Tails from the Checkout Line: Caught Between Planets

We’re on a budget trip – herding kids at the Super 8 in Decorah, Iowa.  Upon our arrival, to our horror, we realized that we’d forgotten our 4 month old‘s nookie.  Being in a budget frame of mind, the local Walmart seemed like just the ticket.  I found the relevant mouth attachments without much problem, then parked myself in the checkout line behind a mountain of a woman with countless 8-packs of toilet paper heaped precariously in her shopping cart.  The cashier was staring off into space, quite catatonic while the woman in front of me pawed noisily at the dried skin on her heel.  As usual, I selected the checkout line with some form of price check in progress.

I never found the google maps client to be of much use on my blackberry – it always seems so self assured, but is almost almost terribly wrong unless I’m building a route from points of interest so popular no one needs directions to or from them anyway.  But still it’s fun to watch the thing spin it’s wheels and bravely declare where it believes you are.  That’s what I did to kill the time while our price check ensued.

What I didn’t notice was what must have been a certain degree of gravitational pull generated by the Zeppelin of a woman gliding in behind me in line.  Kudos – her cart was filled almost entirely with vegetables.  My admiration for her dietary preference notwithstanding, the practical side of me began to fathom the ramifications of 1300 feet of vegetable eating colon.  I didn’t have to fathom long – I was enveloped in a toxic cloud faster than you could say f-r-o-m-p.  The cashier awoke from her coma with a furrowed brow and frenzied motions for a manager.  Suddenly she seemed inspired to move this line along.

My accusatory glance at what I believed to be the source organism behind me confirmed my suspicions – she quickly averted her eyes and feigned interest in the Joli twins, prominently depicted in some rag on the magazine rack.  Mountain lady in front of me stopped servicing her dried up heel and began to pat her brow with what appeared to be a heavily used kleenex tissue.  It’s amazing the noxious fumes didn’t set off some form of Homeland Security alarm.

The odor was penetrating and tenacious, and induced a doomsday torpor over all the  customers and cashiers in about a 40 foot radius.  I no longer took pleasure in tinkering with my blackberry, but instead prepared myself to ride out passage of the collective kidney stone that bound, we the damned, in a wretched fellowship of lost souls.

The sun rises, the sun sets.  And so too passed the rank shroud in due course.  I emerged from Walmart today a wiser but a sadder man.


Chinese Teen Cheat Nabbed!

Due to the considerable investigative skills of NBC’s Bob Costas and his patriotic sleuth squad, a diabolical 14 year old Chinese gold medal gymnast has been stopped in her criminal tracks.  Now our appropriately aged gymasts will likely be restored to their due prominence.  Did this Chinese gymast really think she could get away with shamelessly using the enormous advantage of being a 14 years old against her adult and late teens competitors?  This is really an all time low. 

And to top it all off, Bob was careful to point out that precident existed for medal adjustments, and used as his example the ensuing medal redistribution following a drug abuser’s confession at another athletic event.  When you think about it, being a juvenile female gymast is the perfect cover for drug dealing – think how much crystal meth you could fit in one of those pony tails… I believe further investigations are warranted.

May/Walsh – We Still Don’t Hate You!

Hats off to the awesome May/Walsh beach volleyball duo.  With considerable effort it is still possible to admire their athletic accomplishment despite all of NBC’s efforts to make us hate them.  Coverage of their matches was relentless and unprecedented – it seemed as if every point of every match they played was televised – regardless of how lopsided the particular match (as indeed most of them were) may have been.  A familiar script was faithfully rattled off by the commentators for each and every match:

1. Misty’s insistence on being evaluated as a team when asked which of them was a better player.

2. The story of Misty spreading her Mom’s ashes at the Sydney Olympics, and her plans to do the same in Beijing.

3.  The whole scoop behind the black tape on Kerri Walsh’s shoulder.

4. Misty being the best defensive player in the world, and Kerry being the best offensive player.

5. The fact that Kerri turned 30 on August 15th, and the details of her birthday celebration.

6. The fact that winning this tournament would constitue Walsh’s 100th career win.

Their last match started to turn ugly in a predictable manner, from a commentary point of view.  Let serves (serves that hit the net and still go over,) when scored by their Chinese opponents were characterized as “lucky/snake bites” while, throughout the tournament, they were celebrated as examples of “making one’s own luck” when May/Walsh scored the same way.  When one of the Chinese players began to score with some consistency with a hit down the line, it was described as a “slimey” shot that Walsh needed to do a better job of anticipating.  When Wang of the Chinese team took a medical time out to have an elbow massaged, the commentators seized the moment to point out how this particular player was notorious for faking medical attention, while providing only laughable supporting evidence.

And did I mention that the coverage was relentless?  When I think about the number of sports that didn’t get any prime time coverage, it occurred to me that the May/Walsh coverage did constitute something of a “perfect storm” for the NBC agenda.  Hot chicks for which they had tons of stock footage that relished their time on camera and consistently hammered their competitors – what’s not to like?

I wonder if badminton would have received more coverage if the competitors wore thongs?  

And just when you thought my rant was finally over – Bob Costas, unfortunately for you the reader, comes to mind.  I have such a good time losing my mind over the likes of Costas, the quintessential high school basketball team student manager, when he presumes to alternately rub elbows with and scold those that are actually accomplished athletically.  Most recently his bashing of Usain Bolt for Bolt’s apparent premature celebration in the final meters of his 100 meter world record run really got my goat.  I loved Bolt’s performance as I saw it unfold because I knew it would drive the press nuts.  Already outraged that a non American for which they were caught completely flat footed (no sappy human interest package to grab off the shelf) would have the audacity to win so convincingly, the poor things had their noses rubbed in it with Bolt’s brilliant showboating.  

Bob, we really don’t need some hyper-salaried talking head preaching to someone who’s got the real goods.   We’ll trust you to cut to commercials on time, serve up the mindless banter during technical difficulties, and to fawn over pixie gymnasts – but weighing in on “sportsmanship” is way out of your league.

Olympic Gasbags

Every four years I grimace at the thought of watching the women’s olympic gymnastics, yet for some reason I keep coming back.  This year it may well have been because it was such a relief from the incessent beach volleyball.  What gives me pause with regard to women’s gymnastics has nothing to do with the athletes, but the terribly transparent, agenda ridden coverage provided by NBC.

It’s normally clear at the outset which competitor they’re going to push – “pure bred” Mary Lou Retton clones… little apple pie types with big smiles and lots of energy.

The pattern goes something like this – if things are going well for them, it’s “Look at the pixie” and “That’s 100% heart” types of comments that are going to prevail.  If they start to lose ground to their competitors, then it immediately digresses to an analysis of the judges – i.e., who comes from what country.  If things contiue to degrade – and particularly if the difference in skill level is apparent to everyone except the “expert” American/Canadian commentators – then the victors are portrayed as tiny robotic, brainwashed products of an autocratic society, unnaturally desperate to win for fear of state sponsored retribution.

This time around was particularly interesting since the eventual American gold medal winner immigrated from Russia as a toddler, and is the daughter of a former Soviet gold medal winner.  For obvious reasons, she wasn’t the darling – but rather the scrappy West Des Moines high school student, who met the profile to a “T.” 

So between Bob Costas and Al Trautwig, the gold medal winner’s tearful response to winning the gold medal was “very American” – as if to politely counter her obviously soiled lineage.  The Chinese athlete that narrowly missed the silver medal was merely “the Chinese woman.”  And lastly, the darling from Des Moines that ended up with the silver medal was, literally in the words of Bob Costas, the “adorable Shawn Johnson.”

The three of them were all magnificent athletes, and I was struck by how much better these gymnasts are at what they do than the commentators are at what they do.  My suggestion to NBC is to stop beating around the bush – put numbers on the back of the gymnasts corresponding to the purity of their “apple pie pixie factor” DNA and have done with it.

Before retiring I shall perform a summersault in the middle of my living room floor as my salute to the gymnastic community.  I shall then void my bladder in salute to the commentators.

Morning Irritants

Driving in to work yesterday I was puzzled to see a young woman, with her back to me, walking down the middle of the one lane road I was on, talking on her cell phone, with her back to me.  I slowed quickly to match her speed as I attempted to demonstrate courteous patience in waiting for her to move to one side of the road or other.  Didn’t happen.  I was within 10 feet of her, so there was no way she couldn’t hear the engine on my 1994 Honda.  

Despite this outrageous display of foolhardy arrogance, I couldn’t bring myself to honk.  Maybe it was from the years I spent on Guam, where sounding your horn at another person was essentially soliciting a fight to the death with whatever blunt objects you had rattling around under the driver’s seat.

This went on for maybe 200 yards, with me driving to match her leisurely walking speed.  Eventually she casually glanced over her shoulder and gradually migrated over to the side of the road, the cell phone still glued to her ear.  I was planning on delivering my best scathing glare, but my attention was diverted by my next adventure shaping up just ahead.

What caught my attention initially was flashing railroad crossing lights.  I wasn’t terribly keen on yet another delay, but when the lights are flashing, what can you do?  There wasn’t a train anywhere in sight, but that was pretty much par for the course.  As I came to a stop, traffic started to accumulate behind me.  Then, I noticed there was a guy working on the crossing light.  It had already been almost a minute, so I figured if the lights were the result of whatever this guy was doing as opposed to a real train, he would have waived me on by now.  Two minutes: no train, no hint of acknowledgement from the light technician.

Heads began to bob and hands gesticulate behind me.  My sense was that they were growing weary of my failure to perceive the obvious.  Although it was beginning to dawn on me that the light technician was a moron of the first order, the principled rage in me insisted on waiting until he acknowledged the presence of my waiting car, barely 15 feet from his screwdriver.

Exhibiting was must have been a calculated, cultivated air of indifference, he eventually waved me on.  I glanced furtively in my rear view mirror as I proceeded, checking for evidence that perhaps cell phone girl was somehow conspiring with moron light guy.  I saw no such indication, but did take note of my own gruesome grimace – a veritable death’s mask.

Okay, so I got a little wound up.  The rest of the day was uneventful.

Ouch. OUCH.

Today I fell down.  Is this a big deal?  Not if you’re 22, but as a 51 year old?  Well, I didn’t break my hip, but it was uncomfortable enough for me to cast a jaundiced eye on my future over the next 20 years or so.    It won’t be pretty.  There may be those among you that view this as natural selection at work, i.e., gotta rid the gene pool of folks ignorant enough to have little teeny babies after the age of 50.  Indeed, it was the handywork of one such teeny weeny that brought the big man down.  Allow me to dredge you through the details.

I’d fallen asleep with the 3 month old on my chest.  When my wife finally extracted her from me so as to free me up for more lucrative productivity, I felt compelled to arise and attempt to navigate the mine field that is our toy strewn “living” room floor.  Bingo, I step on this feller…




Meet “Duck” – one of the characters from the Thomas the Tank Engine series.   He’s a friendly enough little guy until you roll your ankle  on him.  Mind you, he might be small, but he’s not a chunk of plastic – he’s a chunk of solid wood that brings the laws of physics to bear on his own behalf in a way that amounts to very bad joo joo for a unobservant or uncoordinated lumbering adult.

Down, down I came.  I can’t say my life flashed before my eyes, but I was aware that I was descending at an uncontrolled rate onto a surface festooned with like sturdy, pointy things.  The first priority, of course, was to pucker – which I barely managed.  Sadly, my arse wasn’t the target of the little tyke that was to ruin my day in short order.  Let me introduce him:


Chicco Car

Chicco Car

Meet our little Chicco car.  He might be plastic, but he’s a pretty solid little chunk of equipment nonetheless.  Note that the roof of the car comes off and functions as a remote control.  Based on the simplicity of the remote, the thing is designed to be used by really tiny humans.  And accordingly, it is built to withstand the rigors imposed on it by tiny, unformed minds looking to create the biggest crash possible.  So like I said, the thing is solid.  Our car happened to be as depicted here – no roof in place, and the windshield made for a VERY nasty impact point for the heel of my right hand.  I ordinarily would have thrown the thing through the drywall, but I don’t think it would have suffered in the least.

So there I sat – twisted ankle, hobbled hand – and wondering what the outcome might have been had I been carrying our sleeping three month old at the time.  Boy, that’s scary… but not scary enough to keep us from allowing this room to degenerate to the exact same condition by this time next week (or sooner.)