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Wanna Know Who You Really Are? Spit Here.

5 Jun

by Roger White                                                                              

 

So the wife finally convinced me to do this ancestry DNA thing you’ve probably heard or read about. Ya know, you send in your DNA sample to this mad scientist type place somewhere in Utah and a few months later you get to find out you’re not Scotch-Irish like you’ve been told since you were 3 but are in fact one-fifth Bosnian-Herzegovinian with a touch of Latvian Orthodox and a slight dusting of the Saskatchewan Moose Jaw Clan. Which is probably why your family just said you were Scotch-Irish and left it at that. Much simpler.

Anyway, one day the wife hands me this cardboard box and excitedly proclaims, “Here’s your kit! Time to provide your sample!”

I was instantly horrified. The only “samples” I’ve ever had to provide for medical/research purposes involved either (a) needles, blood, and pain; (b) sitting alone in a room with a tiny container, some tissues, and a “men’s” magazine while trying hard to think sexy thoughts; or (c) forcibly going to the bathroom and then, while completely mortified, placing my uncomfortably warm “sample” into a tray in the wall of my examination room while praying to God no one opens the tray from the other side of the wall while I’m providing my uncomfortably warm “sample.”

To my great relief, I found out that the ancestry guys just wanted my spit. For a moment, as I self-consciously began earnestly trying to hock up a nice loogie, I eyed Ralph asleep on the floor and pondered what the results would be if I gave them a vial of elderly long-haired dachshund saliva. “Dear Mr. White,” I envisioned, “from your unique DNA sample, our labs have concluded that you are eight-tenths Old World German with a family history of hunting badgers and an unusual tendency toward heartworm. For long-term health, you may consider drinking less from the toilet and going for ‘walkies’ at least three times a week.”

But no, I diligently hocked up my sample, sealed my little vial, and we both shipped off our DNA data in hopes of discovering if great-great-great-great-great grandpappy was perhaps Nebuchadnezzar II or Spike Jones or whoever.

We have since been in the “waiting phase,” while—according to the company literature—the DNA lab experts and biochemists in white labcoats spend arduous weeks attempting to deconstruct our respective spittles down to the double-helix level and painstakingly extract our ancestry information. A substantial part of me thinks that in reality, there’s a big basement room in Provo somewhere with a giant wall map of the world and a bunch of guys in t-shirts and sweatpants armed with darts.

“OK,” a rotund guy yells out, still munching a pizza crust, slouched at his chair. “Watch out. This one is for, let’s see, this dude’s name is ‘White.’” He reaches into a coffee can full of darts, takes a dart and heaves it at the wall. “Rocko,” the guy yells. “Where’d that hit?”

Rocko takes a swig of Miller Lite from a longneck bottle and shuffles over to the map. “It’s in the middle of the damn ocean. Try again.”

The rotund “lab expert” sighs and throws another. “Bingo!”

Rocko burps and leans down to inspect the dart’s landing zone. “Bolivia. Somewhere in the middle of Lake Titicaca. Wow.”

“How ’bout that? Bet the guy never knew he was one-quarter Titicacan. OK, watch out, here goes again…”

I’m hoping that’s not how it goes, but the cynic in me can’t help but think the whole thing is at least a little bit scammy. I did read somewhere that the results aren’t 100 percent accurate and that some folks tend to be over-identified Scandinavian for some reason. I guess Scandinavian is the default heritage, kind of like on the Magic 8 Ball how more times than not the answer is “Results Hazy. Try Again Later.”

 

Roger White is a four-sevenths Scandinavian freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely six-elevenths Creole wife, two half-Sri Lankan daughters, a full-blooded Obesian dachshund, and a cat that refuses to provide a sample. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

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They’ll Take My Lawn Darts When They Pry Them from My Cold, Dead Hands

26 Nov

by Roger White

Every Christmas season, right on cue, under the guise of “the public interest,” some Grinch-worshiping cults masquerading as nonprofit research groups publish their annual lists of the most dangerous, evil, and malicious child-eating toys of the year. I have a toy bone to pick with these guys—not a large toy bone, just a small one. In fact, it’s small enough to lodge in the throat and necessitate a trip to the emergency room. But nevertheless…

Don’t misunderstand, I acknowledge the need for watchdogs in our society, especially when it comes to the safety and well-being of our tiniest community members. There is surely no call for manufacturing and marketing such items as Mister Mickey’s Mini-Molotov Cocktail Set or Captain Smiley’s Fun with Asbestos Removal. But some of the selections for the naughty toy list are a bit nitpicky, if you ask me.

Take this year’s U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety, for example. The PIRG Nerds spent all of their time from September through November hanging out in toy stores and malls playing with all the toys, games, and gadgets. (Side note: I want a job at PIRG.) According to the PIRG report, “Our investigation focused on toys that posed a potential toxic, choking, strangulation, or noise hazard.” The report mentioned nothing about all the obnoxious, overly-sexed, street-walker-dressed dolls aimed at the preteen set—but then, maybe I’m being a prude.

 

No, PIRG’s pet peeves involved amounts of lead, tiny magnets in toys, little toy pieces that kids could swallow, loud toys, and toys that contained something called phthalates. Not only do I not have the foggiest idea what phthalates are, I don’t even know how to pronounce them. Trying to pronounce phthalates produces enough spittle as to discourage me from even investigating them, and I recommend the same for you. This is the “if you can’t pronounce it, it can’t hurt you” school of consumer protection. I will note that the PIRG study reported that the state of Washington had the toughest phthalate protection laws on the books—they went as far as making toy manufacturers that used phthalates spell out the amount of phthalates on the toy. This, I’m sure, caused toy manufacturers in Washington to increase the size of their toys just so the word phthalates could appear on the toy.

As for the rest of the hazards on the list, come on. We’ve become a nation of coddlers. As far as lead goes, I found out after the fact that all of my beloved Hot Wheels cars of the late 1960s were slathered in lead paint. I never ate one of my Hot Wheels cars. I crashed them a lot, maybe even burned one or two to see how neat it would look, but I don’t recall ever licking or munching my toy cars. And I turned out fine. No, really, I did. The dangers of magnets, choking, poking, burning, toxins, all that? Let me just say that when I was a tyke, we had Creepy Crawlers (basically an open hot plate used to cook plastic goo); giant lawn darts, which my pals and I would use as WWII bombs on our toy tanks and soldiers (we wore makeshift helmets on the battlefield); BB guns, which we would fire at each other to reenact famous battles throughout history; stingray bikes with no safety helmets or silly pads; and junior chemistry sets complete with instructions on what to do if you caught fire. And we all somehow made it through to adulthood with nary a scratch.

Well, I wouldn’t say nary a scratch. There was that incident with Jimmy Peterson’s left eye. And, oh, yeah, Bobby Scoggins never could catch a ball again after that one time—and jeez, I forgot all about poor Stevie Blackwell. He was a fun guy, rest his soul. OK, OK, never mind. I suppose some of the old toys are best left in the old days. Who’s up for some Slip ’n’ Slide?!

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.