I totally understand what you mean,” Vicki quickly interjected before Lizzy could continue her rant. Taking a sip from her Diet Coke, Vicki continued, “I almost lost it on one of the interns at work today for something similar”.

Putting down her beverage, Vicki scooted to the edge of her chair, “So there I was, finishing up some emails I’d been putting off, when in waltzes “lil miss I-think-I’m-too-cute-to-work-but-my-dad-thinks-its-good-experience” in her best “Business Barbie” get-up. I swear, Lizzy, I thought I was going to puke,” Vicki made a retching sound before grabbing for her Diet Coke. “So she’s asking me all these questions about what I do, blah, blah, blah, and as I’m listing off some of my main responsibilities her eyes get all wide and she interrupts me and says, get this… Oh wow, you do all that? That’s so much responsibility and you look so young? You must feel really lucky to have been asked to do all that and stuff, right? I mean you even have your own office and everything! Can you believe the nerve of that twit?!?” Vicki looked like her eyes were about to bulge out of her head as she took a reflexive pull from her Splenda-enhanced drink. “It was if she didn’t believe I was capable of doing my job! Like there had been some sort of mistake down in Human Resources and somehow I had been awarded this “sweet gig” as she called it,” Vicki rattled the remnants of her soda and peeked through the mouth of the can to confirm that she had in fact drained every last drop.

“You think that’s bad? That’s nothing compared to what that nitwit called me today,” Lizzy said, jumping at the opportunity to commiserate. “Like I was saying, I was just getting out of my car, heading to class and I see this blonde chick out of the corner of my eye coming up behind me from the bus stop. Before I know it, she’s yelling that word at the top of her lungs. Naturally, I didn’t think she was referring to me, why would I, so I just kept walking happy as you please. Well the chick wouldn’t stop so I finally turned to see what deaf person she was trying to grab the attention of, and would you believe it? She was talking to me,” Lizzy was overcome by a visible shudder.

“What did she say, exactly?” Vicki wanted to know. Now that her Diet Coke had expired, Vicki was giving Lizzy her full attention.

“Oh I’ll tell you. Those words will be burned into my memory forever. Her exact words were, Excuse me ma’am? Could you tell me where Engineering II is?  Imagine it! Calling me ma’am?!?! I mean, do I look like a ma’am? Seriously, I couldn’t have been more than a few years older than this chick. And to assume I’m old enough to be a ma’am?” Lizzy held out her hands as if there were no more words in the English language that could properly illustrate her bafflement.

The two girls sat and stewed over their individual assaults, each wondering if what they beheld in the mirror each day was the same visage the rest of the world saw.

“I’m old enough!” Vicki thought contemptuously.

“I’m still young!” Lizzy screamed silently, willing it to be the truth.

Neither of the twins dared to think of tomorrow, the day they would ‘celebrate’ their 30th birthdays.

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The Not So Fantastic Reality:

The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:

ONE:      I’m just going to say it- being a thirty-year-old woman-child is really confusing. I don’t feel old enough for many of the responsibilities I find at my doorstep (I still keep thinking someone older and wiser will pop in and give me advice before scurrying on to the next thirty-something in need) and for other things, I feel as if I have completely outgrown then or at the very least paid my dues to deserve them. Part of me was hoping that once the bell tolled ‘thirty’ I would magically feel more competent and confident… eh, not so much. I’m definitely crankier though. This conflict of I’m old enough/I’m too young manifested itself today in such a way that I had to laugh a little. First, as I’m walking from the parking lot to my building on campus, I’m stopped by a student who was in need of directions. “Ma’am, can you tell me where Engineering II is?” I was so disoriented by being addressed in such a way, all I managed to do was mumble something and point at the giant campus map not two yards in front of us. I remember thinking, “how does she know I’m not a student?” and “do I really look that old?”. Very demoralizing. I mean, I kind of pride myself on looking younger than my years. Then, later this afternoon, still not quite over the ma’am incident, a student I’m advising keeps making comments about how young I look, and she can’t believe I have my own office, and how lucky I was to have such an important job and such a young age, blah, blah, blah. I found myself puffing up life a defensive peacock and told her with much pomp that I was older than I looked and I’ve had responsibilities like these before, yada, yada, yada. So first I’m upset because a student thinks I’m old and then I’m all faklempt because a different student thinks I’m too young! There is no making me happy I guess… of course, had either of these students had had the foresight to offer me a Coke or a piece of chocolate they could have called me anything in the book. Just sayin…

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Love & Squirrels.


Day #125: What a Pickle

The Story:

Dave Pickle was in a bit of a pickle. Trying his best to act naturally, he slowly pushed the bite of cucumber, spinach and carrot to the side of his mouth with his tongue. “That’s a great question, I’m so glad you asked,” he managed to say, thankfully, without spraying his interviewer with bits of salad. Dave then went on to describe a few of the highlights of his previous position, all while working diligently to keep his half-chewed food safely tucked in the recess behind his left molar.

Man, he hated job interviews. Even worse, job interviews over lunch. Who on earth had come up with that idea, anyway? Here he was, ready to illustrate how professional, hard-working, intelligent and capable he was but all he could think about was the possibility of a spinach leaf the size of a Subaru becoming lodged in his front teeth. Finishing his response, Dave worked to swallow the impacted cud his salad had morphed into before they moved on to the next question. Concentrating hard on not up-chucking, Dave finally got it to go down.

“So Dave, your resume spoke to your experience supervising several other members of your team. Could you go into a little detail about your supervising style and philosophy?” the interviewer asked without looking up from his own plate (that was now almost completely devoid of food despite Dave’s inability to make a dent in his lunch).

“Well this is unfair,” Dave thought to himself as he began to answer the question. “Here this guy gets to chow down while I basically starve to death answering these damn questions! I swear if I don’t get to take another bite soon, I think I might just lose it,” Dave managed to contain these thoughts as he talked about the demoralizing effect of micro-managing. His stomach let out a demonic growl of protest.

“Maybe this was a test? Maybe the lunch was part of the interview?” Dave began to think. “Maybe how I balance the social awkwardness of trying to eat while speaking about leadership or how many accounts I landed is how this place weeds out the candidates who can’t hack it?” That thought sent a shockwave up Dave’s spine causing him to sit up a little straighter. “Well heck if I don’t get this job because of a dumb salad!” he thought defiantly.

For the remainder of the interview, Dave Pickle attacked the interviewer’s questions (and his salad) with renewed vigor, and, if he said so himself, he was knocking it out of the park. “I’d be surprised if he didn’t offer me the job on the spot!” Dave thought excitedly.

“Well Mr. Pickle, it really has been a pleasure meeting you and getting to know you a little better. I thank you for meeting me over lunch and taking time out of your schedule. We have a few candidates left to interview and expect to have a decision by the middle of next week. But between the two of us, I think it’s safe to say you are at the top of the heap,” the interviewer said as he shook Dave’s hand and gave him a little wink.

After such a shaky start, Dave left the restaurant with a swing in his step and started to whistle as he reached his car. “I think I just got a job!” he thought to himself as he began to back his Toyota out of the restaurant’s parking space.

CRUNNNCH!!!

Wincing from the sound more than the actual impact, Dave was afraid to see what the damage looked like, “Where had that guy even come from?” he thought. Climbing out of the driver’s seat, Dave slowly walked around the back of his car to see a very dinged up black Cadillac and… his interviewer looking very unhappy. Letting out an uncomfortable laugh, Dave said, “Hope this doesn’t hurt my chances?” with as much good humor as he could muster.

Looking at the damage to his practically new Cadillac before casting his gaze at Dave the irate man answered, “Mr. Pickle, I believe it’s safe to say the dill is off”.

Don't worry, Mr. Pickle landed on his feet...

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The Not So Fantastic Reality:

The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:

ONE:      Today marked the first day of school at my lovely university, bringing bright-eyed freshmen, disillusioned upper-classmen and seen-it-all faculty & staff all together once again after a summer apart. It also marked the first time yours truly was requested by a student for an interview to learn more about my work at the university and to provide guidance as she begins to map out her future. Offering to buy me lunch for my trouble, we met up today at one of the buffet-style eateries on campus. The interview itself went fine, save for one element- I couldn’t really eat anything. First off, I didn’t want to look like an oinker by loading up my tray with a bunch of food, so I opted to make a very ‘adult’ selection- a small salad of spinach, carrots, cucumbers, black olives and vinaigrette. While the bunny food was pretty tasty, I had every intention of getting up for something else once that had been inhaled. Yeah, that didn’t happen. The student had so many questions, (and admittedly I was a bit excited to be at the center of these questions causing my answers to go on way too long) before I knew it, the hour was up and it was time to part ways. I didn’t even get dessert!!! The inability to talk and eat gracefully struck me as pretty comical (especially at one point when food actually flew out of my mouth as I began to talk about my graduate school… real smooth Sam).

Wish I had a steak...

TWO:    The name Mr. Pickle comes from an email I received today, and no it wasn’t one of those delightful forwards (enough already!) but an actual email from a gentleman named Mr. Pickle (I can’t recall what his first name was). The name was too good to pass up and demanded to be used.

THREE:  The phrase, “Spinach the size of a Subaru” refers to Andy’s ongoing quest to find a decent car for not a lot of mullah. We went and looked at a few today, just to see if they were even something he’d like and I guess they passed the ‘sniff test’ cause it looks like that’s what he’s determined to get (praying to the car gods that we can find one that won’t break the bank).

Love & Squirrels.

Day #124: Hard-Hitting Read

The Story:

BOOKWORM! PENCIL-NECK!

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The Not So Fantastic Reality:

The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:

ONE:      Inevitably, it happens. The demands of life, in particular my vow to write everyday, comes head-to-head with another passion of mine- the simple pleasure of reading a good book. I’m about half way into The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver, and as I delve deeper into the story and the lives of the characters I am finding it increasingly difficult to attend to any of the other tasks I had every intention of completing today. For better or worse, I become so engrossed, so fascinated by the story that the events of my own life, boring by comparison, seem wafer-thin and inconsequential. It’s not only the story I become enraptured with, it’s the voice of the author, the techniques she uses to pull me in, the crafting of beautiful sentences and employment of exotic words that excite me and require my immediate search for their definition. To know that there exists people (and women!) who can write in such a way is truly inspiring. My imagination feels as if it has been cracked open and in a rush, the juices have spilled out into the crooks and crannies of the rest of my sometimes ho-hum life. It’s strange to me that my goal of writing each day feels as if it sometimes comes between me and my passion (more like need) to lose myself in a world of someone else’s words. Usually these two past times go hand-in-hand but lately then seem like squabbling siblings, each vying for a little more of “mama’s” time. So, I threw them both in the ring today, to see who would come out on top and win a little more of my time. Reading won. So please excuse me, the Congo is calling.

Love & Squirrels.

Day #123: At His Own Pace

The Story:

The night couldn’t have been more perfect. For days the Robertson’s had planned, organized and stressed about their end-of-summer cocktail party. Having gone to great lengths to ensure their guests experienced only the best of nights, the couple was pleased to see that so far, everything was going quite well.

The conversation was flowing, as was the wine and laughter punctuated the evening like a malfunctioning typewriter. The music was floating headily on the fragrant California breeze and the swinging candelabra strung in the limbs of the half-dozen ancient oak trees gave the entire night a quality that The Bard’s Oberon and Titania would easily be at home in.

Yes, it was a night that would be remembered fondly by all in attendance (and envied by all who didn’t make it onto the guest list).

Mrs. Diana Robertson, or “Di” as she preferred to be called, played the perfect hostess. Drifting from one guest to the next, everyone felt as if they were the personal favorite of this magnanimous lady who by all accounts, was the quintessential definition of what it was to be a lady of class. Her husband, Clint, was no social slouch either. Slapping backs and offering cigars, Clint rose to the occasion each time his wife insisted on hosting one of her ‘affairs’ (although he’d much rather be flying his Cessna 182 or enjoying a quiet scotch in his study).

Di smiled gaily as she spotted one of her newest acquaintances, Tanya across the candlelit courtyard. Tanya, having just moved to the city, had been introduced to Di through a mutual friend several weeks ago and the two women had immediately hit it off. Excusing herself from the couple she had been chatting with, Di tip-toed gracefully through the throngs of party-goers and made her way to her friend.

“Ya- Ya!” Di exclaimed with her usual enthusiasm. Di never called anyone by their given name, choosing rather to christen them with her own carefully chosen nickname. Di’s nicknames were something of a rite of passage in that part of town and they were more coveted than an invitation to one of her ‘affairs’. “I’m so pleased you could come!” she said as she squeezed Tanya’s hands in greeting.

“Of course I came! I have been looking forward to this since you were so kind to invite me,” Tanya smiled in return. While she really did like Di, she could not stand her new moniker and hoped that she might soon convince Di to modify it in the coming weeks of their budding friendship.

Di beckoned one of the waiters to refill their glasses and the two women were soon completely engrossed in conversation. As the talked, Tanya couldn’t help but become a little distracted by an odd site in the corner of her vision. Standing by one of the buffet tables, almost completely obscured by the shadows, was a young man behaving rather strangely. Careful to stay on the fringe of the party, this young man was dressed impeccably but rather than joining any one of the half dozen small groups of guests standing nearby, he was pacing- almost feverishly. Back and forth, back and forth; like a caged dog walking his pen’s perimeter, it was practically mesmerizing.

 

Unable to squelch her curiosity any longer, Tanya decided to take advantage of the pause in conversation. “Di, who is that young man, uh, over there by the far buffet?” She asked as politely as she could.

Turning her head in the direction of Tanya’s indication, Di squinted a second before recognition filled her expression and caused her to smile. “Oh my dear, that is our youngest- James. Isn’t he handsome?” Di said as she took another dainty sip from her champagne glass.

“Yes, he is a beautiful boy,” Tanya replied a little uncomfortably. “I hate to pry, but your son seems a bit… agitated. Is he quite all right?” Tanya asked over her glass of Chardonnay.

Looking back at her son as if she hadn’t noticed the frenzied movements earlier, Di responded simply, “Oh, he’s just anxious” as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

Not wishing to insult her new friend, Tanya allowed Di to change the subject to the newest hatchlings of the two swans on the Robertson’s property, all the while stealing glances at the Robertson boy.

Veterans of the Robertson’s parties attended the affairs well aware of one ‘oddity’ that could present itself during the festivities- the arrival of the Robertson boy. The Robertson’s youngest son, James, or Jimmy Jimmy as he was almost immediately dubbed by his mother, had always been a bit odd. Jimmy Jimmy was now back at home after a string of ‘unfortunate incidents’ at three of the nation’s top boarding schools. Jimmy Jimmy was a sweet kid, but unfortunately, he did not inherit his parents’ natural ability to charm a crowd. Shy, reserved and a bit high-strung, Jimmy Jimmy had developed several strange tendencies that seemed to only manifest in times of stress or heightened anxiety. The most obvious of these was his pacing.

Curious about the strangers in his parent’s home, Jimmy Jimmy stole into the backyard and silently observed the festivities. While some faces he recognized, many were new- and that made him uncomfortable. Wishing he could take part in the party but knowing his shyness would prevail, Jimmy Jimmy began to pace in agitation. Soon, a worn path had developed in his parent’s once perfectly manicured lawn. This observation further upset the sensitive boy and he felt like bolting. Practicing the calming techniques the doctor had taught him, Jimmy Jimmy closed his eyes and breathed in two deep breaths. Better. Feeling eyes on him, Jimmy Jimmy peaked one eye open to see a strange lady staring right at him.

While he knew his behavior was not completely normal, most of his parent’s friends knew about his oddities but more importantly, they knew not to stare. They would smile and say ‘hello’, sometimes offering a drink or piece of food, but most just ignored Jimmy Jimmy, as instructed by his parents. But now this strange woman was staring openly at him and all he wanted was to scream at her and run back inside. But something was holding him back. Continuing to pace, Jimmy Jimmy tried to ignore the rude woman and would have been successful had she not started to walk towards him.

Jimmy Jimmy increased his pacing, moving at almost a run now. Tanya moved slowly towards the disturbed boy, taking slow steps. Finally, only a few paces away, Tanya turned her back and pretended to ignore him. Hearing the boy slow his canter, Tanya slowly revealed a cocktail plate loaded with bacon and offered it to Jimmy Jimmy. With the bacon outstretched, Tanya quietly cooed, “Come on, you can take it. It’s ok, come on”. Jimmy Jimmy seemed to be considering the offer when,

What on earth are you doing?” Di’s voice pierced the night, her outrage apparent as she made a B-line towards Tanya and her son.

The commotion startled Jimmy Jimmy who immediately took off and hid in some bushes out of sight. Tanya, also a bit startled, watched the boy run off before turning back to her irate friend.

“I was just trying to introduce myself, Di. I’m sorry I didn’t mean to offend or scare the boy. I just thought he might like something to eat,” Tanya stuttered as she began to think about what her actions must have looked like to Di.

‘Oh? Is that all? Because it looked to me like you were offering a plate full of bacon to my son like he was some kind of skittish dog,” Di and every guest within earshot was now staring reproachfully at Tanya.

Belatedly realizing that that was exactly what she had been doing, Tanya hung her head and silently cursed her chosen profession. “Being a dog trainer was really starting to impede my social life,” she thought as she fled to her car.

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The Not So Fantastic Reality:

The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:

ONE:      Ok, so first off I’m not thrilled with how this story ended but I’ll just have to make due for now and revisit it sometime when I’m not about to face plant into the keyboard…they can’t all be super-duper amazing. For the last few days we have been working to get Zorro a little more accustomed to living with us and acclimating to our routine. He’s been doing great and is steadily getting used to his new ‘pack mates’ (that would be me, Andy & Joey). Of course it’s a work in progress, and when he gets stressed or anxious, he starts pacing. He paces if Andy leaves, he paces if we are moving around a lot, he paces if he hears a loud noise, he paces if we have visitors. All this pacing and I swear, this dog must be clocking at least 10 miles a day easy. The pacing is also slowly diminishing in frequency, until this afternoon when we had our first visitors over. Andy’s mom and her boyfriend came to meet Zorro causing him to instantly start making laps around the house. All this pacing got me thinking, what if people were as obvious about their anxiety as Zorro was? What if, under uncomfortable or stressful situations, a person just started pacing without any explanation? The story kind about kind of took on a life of its own, taking me in a direction I wasn’t intending but it basically explores that idea. If you’d like to see Zorro in action click here.

TWO:    Today, while venturing out of the house (we only leave in short increments to wean Zorro on to the concept of being left alone) we made a stop at the Winter Park Farmer’s Market before heading to one of the posh doggy store’s on the Avenue (Park Ave., that is). While shopping for a collar and leash for our new puppy-dog, we were told all about the amazing work of the dog trainer who had just left the shop. Thought it was an appropriate occupation for poor Tanya.

Love & Squirrels.

 

Day #122: Will Not Compute

The Story:

“Can you check again?” Alberto asked his girlfriend for the third time that night. Dragging her eyes away from her IPad long enough to roll them in annoyance, Ada posted her status update and then looked at Alberto.

“You know you’re crazy, right?” She said in a patronizing tone.

Alberto barely heard her. For the last three days he had become convinced that something was wrong with him. As a young man in his late twenties, Alberto was experiencing symptoms that seemed more appropriate for a man three times his age- failing eyesight, prolonged back pain, weight gain, depression, low energy and stamina and his joints- from his wrists to his ankles were killing him. Not to mention intense headaches that were becoming increasingly frequent. All these symptoms had developed in the span of the last few weeks, and now Alberto was beginning to think something else was wrong, he was obsessed with the idea that he was growing… a tail.

Several doctor’s visits and a few prescriptions had not done anything to dissuade Alberto from this irrational hypochondria, although now he kept his fear primarily to himself, and Ada.

“I’m not checking again, you’re being ridiculous and I’m not going to contribute to the madness anymore. You’re fine,” She said as she turned back to her computer. “Check out this video I found,” she said as she shoved the tablet into Alberto’s lap, “Its hil-A-rious!” she screeched.

While the ‘Peanut butter, jelly’ song engulfed the apartment and a mascot in a banana costume began to dance on the screen, Alberto was anything but amused. Instantly he began to feel ill. Then, in a light bulb moment, he thought of something… what if what was ailing him was related to the computer? Rolling this idea around in his head like an atomic fireball losing its heat, Alberto began to make some connections. The symptoms began to dramatically increase when he accepted that research contract last month. The job required Alberto, who was normally a very active individual, to sit in front of a computer for about ten hours or more everyday as he worked to unearth articles, posts, blurbs and other online chatter regarding his subject matter. Following these long days of squinting at a backlit screen, Alberto would normally come home to where his girlfriend Ada, who was a bit of a social media nut, would inundate him with more online content. Add it all up, and Alberto’s day consisted of approximately 18 hours of staring at a computer screen.

The amount of time Alberto was devoting to the online world also helped to explain why he felt so isolated lately. All of his ‘friendships’ were primarily maintained via Facebook, Tweets or IM and sometimes through his blog. The ease at which he could learn the intimate details of the people he surrounded himself with had allowed Alberto to grow a bit lazy in his efforts to actually ‘see’ these people, after all what was there to talk about? He already knew just about everything there was to know by checking status updates. He couldn’t remember the last time he had actually grabbed a beer with one of his buddies as a way to just ‘touch base’. Thinking about it now, Alberto had never felt more disconnected.

Remembering something he had read online about a rare malady connected to dramatically increased time spent in front of a computer, Alberto began to panic all over again. He had just glanced over the majority of the content, as it didn’t really relate to what he was looking for, but one symptom had stood out from the rest, mainly because of its bizarre nature. In about 12% of the cases in this study, subjects had developed abnormal growth in the os coccyx, or tailbone. Researchers in the study commented that it appeared as if the body was compensating for the increased sitting the subjects were demonstrating, and the extended tailbone was almost serving as an additional support, like a tripod to allow for this change in posture.

Step away from the computer... or this could happen to you.

“Ada! I need you to check again, now!” Alberto almost screamed.

Seeing that her normally even-keeled boyfriend was seriously agitated, Ada decided she better do as he asked (and then give him crap about it later, of course). “Ok, ok, I’m coming. Alright, drop your shorts and let me see,” she said as she bent over him.

“Oh!” Ada instantly exclaimed in shock.

“What is it?!?! It’s a tail, isn’t it? Oh man, I knew it. I never should have taken that job. Now I’m going to have to quit and get surgery and use a donut to sit for months. Why is this happening to me?!?” Alberto had diminished into a quivering mess of a man in a matter of seconds.

“What? What are you talking about, a tail?” Ada almost laughed at the puddle of humanity who had just minutes ago been her strong, confident boyfriend. “You really are losing it, babe. Look, it’s just a thumb drive, see?” she said as she held up a small, black object. “The more important question is, how the hell did it get down your pants?” Ada chuckled as she tossed the still-warm flash drive to Alberto.

Staring at the drive, Alberto felt a flush bloom in his cheeks (ahem, the ones on his face). After a few more moments of quiet contemplation, Alberto stood up and said, “Ada, let’s go grab a beer at Smittys… we really gotta get out more”.

Shrugging, Ada grabbed her purse and was about to slide her IPad into its innards when Alberto stopped her, “without the computer”.

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The Not So Fantastic Reality:

The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:

ONE:      Ever have one of those days when you just want to toss your computer out the nearest window? Where you wish you could reach into that illuminated screen to the moron or morons who are screwing up another part of your world, a part you didn’t even know existed until you logged on today and now, you can think of nothing but and just donkey-kicking the crap out of them? Yeah, that’s me today. Sometimes I think my fingertips are grafting to the keyboard, the amount of time I spend in front of this contraption is really starting to annoy me. And yes, I know, I’m the only one that can do something about it, blah, blah, blah. I guess that is true to an extent, but for the eight hours I am at work, I would be hard pressed to find a convincing argument for swearing off of computer use. And then there is my lovely blogging project, what of that? Maybe I’m just in a rotten mood, maybe I just need to tune the things I read online out more, maybe I’m just missing the days where I wrote in an actual book or used a pen and paper. Perhaps I miss the great outdoors after being back from vacation for a week. Whatever the case, I need sunshine, and puddles and weird bugs flying at my face, I need walking trails and birds chirping and the stimulation of the wind right before a summer storm. Guess I know what I’m doing tomorrow. 🙂

No computers were harmed in the writing of this blog.

TWO:    Ada refers to a character in a book I’m currently reading, The Poisonwood Bible. I’m only a few chapters in, but already this mute spitfire is my favorite. She may have half a brain, but her fascination of words makes her hard to resist. Now if I could only find the time to sit and actually make some headway in the dern thing…

Love & Squirrels.

Day #121: Suspicious Package

The Story:

The Trojans carefully approached the 'suspicious package', their full concentration on disarming this obvious threat.

 

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The Not So Fantastic Reality:

The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:

ONE:      Just as I lean back to try and take a quick cat nap on my lunch break today, my cell phone begins to buzz on the desk- I have a text message. At this exact moment, I also hear the unmistakable chop chop chop chop chop of a helicopter hovering very near the campus. Having worked at a large university for almost three years now, the sound of a helicopter doesn’t really peek much interest anymore… there is always something happening on campus that the local media feel is a “BREAKING STORY”. Ignoring the whirly-bird outside my window, I decide to check who it was that texted me (or more importantly, identify the shmuck responsible for postponing what should have been a lovely nappy-poo) and it’s an alert from the university. Apparently, a SUSPICIOUS PACKAGE had been found outside the visitor’s center on the other side of campus causing the roads to be shut down, the campus police to fly into (over)reaction and the previously mentioned helicopter to zoom into the area to catch the entire developing crisis safely from above. OK, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that the university takes campus safety seriously, especially in this day in age. But come on… seeing how it’s two days before the beginning of the fall semester and the campus is swirling with activity, I’m guessing some frosh or frosh’s parents left their lunchbox or overloaded backpack in front of the center in a rush to get to their orientation or whatever on time. It turned out to be nothing (shocker) and campus went back to normal but only after sending every student, staff and faculty member four emails and two text messages regarding this ‘life threatening event’. The whole incident got me thinking about how a “suspicious package” could have been used as a ‘real’ threat… maybe as a decoy. Somehow that led me to imagining the Greeks and the Trojan and their infamous gift horse. What if the Trojans were so preoccupied with a similar ‘false alarm’ (like a poorly-delivered birthday gift for Helen) that while they devoted all their attention to investigating the ‘threat’ the Greeks discover there’s no need for their ‘horse play’ and simply walk in? A stretch I know. I could see it in my head and it was funny… so just go with it.

Love & Squirrels.