Underwear Where?

It was time for Hal to get ready for school. I woke him up a few minutes later than normal and told him to get moving. Then I took care of a few things in the kitchen and returned to his room. Opening the door, I saw him still in his bed, petting the dog.

“Hal, you really need to get up and take your shower!”

“Okaay!” he said as he climbed past the dog.

I then brushed my teeth and gathered my clothes to prepare for my own shower. He still hadn’t left his room. This time when I opened his door, he was standing on the edge of his bed, leaning over the rail of the top bunk.

“Hal! Come on!”

“I am!!”

“No you are not. The shower is not on the top bunk! What are you doing?”

“I’m getting some underwear!”

Do what? I watched as he slowly moved the foot of a very large stuffed dog and picked up a pair of clean underwear. I glanced over at his dresser and back to the bed.

“Do you mean to say you are putting your laundry up there on the top bunk instead of in your drawers?”



I can’t even. Now I know why the hamper has been returned so promptly to the laundry room every weekend. I thought he was just throwing the clothes into the drawers without folding them. I hoped he at least sorted them into the right drawers, but I was guessing he just tossed them all mish-mashed into the most empty one. But, no. He can’t even be bothered with that. He’s literally just lifting the hamper over his head and dumping them onto the top bunk. Oh, and positioning the stuffed animal to hide the evidence. Wow.

Need Date

Emails can sometimes be comically misinterpreted, and I have a very fun example to share today. First, some background.

My company has a tool that tracks “issues” – be they defects, change requests, new requirements, whatever. Back in December, someone created a whole bunch of issues, one for nearly every software product we had, requiring the software products to pull in the new O/S version.

The issues were given a Need Date of 1/31/2020, meaning that’s when they wanted us to have completed incorporating the new O/S, and then immediately set to a state of ON HOLD, because the O/S wasn’t ready yet.

Fast forward to this week, the beginning of February. The issues were returned to the OPEN state right as my software development team began to plan our work for the next two week period (referred to as a “sprint”). I assumed they would probably want it done in the next two weeks, but wanted to make sure, so I asked the following in an email:

Can we get updated Need Dates?

They are currently set to 1/31, which isn’t very realistic… 🙂

My team pulled this into the current sprint on the assumption that you would want them within the next two weeks, but we don’t actually know the necessary schedule.

About ten minutes later, I got the first response, which was stunning:

We are expected to deliver the system in March…so in order to have time to ensure things boot prior to that I wouldn’t recommend us moving the date out. If your organization can’t make it then we’ll have to work that with the program office.

Do what?! I was flummoxed. My email was short. It said the date was unrealistic and included a tell-tale smiley. Didn’t that give her enough pause to realize the problem with the date? I decided it was worth a bit of a troll in response:

Ok, I can tell you unequivocally that our organization can’t make a date that is 5 days in the past. I’m asking you to give us a Need Date that is >= the day the issue was moved from ON HOLD to OPEN.

She was good-humored and self-deprecating in her response, but there was just one problem in her explanation:

Lol I thought it said 2/31. Too many windows open.

Yep. February 31st. Lol, indeed!

I teased her privately about mistaking the date in the past for a date that doesn’t exist, but I was still looking for a real Need Date. She had passed on the responsibility for a new date to her boss, who asked me this:

You want all 199 need dates updated?

Now, I really only cared about 5 of them, the ones belonging to my team, but it was reasonable to assume that most everyone would want to know when we were expected to be done. Which, you notice, he was still not telling me, choosing instead to express incredulity at the thought of updating the date in the tool for that many issues. So I tried again:

I think there’s a tool to do mass updates on issues so I wouldn’t expect that to be burdensome, but I would settle for an email telling us when you want them done.

I probably should have just said an email would suffice, but I’m pretty sure the mass-data-entry tool was written specifically for this team and I was annoyed that I wasn’t getting an answer. Maybe he left for the day in the 20 minutes between sending his email and me sending mine, but it’s worth noting that I have not gotten a response.

Does that mean we get to pick our own? I’m gunning for 2/31. 🙂

One Minute and Counting

Jane needed to use the bathroom. But there was a slight problem.

She was at Destination Imagination practice.

Why was this a problem?

Jane is a Freshman in college. For the second year in a row, she is coaching a young DI team. The kids are now fifth and sixth graders and are very rambunctious. She has trouble getting them to focus, and if she lets them go to the bathroom, they take a long time and are gone long enough for her to believe they are playing.

So whenever they ask to use the bathroom, she gives them a tight time limit.

She looked down at her phone. They were getting ready to run through an Improv skit. The timer on the phone was set to five minutes. I don’t think I can wait five minutes, she thought. There was no choice.

“Guys, sit tight for a few minutes. I need to use the bathroom,” she said, getting up.

“You’ve got one minute!” the kids announced with joy.

As she raced down the hall, she heard them counting: “Sixty! Fifty nine! Fifty eight! Fifty seven!…”

She tried to hurry, but sometimes a trip to the bathroom simply can’t be a quick affair. While she sat uncomfortably in the stall, the girls poked their heads into the bathroom.

“Your time is up! Come on! Let’s go!” they called out laughing.

“I’ll be out in a minute! Just go wait in the room.”

The girls giggled as they walked away.

When she returned to the room herself, one of the boys looked up. “You went poop, didn’t you?”

“I’m sick!” she tried. The kids weren’t buying it. They were enjoying every minute of her embarrassment and the turning of the tables.

She has a special bond with these kids. She doesn’t have all of the experienced kid-handling skills of the teachers and parents who manage the other teams. She’s sometimes rough and has trouble being patient.

And she’s got a lot going on. It’s her first year in college and it’s been a very difficult adjustment for her. She’s dealing with some personal challenges while learning to live in an apartment with a roommate, making her own decisions, and setting her own schedule. She lives in the adjacent town and travels about twenty minutes to get to practice.

But these kids love her and she loves them. I think they appreciate her “cool” young adult persona. I’m proud of her for agreeing to coach them with all the unknowns she has this year. I think it helps keep her grounded and gives her some responsibility for something beyond herself.

And it’s just flat-out humbling to have a kid knowingly state the condition of your bowels. In front of other laughing kids.

The Case of the Dirty Cake Knife

Once upon a time a group of engineers lived in a large space divided into little boxes and devoid of any windows. The engineers were basically happy. They all worked on different projects under different supervisors but were united as one big happy family under the same kind and attentive manager.

The engineers enjoyed the company of an incredible administrative assistant, who occupied one of the little boxes. She helped them with expense reports and labor corrections and equipment requests and a myriad of other things. One of her unofficial duties was the planning and execution of Snack Days.

Snack Days were glorious occasions where everyone would bring food from home to share. The admin would orchestrate the whole thing including arranging everyone’s stuff into sensible groupings, stowing food away in the fridge or trashing it at the end of the day, and cleaning up the common serving utensils that had built up over time and were stored in her cubicle.

One day, life came crashing down around the ears of all the happy little engineers. Their distant overlords disrupted their daily lives by splitting up the family. They all still worked in the same space on the same projects, but no longer for the same manager. They all got new ones – three news ones, actually. Each little cluster of people with a new boss. And the beloved admin was assigned to yet a fourth one.

Since she was no longer responsible for anyone in the space, she soon moved out. The utensils moved to a credenza in one of the walkways. And since the admins now responsible for the people in that space were already cozy in their existing spaces next to their managers, none of them moved in. The engineers were adrift.

Eventually, they developed a plan for snack days. They agreed that each team would sponsor a snack-day-worthy holiday. The scrum masters for those teams would do the coordination, but the team members were responsible as a group for setup and clean up. The engineers had failed to consider certain edge conditions, however.

You have to understand, these are people who, when someone brings random food and sets it out on the front table to share, often leave the empty container when they take the last item, instead of throwing it away. These are the same people who tended to assume someone would take care of the leavings of their snack day offerings. They barely pick up after themselves and have little motivation to clean up after others.

Which brings us to the dirty cake knife. A couple of the teams who still worked for a common supervisor had an end-of-year party in December. The supervisor had it catered and also bought a cake from Costco, which is way more cake than even a group of hungry engineers can polish off after a catered meal.

Someone brought the cake into the work space along with the spatula and knife that had been used in its serving. No one thought to move it to the refrigerator at the end of the day. Eventually, the next day, someone decided it probably was not safe to eat and balanced it on top of a trashcan. The janitor got the hint and took it away. The cake-encrusted spatula and knife were set down in an empty cubicle near that trash can.

And that was it.

No one was responsible for cleaning the utensils. No one even seemed to notice them, tucked away in the empty cubicle at the end of a row. Whoever set them there either forgot about them, hoped someone else would step up, or fell victim to a serious bout of “not my job”-itis. Regardless, the utensils sat. And sat. And sat.

The engineer who occupied the office across from the cubicle had been absent the day of the cake eating. When she returned was the day the cake rested on the trashcan. She had no idea how long it had been there. She didn’t notice the utensils until some  number of days later.

And true to her profession, when she finally noticed them, she thought, “Well, I wasn’t here to enjoy the cake. I’m not going to clean them. Someone who actually got to eat some cake can clean up after themselves.”

And with that, she went about her job and forgot all about the dirty utensils – just like everyone else.

Except she kept rediscovering them. Eventually, she started thinking about taking them down the long hallway to the break room at the other end of the building, which was the closest location of a sink. She thought about it, but figured they’d have to soak. And for how long? She needed to check her email again.

And then she’d forget. Again. And then rediscover and think about taking them to soak. But it was time for her daily stand-up meeting. Maybe after. And then the next time she remembered, maybe on the way out at the end of the day. There was always a reason that “now” was not a good time. And, really, it wasn’t her responsibility. After all, she’d just be doing someone else a favor.

One day, she heard another engineer discover the dirty knife and spatula. “Who do these belong to?!” the engineer exclaimed.

The first engineer hurried out of her office and explained.

“Well, should we just throw them away?” asked the recent discoverer.

“No!” the forgetful one said, shocked. “They are a perfectly good spatula and knife. They just need to be cleaned.”

“Well, obviously no one cares enough to clean them,” replied the second, holding them with every intent to just throw them away.

“But it’s the only knife we have,” tried the first. “We won’t have a knife the next time someone brings a cake in.”

“Oh,” replied the second, now understanding. “I assumed the boss had brought his own spatula and knife.” This engineer was a relatively new resident to the space.

“No, we’ve got a small stash of spatulas and serving spoons and that one knife. I mean, I guess I could see if there’s another knife, but it seems like a shame to throw this one away.”

“I agree,” the other responded. She looked around awkwardly like she was unsure what to do with the knife now that she had decided not to trash it. “I guess…” she hesitated… “I guess one of us should clean it… but…” she set it back down in the cubicle. “I’ll have to maybe do it later. I’m running late to a meeting.”

The forgetful engineer sighed at the lost opportunity for someone else to clean the knife. And then she returned to her office. She had stories to write for the next sprint, after all. Maybe she’d take the utensils down to soak later. She could leave a note explaining that they were the collective problem of the entire work area and that anyone who saw the items soaking could pick them up out of the soapy water, scrub them clean, and return them to their credenza. But she forgot later.

And then one day she heard the banging of credenza doors opening and closing, drawers sliding open and shut. And a voice asking no one in particular, “does anyone know where a knife is?”

“You need a knife?” she asked with a smile as she exited her office.

“I do!” he responded. “I went to Baton Rouge this weekend and it’s the season. I brought back a King Cake.”

She led him to the empty cubicle. A cubicle, incidentally, that was adjacent to his own.

“There’s our cake knife,” she said, pointing into the cube.

“Oh.” he responded. “Oh.”

“That’s from when you guys had cake without me at the group party last month. It would only make sense for someone who actually ate some of the cake to clean it.”

“Whoa, wait. That’s from that cake?!”



“Yes. I was going to take it down to the break room and soak it but it was never a good time when I thought about it. So it just sat there.”

“Ok…I guess I’ll… go clean the knife.”

“Excellent!” the first engineer said, relieved of the responsibility but a little embarrassed to demonstrate that she had known about, but not dealt with, the knife and spatula.

The spatula was soon clean and resting in the credenza with the other serving utensils. The knife took up residence on the front table with the boxed King cake and a stack of napkins. It was covered in almost as much cake debris as it had been mere moments before. Except now it sat alone.

How long will it sit unclean? Until another cake arrives? Will it ever rejoin its mates in the credenza drawer? Will some engineer, maybe the bringer of the King cake, actually clean it as soon as the cake is gone? Only time will tell.

How Flat is Flat?

Daryl (yes, we are going to talk about Daryl again) was late coming home from Destination Imagination practice Saturday. I didn’t think too much about it until our friends showed up to play Charterstone, which is a really fun legacy board game (legacy means the rules change and the story builds each time you play). It’s a big deal and we always have a blast.

Practice was over at 12:30 and it was now almost 3:00, so I gave him a call. He was at a store with his friend Jerry. We talked for a minute and he selected 5:00 as the time that he would either be home or call me to check in.

Sometime shortly before 5:00, his truck rolled into the driveway. To my surprise, Jerry was sitting next to him. Ok, I thought. I guess he’s ok with his friend seeing this ‘nerdfest’ we have going on…

Only, they didn’t come in the house. The poor dog was going nuts with anticipation. I asked the people who could see out the window what they were doing. “They’re walking around the truck looking at it” was what I got back.

I’d finally had enough of the dog so I walked to the front door to let her out. The boys were not visible at all; but when she streaked across the driveway and around the truck, Daryl’s head popped up in surprise. I had already shut the front door so he was looking around like he couldn’t figure out where she had come from.

It looked like they were checking out the front passenger-side tire. I wondered why they weren’t coming in for help, but figured they eventually would. I sat back down at the game and when he later tried to quickly let the dog back in without coming in himself, I called out to him. “What are you doing?” I asked.

“Nothing. I just need to take Jerry home.”

“You aren’t going to come in and say hi?”

“No, we’re running late. We gotta go!”

“What were you doing with your tire?”

“Oh, I just needed to put some air in it.”

“Did you use a tire gauge?” my husband asked at the same time I said, “You know every gas station in town has an air pump, right?”

No, he didn’t know that he could have stopped at a gas station instead of driving out of town to our house. And, no, he didn’t have a tire gauge. He seemed flustered that he had driven home when he didn’t have to, although he soon showed that he really did, actually, need to come home. As he had no clue how much air was enough.

One of our friends stopped pouring his beer to go get Daryl one of the several tire gauges in his car. I asked Daryl if he knew how to use it. He claimed he didn’t need to use it because, and I quote, “we pushed on the tire – it’s good.”

With that, I followed him out to the truck and his waiting friend – much to his embarrassment, I’m assuming, since he asked me why I was wearing my Christmas leggings on our way out there. When I got to the truck, I showed him how to read the appropriate tire pressure inside his driver’s door. I then walked around to the passenger side, where I could see the tire sagging appreciably on the driveway.

“Daryl! There is not enough air in that tire – just look at it!”

What ensued next was some typical teenage back-and-forth on which boy had claimed what while they had tried to use the air compressor on the tire. There was so little air in it that the tire gauge didn’t actually budge. Daryl still tried to tell me it was fine.

I told him that if he drove off on that tire, there would be six very unhappy adults in there that would have to stop playing their game while his dad came to walk him through changing his tire on the side of the road. “Do. Not. Drive off, unless you can get it to 35psi.”

With that, I went back inside. My husband asked if I had checked the tire for damage. I said, “No. You should go do that. Being the tire guy and everything.”

With great reluctance, he did, and then returned soon after to inform me there was a nail and Daryl would be taking our other truck in order to get Jerry home. About then, I saw the truck go tearing off the property like a bat outta hell.

“Daryl! Don’t drive that fast! What do you think you’re doing?”

“You know he can’t hear you, right?” everyone asked.

“He drives like that all the time,” my husband said.

“Not while I’m with him!” I said, which my husband answered with a don’t-be-so-stupid patronizing look.

Why are our kids so good at pointing out all the things we’ve failed to teach them yet? I hadn’t thought about what Daryl would do if he got a flat tire. I hadn’t thought to share with him the neighbor’s caution to his older sister about driving fast down our road. I hadn’t told him that common courtesy involved bringing his guest into the house to say hello to us.

There’s just so much to teach. And no matter how hard you try, you’ll never get it all. You just have to hope that some combination of luck, common sense, and maybe the intervention of others with make up the difference.


Puddle Jumping

Let’s just stick with the teenage boy for another post. I came home from choir practice the other day and he was sitting at the table doing homework. He was calling out questions to his dad and asking Siri about socialism and communism and suffrage. I was surprised. I don’t catch him doing homework very often.

I passed through the room and walked down the hall through our bedroom to the master bath. Once there, I settled on “the throne” for a bit of quiet me time. It wasn’t quiet for long. He came into the room wanting to show me something on his phone.

It was a Snapchat video of a bunch of football players. They were running and then leaping or sliding into huge puddles of water. It’s been raining a fair amount around here lately. And it’s cold. Ok, not northern-states cold, but cold for Texas. Hovering around freezing at night and not getting out of the forties or low fifties during the day.

He was naming each of the boys as they came into view and threw themselves into the mud. “And here’s ME!!! BOY!!!” he exclaimed just as I saw his lean frame make a smooth slide through the puddle. He finished naming the boys before pulling his phone back.

“There was that puddle and then another bigger one over there. We were all doing it. Even Big Mo and {honestly, I don’t remember the names…you get the idea}. It was fun!”

“You know who else likes to jump in puddles?” I asked.


“Four-year-olds. Four-year-olds like to jump in puddles.”

“It was fun!! But, man! It was cold. Like really, really cold.” He said that as if I would be unaware it was cold without his first-hand account.

“And it soaked my underwear and socks!” He gave a small laugh. “I didn’t know we were going to do that. I didn’t bring extra underwear and socks.” (They wear school-provided workout clothes during Athletics).

He stuck his foot out. “Man, I’m not wearing white socks anymore. Look at these!”

I soon heard him regaling his father with the same tale. He was very proud and very excited. I mean, he had to be. What 16-year-old boy wants to hang out with his mom while she’s using the bathroom?

Like I’ve said before, he can go days or weeks without having any substantive conversation with me at all. And then there’s days like this. I guess it’s the age, but it always, without fail, is about something stupid he’s done, a friend has done, or he’s heard. But it’s always fun. He’s living the good life.

A Truck In Sheep’s Clothing

“I’ve got some stuff that I want to get,” my teenage son said.

“Like what?” I asked, looking up from my laptop. He had a funny smile on his face and was fiddling with the door frame above his head.

“I wanna get some stuff for my truck,” he started, looking out the door toward where his truck was parked. “I want to get some floor coverings. Like some carpet.”

“Sheep skin,” my husband called from the other room. “He wants sheep skin floor mats.”

“What?” I asked.

“Yeaaahhhh…. that would be SO cool, dude!” my son said.

“You want sheep skin floor mats?” I clarified. “On the floor of your truck. Where your feet go.”

“Yeah! Think about it! It would be awesome!”

“I’m already writing one blog post about you. You’re going to go give me another?”

He didn’t respond but kept enthusing about the sheep skin floor mats.

“They are going to get dirty!” I tried.

“No, man. I know how to keep them clean! Like my shoes.”

“Oh, so you are going to stop driving the truck, is that it?”

“I wear those shoes all the time!” (side note: No. He doesn’t. He doesn’t want to risk creasing them.)

He continued as he looked at the ceiling and ran his fingers along the wall: “And I want to get LED rope lights.”

“Inside your truck?!”

“No! In my room. I’m talking about my room now. It’s gonna look good with those lights….But the sheep skin, mom!”

“How are you going to keep the sheep skin clean?” I asked.

“I’ll take my shoes off. Can you imagine how great that would feel? Your left foot just resting on that?”

“And what about when it’s raining? You gonna just stand outside in the rain and take your shoes off before you climb in?”

“Or I can sit down and take them off first.”

“With all the rain pouring in? Everything will be soaked!”

“I’ll put a rain cover on it.”

“A rain cover.” I deadpanned.

“Yeah! Dude. I’ll watch the weather and put a rain cover on if it’s supposed to rain.”

“On the floor mats.”

“Yes! They don’t have to be all fluffy and thick. They can just be carpet. Lots of people have carpet in their cars.”

“You said sheep skin. That’s thick and fluffy.”

“I know! My truck’s going to be awesome. Get those floor mats and get the radio installed. Dude.”

Chalk this up as another conversation that I never, ever imagined having. With anyone. As my mother-in-law would say, it’s a good thing he’s cute.