Things That Will Never Be Solved is a website I found today, and I lost myself in a lot of the lectures. It’s pretty awesome how any video that catches your attention can be downloaded in mp3 or mpeg (video) format to your iTunes for future use.

Great idea.

Amidst my perusing, I found this video of Billy Graham speaking about technology, faith, and human shortcomings. Even though it was filmed in 1998, it is still relevant today.

Every generation in the history of man has had their technological advances. Diseases are cured, but diseases are also created. We live in a world where everyone knows someone who is affected by cancer, autism, muscular diseases, and so on. We might find cures for those things one day (I hope soon), but Billy Graham speaks on three things we’ll never find cures for:

1) Human Evil
2) Human Suffering
3) Death

I love listening to this man speak. I was lucky enough to get the chance to go to hear him in person a long time ago. With admiration and reverence, I always sit there and take in every word and story. I hope you find time to watch this. He makes even the most simple message powerful.


The Ticket Taker

Think of the most awkward moment in a movie going experience. Is it when you lean down and talk directly into that speaker, as if the ticket vendor couldn’t hear you if you were standing straight up? What about each time you ask for a large drink and grimace at the thought of paying full price for it? How about walking into the theater and standing for three whole minutes until you have the adjusted vision to see the silhouettes of people and their shadowy heads while still having no idea where you sat? Any one of those things might easily be one of the most awkward, but not today.
My friend Russ and I went to see Reno 911: Miami this afternoon, which by the way wasn’t what I had hoped it would be. After going through the usual routine of leaning into the little microphone to tell the ticket merchant which movie I had chosen to view and the time that I chose to view it, I began to make my way towards the movie foyer. Little did I know that in a very short time every ounce of awkwardness in the vicinity was going to seep its way to the cognitive part of my brain, converging on me and challenging my ability to maintain my composure and remain nonchalant. Ticket in hand, I approached the ticket taker.
He was an older man, with gray hair, who looked to be in his mid fifties. He was wearing a gray blazer, not too fashionable, but surely appropriate for a movie manager. His pose was casual, yet purposeful, as if standing and taking tickets had significance and meaning. I never caught his name, but he displayed every characteristic of a Phil or Larry.
As he reached out his left hand, I instinctively motioned to meet his hand with my ticket. It was at this point I knew something was wrong. With his left arm extended, and my ticket a half of a second away from reaching his hand, I noticed the right arm of his blazer was tucked firmly into his right coat pocket. I also noticed that his right arm was surprisingly flat, as if he had pulled his arm through his sleeve and was trying to play a trick on everyone around him, except this was no trick, his arm was missing.
My arm still had about a fourth of the way to go before I met his hand when it struck me that I was non-verbally about to ask a one armed man to take my ticket, tear it, and hand it back to me.
That’s when I started to panic.
I quickly thought of scenarios in which I wouldn’t feel comfortable; asking someone with one eye to read me a novel, relying on a one legged person to challenge me in hopscotch, or giving a one footed person a gift certificate to get a pedicure. How hypocritical would it be to non-verbally commit this person to the obligation of tearing my ticket?
I couldn’t back down. I couldn’t pull my arm back. I had to commit. I knew what followed would be awkward. I knew that an expression on my face would be present. I knew that the only thing I could do at that point was to hope for the best, to transfer all my mental energy into the task, with the hope that it would be a quick and smooth encounter. I didn’t want to think about all of the possibilities of him failing. I didn’t want to have to say “oh, I got it”, I didn’t want to imply that I was more capable of producing a perfect tear along the perforated middle than he was.
I couldn’t help but feel awkward the whole time. It was like asking a person with no legs to bring me a ladder. I felt like I should be the one tearing it or that the ticket shouldn’t have been torn in the first place. He grabbed my ticket and took full advantage of the perforation. He tore it as if he had done it before and was willing to do it again. He tore with the same enthusiasm that you have when you open a fortune cookie and take out the fortune, but he did it with one hand. Right arm need not apply.
For those few minutes, he defined equal opportunity employer. He reestablished the purpose of fingers, of perforation, and single-handedly redefined the ticket tearer position. True, it was probably one of the most awkward moments of my entire life (and believe me it was), but we got through it together. That’s the American dream.

Deodorant Smelling Rooms

I sometimes get excited about little things. As much as I hate running out of deodorant, toothpaste, or soap, I also get that excited when I do. Yes, the little things. The joy of picking out a new scent or flavor really pumps me up. Why? Because I don’t like monotony, unless of course I find something I really, really like, which is rare. Finding a new scent or flavor typically prevents monotony from occurring. It reinvigorates me. Kind of like the big word I just used.

However, shopping for deodorant can sometimes be a hassle. I put a lot of pressure on myself. It’s a difficult thing to stand in an aisle, stare at the various deodorants, and not think that this can make or break the next few months. I know that my choice of deodorant will probably last me a while. I don’t know how long, but I would be willing to bet around 2 1/2 to 3 months. I could be way off, I’m not sure. Anyway, because of the length of time that I won’t need to buy more deodorant, I always feel that I have to make the most out of my deodorant choice.

I want to smell good. I want my armpits to believe that a waterfall runs under my arms. I want them to think there is a whispering cloud that is raining in the fresh, spring air. I want them to question why I put scented candles under my arm. I’m sure you get the point.

I stand there in the deodorant aisle, with a very important decision to make. I think the only other great decision in life is the cereal decision. Maybe that’s because there are way too many choices when you’re standing in the cereal aisle, and because the cereals of my past stare me down and will never completely let me out of their grasp. Boo Berry, Fruity Pebbles, Lucky Charms, Apple Jacks, Frosted Mini Wheat’s. Oh my, back to deodorant.

I’m not loyal to deodorant. I think it’s because every couple of months there is a new scent out and we all know that newer sometimes equals better. As a result of my non-loyalty, I stand there, looking at every single stick of deodorant until something catches my eye. I try to make sure that I am the only one in the aisle. I don’t want people to notice how long it takes me to pick out a deodorant. That could cause me to rush, which would increase the likelihood of settling for a scent that I have worn in the past or something that smells similar to the deer urine that hunters use. I don’t need that.

Someone else in the aisle not only increases stress levels, it also increases my feelings of stupidity. Because of my fondness for new scents and my need to make the best deodorant decision possible, I tend to smell the deodorants. After all, I don’t want active sport to smell like active ass simply because I didn’t take the time to see what it smells like. So yes, I smell them. Anyway, that’s why I wrote this blog. I believe that stores need to have a separate room for deodorants, like a deodorant smelling room.

I don’t know if it’s normal to stand there and smell different deodorants before making a decision on which one you want to buy. In fact, I’ve personally never seen anyone do it. Maybe that’s why I’m always real hesitant to smell them when other people are around. I don’t know if I’m breaking deodorant aisle etiquette. What the heck is deodorant aisle etiquette anyway? Do you simply take off the deodorant cap, but not the little plastic cover and smell, or is it permissible to remove the cap AND the plastic cover before smelling? Do you just try to smell the outside and hope that it’s a proper representation of what’s on the inside? Do you not smell at all?

A separate room means that I wouldn’t have to find out the answer to these questions. I wouldn’t have to feel stupid at the thought of someone seeing me in the aisle smelling deodorants. I wouldn’t feel rushed when I’m in the middle of a sniff and I hear someone about the pass the aisle. S.I.P. Sniff in peace. That’s really all I’m asking for. No pressures, no embarrassment, just a really solid decision making process with as little outside interference as possible. Heck, the room should even be sound proof so that when I find the one I want I can yell “YEAH! THIS ONE’S IT!” That’s what we need more of in this country, not more McDonald’s or plastic surgery. Deodorant smelling rooms; Vote for me this election season, I’ll make it happen.

Relativity and a Lazy Eye

We learn the theory of relativity at an early age. Most of us hear about it from our high school physics teacher, others of us are lucky enough to be able to wait until college before we skim over it in some half written notes or a book, a book that was never really read. In a world where many things are relative to one another, a lazy eye is in no way relative to the average lazy American, and physiology, or God, is to thank for that.
I don’t have a lazy eye, but I have known people that have had one. As a kid, I envied the boy who made his eye wander about his mystical eye socket. He had the attention of everyone at the party. I wasn’t envious of the attention, I was envious of his ability to make his eye float from me to a friend, a friend that was standing on the completely other side of him, and then back again. I needed a cool trick to do. I had never learned how to gleek, roll my tongue, make very good armpit noises with my hand, or anything else that most kids at that age were able to pull out of their “bag of odd things they could do with their anatomy”. But what if a lazy eye was relative to being a fat, lazy American? My whole perspective would have changed and the eye floating trick would have never been the same.
To be lazy in America means a couple of things. It means that you sleep until 12, make routine trips to fast food chains, take clear advantage of the express lane at grocery stores, and wait 3 to 4 weeks before doing a load of laundry. All things being relative, a lazy eye would sort of mean the same thing.
Imagine waking up one morning to the sound of an annoying alarm clock. As you crawl out of your warm, pleasurable bed you make a trip to the bathroom. You turn on the light, grab your toothbrush, and look into the mirror. In a state of horror, you realize that your left eye is still closed. You’re thinking of all the reasons why your eye is closed when you suddenly realize that your left eye is….lazy. It won’t arise any time soon. It’s still asleep. At that moment it’s non-productive. It sleeps when it wants for however long it wants. It functions on a totally different system that the other eye, with completely different genetics. You’re right eye is wide awake, your left eye wide shut.
With feelings of embarrassment, you think about the previous night and wonder how long this eye, with a mind of its own, stayed up watching TV. You hope your eye will wake up, like the rest of your body, and you hope it’s before you go to class or to your very important job interview. It doesn’t, and all you can do is point to your lazy eye and say to others, “sorry, this one’s a little lazy, he’ll get up around noon.”
Luckily, being lazy and having a lazy eye aren’t relative to one another. Consequently, the floating eye trick still amazes me. If you see me around, I’m always down for seeing it.

Gallagher the Great

Every time I have made the comment “I don’t know if I have lived yet,” it is usually connected with some sort of crazy reference, I’m not always serious. That all changed when I saw him on a Thursday night at Buffalo Wild Wings. He rolled in with a tank, oxygen hooked up to his nose, and a confidence that I one day can only hope to experience. He is an older man, around his early seventies, with slicked back gray hair, and a slight slouch to his posture. And he is my new hero. 

I’ve seen him before. I think it was at Toby’s, quite possibly one of the smokiest bars in Wichita Falls, although I haven’t been to many on the other side of town. I saw his tank, filled with oxygen, and I couldn’t help but wonder what this guy was all about. 

I only have one grandpa who is still alive (unless you want to count my step-grandfather), however, he is particularly young, closing in on 60. I don’t think I’d ever see him at any bar, much less see him awake past the hour of 11 o’clock. Something about seeing someone so old out in the condition that he was in baffled me. It was a beer commercial in the making. Nothing was going to stop this guy from living life to what he considered the fullest, not even contaminated oxygen.

Buffalo Wild Wings on a Thursday night is kind of crazy. There are a numerous amount of college aged kids out, a majority of whom are drunk or at least on the one way train to getting there. Karaoke blares over the sports bar, with people trying to yell over it just to carry on conversation, needless to say, it’s loud. But just when you think that this scene is too wild for a man who looks like he once wrote its definition, he arrives, wheeling in his oxygen tank, with a subtle, yet steady aura circulating around his aged frame.

He comes in by himself, but it doesn’t always stay that way. If social hierarchy had an administration, he’d be in it. Seventy years of life will do that to you. He knows how to work a crowd, in the same way that good waiters and waitresses work their tables. He’s smooth, funny, and doesn’t bring dullness to a conversation.
I don’t feel sorry for him like I used to. He’s shown me, through my observations, that he is way cooler than I am. He talks to more ladies, carries an oxygen tank, drinks beer like he is 25, and on top of that still has the balls to grab the mic and dazzle everybody with his karaoke skills. This past Thursday he just got even a little bit cooler. I found out that he was a magician.
Some friends and I had heard that he did magic tricks. We didn’t know for sure, but we caught him as he was walking by. “I’ll be back, I’ve got to go to the bathroom,” he told us. A few minutes later he returned and said that he needed to get his deck of cards from his table and that he would be back. He went to his table and sat down, for around 15 minutes. We didn’t think he was coming back, until he finally did.
He had a magic trick for each of us, making us all feel equally stupid when he picked the right card or pulled a coin from behind our ears. His stories matched his magic skills and for those five minutes I felt like I didn’t know what the concept of reality was. I had been a sucker for his illusions, feeling baffled because I couldn’t catch him in his sleight of hands.
“What’s your name,” I asked. He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a business card. “I’m Gallagher the Great. If you ever have any parties or small get togethers give me a call, I do shows. If you don’t get your monies worth, you don’t have to pay me.” With that we thanked him for the few tricks he showed us and he went on his way. I then began to think of all the parties that I could have, just to see this guy do some more magic. I would party like 8 times a month, with this guy being the headline each and every time, and I wouldn’t be sorry for it. Then, and only then would I almost be able to say that I was close to being as cool as Gallagher, but no where nearly as great.
So if you see ol’ Gallagher out buy him a beer, heck, buy him two, and then have him pull some change from behind your ears so you can pay for it.

Mt. Everest

I was watching TV this afternoon and there was this commercial for a show that will be on the Discovery Times channel sometime this week or next about a bunch of people who attempted to climb Mt. Everest. I obviously don’t know if they made it or not because I haven’t seen the show. They showed scenes of a guy who was being medically treated on the mountain, and of gusts of snowy winds. I thought about it for a second, maybe half a second. Why in the HECK would you subject yourself to death to climb a mountain full of snow and ice when there’s nothing at the top but a peak and some clouds???

There are toes and fingers to lose, not to mention arms and legs. If I ever lose an extremity it better be in a heroic brawl with a lion or shark [and I better come out victorious]. If it’s freezing cold outside, I don’t want to climb anything unless it has some sort of prize at the top. I’m talking about a real prize, like a resort of some sort, with a warm freaking hot tub, a resort with a few million dollars waiting for me on my bedroom pillow. But for these guys, there’s NOTHING but bragging rights.

What do you do when you reach the top? Look around? It’s nothing you probably couldn’t see three fourths of the way up, or maybe even halfway. How long do you stay at the top? Long enough to get a picture? I doubt digital cameras work in extreme weather. I doubt you could hit the button with those big gloves.

If I was dumb enough to climb the mountain and I just so happened to die going up, I’d have my friends take me to the top and let me chill there so that it would freak every other person out who reaches it. I’d have them put a sign in my hands that said “Yeah, bad idea to climb a snowy mountain.” Hopefully, then people would want to go to the top, to see me. That would be the prize, to see the guy with the funny sign who didn’t make it up and down the cold mountain. I’d even grow a mustache so make it worthwhile. See you at the top.

The Holidays and Small Talk

The Thanksgiving holiday just ended and I got a chance to see and spend time with a lot of people who came in for the holidays. I also got a chance to see what Wichita Falls traffic is like when nobody has to work. My shoulders are sore from bumping into shoppers who are looking for the next item on their non-existent list, and from trying to maneuver my way around crowded sports bars.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are my favorite two holidays of the year. I get to experience some great meals that I could never make on my own, hopefully receive some cool gifts that I am too lazy to actually buy on my own, and get paid time off from work. I like seeing all the Christmas lights, experiencing the feeling of cold weather, warm fireplaces, and on some occasions, pumpkin pie and eggnog.

Something that I have never really enjoyed is all the small talk associated with running into acquaintances that I haven’t seen in a while. It’s not that I don’t enjoy seeing these people, it’s just that I don’t enjoy asking the same questions and generating the same responses each and every time I talk to someone different, as if I have some type of pull string in the middle of my back.

It’s not that I am impersonal either, it’s just that I don’t like the repetition, the awkwardness of having run out of questions, and the possibilities of having an inconclusive ending to the conversation. How many times have you seen someone you knew and ran out of things to ask? How many times has the feelings of awkwardness followed that moment, as if one such thing was the product of the other? How many times have you, after there is a moment of silence, had to think of ways to depart without making the situation even more uncomfortable or insincere? And how many times were you left with a conversation that was never concluded, as a result of someone else coming up and saying hi to that person? What do you do during the wait-for-that-other-conversation-to-end grace period? What is the grace period for waiting on someone to come back to an interrupted conversation? And do you just leave without saying anything or is a simple “good talking to you” line required?

It’s just best to not have to deal with any of those questions. But unless you’re a jerk, you can’t NOT talk to someone you know after they have made direct eye contact with you. The pretending you didn’t see them trick lost all credibility after high school. And the turning your head the other way thing dug its grave a long time ago as well.

Not to sound like an infomercial, but I have created the perfect solution. It’s called a small talk card. The small talk card is like a business card. It’s created to fit in any pocket so that when you leave the house you can take them with you, just in case. Now you don’t have to worry about all of the questions posed in paragraph number four.

Upon the initial interaction, you recite a greeting and pull one of these handy items right out of the location that you established for it. If the other person is keen to this new way of communicating then you might just get one back. You can take the card, view it at your own pleasure and do whatever you want with it afterwards. No more thinking of questions, no more awkwardness, and no more having to worry about being on hold and wondering what the grace period for waiting is. The small talk card can even be given out to other people. For example, if I saw someone and knew that they had their small talk card, I could ask them to see it. I’ll know all about what’s going on without getting into anything generics.

Now the holidays can be the holidays without the feeling of a high school reunion. If I could only create something to make stores less crowded…wait, I thought the internet was supposed to do that.

Irrational Fears

Let me start this out by saying that I’m not scared of much. I don’t think that makes me tougher than the average person, I think it just means that most of my fears are irrational.

My semi-rational fears include: wasps/bees/yellow jackets, scorpions, falling from a high elevation, and getting eaten by a shark. These things make me fearful because they all consistently cause pain or death. I am not a very big fan of either.

I am not ashamed to admit that I run every time a bee is near me. A few years ago, I beat a scorpion 50 times with a shoe just to make sure it was dead. I never get close to the edge when I’m in elevated locations. And I don’t swim past the roped off areas in oceans. As far as rational fears go, my bases are covered.

What I am unsure of is whether or not my irrational fears will consume me.

A couple of weeks ago I had to sit through a boring presentation. Forty other people attended this training seminar, but somehow I figured that forty other people did not share the same senseless fear that I had. Ten minutes into the hour and a half seminar I felt an urge. It was a familiar urge. It was an urge to yell something really loud. It didn’t matter what it was, it just needed to be loud. I kept thinking, “balls”. The appeal was that it would grab the attention of everyone in the room. It would have been embarrassing, but in my head I knew I would be able to laugh at it later. Nevertheless, I became worried that the urge would grow stronger and stronger. I knew I couldn’t yell in a quiet room, but the fact that I wasn’t supposed to made me want to do it anyway (or was it that pint-sized guy on my right shoulder?).

I have other ridiculous fears too. I don’t attend a whole lot of weddings, but when I do I can’t relax until I’ve made it through the part where the priest asks the congregation if anyone objects to the wedding. While I sit patiently, my palms sweat as I think about being the one to object. I think about standing up, proclaiming in a loud voice that “I do”, and then telling everyone that I have always wanted to do that when asked why I objected. It wouldn’t have anything to do with who is getting married, my ideology of marriage, or anything else. It would have everything to do with the fact that I know I shouldn’t, that I know I have no reason to object, and that nobody else ever does. The 21st century could do me a favor and take that question out of there. Until then, it’s just another fear I have to keep a close eye on.

I hate backing up in parking lots. I have a fear of hitting someone as I back up. That may sound rational and I agree that it is, but what isn’t is that I have a fear of running someone over and pulling back up and running over them again in a state of panic, which transfers my rational fear into an irrational one. I hope this never happens, but the fact that I am capable of it creeps me out. I don’t completely relax until I’m moving forward (and nobody is lying on the pavement).

I only get to sit and think about my next absurd fear when I’m in the process of getting pulled over (which, lucky for me, is on rare occasions). Maybe I have watched too many episodes of COPS or too many OJ Simpson car chases in my lifetime, but I fear that one day, when a cop is trying to pull me over, I will slam on the gas pedal and try to outrun him. Let me stress the fact that I would never have any reason to do this (unless of course you count that one time when my stomach was grumbling and…well, nevermind). I’ve seen the shows and I’m no fool, nobody EVER gets away, unless you work in fast food and you talk to the guy with the Dale Earnhardt hat, he has a story for everything. I wouldn’t try to outrun the police to get away, I just know that I’m not supposed to…and that the thought always crosses my mind, even if it’s just for a split second.

The probabilities of getting eaten by a shark are way better than any of my irrational fears actually taking place (unfortunately), but they are still fears. I’ll never yell an incoherent word or sentence in the middle of a meeting, object to a marriage I could care less about, back up and run someone over only to pull up and run them over again, or try to outrun the cops, but the fact that I am capable of doing them and have been trained not to since my conception makes me want to. So until I actually carry one of these things out they will always be fears of mine, but if I ever do you’ll be the first to know.