Wednesday, January 22, 2014

You can be a winner in the game of Life

"Spin the wheel, I'm on my way, make your choice, collect my pay...."

I spent countless hours of my childhood playing the game of Life: figuring out the subtle art of spinning the wheel hard enough to get a high number, but not too hard that it spins off the board; the agonizing choice of zooming past college and avoiding all that debt, with the looming regret each pay-day; and the quest to add those little stick passengers to your car whom you love, but who inevitably end up costing you money straight to the end. As it turned out, life does very often imitate Life, although I've never figured out where else to utilize those rainbow spinner skills.

Nice and easy
These days I am looking for an updated version of the game. I need a scoring system that fits my real life, one that rewards me for the stupid things I just can't help but do. In my game of life, there are the primary points: the great successes and failures that we all experience and deal with, and there are also the secondary points: the mundane minutiae that we also all experience and deal with.

The primary points are fairly easy to understand. If you're curing diseases, you win points. If you kill people, or help others kill people, you lose them. All the things that people think of as good will get you points, all those times when you know you're doing something bad but do it anyway will result in a loss of points. Simple, right?

But just as there is more than one way to skin a cat, there is more than one way to win life. Oh, and for the record, in my game, if you are skinning cats for kicks, you lose points. In my husband's game on the other hand....

Now, onto those secondary points. These are awarded on a sliding scale, directly proportionate to our level of embarrassment at any given moment. They are what I call "schmuck points," and they help me through my moments of extreme ridiculousness. The embarrassing moments we all experience might somehow seem worthwhile if we knew we were adding to the grand tally of life. It also gives a fighting chance to those of us who probably won't kill or cure anyone, but who would like a chance to "win" all the same. 

The best way for me to explain the secondary scoring system is to provide some examples.

Example 1: Have you ever been walking somewhere, or standing somewhere... really whether or not you were moving makes very little difference... but have you ever been somewhere and thought someone was saying hi to you, only to realize (a second too late, unfortunately) that they weren't? Well depending on your reaction, you may have just earned yourself some points.
*Head nod - 1 point
*Smile - 2 points
*Big smile - 3 points
*Saying hello back (or would that be forward? Since they actually never said hi to you in the first place,  you're not responding with a hi, but rather just randomly greeting them) - 4 points
*Waving - 5 points
*Miscellaneous greeting which exceeds any normal response to hi, but which you were lulled into thinking was appropriate because this person greeted you to begin with (miscellaneous greetings can include, but are not limited to: chest bumps, high fives, long, drawn out, musical "heeeeeeeeey!"s, excitedly jumping straight into a conversation or into their arms, etc.) - 10 points

Example 2: Have you ever had "that feeling?" You know the one, walking down the street suspicious that people are checking you out and you're thinking: "Well well well, I must look pretty darn good right now." Well, guess what? You've probably got some points coming your way.
*You look good, but people aren't checking you out, you just think they should be - 1 point
*You actually look "head turning" good - 2 points
*You look OK, but the person walking right behind you (the one everyone is actually looking at) looks really good - 3 points
*You would look good if the wind hadn't caused your hair to be doing this very strange thing that you can't feel and probably won't notice until after you get home - 4 points
*You've got a bogey, that's what they're all looking at - 5 points

Example 3:
*You just tripped up the stairs - 3 points
*You were carrying drinks at the time - 4 points
*You somehow landed on your back and now can't get up - 5 points

Example 4: You have toilet paper trailing off your shoe:
*Indoors - 2 points
*Outdoors - 4 points

Example 5: Farting in an elevator
*You smelt it - 2 points
*You dealt it - 4 points

Example 6: Someone just caught someone else with their finger up their nose:
*You were the picker - 3 points
*You busted someone else - 3 points.
Yes, I know that the more embarrassing of these situations is surely being caught mid-pick, but while busting someone else can boost our confidence it also serves as a reminder that ultimately, we can all be pretty disgusting, and it won't be long before someone has the chance to catch us knuckle-deep. It's a game leveler so the same points will be awarded.

Example 7: You just congratulated someone who isn't pregnant - 
*Negative 5 points.
Never, I repeat, NEVER congratulate someone you don't know for absolute sure is pregnant. No matter whose rules you play by.

Example 8: You know Nancy? Of course, Nancy. You've known her for a few years and have always called her Nancy. Well guess what? She's actually called Susan... but here's 3 points for your troubles.

Example 9: You have fallen asleep on or around the toilet in a bar or party after being sick and have locked the door, eliminating the use of the facilities for everyone else (jeez, who does that?):
*In a bar with other stalls - 1 point
*In a bar with big enough gaps between the doors that everyone can see you asleep across the radiator shelf in the handicapped stall - 2 points (heh, heh... that sounds awfully specific, doesn't it? Well, you'll just have to chalk that up to my very vivid imagination... or my very colored past, but why don't we just stick with the imagination thing, thanks)
*At a house party with your crush - 3 points
*At a house party with only one bathroom forcing people to have to leave the party in order to pee just because you were drinking Georgi vodka, in the days before you knew that you really have no tolerance for vodka. Then when your dear friend finally managed to get you out of there and home via a long (for her) train ride where you were sick again and everyone left you alone on that side of the train as the vomitus trail shimmied from side to side along with the shaking train, you ran up the stairs from the train station, stumbled onto the sidewalk, got honked at by a passing taxi and proceeded to run into the street and chase after said taxi with both birds a blazing (middle fingers, if you will) - 4 points
*You were the friend that had to "handle" the person above - 5 points, and my eternal gratitude... I mean, if it were me, which it's obviously not, I just have an amazing imagination... remember?

Hopefully you understand why some of us might need the secondary scoring system. I'm just trying to make the game interesting. At the very least, it should make for an entertaining commercial.

Please play responsibly.

Monday, January 6, 2014

OK, that's enough of that now

Seeing how early into the new year it is, I am still in the mindset of turning over new leaves, bettering myself and the world around me. With that in mind, this year, instead of individuals making multiple resolutions, I think we should all just make one... this one: Can we collectively agree to stop making jokes (bad ones, at that) about the so-called "high costs of fancy coffee." The window of opportunity for humor and mock horror about the "crazy" prices of gourmet coffee-based beverages has closed. It is over. Let us move on.

Now, I am not trying to be a snob here. I recognize that the process for ordering complicated coffee drinks has become a parody of itself. And I realize that the prices associated with those drinks is silly if and when you stop and think about it. But enough with the bad jokes and snarky comments already. Crazy as it once seemed, that whole coffee craze thing has officially caught on. Let it go.

There is a Starbucks on nearly every corner... which is actually another comment related to this whole coffee thing that I think we can do without. My point is, there are indeed many locations to buy these fancy-schmancy coffee drinks. People clearly patronize these establishments regularly, both major corporation style Starbucks' as well as small business, niche coffee houses. It is happening. I think the humor associated with making fun of these places and the cost of their wares is pretty dated... like, Pamela Anderson as your sex-tape reference dated. So let's all just agree to move past it and stop now.

This specific style of mass-appeal/"hardy-har-har" humor is on its way out. Don't believe me? Just ask Jay Leno. If I have to hear one more radio DJ talking about how nuts someone has to be to pay "$47 for a cafe latte" or a game show/talk show host pretending to stumble on a faux order for a "venti half-caf double D-cup soy milk foam crap-pucino," I am seriously going to lose it.

There are infinite ways to order these kooky coffee drinks... but so what? So what if I like whipped cream on top of my no sugar added ice blended? That's my business. Actually, that's the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf's business, and they are really freaking good at what they do. And if I don't have a problem spending almost $5 for that drink, why should you? I'm not saying you should spend it too... I'm saying you should just let me get my drink without some lame-a$$ commentary about the cost of buying coffee these days. Hey, were kids different back in your day too? Yeah, no kidding, me too. Get over it grandma.

Guess what? If you want coffee for a dollar, there are still places that do that. My diner even provides free refills. The man in the metal box on my corner will throw in a stale kaiser roll with butter. And hey, making your own coffee and putting it in a reusable to-go cup is both eco-friendly and cost-efficient. But for those of us who want to splurge on a highfalutin coffee every now and again, just let us.

And to those folks out there who are inclined to truly help the world, please do me a favor, don't even suggest for a second that my once-in-a-while coffee should be eliminated in order to fund a dog in need, the fight on communicable diseases or universal pre-k... one does not affect the other and the comparison is offensive, at least to me. Converting the costs of other things into the cost per day of specialty coffee drinks is another part of this silly trend that also needs to stop.

Be gone old-fashioned Costly Coffee References. It's 2014 and we don't need you any more. Go join your friends: Jokes About Phones With Cords and VHS vs. Betamax Debates. And be sure to make room for Hipster Fashion Trends... they will no doubt be joining you in exile soon.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Not enough junk in my trunk

As many philosophically minded folks do around this time of year, I find myself in a New Years quandary of sorts. Two paths present themselves unto me, and I am unsure which to take.

It all began a month or so back when I purchased a new wallet for my mother for the holidays. Upon removing the gift, a small strip of leather fell from the bag. It looked like a scrap of one of the leathers on the wallet and so I set it aside. As I examined the wallet, I did not notice a scrap missing, so I wrapped the gift up and set the small leather strip onto my hoosier. My hoosier is where lost pieces of crap go before they are ultimately discarded or more likely, stored indefinitely in one of my junk drawers.

Next to my calendar, beside a stack of aging receipts, this piece of leather sat. After a few days it was joined by a box of tic-tacs and a button. A few weeks later there was a wick-less tealight there as well. We had guests coming to stay with us over the holidays, as well as our annual holiday party coming up, so I decided that the hoosier needed to be cleared off, as I tend to do every now and again.

The holidays come and go and bring with them much fun and happiness. I find myself delighted by all the positive responses to the gifts which were well thought out, generously budgeted for, wrapped with care, and given with love. Surprisingly, my mother was leading the praise charge, and I only say surprisingly because the wallet was "off list" and was not one of the requested/pre-approved gifts. I surprised her, which can always go one of two ways. Thankfully it was a big hit. The only problem she says, and maybe I can help, is that the external zipper of the wallet seems to be missing a small strip of leather which helps operate the zipper. Shouldn't be a problem, I say, as I am sure I held onto that thing for a reason and now I shall just go home to retrieve it.

Several days later I actually remember to go looking for the missing strip of leather and the search begins for what I can only now call "that Mother F@#$ing piece of leather." When it wasn't in the first junk drawer (and yes, I am that big of a pack rat that I have several junk drawers), I was disappointed as it was there that I found the tic-tacs and button that accompanied it only a few weeks back. On to the next few drawers where I rummaged with purpose, which gave way to frustration, that morphed into anger, which ultimately settled into rage. Through batteries both new and old (not that one can tell the difference as they roll around aimlessly in there) and rubber bands I sifted. Over business cards of persons unknown and under pens with questionable ink content I searched. Finally I accepted the fact that I had, in a moment of purge-y tidiness, decided to throw the tiny strip of leather away. This was an incredibly hard fact to accept as I pricked my finger on open safety pins and got dust under my finger nails from miscellaneous scraps of paper and thread.

And so it is here that you find me, at my crossroads, searching for the answer via my internal monologue which, as it turns out, reads an awful lot like a blog. Not to the question, "where is the tiny strip of leather?" for I do indeed fear the worst of that poor little scraplet, but "how am I meant to proceed in life?" "What is to become of all my junk?" And most importantly, "is there a way for me to save some stuff, but not have serious regret and anger when the few things I do not save are inevitably the few things I ever need again?" Do I continue to save everything but make sure I am more diligent in saving every little thing, or is this some sort of a backwards sign that I am meant to toss it all?

Cause I mean seriously, what the f#% is wrong with me that I find it necessary to save all this crap? And it is crap. In the act of searching for the tiny strip of leather that I had saved, but only briefly, I came across some world class crap-ola.

I'm not talking about pencils, gum/breathe mints, paper clips, used birthday candles, owners manuals, lip balm or any of the other moderately useful stuff that clogs my junk drawers. I'm talking about the ridiculous stuff I made a conscious decision to hold on to that I seriously need to reevaluate.
I had to document it all in a failed attempt at self-shaming
So let's see, here we have:
*a small ornament- which is missing its top... so I guess that makes it a small, scratched glass ball/choking hazard/cutting hazard.
*lift up flaps from one of my daughter's favorite books- which I keep telling myself I am going to glue back in... one day.
*an empty bag of replacement corks- just misleading enough to make you think you have them in the drawer so you never buy more, but then disappoint yourself the first (and maybe also the second) time you need them.
*par avion/airmail stickers- which I'm pretty sure you can mark as obsolete since you can very easily send postage overseas without them these days, but maybe I thought my little lady would like to add them to her sticker collection? As I mentioned before, I have a bit of a pack rat problem.
*a pin which is part of a set from a store that closed about a year ago... Pins? Assuming that I am not adorning a jean jacket with them, what am I supposed to do with decorative button pins? Please keep in mind that given my pack rat tendencies, any half-decent answer to this question will be entertained and give me enough reason to hold onto them a little longer.
*a perfume aerator- minus the attachment that actually allows you to release the perfume from this jar.
*a mostly empty container of bubbles- leftover from a wedding three months back, or was it the one a few years ago? Time really flies when you're mindlessly collecting stuff in your drawers.
*two pieces to our old camera- which has itself been missing for three months, but I am convinced that the second I throw these pieces away we will find it .
*a gift card from 2012 for a free Manheim Steamroller music download- hard to believe that in an entire year I neither found the time to download the song nor the self respect to discard this card.
*a broken, old phone cover- it's been replaced several times over, but this is the most reuseable, should I ever decide to eschew the $25 replacement in favor of a dirty, already broken one.
*a piece of a cupboard- but I'm not sure where, how or why it fits back in. 
*multiple small plastic pieces that belong to something or other- I'm not sure exactly what so I have to hold onto them.
*a washer and a few metal and plastic screws- ok, ok, those I might actually need again one day.
*a stylus- despite the fact that I haven't had an electronic device that came with a stylus since my palm pilot ten years ago.
*and the arm to a much loved pair of sunglasses of my daughters- which, needless to say, have been rendered useless for a while due to the seemingly obvious fact that an arm is missing.
All of this but no small leather strip.

Given the amount of cursing that has gone on in discovering that I don't have the piece of leather, I don't see how getting rid of everything could be the answer.  I hate myself for not having it. I hate myself for keeping it and then for some unknown reason, getting rid of it. I hate that I had no good reason to toss it that day. I could have very easily found a safe home in one of the junk drawers for a tiny strip of leather. WTF? What is the universe trying to tell me? What kind of leaf am I meant to turn over in this new year?  What do I do with all this crap I still have? And what happens if I am wrong again? Help me see the light. Help me choose the right path. Help me find this g-damn piece of leather so I can stop worrying about it.

So as you set forth on your own path of the new year, I implore you, refrain from over-thinking it as I have done. For I truly believe that I am screwed either way, either for saving every little thing or for purging my entire home and then regretting it every time I need something that I have thrown away. Regrets for what we have versus regrets for what we no longer have. Please do not start your new year with either. Be happy that you have a home in which to store things and be happy that you have a trimmings store somewhat nearby where you can buy some sort of tiny strip of leather to replace the other one. Just don't beat yourself up, don't get angry and don't, whatever you do, spend an hour questioning all of your life decisions all because you mistakenly tossed a tiny scrap of leather. I have seen the light! I am a changed woman. I am free to move on... me and all my buttons.