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Our Daughter Could Be a Banana Slug, or Maybe a Gorlok

10 Apr

by Roger White

 

There are certain events and milestones in one’s earthly existence that make one realize one is brushing up against one’s own mortality. Wifey and one—I mean, I—brushed up against one of these awareness-of-impending-antiquity events recently when we escorted our youngest offspring to a college and career fair at the convention center. Jamie’s a junior in high school now, and I’m a senior. In life.

It dawned on me, watching the myriad college counselors and admissions folks—some of them looking to be approximately 12 years old—that if our ol Methy himselfyoungest spawn is hunting higher education options, that must mean I’m way past AARP recruiting age. As in dirt, comma, older than. See Methuselah. See Codger. See your Chiropractor.

This preoccupation with my own demise and decay aside, my flabbers were downright gasted at just how many colleges, universities, service academies, trade schools, and other alleged higher ed institutions were represented at the fair.

Did you know, for example, that there is a Colorado School of Mines? At the little table set up for the Colorado School of Mines, I joked with the counselor that some of the school’s most prominent alumni must be Big Bad John, Darlin’ Clementine, and Loretta Lynn’s dad. The counselor didn’t appreciate the humor. I then asked the guy if they were looking for prospective students or prospector students. Again with the stone face. Tough crowd.

Actually, the now-peeved counselor explained, the Colorado School of Mines, a public research university devoted to engineering and applied science, has CSMone of the highest admissions standards in the country. This I did not know. I also did not know that they offer athletics. Their teams are—no, not the Miners—they’re the Orediggers. I went to point this out to Jamie, our college-hunting offspring, but she was long gone, off with her mom at the University of Hawaii table.

I noticed that the University of Hawaii table was jammed with people—young and old—poring over the brochures and literature, which seemed to feature many more scenes of island splendor than actual college information. Questions from prospective students also seemed not so much directed at curricula and faculty credentials as they were concerning recreation facilities and proximity to the beach.

Come to think of it, any college table associated with Hawaii (and there were more than you might think—Honolulu Community College, Leeward Community College, Windward Community College, Windy Leeward Land Ho School for Lei-Making) was overrun with eager would-be island scholars.

At the table set up for Northumbria University in Newcastle upon Tyne (I think that’s, like, overseas somewhere), I noticed that they offered a Masters in Bursary Information. I asked what exactly that was, but I didn’t quite understand the answer. In fact, I wasn’t sure if the friendly muttonchopped representative was speaking English. From the brochure, I found that the ozNorthumbria also offers a PhD in Numeracy. Yeah. I suspect they also feature a BS in Proper Powdered-Wig Wearing (for pre-Law students), and a Bachelor’s of Understanding What the Hell Ozzy Osbourne Is Saying (BS in UWHOOIS).

Some of my other personal faves included the University of Arkansas-Monticello (primarily because their teams are known as the Boll Weevils), Webster University of St. Louis (the Gorloks, whatever a Gorlok is), Scottsdale Community College (the Fightin’ Artichokes), and the University of California-Santa Cruz (the Banana Slugs).

The UC-Santa Cruz lady made mention that despite a budget that is about half the size of similar schools, their athletics program boasted 15 All-Americans last year. She didn’t say exactly what sports that the Banana Slugs were named All-American in, but judging from the neon yellow mascot and the, oh, “relaxed” look in the UCSC lady’s eye, I would bet unicycle polo, dog surfing, and quidditch are among them.

Jamie came away from the fair with tons of brochures, pens, decals, and other freebies but with little notion of just where she plans to apply. Her mom and I figure any decent school that produces an independent Jamie the slugswith an expanded worldview and ability to make large bucks—and that does not require a second mortgage on our humble abode—would be just fine.

UC-Santa Cruz would be cool, though. I would be the owner of a bumper sticker that proclaims: “Proud Dad of a Banana Slug.”

 

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

 

Fly High, Young One, But Visit the Ol’ Nest Please

27 Aug

by Roger White

 

“…the eyes of Texas are upon you,

’Til Gabriel blows his horn.”

 

The wife and I recently experienced the hopeful heartbreak of helping our firstborn bird to fly the nest. Somebody should have prepped us for this one. Jokes and tender clichés aside, this was a much more difficult task than we ever imagined. We pitched in as Lindsey gathered necessities and knickknacks from her room—the only room she’s ever called her own in her lifetime—and moved into her dorm at The University of Texas at Austin. Now, it is true that we live in Austin, and it is true that Linz is only about 11 minutes away, but to her emotionally fragile parents, she may as well have enrolled at the University of Guam. Our baby’s gone! The dingoes have eaten our baby! Wait, that’s different.

Linz in her dorm

The days that have passed since our lovely Longhorn’s departure have been filled with little melancholy milestones, and they have come upon us at odd and unexpected times. You veteran parents know what I mean: the first quiet night it hits you that she’s really not around; the first time you start to call her down for supper and realize there’s no need; the first time you walk into her darkened room to empty her wastebasket, only to see that there’s no trash to empty. I don’t think my eyes have been this stubbornly moist since the last time I watched “Brian’s Song.”

 

Funny, but one of the things we found that we miss most is Linz’s morning call, that melodious rumbling din we’ve all become quite accustomed to around our household. Every family member always knew when our oldest offspring was up and at ’em when Linz blew her nose in that unique honk of hers.

 

“Linz, you up? Almost time for school.”

 

“WHAWNNNK!!”

 

“She’s up.”

 

How I miss that whawnnnk.

 

young bird old birdOf course, from our daughter’s point of view, she may be regretting the fact that she didn’t look into the University of Guam. It’s only been a matter of days, and yet the wife and I have found dozens of reasons (excuses) to drop in on our undergrad at the Forty Acres. “Hi, sweetie, I figured you could use some more highlighters.” “I’m at the front desk, Linz, I thought you might need another blanket.” “It’s us again, Linz. We have a rutabaga.” “Linz, the front desk people are giving us dirty looks again.” You get the idea. We lobbied to have our own dorm key made, but the UT people frowned upon that notion.

 

It’s an exciting time for the young bird, full of nervous anticipation, hard work, new people, grand adventure, as she flies on her way. Kind of tough on us old birds, though, back in the old nest. We still have one fledgling not quite ready to take wing. When that baby flies in a couple of years, we may be ready for the old bird asylum.

 

Hook ’em, Linz. We know you’ll do wondrous things. And we hope you remember where the old nest is. We have fresh fruit and Ramen!

 

“…The eyes of your folks are upon you,

So Lindsey blow your horn!”

 

P.S. It was close, but Mr. R.L. Mitchell of Baton Rouge beat Bob Kolar of Austin to win the “Find the Fib Follies” contest from our last episode. They both correctly guessed that the weeeinventor of the “para-shirt” story was about as factual as a three-dollar bill—but R.L. wins the big bucks by beating Bob to the “send” button. A bunch of other folks got it right, too, but they were too slow. You know who you are. I gotta make up better whoppers. Thanks for the kind words, guys. You like me! You really, really like me! Oh!

 

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.

 

College Twerk-Study Program? No, Thank You

19 Mar

by Roger White  

Shakespeare nailed it when he said it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Or was that Kipling? Whatever. That’s what it is, all right. Around our house, it’s the best of times because our eldest offspring has been accepted into two top-tier universities. And it’s the worst of times because our eldest offspring has been accepted into two top-tier universities.

As parents, we couldn’t be more proud—or more terrified. If you haven’t window-shopped prices of higher education lately, let me explain it this way: Imagine you are a master chemist and you’ve cooked world-class blue crystal meth for years until you’ve amassed eight barrels of nicely laundered cash. Now, imagine a gang of neo-Nazi thugs meets you in the desert, shoots your DEA agent brother-in-law, and takes seven of your cashcashcashcash barrels, leaving you with only one. OK, never mind. Bad analogy. I’m in no way likening college to a gang of neo-Nazi thugs. In fact, let me state for the record here and now that I am extremely pro-higher education. However, I am also extremely pro-eating food on a daily basis and pro-paying the light bill and pro-not living in the highway median with the nocturnal wildlife and those creepy guys in the wool sweaters who hang out at the stoplight.

Yes, folks, college be expensive. Sticker shock isn’t the term for it. It’s more like sticker electrocution. With two girls nearing high school graduation, the wife and I figure that I can retire around age 146. The good news is I can gear down to a part-time job at about age 125 or so.

greenstampsNeedless to say, we are hunting high and low and medium for any and all forms of financial aid, scholarships, grants, loans, subsidies, handouts, lottery tickets, coupons, cash-back programs, and loose change. We’ll take S&H green stamps if you have them.

This is why I was morbidly curious when I read somewhere that a rapper by the name of Juicy J recently offered a $50,000 college scholarship to “the best chick who can twerk.” If you’ve been cave-dwelling or living in Nebraska of late, twerking is, and I’m quoting here, “a type of dancing in which an individual, usually a female, dances to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements Robin Thicke, Miley Cyrusand a low squatting stance.” Yeah. It’s that highly objectionable derriere-jiggling move that an obviously chemically-altered Miley Cyrus performed on stage last year at the MTV Video Music Awards. Needless to say, I’ll never watch Hannah Montana the same way again. Not that I ever watched Hannah Montana. No, seriously. I only watched a few episodes because my kids were watching it. Actually a cute show, although I thought the guy playing Hannah’s dad just wasn’t believable in that role.

Anyway, no daughter of mine is going to twerk for anybody anywhere, if I have something to say about it. At least not for anything less than a full ride, textbooks, and room and board.

This got me thinking, if a rapper can step up and sponsor this unique, albeit disgusting, higher ed opportunity, why can’t others? How about Apple offering a Texting Tuition Scholarship? I know for a fact my youngest can text and tweet longer and faster than anyone I know. Sprint could perhaps pony up big money for the Best Selfie Student Grant Program. Maybe the automotive industry could get behind a Guess the Next GM Recall Scholarship. Or what about a Dennis Rodman Foreign Policy International Studies Student Loan Program? The potential here is unlimited.

Unfortunately, my retirement account isn’t. Pass the peanut butter and crackers, please.

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, visitoldspouse.wordpress.com

Keep Your Head Down During the BFF Wars

13 Feb

by Roger White

 

So I stepped out onto my front porch the other day into a pile of brightly colored bikini tops. There were at least six or eight of these sexy swimwear items crowding my front door. My first thought: “Well, it’s finally happened. The neighborhood womenfolk have been spying me working out through my bedroom window for so long now that they just can’t take it anymore. My guns, my six-pack, my dimpled charm—they were simply too much to resist. So the wives and moms of Travis Country collectively lost it and decided to pay homage, Tom Jones style. With the lines to the man“What’s New, Pussycat?” sauntering through my mind, I reached down to take the offerings, half expecting names and phone numbers to be hidden among the intimate apparel.

 

“Oh.” Then it hit me—these were return items in my younger daughter’s ongoing BFF wars.

 

 Let me attempt an explanation. If you are not the parent of teenage daughter types, well, then, lucky you. Let me start over. If you are not the parent of teenage daughter types, you may not understand that drama runs extremely high in this species. In fact, if Mr. Maslow had been raising a teenage daughter when he was developing his “hierarchy of needs” philosophy, then his list of basic human necessities would be ranked something like this: 5. Shelter; 4. Food; 3. Water; 2. Oxygen; 1. Drama. Like so.

 

It seems, if I’ve interpreted correctly what little I could catch of my daughter’s version gossip girlsof recent events, that a certain group of friends are, like, so jealous of a certain person’s ongoing, like, relationship, with a certain boy, so, like, this certain group of friends are giving the cold shoulder to this person until she, like, shows them more attention. As if. Duh.

 

Aha, pals versus passion. The crew versus the crush. I vaguely remember similar situations back in my high school days, and I must say that we handled things very differently. Of course, this was a bygone era, and I was a guy. I recall that if one of our group was lucky enough to actually find a girl who could tolerate him for more than a week, we simply wished him well—and hated him behind his back. Then we followed the unfortunate couple around the school halls making lewd, disgusting noises, and we occasionally hunted down their makeout spot to shine flashlights and blast airhorns. Yeah, we were much more mature about these things.

 

Of course, none of this even remotely applies to me today. These days, as married as long as we’ve been, the wife looks at me after I come home from hanging with my crew (Steve) and sighs, “Oh, you back again already?” Yeah.

 

So anyway, that’s the reason for all the bikini tops on my doorstep. The BFFs are saying to my young one, “Here are your things back. Clothes and makeup trading is, like, off until you come to your senses.”

deardad 

My delicate job in all of this, I’ve found from experience, is to nod or shrug as appropriate and say absolutely nothing. I learned that if I agree too readily with my daughter’s harsh appraisal of Heather, Ashley, and/or Brittanie Anne while the wars are in progress that this always comes back to bite me. Hard. “Yes, you’re right,” I made the mistake of saying one time trying to soothe dear daughter’s hurt feelings. “Brittanie Anne can be pretty snotty.” Of course, during the ensuing BFF truce, I heard my daughter proclaim to Brittanie Anne, “My dad thinks you’re snotty.”

 

Lord help me.

 

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.

 

 

Daddies, It’s OK to Miss Your Little Girls

28 Aug

by Roger White

Watching my oldest daughter stride so smartly into her senior year of high school, and my youngest girl, a sophomore, confidently follow in her steps, I found myself struck recently with a peculiar mix of great pride and vague twinges of guilt. It took me some soul-searching and serious contemplation—and serious contemplation comes grindingly hard for me these days—to determine the root of my emotional mélange, but I think I figured it out: I miss my little girls. And I feel guilty for missing them because they’re not even gone!

But in a way, they are.

Somewhere along the line, at some moment in time among those precious years, my little girls grew up. Somewhere between those nights reading them Goodnight Moon while they settled to sleep in their Winnie-the-Pooh footsies and then suddenly watching them, dressed so beautifully, walk out the door with their boyfriends, my babies became young women. How did that happen?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll the old jokes about sitting on the front porch with a shotgun aside, watching one’s little girls mature into womanhood is such a tough and tender time for fathers. It’s not so much that I’m not the No. 1 man in their lives anymore. Heck, most of my daughters’ boyfriends so far have been pretty good guys—most of them, mind you. And if you don’t know which list you’re on, boyfriends out there, that’s intentional. Watch your step. No, it’s the small things I miss—those little girl moments like the times I would take them for a ride up the stairs, either piggyback or on my feet, as bedtime came; those long summer days at the neighborhood pool when they would yell for me to throw them higher into the air for that great splash; the giggles and smiles I’d receive when I’d bring them little toys and trinkets; and the unashamed kisses and hugs I somehow took for granted. One of my sweetest memories of those days is the time I was tucking my youngest in for the night, and she asked me: “Daddy, can I marry you when I grow up?” Gets me every time when I think about that.

Now that they’re teenagers, most shows of affection—and bits of parental advice—are usually met with a long roll of the eyes and a sarcastic “Oh, Dad!” But I know that’s only normal. The species humanus teenageus can be a snarling, confounding breed. My wife and I often sit and ponder when that time will come when they first realize we’re not complete lamebrains and they utter those cherished words: “Mom and Dad, you were right!”

And now that I’ve had time to work through my thoughts, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s OK to miss my little girls. They’re big girls now, and I love them with all of my heart for who they are and for the bright, talented adults they’ll become. One of the things I’m most thankful for is that even though I’ll always miss those days of Barbies and cartoons and forts made of bedsheets—and letting them do makeovers on me in their Two Sisters Salon—I didn’t miss the days as they happened. It wasn’t all roses; all parents know and ruh rohappreciate the great challenge, the tremendous patience, and the utter lack of sleep involved in raising little ones—but I wouldn’t trade those days for anything in the world. Well, on second thought, if I had it all to do over again, I’d skip the fingernail polish. How on earth do you get that out?

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.

Writer’s Block? No, It’s COS–Creative Obstruction Syndrome

11 Jun

by Roger White

 

When I was a kid, living in what was then a tiny suburban town with a flashing yellow light on the highway and a few close-knit neighborhoods in which summer curfew was the precise moment the street lights came on, I was good friends with the son of the town doctor. Despite the fact that he was the smartest d_burleson[1]kid in town and half the time I couldn’t understand what the devil he was talking about, he was a fun kid. For several preteen summers, we hung around together just about every day. We’d take turns having sleepovers at each other’s houses. David’s house was the nicest in town, and I always had a blast exploring the attic crawlspaces with him. We had a secret room in one of the crawlspaces we called Project Asparagus. The tiny storage space we decorated with shag rugs and posters and a black light. It was our cool, clandestine hideout. We didn’t discover until years later that his mom knew all about Project Asparagus and could hear us every time we crawled around in there. She said we sounded like two overgrown rats.

 

Anyway, David’s dad, Dr. Brown, was a community icon. Back then, you pretty much figured that doctors knew everything. You trusted their judgment. Their diagnoses, their viewpoint on things, carried much weight. Doctors fixed you. There wasn’t anything that doctors didn’t know.

 

I’m not sure if it’s a product of cynical wisdom that comes with maturity or the overwhelming influx of white noise and myriad “expert opinions” of this information age (have a symptom—Google it!), but as the years have gone by my unshakeable faith in the medical profession has eroded somewhat. In fact, if you were to graph my advancing age alongside my trust in MDs, QUAAACKyou’d have two lines angling in opposite directions. A lot of it could be due to the fact that today doctors have an official (and expensive-sounding) medical term for every human condition. And if they don’t actually know what it is that ails you, then they label it some nebulous multi-syllabic syndrome.

 

For example, lately our oldest daughter has been having stomach problems. She often feels queasy and lightheaded after she eats, and she’s even passed out a couple of times. It’s been unsettling, to say the least, so we took her in to a gastroenterologist. He took a quick gander at her, asked her a couple of questions, and pronounced that she was suffering from IBS—Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Cut back on the dairy and sugar and see me in a few weeks if it doesn’t get better, he said. Will that be cash or credit? What? That’s it? Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Geez, my bowels get irritable, too—every time I overdo the Tex-Mex and beer. Does that mean I have IBS? In fact, I would imagine everybody has IBS on occasion.

 

Don’t quote me on this, but I seriously think the word “syndrome” is either Greek or Latin for “best guess.” Just as “disorder” is code for “we really don’t know.” Instead of admitting they simply have no idea what the heck is wrong with you, docs assign you a syndrome. If you can’t sleep, you have Restless Leg Syndrome; if you’re tired a lot, you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; if you and your coworkers feel bad at the same time, you have Sick Building Syndrome. If you get mad, you have Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder. And, of course, let’s not forget perhaps the most significant medical discovery of the new age: ADD. When I was a kid, if you ran ADDaround a lot, couldn’t pay attention for long stretches, and hollered like a banshee, they called you normal and made you play outside until you were worn out. Nowadays, youngsters who exhibit the very same behavior are proclaimed to be suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder and promptly pumped full of prescription drugs strong enough to tranquilize a racehorse.

 

Ouch. I had a lot more to say about this, but my Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is flaring up. Meds! Where are my meds?!

 

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.

 

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.

Rise of the Planet of the Apps

2 Oct

by Roger White

 

The other day I was reading, with mild interest, a story about an 11-year-old girl who beat all these teams of professional computer whizzes in a contest to see who could design and market the best app to reduce distracted driving. Sixth-grader Victoria Walker won this AT&T-sponsored contest held in Los Angeles by creating something she calls Rode Dog. Just from the name, I liked the idea right off the bat. It seems that Rode Dog allows users to create mini-social networks of family and friends—or “packs.” Each pack member is tracked by GPS at all times, and members are alerted whenever someone in the pack is using a phone and driving at the same time.

 

And here’s where it gets fun. When other pack members are made aware that one of their own is texting while driving, they then send barking sounds to the offending “dog” to make them knock it off. The app makes money by enabling users to download the sounds of different breeds for 99 cents. So you can be a yappy, obnoxious chihuahua; or you can scare the bejeezus out of the errant pack member with a deep basset hound woooof.

 

Second place went to an app called Safe Car Key, which shuts the car down if the user’s phone is removed from a loading dock built into the car. Drive Pledge, designed to reward drivers with points, games, and songs for miles accumulated without texting or using their phone, won third place.

 

Now, I noted that I read this story with mild interest, but that interest turned instantly keen when we caught our oldest daughter DWI recently. No, no, alcohol wasn’t involved. This was a case of Driving While Intexticated. Yep, she came home the other day with the right side of the car scraped and creased and looking not at all well. After a little interrogation, she confessed to fiddling with her phone while the car was in gear and moving. She says she thought she was stopped, but the big, metal bike rack at the neighborhood park where she was driving didn’t just jump out and attack our Honda.

 

I’m thinking now we should become Rode Dogs.

 

This new app idea also got me pondering about what folks might consider their ideal, fantasy app. So I conducted a highly unscientific poll of our family—er, pack—and came up with the following (allow plus or minus 3 percentage points of standard deviation in Iowa and Tennessee; not valid in New Jersey; 10 cent deposit in Michigan; void where prohibited):

 

Parents (that’s me and Mom): How about an app designed to prevent our offspring from secretly texting until their homework is done? This would require some linking with teachers through the Gradespeed service, whereby any of our kids’ texts to their friends during homework hours would be intercepted by the appropriate teacher. A sample:

Jamie (our youngest): “Yo yo yo GF wadup? Dont u h8 Span?”

Señor Moya: “Yo, yo, yo, yourself, Señorita Jamie. Have you conjugated your Spanish verb infinitives yet? And by the way, I love Spanish.”

Jamie: “O me2 adios!”

Mom: I would appreciate an app on Dad’s phone that monitors sound coming from the nearest TV set. If the app detects dialogue matching that from Top Gun, Casino, or Animal House, the app immediately shuts off the television and calls Dad with a friendly reminder about the catbox and the lawn.

 

Lindsey (our oldest): An app that taps into the long, long history of Dad’s driving record and displays on all family members’ phones all of Dad’s, um, lapses of judgment he’s experienced over the years behind the wheel. DAD!

 

Jamie (our youngest): An app that links to all the phones of my friends when they’re over at my house and, through this network, is able to pick up sour notes and off-key singing by Dad. The app then makes him cut it out with high-pitched sirens or electric shocks or something.

 

Dad: Well. In light of all the other apps requested by my loving pack, I envision a nuclear app that overrides all other apps in a 50-foot radius of Dad and gently beeps Dad when the mountains are blue on the side of his cans. Nyah.

 

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.

Blood Is Thicker Than Ink, Hopefully

18 Sep

by Roger White   

To My Dear Lovely Daughters,

I noticed the other day as I picked you up from high school that several of your schoolmates—guys and girls—were sporting all shapes and sizes and colors of tattoos on various parts of their bodies. Now, whether these were the permanent kind or not I haven’t a clue, but something tells me that at least some of the pigmented Picassos were of the needle and pain variety.

Now, far be it from me to disparage the youth of today or grouse against freedom of expression simply because I answer roll call as a “duddy, comma, fuddy, antique variety.” Please understand that I am trying hard to keep my mind pried open with regard to using one’s epidermis as a canvas for skulls and hearts and slogans and tribal images and mysterious Asian-looking symbols and whatnot. (Note: I kinda have a notion that true Asian-speaking people could be having a bit of fun in the tattoo parlors by telling customers that certain symbols represent such qualities as strength and courage, when they really translate to “egg fried rice” or something.)

But anyway. In my day (I know, your favorite three words), but in my day, people with tattoos were chiefly hardened criminals, old sailors, and motorcycle gang types. And the tattoos were simple and simply placed. You had about three tattoos to choose from back then: a name (mostly Mom), a battleship, or a mermaid. They were one, two colors max—and they went on the guy’s bicep. Women were not allowed to have tattoos then. The women who did have them were considered of dubious virtue.

Girls, I know times have changed. I understand that tattoos now adorn the bods of everyone from athletes to bankers to moms in the grocery store. Heck, viewing any football or basketball game today is like watching a prison riot in my book (see duddy, comma, fuddy above). I read recently that no less than 21 percent of adult Americans now have a tattoo. Twenty-one percent. That’s about one in five, if I remember my trigonometry.

So I guess the reason I’m writing you, my precious offspring, is to say I understand if you are considering staining your skin—permanently—because your pals are doing it. Just a few notes to consider, however, while you’re pondering, OK? First off, do you know where I read that 21 percent figure I quoted you? On the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site, that’s where. Do you also know that licensed tattoo artists are supposed to have bloodborne pathogen training because of the risk of spreading disease, AND that the Red Cross prohibits a person who has received a tattoo from donating blood for 12 months unless the procedure was done in a state-regulated and licensed studio using sterile techniques? Hmm? Also, there are no federal regulations regarding tattoo parlors, and believe it or not, not all ink places abide by state regs.

But really, it’s fine with me. Oh, here are a few more tidbits:

Diseases and conditions that can be transmitted by the use of unsterilized tattoo equipment or contaminated ink include:

• Surface infections of the skin

• Hepatitis B

• Hepatitis C

• Tuberculosis

• Tetanus

• HIV

• Allergic reactions to tattoo pigments

• Reactions triggered by exposure to sunlight

• Allergic conditions caused by certain trace-element metals in pigments

• Tattoo burns caused by MRI scans

• Dermal reactions such as granulomas, various lichenoid diseases, collagen deposits, discoid lupus erythematosus (yike), eczematous eruptions, hyperkeratosis, and keloids

• Infections due to contaminated ink or ink diluted with non-sterile water

Now, say you change your mind about that beloved ink blot later in life. It’s true, girls. You may have regrets down the road about toting Justin Bieber’s face and mop of hair on your backside for the rest of your days. I read that several physicians who specialize in tattoo removal estimate that about 50 percent of people who get inked later want one or more tattoos removed. They do have laser removal these days, a procedure that folks liken unto getting their skin splattered with hot bacon grease for several hours, but if the tattoo is extensive, sometimes removal requires sanding down the skin to remove layers, cryosurgery, or even excision, in which a surgeon goes in with a scalpel and closes the wound with stitches. Larger tattoo removal may require skin grafts. Yes, skin grafts.

Just some things to think about, girls. I’ll have body piercing info for you in my next letter.

Love ya,

Dad

(Note to all you gorgeously inked folks out there—and to the artists who ink them—no offense intended, especially if you’re as large as my friend Big Joe. Heck, I have some inked friends, relatives even. My nephew has Wile E. Coyote on his ankle. This is simply a letter to my daughters, whom I still regard in my heart as ages 7 and 5, respectively. Spouse out.)

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.

Why Civility Matters

9 Mar

Editor’s Note: I rarely if ever post other authors’ material here. The many interesting voices in my head provide enough material to keep me sending missives to you, my demented following, for many years to come.

However, I couldn’t resist on this one. This is a topic vitally important, in my humble opinion. It’s quite serious, and I couldn’t have said it better than one Sara Hacala, so I sought her permission and the permission of AARP Bulletin to reprint it here.

It’s about how we have lost all sense of civility in public discourse today. I wholeheartedly agree, and I hope you’ll help me spread the word. I don’t care if you’re Republican, Democrat, Independent, Marxist, Atheist, Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, Jewish, Pagan, Tree-Hugger Party, Ted Nugent Bow-and-Arrow Party–whatever. We need to stop shouting at each other. When, for example, did it become OK to scream out “You lie!” to the president during his address? And remember when the word “sucks” was not an acceptable catch-all for something that is less than par? My eighth-grade teacher sent us to the principal’s office whenever she heard that vulgar word. (This was 1972, mind you.) But you get the idea. Today’s social milieu sucks! oop… well, here’s Sara’s column:

by Sara Hacala

“Whatever happened to civility?” is an oft-heard lament, particularly among those of us over 50 who recognize civility’s increasing absence in a world changing at warp speed. Technology has forever altered the style, speed, and reach of our decidedly less personal communication. Escalating vulgarity, lax standards, sensational media, and polarized politics reign. Society today is far different than it was when we were young.

While rudeness is pervasive and rising (one recent report concluded that bad behavior may be the “new normal”), the societal and financial costs of incivility are astronomical–impacting our homes and relationships, schools, economy, health care, and government.

Civility is more than polite courtesies. Derived from the Old French and Latin term for “good citizen,” civility enables us to live respectfully in communities; it is the glue that binds our society. It can be the difference between life and death–as, for example, when health care professionals bully subordinates, cover mistakes, and create mistrust. It is an essential component of our human sustainability, enabling us not only to survive but thrive.

Reversing the current course of incivility is a challenge for our times. Until a rudeness vaccine is developed, we must dig into our civility tool kit. There are compelling reasons why we should. A life is not defined by a single act, and few of us will ever achieve national acclaim or perform deeds that change the course of history. However, there is a “greatness” in treating others with respect, compassion, kindness, and generosity. With this, we can make a difference in the lives of many.

Here are five tools:

1. Regardless of your age, make a habit of practicing kindness, generosity, and gratitude. Substantial research shows that people who regularly engage in those acts live longer, healthier, and happier lives. It’s never too late to start.

2. Nurture your social relationships, which, scientists say, have the capacity to generate our greatest happiness. Enrich your connections by balancing Internet contact with phone calls and face-to-face visits, which are more personal forms of communication.

3. Establish meaningful dialogue with medical providers, asserting your right to respectful and compassionate treatment. As a patient, you have the opportunity to evaluate hospital care; hospitals with extensive negative evaluations can lose Medicare subsidies.

4. Seize “teachable moments” with your children and grandchildren if you love them but not their behavior. Child development experts say we’re no longer teaching our kids manners–or respect and empathy for others. By contrast, a major study reported that social skills are a more accurate predictor of future success than test scores. So step up your game with your children and grandchildren. Enlighten your progeny about the importance of developing interpersonal skills and relationships by engaging them in conversations without small screens and buttons. That may be your enduring legacy.

5. Promote decency and decorum among elected officials. Hold them accountable for behavior during campaigns and, more importantly, once they’re in office. Urge civil discourse and bipartisanship to avoid gridlock. You and your country’s livelihood are at stake.

Given our sheer numbers as older people, we can have an impact on transformation. At the very least, we can set an example. It may take a generation to create a positive cultural shift, but we have to start somewhere. These are the seeds we can all plant. One at a time.

Reprinted with permission from the March 2012 AARP Bulletin. Copyright (c) 2012 AARP. All rights reserved. For more information, visit www.savingcivility.com.