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Ask not what Walmart can do for you…

The best multiple-choice questions in school were the ones that included at least one ridiculous answer among the options. They allowed you, if you weren’t an idiot, to immediately rule out one possible response and increase your chances of being correct. For example:

According to new CPR guidelines, which is the correct order of actions to take with an unresponsive victim?

A) call for help, open the airway, mouth-to-mouth breathing, chest compressions

B) mouth-to-mouth breathing, chest compressions, call for help

C) search the victim’s pockets, administer a series of rapid punches to the abdomen, check in your location on Facebook

D) call for help, chest compressions, open the airway, mouth-to-mouth breathing

(The answer is D, by the way.)

So if I were to pose the following question to you on a test:

Excluding registers and the customer service desk, where are you most likely to find a Walmart employee should you need help locating an item in the store?

A) in the aisles of an assigned department, proactively engaging customers and offering assistance

B) in parking lot

C) in break room

D) hurrying from parking lot to break room

then you might assume A is your classic throwaway answer, an obviously false choice that really just narrows down the possibilities to three.

But if a recent trend I’ve observed at my neighborhood Walmart improbably continues, then maybe A goes from test-writing humor to viable option. The last three times I’ve visited, I’ve seen employees helping customers beyond the very front of the store. One of them even approached me, unsolicited, in the office supplies section to ask if I needed help finding something. I wish I could say what happened next, but I blacked out momentarily and then she was gone. I’m positive she was real, though.

I don’t know what’s going on, but if Walmart can do better, then dammit, so can we! I offer the following brief quiz to help you identify the ways you can be a more courteous shopper in 2012:

1. You’re pushing your shopping cart through the frozen goods aisle and something catches your eye. “OMG!” you think to yourself. “A Mrs. Spunkworth’s Krisco Meringue Pie! I’ve got to have that!” But then you remember your Weight Watchers points. What should you do with your cart as you take several minutes examining the nutritional information on the side of the box and doing the math to justify the purchase?

A) Leave it in the center of the aisle and expose your back fat and crack while stooping over the pie in your ill-fitting pants.

B) Push it into the Achilles tendons of the nearest shopper with her back turned.

C) Move the cart to the nearest open spot on the side of the aisle.

D) Leave it in the center of the aisle, blocking other shoppers’ passage.

2. How many items are acceptable to pass through the 20 Items or Less register?

A) As many as I want. This is a free country. I know my First Amendment rights!

B) A full cart. No hablo ingles.

C) 25 or less (everyone deserves a little wiggle room)

D) 40 or less

3. Under which circumstances is it OK to pay for your groceries with a check?

A) I can pay however I want. You can keep your elite debit cards!

B) You’re wearing a puffy vest and just stepped out of a DeLorean with smoldering tires in the parking lot.

C) None.

D) If you’re older than 85.

4. Upon exiting the store, where in the parking lot should you leave your shopping cart?

A) Wherever the hell I want. This is a free country. I know my First Amendment rights!

B) In the nearest empty parking space

C) In the designated cart return corral

D) In that striped space between handicap stalls

Interpreting the results:

A, B or D (all questions) – You’re wrong. Stop doing that.

C (all questions) – You’re a good person. Treat yourself to a day off from your Weight Watchers points.


You Say You Want a Resolution…

And we’re back! I figured if the people who make money doing this sort of thing felt good about taking the end of the year off, then I was justified in leaving my modest readership pining ever so briefly for the return of my thoughts on manhood.

I had the unoriginal thought to start 2012 with some resolutions for each of the four categories of this blog. First up is The Progenitor:

Jesus said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” And I’m onboard with that philosophy. Really. Regardless of your faith, I do believe that loving others is the key to true happiness in life.

But my neighbors do things like park seven or eight cars in front of their house every night, so backing out of my driveway in the snow is a white-knuckle challenge. They let their teenage son and his shithead friends get drunk in their backyard and grunt about their boners at 1 AM. They let their dogs bark throughout the night, and they put tacky decorations in their front yard, Country Living regurgitations like old wagon wheels and cow skulls.

And those are just some of the people who live near me. There are countless more outside of my neighborhood who do things like stop their carts in the middle of the grocery aisle or write ‘sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it’ on their Facebook pages.

Which is to say, loving others is a work in progress for me. But there’s one area, at least, where I’m not woefully underdelivering love: in the home. It’s a lot easier, or course, to love your family than acquaintances or strangers, but it’s the most important place to start. You can be a social charmer or a great philanthropist, but if you’re a negative influence in your home, then you’re an asshole. On the contrary, if, like me, you treat your family with love but your associates wonder if you would even piss on them if they were on fire, then you’re still a bit of a dick, but at least one whose priorities are in order.

So I’m going to get to loving those neighbors eventually; while I’m at it, though, I’ll continue to work hard on the fatherhood piece, because at least in that area I can feel like I’m not causing Jesus to shake his head in exasperation.

Here, then, for the 21st century man, are a few 2012 resolutions for being a better father first, which will help later with the whole “loving others” thing:

  • Tell your kids everyday that you love them.
  • Treat your kids like people. No matter their age—they’re humans, not pets. Some people think that good parenting means having trained children. Trained in social norms and expectations, sure; but you have to remember that they’re kids. They need to make mistakes and they need to challenge the rules from time to time. It’s how they learn. If you’re expecting military-style obedience and discipline, then you should go looking for a time machine to take you back several decades to when that ignorant philosophy was in vogue. Enjoy the segregation and polio while you’re there, too.
  • Admit to them when you’re wrong. You’re going to snap at them sometimes for stupid reasons, and their feelings will be hurt. Once your reptilian brain shuts off and you start to feel like a jerk, don’t be too proud to apologize.
  • If, like many parents, you have a stack of cheap plastic cups, and you have a son, and your son asks for a drink, and this is what you find in the cupboard because all the blue or green cups are dirty—just take the damn pink cup off the top and give it to him. I’m 99.9% sure it won’t ultimately lead to a timeshare in Key West.
  • Don’t hit them. That’s Neanderthal behavior. Seriously. What kinds of adults hit other adults when they’re frustrated? The kinds with facial and neck tattoos, that’s who. Why, then, would a respectable adult think it’s OK to hit a kid? Don’t do it.

Happy New Year!

12 Ways to Control Your Christmas Party Conversations

You know how some people briefly lick the tips of their thumbs to get better traction when distributing papers from a stack? I worked with a guy who once did that immediately after eating some peanuts. When I got my copy of the agenda he was passing out, the upper corner of the page had a big wet thumbprint stamped with peanut particles and spit.

If you’ve ever worked in a cubicle environment, then you know what it’s like trying to ignore the private phone conversations of your peers who are seated just a few feet away from you. I worked with a girl who, to her credit, conducted most of those conversations with her husband in a whisper; but the weird part was her insistence on whispering to him as if her were a toddler. Or a dog. “Hi there, Dougie! How are you today? Oh, that’s so good, sweetie! Yes, it is! Yes, it is!” And by the time the calls were over, she was usually crying.

Some people have singing voices that should be shared. Others have singing voices that should be confined to single occupant vehicles and shower stalls in empty homes. I freely admit that I have that kind of voice. I worked with a girl who had that kind of voice. One of us didn’t understand Jesus’s Parable of the Talents, which teaches, “Thou was not blessed with performing talents; seal up, therefore, thy mouth as if it were a sepulcher.” Almost as bad were her coworker friends who heard her daily wailings and didn’t have the balls to tell her the truth so she’d stop embarrassing herself.

Everyone has annoying coworkers. I have them. You have them. Some of them bug you for ultimately harmless reasons, like those mentioned above. Others make you wish bad things upon them. If you’re lucky, your days are only afflicted by a few of the former.

But regardless of classification, this is that one week of the year when the likelihood of interacting with those irritants on a social level is the highest. This is the week of the company Christmas party.

Ideally, you’ll be able to avoid awkward holiday interactions with the people you don’t like. But if you do get caught in an unwanted exchange, it’s best that you’re prepared with some holiday banter that allows you to dictate who will feel the discomfort. It’s all about control. Without further ado, I offer 12 suggestions:

  1. “We’ve already told our kids that Santa isn’t real. I don’t know why people think it’s OK to lie to their children.”
  2. “Kwanzaa? What kind of bullshit holiday is that, am I right?”
  3. “How easy do you think it is to dye your pubes green?”
  4. “Christmas is a little tight for us this year. It sure would help us if I could just get someone to spot me a few hundred dollars until I get my tax return…”
  5. “Have you heard the one about the Jew and the department store Santa?”
  6. “If I told you we could easily steal ten grand from this company without getting caught, would you be interested?”
  7. “Who do you think has the nicest tits in the office?”
  8. “Sorry if I seem a little subdued; I’m dealing with some relationship problems at home. It’s just so hard to discuss our intimacy problems with my wife, and I’m not comfortable seeing a therapist yet. I really wish there were someone here I could talk to.”
  9. “Do you pronounce it ‘CLItoris’ or ‘cliTORis’? I swear I can never remember which one is correct.”
  10. “Sure are a lot of fatties working for this company…”
  11. “I’ve been having some really graphic dreams about my coworkers recently. You were in one of them, too.”
  12. “How much money do you make?”

Gifts of the Season, part 2

Do you ever wonder about the origins of some of the beverages we consume? Tea, for instance—I don’t know who had the idea to drink water that had leaves soaking in it, but they were definitely poor.

Dad: “You kids quit your whining about your supper. And drink your tea! No, it’s not just water. It had leaves in it. Well I’m so sorry we don’t have goat milk like the neighbors do.”

Mom: (muttering) “Maybe if someone had apprenticed as a hunter instead of studying art history…”

Dad: “Dammit, Chao-xing! Not this again!”

Most of the food we eat makes sense, if you think about who might’ve been the first to try it. You just have to imagine our ancestors as giant babies—mostly naked, minimal language skills, orally fixated:

“Let’s poke that beast with sticks until it is dead, and then we will eat it.”

“Hey, I just pulled a lump out of the ground! Anyone know what it is? No? Too bad; that shit’s going in my mouth.”

But after water and juices, it’s harder to understand the thinking that went into some of our drinks.

“Hey, Gorthak, you know that beast we usually poke with sticks and eat?”

“The one with several penises dangling from its underbelly?”

“Yes. I was thinking, couldn’t we tug on those things to see if anything comes out?”

“I like your thinking, Jaxon*.”

(*That’s right; names are cyclical. You’re not that original.)

Which brings us to eggnog. Somewhere along the line, it was decided that milk and raw eggs together would make a good drink. Wikipedia speculates the drink’s origins can be traced to England, to a time when its ingredients were a luxury for most of the common population. In other words, it was definitely invented by some uppity baron or duke who stumbled into the kitchen one morning, hung over from too much mead, and drank the french toast batter prepared by one of the servants.

Somehow it caught on and persists to this day. I would rather drink a hot mug of Citrucel, but many people enjoy the nog. My wife is one of them. That’s while I’ll consent to name it a gift of the season. Also, because it features nutmeg. And Nutmeg is the name of this beautiful Christmas carol by John Legend, also featured on Stephen Colbert’s 2008 Christmas Special. It’s definitely a gift of the season.

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Gifts of the Season

If we can agree to move Christmas to another date, perhaps sometime in June (Jesus wasn’t born in December, anyway, so it’s not like historical accuracy is holding us back), then I’ll unequivocally embrace the whole “most wonderful time of the year” sentiment. Until then, bitterly cold December temperatures (bitterly cold=less than 50 degrees) force me to recognize the season only as “mostly positive.”

But those ‘mostly positives’ are awfully compelling. And today I want to quickly share two reasons why it’s a good time of the year:

1. Stephen Colbert and Willie Nelson, together. This is one of the underrated, and mostly unknown, Christmas songs of all time. I dare you to try not singing this chorus in your head for the next few days.

(Note: I wanted to link to the original source, but has inexplicably and indefensibly removed the video from their site. They forced my move to a third-party site.)

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2. Gentleman, this opportunity comes only once a year. Repeat after me: “Kids, your mother and I need to go in our room for a while to talk about Christmas presents. Santa would probably be very disappointed if you come anywhere near our door.”

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