Day X and No Closer to Why

I need experiences with people. Maybe you don’t, but I do. This is why stay-at-home mandates are not good for me.

Following the rules, paying attention, being the good son. I will obey. For now.

We need social contacts. Snuggling up, emotionally, with our commuting counterparts is so vital to an enduring, healthy life. For some inevitable quiet types, this isn’t possible … I understand and respect that space. Others pursue touch, contact, reach-outs, feed-me’s, Google Hangouts, text strings, and coffee mug hugs. I am the latter.

A collector of people. A fun, flexible, flocker of folks. Everything I’ve done in my life spins around the question, “If X is worth doing, the why must be in the gathering of others.” Simple, right? Sure! … Until the anvil of Covid-19 is dropped right in the center of this socially delicious cake and all the sugary people parts projectile out in all directions. Then Mr. Doug Hugs is stuck wiping icing tears from his frown face. This flocker of folks, now, a sad silhouette embracing a new normal.

Am I happy about it? No. I think this is pretty obvious.

Wasn’t really in the mood to write about anything today at all – except when a lady changed my mind, without knowing she did. A walker of walks in a weird wonky way, she was. It upset my emotional apple cart and forced my writer’s hand into action. To be sure, she is happily on her way peeling an onion or tucking a little cherub into bed – I don’t care, none the wiser to her habitual thingy-things at this moment. Her few seconds time interaction with me today was enough to unpeel my onion.

Ya see, she avoided me. Now, before you get all, “What’s the big deal there, Mr. Big Shot Blog Banger…?” on me, it was a sidewalk, passerby sleight. Simple to you – and possibly 99.999% of those considered normal in psychiatric circles – but irritatingly irrational, exceedingly egregious, and somewhat stupefying to me. Defined in my Freudian dictionary, I am currently socially distant from almost everyone who connects me to myself. Unfamiliars and Familiars alike. Today was another Day X and No Closer to Why the following happened:

I was sauntering south, she – in her black knee-length skirt and red sweater vest – heading north. Both of us sharing the sidewalk, kindly so, fifty feet apart. Catching friendly eye-glances of one another (or so I thought), her body language changed as I simply uttered, “Hello.” from a safe distance of what I assumed was at least two parked car lengths. She stuttered in gate, flip-flopped as if I spat-spittered the words, “I HAVE THE BLACK PLAGUE and AM A MUTANT!!”…

Am I over-acting the role? Yes. But, she started it!

She made quick work of her planned pedestrian route, eerr, .. shall I say excellent footwork in the alternate path – around, about, and in between any and all inanimate objects – in the overt attempt to avoid my ogre self. The man who could be infected with the dreaded Coronavirus. The man who should be avoided at the cost of saving the whole of human kind.

OK. That last sentence was a bit uber- dramatae. I get it. My psyche can’t handle a lot of this distancing. I’m not built for it. My X inside my brain doesn’t understand the why. My intelligence side does, though. I can read all the articles, study until the particulars prick their way out of my pores, and all’s well in the happy-smart world. Avoid me on an emotional sidewalk, and I become the sloppy, garbage “pale” mess only a late-night blog street sweeper can begin to clean up.

I ask the question, “why?”. I know why. She was afraid of my infected self. I get that. Not clueless here. To understand meant no blog, right? She did avoid me, which is more to the point. A simple smile and nod while quickly knee-jerking her Carl Lewis-ing, hurdle jumping self over two BMW’s at 60 miles-per-hour would have been a socially acceptable, better tea-sipping thing to do. I didn’t require much. Just acknowledging my insecurity at the time would have sufficed.

So that’s my story for today. Didn’t want to write much. Had to, I guess. Don’t know if today’s encounter had any effect on said red-sweater lady’s life, or not. She probably spent her day zig-zagging around ALL the N95 masked monsters in town.

As for me, I feel a bit better knowing there’s a connection here on my virtual huggy blog. An experience with people. Something I need.

At least on this space, you can’t avoid me. Well, you can, however, that defeats the purpose. If you don’t see the irony in that, I think I’ll need to avoid you for a while. At least until this stay-at-home mandate is lifted. When that happens, I know a sidewalk where we can meet.

Maybe a real nice lady in a black skirt will walk by. Do you want to stick your leg out as she goes by, … or, should I?

Plank, not Prank

An April Fool’s Day Plank. No, I didn’t spell it incorrectly. Exactly the way I meant it: P-L-A-N-K.

Prank, the generationally accepted form, is way too tame for today’s messed-up, “screw your opposing political view and accept mine!” world. So much intolerance, anymore. I want to take that very plank they stand on and whack it upside their zealous, arrogant, idea-inebriated, inhabitantly politically pompous heads. Too soon into the ongoing Covid-19 virus debate? I don’t think so?

Happy April Fool’s Day, everyone!

I love the meme going around social media: “April Fool’s jokes are on hold this year. No prank can outdo the shit we’ve been dealing with ..” Oh, I so agree. The virus. The f*cking virus (so sorry for the language, but you’re feeling it too, right?). Worldwide, humans are struggling with a new reality – a new normal as I’ve written so many times before.

Online teaching, Social Distancing, Government mandated-isms & over reaches (if that’s a “thing”), confusion from national leaders and medical experts, flattening curves not advised by Weight Watchers for a change, and shortages of masks, vents, and patience. NYC, Dr. Birx, the Pillow Guy telling us about God, arrests of preachers in Florida, navy ships, … all this … oh, and poor toilet paper is, well, yesterday’s news. These are our realities every day. One massive April Fool’s f*cking joke.

Who’s playing it on us? I have no potato-licking, speed-spitting idea. It’s become one big picnic of off-time recreational joy rides to big box stores, where families of, say, eight or more rug people pile into aisles looking for the latest flannel fashions. No BoGo sales? No problem! They’ll flam their way to the customer service desk to make use of valuable, strongly mandated stay-at-home time. There, I’m confident the over-worked, stressed, drastically under-appreciated gem of a human being will be glad to address and unmask the perfectly articulated complaint put forth by such an upstanding member of our community.

Am I bitter and a bit frustrated? Yes!! Does this show in my words?

Boxing out the big box stores, let’s get back to the four-one-plank problem. THIS is the splinter sticking in my side today. He said, on the right, She said, on the left … or, vice-versa. Doesn’t really matter the sex of either side. Well, unless a wife chooses, then whichever side is correct … of course, but I digress.

Discussion of politics at anytime is Ugh, right? Especially so when emotions are running faster than hearts at a Bon Jovi concert. Like NOW for instance.

Pick a political plank to stand on, and you will be well within the legal 6′ social distance of millions and miles apart from untold others. The space between is vast and getting wider. If you, with your (possibly) virus slopped garment draped over the unshowered three day body you have, dare express an opinion different from the dude/dudette snuffled up against you … good luck staying on that ship! So polarized and sensitive, are the Pirates of political discourse, that General Calm abandoned ship a while ago. He life-boated out once the words, “Do you solemnly swear to uphold the laws of the Constitution …. ” were spoken.

Take whatever election into consideration, and dump it into the canons of political, public discourse. Add a few pandemics, maybe a very divisive, selfish Congress, a few social media platforms, 24 hours non-stop news, mis-information ad-nauseam, extreme views about everything with no consideration of moderation, and a fascination – albeit fading – with toilet paper … and you have one hell of an April Fool’s Plank.

I don’t care, really, what year. 2020, 1984? (George Orwell-ian would have been nice, though)… 1776? (Ha! Imagine that)… Whenever. Just so happens this is a year of perfect vision – and we ‘ain’t got it. Wait. Allow me to correct that. Oh, some among us have it!! Just ask. Better yet. Look down at the plank upon which they stand.

…and then look across the wide, wide boat and recognize the other side. They’re just as committed. Both perilously walk their plank in opposing directions, destined to drop off into a sea of despair. Once they do, we have the ship to ourselves.

Great. A cruise liner full of moderates crowded around with nothing to do but play April Fool’s jokes on one another. Now what? Here’s one! We can’t dock anywhere now because our whole f*cking ship is probably contaminated with the virus.

Now THAT’S an April Fool’s Prank, yes P-R-A-N-K I can embrace. (But 6′ away, please. I don’t want the shitty virus).

A Pompeii Pal

Snarky around corner, but for a moment…

Italy is in the news. Our brothers and sisters are living through individual and collective stories written by an evil author of viral consequence. They are to be shown every ounce of compassion and support available. So, too, are all the sufferers of ills, depressions, and anxieties as result of this global pandemic. Surreal. Unlike anything our living, breathing earth has seen since 1918, when millions of our ancestral friends grievied the loss of loved ones themselves.

Italy was in the news during the late 16th century as well. Uncovered after centuries, buried under 19 feet of volcanic debris, the ruins of Pompeii were discovered.

Apparently, in 79 CE (Current Era … yeah, it’s a thing), Mount Vesuvius had what amounted to a bad gas day resulting in a quick burial for the unfortunate inhabitants below his bellowing ash hole. Fitting two word phrase seeing as how Mr. V decided to interrupt an otherwise ordinary day with sudden death, despair, and destruction.

Not aside, sarcasm is purposefully inserted here because it was masterfully – and sidewalk artfully – used by a toga wearing wall-writer at the time. More about this dude in a bit.

We have Pompeii. A bustling boulder, semi-metropolis of first century A.D. (C.E. ..?) thinking where grapes, scrolls, and steam baths-o’bacteria ruled the hours. Men of high stature statues lined the lanes and pebbles rumbled under the chariot wheels as horses pulled piles of hay atop peasant wagons.

Scenes of daily struggle were simple, I can suppose in my, now, coronavirus isolation, stay-at-home mandate mind. No electronics, cars, or airplanes flights to miss … or Facebook political opinions to violently tap in my opposition .. then delete before actually posting up.

Toga toddlers spinning about, discovering what was new to them that remained undiscovered by elders stuck in traditional ways of their ancestors. The legacy of what remains in the remains of every generation since. The cycle of cyclical time. Pompeii was just us a thousand-and-a-hundred-or-so years behind.

Enough deep, philosophical pandering to my early morning muse. Sorry ’bout that. She gets me … not in the sense, “She gets me” like “Wow, she understands my inner soul” … more like, “She freakin’ ropes me in with all the deep thinking and won’t untie me ..” kinda gets me.

Anyway. Pompeii.

The walls of Pompeii have an interesting history. According to “Uncle John’s Supremely Satisfying Bathroom Reader, 14th Book” …

“In Pompeii, the walls of every building were used as billboards on which anyone was allowed to write whatever they wanted. When the buried city was excavated, archaeologists found notices of upcoming plays at the theater, the schedule of games at the stadium, the price of goods at the market, and the comments of passersby.

The elections in Pompeii were coming up when the city was destroyed, so thousands of political ads were found, including this one: ‘Vote for Vatia, who is recommended by sneak thieves, the whole company of late drinkers, and everyone who is fast asleep‘ “

Sarcasm nearly 1,900 years ago. Gotta love it. Ironic, too, that we are in an election year as well. Good thing there’s no sarcasm here!! No volcanoes ready to erupt anywhere on social media walls anytime soon, right?? I can’t IMAGINE any of us writing our thoughts anywhere public …. oh, the shame to bear on our toga-less, exposed back-sided opinions these days.

So, back to our ancient spray can dude. He’s the real hero of this tale today. I’d even suggest he is our bare-back rider of a white Fresian horse; This mere peasant is the only hero for all humanity needing a sarcasm-saving champion of the day. I love this dude for one reason … and one reason only.

On the wall, he scrawled:

Everybody writes on the walls but me”

I’m sure he perished in the massive belch. Good for him. Dying as a sarcastic, real, grape loving toga dude. Live on, bro .. We’ve got ya covered from here.

If only I could find a local steam bath. I’m in the mood for some company. Social Distancing is killing my buzz and I’m out of spray paint.

Thumbs and Connections

I recently discovered Google Hangouts. This delightfully little bit of technology escaped my perview, until recently, when a friend suggested using it. We had a weekly meet-up with his daughter who needed a social-distancing lesson. Tweeking and twisting our four miles apart cameras over ten minutes, the virtual hook-up went nearly blip free save a few gaggles and glitches. I must say, “pleased” is a word infrequently used in a sentence when conjoined with recent technology, but in this case, I was.

None of us raised with cardboard clickers in our bicycle spokes, or overnight sleepovers with flashlights hovering over scary stories, could ever have imagined ourselves living with such technology. A digital age where single digits are so much more important than ever before.

I’m a pianist. Have always been. Maybe my fascination with fingers is over-hyped because of my chosen hobby/profession. I haven’t taken real good care of my filangy-friends, however. Racquetball injuries – and more than my share of goofs – have set my hands with a permanently dislocated thumb, scars, bruises and hurties time will never kiss away. I’m surprisingly ok with all of that. My younger self wouldn’t have accepted it. He kinda had his thumb up his a**. We all did …

…But, we found ways to entertain our thumbs by engaging them in dirt filled holes, doll houses, and play-dough. We used them non-sparingly to flick a little metal bell on our bikes – alerting the little worms on the road of our approach. Occasionally, dad’s laziness would call our other fingers into service, assisting the thumb in the evening’s changing of the TV broadcast ritual … from one of three black and white channels to another. A pretty simple life for thumbs.

In the 70’s, a thumb could get you across the country from New York to Seattle. Granted, not so soon after you changed the channel for your dad, but possibly a few years after graduating. Knowledge wasn’t always absorbed thumbing through a Funk & Wagnall’s encyclopedia. The cab of a CB-ing trucker named Billy-Dee was the classroom of clarity for many a hitchhiking wondering-wanderer. Roadside ideas ruminated by professors of pavement prognostication were the time stamps on that era.

Not like today when thumbs are so vital in communicating information. I’m writing … using my Samsung phone, alternating letters when needed, using opposite thumbs. Could I be sitting in my desk chair, tapping in letters with other fingers, staring at my PC monitor? Sure. I, simply, don’t want to. It’s too inconvenient. This recliner is comfortable, I have my snack table here, a TV handy if needed, and plenty of blankets.

It isn’t just texting, blogging, and other hand-held forms of writing where we’ve exceeded all youthful imaginations. We’d thumb our collective bell-bottom pant noses at the thought of sharing our joy stick with anyone. The gaming industry’s use of thumbs has well exceeded the pong-era ping fancies we entertained. Slow bee-bloops … back and forth at the end of big, thick wires attached to heavy TV’s at one end and gaming consoles at the other – with thumbs glued hours to the minute.

Today it’s hi-tech, interactive gaming. Thumbs at the ready. Local colleges have team logo matched shirts. (Back when, as Gramps would say, we matched because all of us had orange cheetoh-snack dust drizzled down the front of our shirts.) They probably have regimented thumb push-up drills, finger-fun day, and aerobics for palms. It’s just that serious.

All this to say, I’m trying new technology as needed … and my thumbs are getting a workout for sure. Not so much with Google Hangouts, though. That’s more like a talk-y kind of experience once all tech stuff is out of the way.

Seeing another human live on screen, and also myself in an even smaller insert at the same time, is …. well … a bit more than my younger self would have imagined. I know I was asked many times early on, “So, Doug. Where do you see yourself, say, in the year 2020 (or, some such year)?”.

Pretty sure my answer wasn’t: “Well, most likely, if my plan works out, I’ll be under a forced quarantine from a once every 100 years virus, blogging about a virtual video site from a hand-held computer device connected to the whole world. We have a reality show president, my life is run by robots pretty much everywhere I go, and my thumbs are more important than ever before. Oh, and the Pirates suck.”

Ask me where I think I’ll be in two months. Hopefully right here on the recliner. It’s comfy. It’s home. I have my thumbs and they’re my connection to something normal for now.

Don’t Mess With My Glitter

Lemons. I never ask for them in my iced tea. Sanitarily speaking, many fingers have touched that yellow bubble-skinned fruit from tree to glass edge, so I don’t feel the need to contaminate my caffeine. Ok, you can argue some waitresses place them in a side bowl. Great. One step shy of my glass, but many strides, still, from a dangling dirt appendagary. One other reason that may be primary: they’re bitter and I simply don’t like them. Maybe should have led with that.🤷🏻‍♂️

Also, bitter rhymes with glitter which is the main theme in this post today. Hey, don’t judge me. I have my motivations. They may not be yours, but if and until the blog police decide what goes, I’m goin’ with it…

Earlier last evening, I imagined the following:

“I want to be in outer space right now. No oxygen, yes, but complete silence and the occasional meteorite that may knock me unconscious before the lack of oxygen does. The eight-minutes late sun on my face. No news. No COVID-19. Just me, my earth under feet for the few seconds I have to exist, and the whole universe uninterrupted before me. The silence in the stars – a beauty for all of us.”

Any occasional or regular reader knows I like my Imagineer’s Workshop. The place where ideas can be lived out without the pressures of expectations. Fantasies and whimsies of illustrious magnificence are born from magical imaginations and experienced in my mind before ever seeing letters into words. Some logical, most crazical and fun-flopable. I like them that way. My mom taught me to see inside what had to be learned outside … make sense out of the world through a humor filter inside.

Cope with humor-hope. It’ll all be ok.

I’ve met a lot of people with the same outlook. “Crazies” as most normals would categorize us. We are a subculture of real-life comic book heroes saving the day-by-day doldrumers from their mono-continuo-laborio-adinfinito-itis. Our relentless puns, dad jokes, memes, and casual odd facial expressions unconsciously thwarting robberies of self-meaning and purpose. All under the cloak of self-sacrificial court jestering. You are quite welcome.

One such person I met a little bitty ago. She’s equally weird. In a good way, of course. A fellow-ette superhero who conquers the world of the day quite-ly nicely …. thank you very much. As is the case in my blog universe – and with all superheroes – her identity must remain a mystery.

We met in the most fortunate of circumstances. I, the illustrious instructor of keys, and her, the mother of four, requested my services. I obliged. From there, we became friends.

As such, she follows my blog and I, occasionally, reach out to her via text to gain knowledge and wisdom on subjects heretofore unknown to me. We are kinda-kindred souls on the who-can-be-a-one-upper game as well. For the record, I’m winning.😉

Most recently, our weaving-word exchange (d)evolved into an imagineer’s arena. My purple monkeys and party balloons found their way into an octagon grudge match with said superhero-ette. Her space is glitter-ati filled dreams on top of unicorns drizzled with ice cream sprinkles. We wrestled our way into a corner of infinitives and exclamatory phrases, when at once across my screen came:

“Just don’t mess with my glitter, dawg-man!!!!”

Now, for the sake of comparison and my ego, look over that …. and then re-read my elegant, sweet, reflective, honest, non-combative, pleasant tome above. Who’s the superhero you’d trust? C’mon now. Be honest. She can handle the truth.🤣

I may – MAY – have instigated the friendly jabber-jousting betweeen us. I admit no fault beyond the genesis, however. Unicorns aren’t real. All I needed to do – in order to confirm her status in our Elite Hall of Heroes – was to verify her knowledge of such. She did. A little snarky, but she did. 🙄

There will be a day – soon – when I will be held accountable for this writing. Not by the blog police, I’m most positive. Anyone of normal or above average intelligence could figure it out … even my unicorn friend – my fellow “Crazy”. Oh, the sweet irony in that sentence.

Hey, if I didn’t assume the risk, no sense I’m wearing the cape, right?

Overall point? Find your glitter, purple monkey, unicorn, or whatever imaginary place makes you happy … and live there any time you need to. Be a superhero.

Just try not to drink iced tea with lemon while you’re there… or be bitter about anything. Life’s too short to be unhappy.

You’ve got the Touch

Since we’re having joy and merriment with viruses, bacteria, and other fun, fuzzy little subjects:

June 9, 2017 By Melanie Waddell, Director of Marketing, PDI Healthcare

“In an age of constant connectivity, healthcare professionals are rarely without touchscreen devices. From tablets in hallway kiosks to x-ray screens to doctors’ and nurses’ own smartphones, such surfaces abound in healthcare settings.

Proliferation of this technology inadvertently increases the risk of exposure to harmful bacteria and spread of infection. Our fingertips are home to a plethora of bacteria, and constant contact with touchscreens leaves phones, tablets, and other devices coated with thriving bacteria cultures that put all of us at risk if not cleaned properly.

But while touchscreens are present in healthcare facilities now more than ever, protocols for properly addressing the risks they invite haven’t quite caught up.

On any given day, about one in 25 hospital patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If not cleaned properly, some bacteria can survive for months on the surface of a dry touchscreen device, according to a 2016 Environmental Health Review study.

And the risk of contamination is amplified by the fact that 86 percent of clinicians and 76 percent of nurses use smartphones while at work, according to Mobile Trends Report and a study published in JMIR Publications, respectively.

Harmful strains, such as MRSA, Staphyloccus and Streptococcus spp can linger on devices and put patients at risk of infection. Such hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) also cost hospitals billions of dollars in reduced reimbursements and preventable expenditures every year, according to the CDC.

The prevalence of these devices emphasizes the importance of proper cleaning, which is one of the most effective means, aside from hand hygiene, of minimizing or eliminating risks.”

A loyal reader, J.S., sent me a wonderful suggestion which tweaked my fanciful, yet bacteria-on my…, virus minded brain. Hard to remember a day when I wasn’t thinking outside a virtual petri dish of microscopic what-ifs being fed by a test tube of streaking headlines every half minute, but I digress.

Yesterday wasn’t a day of rest from the lab-orious, but always laughable, lather of lexicon, however, I did have a moment to check my messages. J.S. squeezed quite an interesting droplet into the little glass of ideas I had sitting around on my formerly germ-free table of literary schemes. She suggested I ponder the possibilities of the the dreaded touchscreen sign-in station at your local medical facility. “Sign-in station” defined, by me, as the non-human, flat formed, roughly two-dimensional, know-it-all-but-must-ask-it-all, bacteria screen circus all of us must face blurry-eyed at 7:05 in the morning after a 24 hour fast …. and use the steadiest finger of our non-shakiest hand while the other comatose, juice deprived patients wait their ever-lovin’ turn behind us.

The last time I used one of these was around a year ago at the medical center just up the street. It wasn’t pretty. Well, it kinda was, I guess. Presentation: a clear 10! .. Execution? Yes … by firing squad, please. I did everything S.O.P.. Name, DOB, procedure (blood work), the date, Dr. Name, my favorite pizza topping, extra mayo … all the standard questions. Uh, oh …. “We don’t have you currently in our system …”. “WHAAA?”, I proclaimed loudly under my breath just enough to get the attention of the receptionist over at the – get this – sign in desk.

She was a very nice lady. I could tell as I stomped gingerly over to her after thumbing my obstinant nose up at the digital excuse of a touchscreen. I explained my purpose for being there and she listened intently. Kudos to her. Also, props to her for telling me I, apparently, wasn’t standing in front of her … as there seemed to be no record of my existence. Damn. No wonder I couldn’t get waited on faster at Walmart.

OH, wait! What she meant was …. nobody sent over the order for my blood work, so my flat-faced, dirty-MRSA friend over at the other end of the lobby didn’t know what to do with me. “What do I do now?”, I kindly asked. “Well, we can’t do anything without an order from your doctor.”.

Stop frame…

One thing you DON’T want to do at this point is the following:

“Hmm. Can I just go over to the screen, again, and order my blood work, a small order of fries, a Pepsi… and maybe some nuggets? Super size, or not … wadda ya think?”

I don’t care how hungry you THINK you are, that is not a good idea. Clever? Yes, most definitely. Smart? Absolutely not. You will get an icy stare – enough to ensure your Pepsi will stay fresh-ly cold for the day. Also, more than enough to guarantee you may never return with both legs operating normal … that is if you can see through two black eyes.

It took three visits back to the center until I finally got my blood work done. What had to be completed, was. Now, just to be fair, I don’t believe the lady at the sign-in desk had anything to do with the delays. It was the inefficiency of the whole system between three different buildings, two doctors, and one two-bit little touchscreen. Oh, and karma.

The bigger picture is the touchscreen sign-in process. Since then, I have used them frequently – as I’m sure you have. The thought of how dirty they must be has crossed my mind, thus the article above. (What’s written by Melanie Waddell is more general and extends to all hand-held devices. Touchscreens – pardon the pun – are not immune.) Not only the unsanitary nature of the screen, but also the frequency of errors I’ve encountered.

It could be me. I have a weird relationship with Karma. We dance the dance so much I wear out my own soul by the synchronicity in the steps of our soles. I walk up to a touchscreeen and can almost expect certain malaise. Not always, but mostly … because I taunt them and they feel my tauntness. ATMs, convenience store kiosks, … any large flat surface requiring my digital attention. They will freeze up, deny my passwords, accept my passwords, but tell me stupid information I didn’t want to know, or just stare at me with a blank screen: “out of order, come back later”

I spent my adolescent and young adult years working in the fast food industry. The big one. No self-serve ordering kiosks. Just now old-fashioned registers where guys like me took your order, ran around to get it all together, collected a few bucks and sent you on your way. Simple.

Today, there are more kiosks than help. I don’t like it. I don’t care for it at the medical centers either. It’s not really because they’re dirty like the above article states, although that’s enough of a reason for most. Humans aren’t machines … and machines can’t ever be human. We need people to be with people. Us with us.

Yeah, I know smarty-mouth guys like me who are a bit testy with nice ladies at 7 a.m. can be challenging, but isn’t that still a better option than flatty-face?

Well J.S., see what you did? Take it in stride, my friend. Thanks for the idea. I will forever be grateful when there is an uprising of the touchscreens against me. Karma can be a nasty thing. I’ll make sure they have your number.

That Went Well

Find me a corner booth somewhere. I don’t care where. Soon, please. Preferably in a greasy spoon diner where I can order two plates of gravy fries, three bacon cheeseburgers, a dozen deep fried wings, onion rings, unlimited sodas, and a whole dutch apple pie with slop-loads of whipped cream slathered on top. Don’t really care if napkins are available. Appearances at that point in my life will be secondary to the joy received from drowning my sorrows in cholesterol.

Oh, and one other request: find the person responsible for the phrase, “Well, that went well…”. I’d like to have a gentle discussion with said person – as I most likely will mouth-bulldoze (it’s a thing) through mounds of stress meats, drippy fats, and empty carbs. Yesterday will be talked about, sarcastically, as a “that went well..” day and I’ll want a full explanation.

It DIDN’T begin well once I realized the words, “Oh, you’re here celebrating your mom’s birthday!” ejected out of my mouth before my eyes and brain had a say in the matter. Clearly in front of me stood a man I’ve known for years. Roughly two years older than I, he is a good friend who married (emphasis on married) a lovely woman a few years older than us. I know this. I KNEW this when we crossed an unfortunate path yesterday in the cafe when I made the extra effort to approach him … in the semi-crowded room … where his lovely wife sat … at a table with birthday balloons at the ready … (getting the picture here?).

As he brisked by me to meet his wife on her special day, I spoke those seven hapless words to him – to my utmost horror – immediately wanting to cower under my small table as the air raid sirens of inappropriateness bellowed for all to hear. As my feet were immediately entrenched firmly in my gaping mouth, I was unable to follow him over to the table to extend my apologies for the gaffe. A cowering butt-scoot, however, under the circumstances probably would have been the right move.

What wasn’t the right move, in retrospect (after I wrenched my feet out of my piehole), was to go over to the table two minutes later and try to apologize. I ordered an omelet at what seemed like hours prior at that point. Had it arrived earlier, the eggy deliciousness would have been in my mouth – preventing this whole saga. It was not in front of me inviting a release from the torture, so the “go over” move was in play. Already knowing my brain-mouth relationship was tenuous, I adulted my way over hoping I could smooth this over. MmmHmm.

Act two. Adding the element of surprise: the arm around. Physical touch always adds a personal touch. Taking into account, as I mentioned, my history with these two fine individuals … I found myself beside the husband once again. This time, repeating the same phrase, “Oh, you’re here celebrating your mom’s birthday!”, but with two special add-ons … up-sizes – just like McDonald’s! #1. My left arm around the waist of said husband for comfort as I spoke, and #2. The phrase, “I’m so sorry I said ….” prior to saying “Oh, you’re here …”. Problem? You wouldn’t think so, right? Husband heard. Wife didn’t. Correction. Wife heard only second phrase. Not, “I’m sorry..”

If you are keeping score of the “Who heard what?” game: Husband 2, Wife 1, Doug wants to crawl in hole and die a slow death. Did I mention I knew they were married? Oh, I did?

There was no recovery. A few floor tiles away sat a nice older couple I’ve seen about town. At the very table where I sat a week ago pondering my good deed, they sat mouths agape. My voice, apparently, carries words of wisdom and woe. One more attempt to apologize fell flat. Details unnecessary as they wouldn’t surprise even the awarest of the aware. I slunked and slithered back to my table as my wonderful, now pale, wife/friend was left to think of ways to silently silence forever her current former friend. A moment of reflection as my omelet finally arrived. “Well, that went well.”

I didn’t look back. Their table five paces over my left shoulder. I could hear muted birthday celebratory words as another couple joined their table of four. Most likely friends of theirs NOT arriving to find merriment in a Mother’s Day fest. My table mates deriving deliciousness, not only from the end of their brunch fare forks but also from the irony at my expense. And shall I say, deservedly so.

To add a rather pleasant chapter to this continuing story, we did connect later on social media and exchanged messages. For clarity, mine began, “I am so sorry …. “, and she replied, “Thanks, Doug. Don’t worry about it …”. Her husband, the quiet type anyway, has not responded. I’m ok with that. He’s a super human, too.

Now to the matter of my unknown person. The inventor of, “Well, that went well …”

When we meet, this will be my tale spoken across the cracked black and white checkered, coffee stained table. To my friend who sits and listens to my insistent query, “Why the need for, ‘ Well, that went well?’ …”. I may refer him/her to this tome for perspective. Bitterness and regret will be interrupting the conversation disguised as heaping, caloric-laden fingerfulls of satisfaction. Loathing and lethargy may soon take over as well once the second and third helpings settle. Additionally, my body could begin to sink into the cheap ribbed vinyl, off-red, sunken booth seat I found myself glued into.

Near food coma. Good news, however. I probably won’t know anyone in that diner. Even if I do, there will be little brain activity at the moment. My friend, the inventor of the phrase, long gone. Read the summary above, figured I was ultimately responsible for my own inanity, and left. Alone, looking over sloshed gravy plates, empty crumply onion ring baskets, and a few slumpy fries, my glossy eyes will see the error of my ways.

Think before you act. The empty plates a testament to quick decisions having slow, festering consequences. Greasy, awesome food the quick tongue of the non-thinking world, and empty plates the lingering regret.

My jeans will make that awkward squeak as I scoot out of the booth. Doris, the only waitress on staff late at night, steadily wipes the counter near the register as she politely tells me, “Your friend picked up the tab. A bit pricey with all you ate, but he didn’t think you’d survive all the cholesterol and wanted to be sure I got paid.”. Pretty sure I’d see the irony, and possible truth, in this scene if it were to play out.

Heading out through two glass doors into the refreshing cold air, my still bloated, lesson learned, belly full of not-so-healthy imaginary goodness ushers this guy into the parking lot. He stops, turns to look over his left shoulder thinking he saw his two wonderful friends enter the diner, and says:

“Well, that went well ” … and, it kinda did.

Short Salad Saga

So many choices at a salad bar. Not as many, it seems, as local drive up cracky speaker, self-serve (any more) fast food joints, though. I have to mindfully decide to up-size my heaping spring salad mix instead of that decision being forced upon me by well-intentioned, high margin cholesterol pushers. No fizzy sodas. No grease smells wafting around my clothes that gleefully linger throughout the day. Just me, the lettuce options, and …. so much more.

I’ve done this salad bar thing before – inside a local grocery store, where fifty-year old guys contemplate their internal organ conditions and consider a healthy lunch option every so often. Shouldn’t speak for other guys, however, ’cause I never nudge elbows or share baby corn tongs. I’m always alone. Me and #4471, the code for weighing the multi-colored , sometimes dry concrete heavy monstrosity I end up with at the end. Some say, “Eat salads! They’re light ..” … Yeah, right.

If I don’t somehow manage to drop 16 other containers on the floor trying to unglue one off the top, the process usually begins post haste. Four lettuce types – only one of which I really like: CHUNKS !!. Love the chunks. Iceberg chunks. If spinach and spring mix came in heaping chunks and cores of deliciousness, I believe the earth could stop spinning right now. Could’t find too many of these within the icy bins holding all the necessary base-salad leafy greens, so an assortment of boringly flat, wimpy, “please take me” scratch had to do.

Sliding down the bar of no-fat/no joy, I encountered the next option: smaller vegetables. Carrots shaved down to one size larger than the human hair, onion circles attached to one another somewhere rendering one without six others almost impossible, and cherry tomatoes sized to not match the end of the very tongs assigned to them … all standard utility every time I visit. Accompanying these were the peas soaking in water (no thanks), small dry broccoli and cauliflower florets, olives, and bell pepper slivers. Necessary pile-ons. To pass over these would’ve been sacro-salad-sanc. How embarrassing it would have been to the scratch spinach .. naked to the world, uncovered, bare, exposed – if only for a minute as I focused my attention on the next, most sexy-named group: Les Legumes.

“Ah, my sweet Legumes”, rolls off the tongue as easily as, “I love you, my lovely sweet plume.”. As an aside, say it with a deep French accent – not aloud in the grocery store, but very much alone as you read this …. Anyhow…chickpeas, black beans, white beans, or pinto beans – the third choice group down the slide. My pleasure in this group is watching the little tan chicks roll around, finding their way through the cracks and hopefully disappearing into the darkness. THIS is why chunks are so important! They give topography to the salad. Depth. Meaning. Never would I ever pass by my little chick-a-dee-peas.

Around the corner to the tough neighborhood. Feeling the weight upon my shoulders and #4471 friend, we enter the dark alley of the macaroni boys. Their gatekeeper, at the end, was a group who shake down all who dare to turn: bacon bit and crouton tumblers who will mix it up with you if you dare. I chose not to, walking wide around the alley of despair, hoping to face the macaroni boys head on – feeling quite confident as I previously avoided these two without incident.

The macaroni boys are bold and arrogant. They hold special favor in the salad bar neighborhood due to their heft. They throw around their multi-syllabic mac-a-ro-ni weight knowing a few ladle-fulls in a plastic bin of unawareness can tip the scales in the favor of profitability. Next to the hard boiled egg clan living next door, who could provide an admiral food fight, the M.B’s hold a tight reign of terror over salad bar city. I plucked a few spiral cousins, gently, from the clan before the bosses recognized me, and quickly shuffled out of there before trench coat Willie spotted me and put out a pasta hit on my ^ss.

Last up the line were the incidentals. The unintendeds. Colory little hickeymadoos the grocery store so graciously allows us to see. A few drop down meats of fish pieces, turkey chunks, ham, chicken, and protein options strewn about usually find their way into my one-or-two chunk pile salads. Cheeses shredded down, and nuts of all naturally nuttiness, nutrious goodness get a spoonful or two of my attention. … Puddings, salsas, and creams (I think) don’t, but are there for another fifty-year old(ish) guy wanting some. Possibly crackers in packages and dressings in bottles to use are there and packs of same to buy separately at a ridiculously high per ounce price.

Certainly other salad bars – and this one as well – have other, different, items available for the more discerning shopper. I am a focused – know what I want at the end of a salad bar tong – guy. That said, the check-out always surprises me. Always. I blame BABY CORN ON THE COBS!. The damn things must weigh 3 pounds each. Ordinarily, #4471 should be reasonably priced, right?

I’m not going to rant on and on … know why? Because I’m not going to change. I’m not going to ever make a salad at a salad bar without them in order to find out the difference in price. They’re just that good.

Feeling proud of my decision to eat healthy, I finished my salad while in the process of writing this short salad saga. My friend, #4471, and I can close out the the entry proud we did it together.

I snapped shut an empty plastic container about an hour ago and will be placing it into the recycle bin shortly. Thankful, as always, to share this time with you … and, in a way, to have my clothes not smell like grease.

I mark my life safe from the macaroni boys as well for another day.

2020 Vision-ary

Finding today fascinating, I sit with a cold iced tea to my left and the never too far away cell phone resting near the computer mouse to my right. Down in the wee corner of the screen ahead, tucked away in almost obscurity, are little organized numbers and dashes. Directly above these I see 1:07 PM, indicating I have exactly one hour, twenty-two minutes to organize my thoughts before time expires. At that time, out into the cold I will go … attempting to sew the minds of the youth with the wisdom of the ages.

To what do I refer? 2/20/2020. Certainly not the press 02/02/2020 received as the palindrome princess eighteen days ago! I find today, in comparison, to be cleaner. It has a simple message forward: One number (2), followed by two numbers (20), followed by four (2020). Moreover, that one number doubled equals two, then two doubled equals four. Two (2), of course, being the multiplier and the only number, other than zero, to appear in the date AND there are only (2) dashes within the whole display. Totaling up all the numbers including the zeros? 7. Days in the week? 7. Coincidence? Ok, well maybe the last example one isn’t the exclamation point I was hoping for, but ….

..but what? I like this date today. I also may be the only one who does. A true visionary in the field of date recognitionary sciences, perhaps? Ah, I doubt it. Numbers, dashes, and any other visible nouns – are caught by these eyes …

… and held hostage longer than they should – at my insistence. Daily. It’s a problem: this internal requirement demanding everything I see go through a mental grinding mill. In goes information boulders some may find passively entertaining. Out comes blather opinion dust blowing everywhere, with no specific direction, subject to the freaks of natural selection. Processing the sentiment inside? A machine with cogs and pistons of reasons, spirits, feelings, to-do lists, wants, needs, huhs, don’t-get-its, whys, and hurts.

I don’t believe I am alone. All of us have this complex, weird brain process. We must grind through the day accumulating a mountain-load of rocks in order to keep the waters of life’s dam at bay. Information everywhere asking our cerebral matter to takes matters into its own hands … then friendly forced to state our views, meekly or assertively, written or aloud. Too much I say, for an over-punchy, look-at-that now kind of person. Way too much.

My mom was a look-at-that inspirational figure. Her enthusiasm for life urged her to do it. I do believe this was an escape from what was real – not living a life she really wanted for herself. Everything outside was magically keeping the perilous waters at bay. Her eyes caught everything including the beauty inside everyone and everything; although, she missed the beauty in herself represented in the you are special dust that blew from her into the hearts of all who knew her. Thus, the complex grinding mill of one wonderful mother, no longer alive, who is very much responsible for the genetic fuel in my mind motor.

Still, today is, has been, and will continue to be fascinating. Maybe only to me? 2/20/2020 really looks sexy. All those 2’s… Oh, and it is almost 7:00 pm. I was busy soaking in a ton of information since 1:07 as my mind processed a ton of rocks labeled music, chinese food, traffic, poker, emails, and texts. Deadline of 2:30? Didn’t happen. Obviously. I’m sure as I attempt to rest tonight, I’ll be Wile E Coyote’d again. Always happens. Too much information to process.

Tomorrow is 2/21/2020. Good thing. I don’t see that as being nearly as sexy.

The Equation for Infinity, Life, and Our Cell Phones

A camera-to-camera selfie in the mirror is infinite. To put this image into simpler, easier to understand language:

It’s infinitely more difficult to take a cell-fie than I thought. The little bubble eye-patchure thing is positioned in the upper 7th section of the phone just about where impossibility meets impatience. Granted, I don’t own the greatest and latest, but c’mon now! This should have been an easier task. Point, click, and shoot. Not to mention, although I will, last Thanksgiving a relative set the count-down-from-ten clock … an added ten seconds to my life I can’t get rid of in my phone. My “take this pic, and shove the backward ten numbers I can’t figure out how to disengage up your, well … ” Samsung, hip-hugging, pocket-inserting device which is the subject of a woe today.

More like a “whoa!” … said I, when settling into a familiar red booth, patting one of two empty pockets where said phone should have been.

It began as a morning of hope after a relatively good 7 hours sleep without neighborhood sirens, bodily interruptions, twisty-tie sheets jammed in my face, or pillows acting as suffocating murderers. Yesterday’s long blog in the hopper – thankfully so, as it was a day long project ending five hours later than projected. A bit surprised at the 9-degree temperature, though, due to the unseasonably warm February weather lately. With no expectation of an unordinary day, my hopeful self opened the familiar glass doors to a cafe of warm tea and friendships.

One friend was already quite comfortable looking sitting behind the steam of her second mug of coffee. Two others, under warmer circumstances, would have already been seated and served. With this, I had the rare, coveted choice of “inside or outside” booth-butt placement with the added bonus of being able to change my mind at any time. Having made a choice, I readied my posture … bent knees, tilted torso, momentum forward …

…then, “Whoa!!” I realized I left my cell phone at home. 🤦🏻‍♂️🙄

Of all the infinite problems an individual universe could visit upon someone, leaving a cell phone 4 miles away – in a familiar safe place – isn’t one of the unsolvables. It’s simply one of the classic “d’uhs” normal human-people stub their day on every once in a while. I didn’t recognize it as such until later. The moment I felt pockets as empty as wordy words without w’s, I knew my morning booth breakfast time was setting up to be more than one bacon strip short of a two-thousand calorie good time.

My leg twitched constantly. Righthand-smacking, a consequence of boredom, developed a red mark on the outside of a right thigh that didn’t deserve the abuse. Constant tapping, of what I believe to have been a Chopin Nocturne, on the table in front of my two friends (one new arrival adding to the mix) contributing to the vacancy of sanity in my head at the time. Head bobbing, not in agreement to anything, but in sync with the already metronomic twitching going on under the table … all of which, together, provide a symphony of laughs for the other patrons enjoying their breakfast fare.

At no time did I pay more than a few minutes attention to any conversation during the hour-and-a-half visit with my two friends … and this is a sad commentary on my life.

My phone was safe. I, clearly, was not.

Ok. Maybe that is overstating the problem a bit. It was a small wake-up. I was shocked how much not having my cell phone by my side changed how I thought – almost immediately. Granted, above assumed some literary license and I had fun writing, but it’s not too far from how I felt.

Mostly, the “what if” feelings crept in. What if someone important is calling me? What if I am missing an important text? What if there is a comment to a FaceBook post I wrote earlier? What if … this and that.

What if ….I missed important conversations with two really good friends because I was too worried about a cell phone missing, but safe at home? A question that never entered my mind until later.

It began as morning of limited hope. I can end the day with infinite hope having learned my lesson. Find your friends and a cafe. Not sayin’ to forget your cell phones at home, just maybe keep them in your pocket. This prevents a whole lot of twitching, patting, tapping, and metronomic nodding in public places and possibly saves an opportunity with friends that may never present itself again.