Pastime Oreos

I joked in my Toastmasters prez note about doing the responsible thing when I’m feeling down: eating Oreos and wishing for the glory days of the Cubs’ 2016 championship. Maybe we shouldn’t leave this in the realm of the joke. Maybe we should put this idea into production. Denial helps no one. Oreos and commiseration, however, move the mental health needle into green every time.

If you’re looking for reasons to pig out on Oreos, and you’re a sports fan of some variety, look no further than the record of your favorite lovable losers. Yes, I know your team is special. Maybe you’ve had mostly winning seasons, even a championship or two.

Whatever your stripes, for many people around the world, sports teams have broken your heart. It’s an abusive relationship. Time and time again they claim they’ll change, but then the superstars take too many shots instead of passing, the shot-callers throw too many passes instead of running the ball, and the sluggers swing at too many pitches instead of bunting or sacrificing. Promise, promise, promise. Hurt, hurt, hurt. The headlines change, but the results stay the same: disillusionment, drunkenness, office brawls, and returning to the scene of the crime for another round of having your hopes fucked raw.

With Oreos, you have none of these problems.

The chocolate cookie discs are stacked together in their sleeves, looking like used tires standing next to the road, side-by-side, supporting one another, holding their collective shape. Visual association, yes; flavor association, no; dependability association, no. Used tires present a chewing problem and a vulcanized poisoning problem. Also, they are apt to shred at highway speeds and send you into a ditch or tree, and from there, the beyond.

Oreos keep the scope of their application small. They look roughly the same as they did when they first hit the market. This is called brand recognition. Packaging aside, which has varied from the cute to the college-graduates-on-weed-got-a-hold-of-the-markers, the core product has remained the same: safe, dependable, like anything comprised of the best fat and sugar should be.

In my younger days, I would dedicate most Sunday afternoons to watching the Packers. Every Monday night when they were on that schedule. I watched and/or listened to every game, sometimes aided with the land-line phone in the church’s lobby. Church often overlapped the first couple quarters, so the land-line provided a life-line for call-in-score purposes.

Long live the smartphone. However, long live the anticipation that built when I had to wait for the phone service to deliver the score in its analog, halting tones, my hand growing slick against the back of the receiver as I pressed it too tightly against my ear, leaving me looking like I’d had my ears boxed for being caught doing untoward things with members of the church coven, things like holding hands.

Fickle are the young relationships built on hand-holding, oral sentiment passed from friend one to friend two to friend three to you, and notes written on actual ripped-from-the-coil lined paper and in ruby-red grapefruit-colored ink. Too many teenage girl emotions. Too much unpredictability. Too flat the curves of the calculus arcs in the B’s and O’s. A change to the derivative equation that decelerated ascension of the curving lines directly tied in to feelings and messaging. In other words, big, looping writing seemed to predict the mood of its writer. Small and neat, backseat base-rounding is a possibility; huge and looping, start budgeting for a new paint job on your Trans Am.

Not so with Oreos.

Your beloved (at least in your head) of two weeks takes up with the varsity star? Have a sleeve of Oreos. The Packers are down two touchdowns at the half to the Vikings, or, God forbid, the Bears?! Have two sleeves of Oreos. The Cubs take 108 years to win a championship in the modern era? Liquidate your IRA, pay the taxes, and buy shopping carts full of Oreos–some to celebrate, others to buoy your spirits and to preserve your body for the 216 years it will take for the good ol’ lovable losers to deliver another championship. Come on 2232.

If Oreos were a gesture, they would be a right arm bent at a right-angle, fist clenched and at mouth level, muscles flexed and slightly trembling, saying, We got this.

Government Obscurity

Trevor, my youngest brother, and I were talking about government transparency in the context of open-plan offices. People say they want transparency, but they don’t. Not really. If you followed this desire through to its logical, literal conclusion, you’d have glass walls–even in bathrooms. Want to see the color of your local tax collector’s shit? You can. That’s government transparency to the extreme. Maybe we should consider more government obscurity. Save the people from themselves.

How many people really want to know all the details that go into running what we call society? I’m not suggesting that every operational detail be kept on the down-low; I’m suggesting that some of those details, while vital for system-wide performance, are boring. Some examples:

1. What brand of lug nuts does the transit system install on its buses? What is the tensile strength of the steel? The metallurgical quality? Do the lug nuts come with a warranty? If so, is the company known to be reputable in fulfilling its warranty obligations, or does it give customers the run-a-round? When it comes to how an average, concerned citizen spends said citizen’s evenings and weekends, does a citizen really want to attend a public hearing discussing transit parts inventory and warranty provisions?

I’m guessing not. I’m guessing that a citizen will be content with the government hiring competent mechanical maintenance professionals. With said competent professionals in place, a citizen can find a seat on a bus, get where they want to go, worrying about what foreign substance is spilled on their seat, and never spend a moment thinking about the spinning silver blur of lug nuts. Go for obscurity.

2. Do government bathrooms install shelves above the urinals? Backing up a step, a citizen might be concerned if government workers are reading, learning, and remaining current in their fields. Installing shelves in bathrooms, on which government workers can place their books while they do their business, might encourage government workers to engage in mobile education, walking and reading and learning.

This might increase the likelihood of scooter collisions and stumbling through a yoga-on-the-green session, but you have to take the good with the bad. While hilarious, these situations do not fit the profile of necessary to know for good government oversight. Go for obscurity.

3. How many government workers does it take to produce a budget? For real. This isn’t a joke setup; this is a legitimate question because the answer changes depending on the size (people and programs) and complexity (funding sources) involved. Still, I can’t see the average citizen wanting to know the line-item detail of an individual bureau’s budget construction.

I always did think they were spending too much on short-term disability insurance. Let ‘em sell plasma with the rest of the riff-raff. Watchdogs might think this, but would they voice it? That would take a special brand of cruelty. If a citizen were so inclined to validate the cruelty of their thought life, public records requests may be filed at any time. For the sake of obscurity, though, I think we’re all better off knowing that government pay packages are built with heart, not plasma.

4. How many citizens want to know about terrorist attacks that didn’t happen, about embezzlements that were stopped, about dangerous and unstable personnel who were fired for cause? The answer changes depending on your appetite for the incendiary and how committed you are to better governance and the absolute decimal dust truth. Should the information be maintained? Yes. But I submit to you, dear reader, that certain kinds of information defy the assumed efficacy of total transparency.

We tell the agencies most equipped to stop terror about terrorists. We tell the police about embezzlement. We tell HR about unstable personalities. Contextual understanding and possession of the skills necessary to affect a positive outcome, and not lose your shit, are required for these and other dry-powder-and-surplus-matches situations. Go for obscurity.

These are tricky, nuanced situations, almost none (except maybe lug nuts) as clear as the need for an absolute ban on clear bathroom stalls and toilets. We should eye with skepticism any person who argues for a predilection and not for the public good.

And bring hand sanitizer.

Man Hard

Anna and Amy conspired to leave the keys in the Journey for two full days after we returned from KC. Dad needs practice running up and down the two steps between the house and the garage. How can we make this happen? Dead battery. Dead like a vampire exposed to the sun, burned up, stakes fired from a Gatling gun, finished up with a nuclear warhead chaser.

I learned about the science of battery charging in my path to concluding the battery was dead. Who said frustration couldn’t also be educational? Was I happy about my newfound knowledge? No. No, I was not. Thus began another epic adventure in walking to AutoZone, missing tools, and impalings from metal shavings. (Have you tried the new shop-based exfoliant? Steel, razor-sharp microbeads included!)

I walked the mile-and-a-quarter to AutoZone, bought a battery, returned home, went to remove the driver’s side front wheel (because Dodge is a bunch of dark comic sadists and requires you to remove this wheel in order to replace the battery. We’re special. We want to be different. Everyone should know how to take off a tire. Yeah, fuck you, Dodge.), and discovered that I was missing the wheel-lock key.

Another way Dodge establishes its simultaneous dumbassery and specialness is by installing a wheel-lock key on each wheel of the series 2009 Journey. This is a star-patterned socket that fits onto the lug. Onto the back of this, you fit the tire iron and crank away.

Of course, if you gave the wheel-lock key to the tire-change shop two months prior and can’t remember if you got it back from them (you didn’t), call and ask if they can find it (they can’t), search your home from top to bottom and can’t find it (’cause it’s in a black hole to another universe), call around to dealerships and they won’t help you (you ain’t one of their kind), you’re screwed.

The dealers are more than willing to assist–if you bring your car in. Normally, that’s not a problem. Just crank her up and roll over in ten-years-old-not-quite-POSC-but-paid-off style. Slight problem with that when you can’t install the battery, stupid fucks. Will they loan out the tools for their full value? My superpower flying research is still in its infancy, but I can hoof it over there. No dice. I can only guess that they’re doing some weird sex thing with the tools when they aren’t willing to part with them for 10 minutes.

(Side note: if they are doing some weird sex thing, why are dealership-based car repairs so high? Porn is a money-maker, so auto-repair should be a loss leader. The economics are flawless. Think of all the repurposable toys they have lying around.)

I set to asking The Google what to do. Turns out, when you can’t find the wheel-lock nut, mechanics take a slightly smaller socket, pound it onto the offending lug until the socket is wedged in place, then crank the wedged lug nut with a torque wrench or breaker bar. Great idea. Problem: the wheel-lock nut was convex around the sides, bulged out like your waistline after Thanksgiving dinner, not flat.

I had several sockets that would have been wedgeable onto a regular lug, but on the lock nut with its bulging midsection? Not so much. This is where Dodge said, “Fuck you back, buddy.”

I called around to towing services. It was looking to cost about $50-$75 to tow the Journey to a shop and have them torque off the lock nut. I was exhausted, frustrated, angry, and wanting to salvage some semblance of my weekend, so I did the logical thing: got out my old chisels and chipped away at the metal forming the convexity around the lock nut.

I chiseled the pot metal until I got down to the steel, down to a regular-sized nut. Then I pounded on a slightly-smaller nut, torqued it off, changed the battery, and away we went–24 hours later.

That’s right, it took me a full day to chisel the metal down far enough. Apparently, my time is worth less than $2/hr.

But my pride is priceless.

All man. All hard.

Man hard.

Little Meth Lab on the Back 40

I told a colleague that you could buy 12 acres in rural Iowa, plus a private lake, forest, and a decent house for $325K. He mentioned something about using all the extra savings to catch the backwoods economic wave in Iowa and start up a meth lab operation. This colleague has lived his whole life in Oregon. Knows next to nothing about Iowa.

I could get offended. I was born in Iowa. My family still lives in Iowa. Iowa has a huge tech presence in Des Moines. Outsiders who’ve never visited are generally ignorant about how modern Iowa is. But mainstream Iowa doesn’t make the humor ground fertile. So instead of getting offended, I’m going to get funny. Imagine an Iowa in which meth labs are legal to the same extent as, say, marijuana in Oregon. Throw the hyperbole switch.

* * *

Voiceover: Iowa. Fields of Opportunities. Balanced budgets. Happy, affluent urban cores. Near the top of the nation high school graduation rates. If you thought living in Iowa was a sure-fire path to career success, you’d be right. But if you thought school was the only way to make money, you’d be wrong.

Deirdre: I was so happy the day my permit was approved. We’ve had an old RV sitting in our backyard, collecting dust, spiders, and the occasional transient passing through on the Burlington Northern line. They were nice folks, told us all about alternative ways to dispose of urine, the latest in train-hopping techniques, as well as the best way to falsify disability claims if you, you know, ever miss the train jump. But all those stories, nice as they are, don’t pay the bills. Meth does.

Bobby 7: Never thought of myself as the pohlitical type, at least not the type to get ‘volved in an’thing at the state legislature. But when that meth legalization bill come down, I knewd I had to get me involved, and right there quick. … All them sores on peoples’ faces? Ah, hell, they’s got studies out that just prove right quick that them’s the result of excess sugar c’sumption, not meth. Meth’s as safe as milk, but more profitable. Hard to take them there cows on the road witchoo. They stank up that there place right quick. But your meth-mobile (‘nything with four wheels), that can make you profits on the go. … Bobby 7? Oh, why I’m the seventh boy in my family named Bobby. … Was my mother on meth? Well, of course, but she also ate a lot o’ sugar, so we all knows the reason for that there stuck key on the naming cohnvention, don’t we?

Voiceover: If the economists’ reports coming out of the state capital can be trusted, income inequality will soon be on its way out, as the bill to legalize methamphetamine production and distribution, which just passed the legislature today, was deliberately lacking a regulatory framework.

Senator Walter: There’s the traditional path, going through school, degrees, offices, and the like. But not everyone can do that or wants to do that. But everybody can mix chemicals and drive around. Who do you see when you drive around? People. Ready customers. I think we did a great public service here today.

Representative White: Senator Walter said it all, but I’ll add that there’s never been a great economic equalizer like the methamphetamine bill. This will be the highlight of my legacy.

Senator Gus: With more methamphetamine on the street, kids will have a choice between something that gives you real energy and those dastardly sugar products that make you crash 15 minutes later. The meth high goes long.

Representative Fring: Couldn’t agree more with Senator Gus. Candy is hard to eat with only half a face, but meth–huh, ho!–straight in the vein. Maximum delivery options and convenience.

Senator Pinkman: Yeah! Politics, Bitch!

* * *

Ridiculous, right? I hope you can all be good sports and see the humor in this ultra-hyperbole. It’s what we do here at The Family Farce. But it does make me wonder: I ate some bread today. It had gluten in it. How long until the mundane becomes the monstrous? The illicit the indispensable? Time can do weird things to the sensibilities of the populace.

But until that day the states go Breaking Bad, pass the wheat.

Hold the meth.