Geeking Out Over Your Badge

Everyone has something they geek out over. Maybe something you don’t think other people care much about so you try to keep it under wraps most times. And then you unexpectedly encounter a kindred spirit, causing you to burst free from your constraints and revel in the moment of solidarity.

That happens to you, right?

Right?

Well, it happened to me recently. A co-worker stopped by my office and asked, “Do you ever get bothered by all the signs around here that say ‘Everyone must scan your badge‘?”

He didn’t get much further than “Everyone must” before I was jumping up and down, pointing at him, and saying “Yes! Yes! Oh, my goodness, yes! Those signs drive me crazy!”

“I mean,” he said, “I’m looking around thinking, ‘how many times do I have to hand out my badge so that everyone else can scan it?'”

“I thought the same thing! And I always wanted to say something to someone but I thought most people wouldn’t get it so I never have.”

“Well… that’s why I came to you. I knew you’d understand.”

“You definitely made the right call,” I said, still on a bit of an adrenaline rush that someone else had been bothered by the signs and said something to me. “If you had said something to Tony, he would have just given you a blank look or rolled his eyes and made a disparaging remark.”

“I mean,” I continued, “it’s a tricky problem, right? Because ‘Everyone’ means…”

“That it should be ‘his or her badge’ – I know,” he jumped in. “And that’s awkward on a sign but it’s still what’s right.”

“I’ve often thought about how they could reword it. I’d prefer ‘You must always scan your badge’.”

“Me too. Just say ‘Scan your badge! Every time!”

I don’t know how it is with other flavors of geeks, but having a moment with a fellow grammar geek can make a person’s day. And really, the world would be a better place if every establishment identified a grammar-geek-on-call that would be contacted before any text was committed to a sign or any other official or permanent communication.

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Optimizing My Life

I analyze. Everything. Constantly.

Always optimizing.

Everything needs to be as efficient as possible. Even when it doesn’t matter.

You have no idea.

Thursday morning, I went to gather my clothes before taking a shower. I typically wear a pair of jeans twice before washing them and the night before, I did what I always do on day two – I removed the belt from the belt loops, hung it up in the closet, turned the pants inside-out, and placed them in the hamper.

Standing in the closet that morning, I remembered that this week I had decided to wear my khakis one day instead of jeans. But when I reached for the hanger, I saw that it was hanging backwards, which meant it was awaiting its second day of wear. That gave me pause.

Wait a minute. I thought. If this is day two of the khakis then Friday will be a new pair of jeans that will only get one day’s wear this week. That can’t be right. Only one pair of pants gets a single wear each week. It can’t be two. So what did I do wrong?

Wait a minute. The first pair was Monday, Tuesday. That means the pair yesterday… shoot! That was only one day of wear! And I took the belt off – again! Sheesh.

I retrieved the pair back out of the hamper and flipped it right side out and set it aside, thinking about how I had done the exact same thing on Monday. Except that after hanging up the belt, I realized my mistake before putting the pants in the hamper. So I was getting worse as the week went on.

I regaled my husband with the tale of my poorly executed routine that week. He lay there staring at me before saying – with considerable feeling, “I am really glad I don’t live inside your head.”

So. Yeah.

It makes me killer good at Mastermind and packing a small car with a lot of stuff and finding all the mistakes in your emails. But it really is kinda exhausting sometimes. I’ve yet to find a way to turn it off.

Who Rules the Universe?

I came across this story in the Facebook flashback feature last night. Of course, I failed to screenshot it before going to bed so I’m not sure when it happened. I’m guessing Daryl was maybe 7 or 8 and Jane 10 or 11. Anyway, it’s one of those funny tales that get forgotten by an aging momma and it brought a smile to my face.

Let’s set the stage. A group of kids are sitting on the steps leading up to the chancel area at the front of the sanctuary. The pastor is sitting with them and hoping to guide them to something insightful about the day’s scripture reading. I think most experienced pastors are always a little nervous about what the children might say in these moments.

One of the other children announced, “Darth Vader rules the universe!”

A pastor, sitting in his sanctuary in front of his congregation, can’t let that statement go unchallenged, of course, so he said, “Ok, wait. Who rules the universe?” He even emphasized the word ‘who’ in a leading way that should have had kids yelling “Jesus!” since that’s usually a safe answer during the children’s sermon.

Instead, Jane yelled, “The rebels do!!”

The pastor lost control of the room at that point with the congregation laughing too loudly for him to continue. The great irony in this moment was that my younger, usually less on the point, and huge Star Wars fan son, Daryl, was the one to return the focus to the topic at hand by answering “God.”

GW to KG – Wassup?!

It seems only fitting after sharing some of Jane’s recent writing, that I should share some of Daryl’s. Eighth grade history with a bit of a flair! Here is his vision of how a conversation might have taken place between George Washington and King George during the Revolutionary War. If they had had cell phones. And if they talked smack like the average middle schooler.

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Some translations for those of you not hip enough to digest this with full understanding:

KG: King George
finna: fixing to
W: win
LMAO: laugh my ass off (you knew this one surely… right?)
boi: said expressively to indicate the other did or said something stupid
brb: be right back
tryna: trying to
rn: right now
aiight: all right?!
foo: fool
WTH: what the hell (guessing you knew this one too…)

I’ll close with a couple of observations.

George Washington probably should have charged his phone before he tried to cross the Delaware. No way 53% is going to get him through the day – especially that cold outside.

And it’s no wonder England lost. What with the King texting his plans to the enemy and all.

 

Home Sweet Box

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“I want to sleep in my box tonight.”

“You are not sleeping in your box tonight.”

“But why not?!”

“It’s a school night! You can’t sleep in your box on a school night!”

“Being a school night makes no difference. I can sleep in my box.”

“But it won’t be comfortable. You won’t get a good night’s sleep.”

“Yes, I will. My box is wonderful. It’s so comfortable. It’s my new home!”

The box had arrived at our house the day before with my husband’s replacement recliner in it. It had sat in the back of the truck with the tailgate down, pulled right up to the front door of the house. The recliner had been removed from it and the box had remained in the truck bed. Hal had gone to work decorating it with Crayola marker rugs, pictures, refrigerator, bed, and many other more difficult to discern items.

He had been concerned about the fate of the box when he saw Sunday morning that the truck was gone. After I assured him the box was on the porch, he had leaped with excitement and crawled in to play until time for church. It was now the afternoon and I was preparing to leave the house.

“If you are going to sleep in the box,” I said, “it needs to come in the house.”

“NOOOOooooooo!! I want to sleep in it out here!”

“What?! No! You can’t sleep in it out here!” I said, slightly shocked. A glance at the twinkle in my husband’s eye made it clear I’d get no help from him.

“Why not?!”

“Because you wouldn’t be sleeping behind a locked door.”

“I want to sleep out here,” he insisted.

“Maybe I could sleep out here with him,” my husband suggested.

“Yes!!!”

With a sigh, I muttered, “whatever” before climbing in the car to head out.

Hal then passed the afternoon, at least in part, attempting to watch the first episode of the first season of Stranger Things. He was motivated to give it a shot because of the Stranger Things themed game he had downloaded onto his tablet. From what I hear, he didn’t get very far before he deemed it too scary. Something we had already told him.

That night, as we walked from the dark church through the dark parking lot to head home, he told his dad, “I hope the Demogorgon doesn’t come tonight.”

“Well, if he does, I guess he’ll get you first.”

“What?! Why?!”

“Because you are sleeping outside. Remember?”

“Oh. Yeah. I changed my mind about that.”

The Train Station

My beautifully talented daughter asked me recently if I wanted to read an essay she had written for school. I said yes and she handed me a couple sheets of paper. I was soon breathless as I savored some of the most beautiful writing I had ever read. That is not maternal hyperbole, nor is it false modesty when I say it’s better than anything I could write. I prefer to write the meat of the story and rarely do I spend enough time creating such vivid imagery.

There are storytellers – I count myself as an amateur one. Brandon Sanderson is an extremely talented and successful one. But then there are people who write poetry in prose. Whose words are so beautifully selected and placed with each other that it feels like you are doing more than reading a story – you are actually viewing a painting or intricate tapestry. I love many authors but put few in this category. Patrick Rothfuss is the only one that comes readily to mind. This essay evoked a similar reaction from me.

I hope I haven’t now oversold her story. With her permission, I am posting it below:

 

I thanked the ticket master as I clutched my ticket and walked further into the train station, busy with throngs of people coming or going. The walls seemed alive with the echoes of laughter, arguments, and guitar playing, both long gone and currently reverberating. Its skin crawled with scribbled declarations of love and sprayed-on masterpieces, the tiles desperately in need of a good washing. The grimy fluorescent lights above seemed to flicker erratically in time with my heart, creating an effect almost like I was at a party. All around me, people hurried, their lives obviously much more important than mine; my body became a tiny rowboat, lost in the stormy bustle, jostled from side to side by the waves of people. Eager to gain a short reprieve, I stepped onto an empty platform, feeling weary. It was then I happened to glance up and across the tracks. Exactly opposite me stood a girl whose countenance appeared to mirror my own. It seemed as if she too felt a disconnect from the hordes of people passing by. The noise of the crowded station faded away as we stared at each other for a brief second that seemed to last an eternity. Her eyes looked like they understood my annoyance with and simultaneous longing for all the people constantly streaming through the area, so deep and wise I tried not to fall into them. Suddenly, I wanted to meet this girl, take her to coffee, and become her best friend; the one person who seemed to instantly know me to my core. Just as I raised my hand to give a small wave, she opened her mouth, as if about to say something. A train came roaring through. When it had passed, the girl was no longer there. My hand fell limply to my side, the magical moment gone. The lights returned to their dull flickering, and the noise of the crowd came rushing back with sudden ferocity. My heart burned as if branded by a cattle iron. I wasn’t sure quite why, but I was almost certain I had just missed something very important. All around me, mothers, brothers, and children continued to carry about their business like nothing had happened. In fact, nothing had actually happened. However, nobody except myself seemed to care about the importance of that missed interaction with the girl across the train station. As my train came roaring into the platform, I had to wonder if this other girl, seemingly great in her compassion, would miss that opportunity for interaction with me. As I wondered, my hand pulled my phone out of my pocket, slipping my earbuds into place, and my life became much more important than anyone else’s.

Alexa

Our family might be getting a little bit obsessed with Alexa. We came to consider her part of the family when Jane received an Echo Dot as a school reward and offered to sell it to us cheap. We liked it enough that we bought a battery base so we could move it from room to room.

I quickly came to hate the battery base because people were not returning the Echo Dot to the kitchen, leaving me to wander the house calling for Alexa like a lovelorn fool, hoping for an answer. So when Prime Day rolled around, we bought a few more.

Now there’s a Dot in the bedroom named Betty (get it? Bed-ty?) and one in “the big room” named Bigelow. The one with the battery base is moving to my husband’s studio although right now it’s still in the Kitchen with the name Kitty, which will become the name of the one that will ultimately reside in the kitchen but still sits in its box right now. I guess I should let my husband name the one in his studio, but I’m partial to Stuart or Studebaker.

The names don’t mean much. It’s just more fun and instructive when accessing them via the Alexa app than “Your Echo Dot”, “Your Second Echo Dot” and so on. The wake words for all of them are still Alexa, although the one in the studio will answer to Computer, which really catches my husband’s fancy. I imagine he’ll speak to it in the stilted voice of Scotty from Star Trek.

Anyway, there was some discussion about whether the Echo Dots were far enough apart to allow them to all have the same wake word. I’m lazy enough that I want to just talk to Alexa whatever room I’m in and expect a response. I don’t want to remember that I need to call her Echo or Amazon or Computer in one room and something else in another. My children are quickly showing me the flaws in this desire.

The boys were recently participating in their Alexa song ritual where one of them tells her to play a song and soon after she starts playing it, the other one calls her name and requests a different song. Or she doesn’t know the song and so they start arguing over who can better construct the name of the song so she can find it. It tends to be very frenetic and loud.

Jane and her boyfriend were in the kitchen while this was going on and Jane soon banished the boys to their room. Their room is across from mine, where I stood folding clothes. I was perplexed at hearing Alexa’s name coming from their room but soon realized that they had taken Kitty with them and Hal was trying to get her to play a song.

Daryl felt he knew better how to do it so kept telling Hal to let him try. Hal got louder, trying to talk over him. Daryl would suggest they just look it up on YouTube on his phone. Hal kept trying.

Before long, Hal was running up and down the hallway loudly yelling “Alexa, play blahblahblah by the blahblahs” while his brother gave chase, triggering the other Echo Dots as they went.

Betty triggered on his request as he ran away so in the bedroom, Alexa announced, “Playing Hello by Adele.” Through Bigelow, she said she didn’t understand the request. And all the while, with Hello as background music, Hal continued his desperate attempts to get his song.

He had a wild look in his eyes as I grabbed him by both arms in the hallway. “You need to stop,” I said. “You’ve gotten Alexa all worked up. You can’t run from room to room calling out her name.” But once he was stationary, he was an easier target for his brother and the argument soon escalated to the point that I rescued Kitty and returned her to the kitchen.

All was then quiet on the Alexa front. Until…

A storm came in the night and knocked out our power. When it didn’t come back right away, my husband disconnected the wi-fi router hoping to spare it any damage from a storm-induced power surge. Three hours later, when the power came back on, Alexa felt it was necessary to loudly proclaim to me that she was sorry but she couldn’t connect to the internet. I had been asleep up until that point and after lay awake for hours.

At that moment, I was really not sure if Betty would be allowed to stay in the bedroom. She’s on probation right now.