Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

Years ago when I worked out, I might go at it for two-plus hours—and put in zippo cardio exercise—all in the vain hopes of becoming more like one of my then idols, Arnold Schwarzenegger or Frank Zane, from bodybuilding’s Golden Age.

But not today. I like to do my business quickly and leave. There’s too much more important stuff in my life now to attend to. But if I never go, I start feeling bad, too. So this is my happy compromise.

So a few weeks ago when working out, I headed for the seated leg press sled. It’s a sort of hybrid device between free weight squats and a leg press machine. Thankfully, my club has two of these, so there’s less likelihood of having to wait for someone to finish. But it only went so far in this case, as I now explain.

I noticed there weren’t the usual number of 45 lb plates handy to load onto it. But next to my device, I noticed another leg contraption that had a ridiculous number of these plates stacked on each arm. I counted 28 in all—14 on each arm. 1260 lbs. Now usually, if I’ve seen someone using anywhere near approaching this amount (and this is the largest by far), they tend to be gargantuan dudes to fit the part with a couple of spotters to help them through potential sticking points on their reps.

There had been nobody close to neighboring equipment in several minutes, and I was quickly running out of plates to stack on mine. Then moseys up a tall older gentlemen of lean, lanky build—hardly whom I would have expected to be using this.

Already hacked with this guy for his violation of gym etiquette—leaving a machine unattended for several minutes while using up most of the available plates nearby—I fumed at him with suspicion over any attempt to actually try to press all those plates. When he went to move them, he only pushed all that weight maybe 3-4 inches, not even a quarter of the range of motion (Those of you who work out know the difference that form and range of motion can do to get the maximum effect, and how much harder a modest amount of weight can be when not cutting corners.). I was duly unimpressed.

In the weeks since when working my legs, I noticed the same thing. I want to use the leg press, but the most of the weights are taken up by an unattended machine. To make matters worse, there is a towel spread over it, clearly an attempt to say, “Taken. Don’t use.” Next to it, an unattended seated leg press had a water bottle and keys marking them, too. Well, you guessed it: my friend—“The strongest man in the world”—casually strolls in after a long absence.

I’ve since observed this guy marking off up to three devices at a time. While scowling over his faux presses, I can only guess what he’s doing with all this weight in the first place. Is he a sprinter? Maybe training those muscle fibers for that particular movement? Is he really getting any benefit from it, particularly with 5-10 minute rests between sets?

On one of these days, wanting to get in and out, I walked a distance to find weights to drag back to my device. When my friend showed up, I had apparently interrupted his flow, as he was eyeing my equipment for remaining 45’s he intended to use for his 1,000 lb+ press. I ignored him as non-discreetly as possible, walking great distances to secure more plates for my device—and hinting with my example how to do full presses with short breaks in between sets.

He did not seem to catch on.

Rather, he sheepishly offered to put some plates on my equipment when he was dropping back down on his—noticing my short supply. A few days later, he noticed he had apparently taken over my device when I stepped away for some water, as he made a modest show of wanting to set it back up for me. “Don’t try to be nice, man. That will just get in the way of my fuming at you,” I thought.

I’ve since seen this guy fraternizing with a couple other men. In truth, he may be a decent fellow. But it’s kind of hard for me to want to know him in this light. I’ve gotten so used to him being “that guy.” Do you have someone like this in your life? The one you’ve pegged as “that guy.” Or, “Oh her.”

Maybe I will come around at some point. Gosh darn it, it kind of makes me feel guilty that I may have the bigger issue here. He might even make a friend under different circumstances. I don’t want to sugarcoat the frustration of my experience with this guy. But is there an opportunity for me to get a different kind of workout here? To be stretched and challenged more than just the mental discipline practiced between me and some inanimate device? But to risk humbling myself to know another whom I took offense from, to look at someone as an opportunity rather than an obstacle—that’s a far harder workout.


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Lent Season is upon us.

Those of you familiar with the Christian faith and tradition likely know this. But I don’t want to assume anything.

See, I should know this firsthand myself. And I do. Yet, it wasn’t always this way, but rather became so only recently.

Around this time a couple years ago, I was speaking with a local businessman about a particular matter, when I noticed during our conversation that he had this big smudge of grease or ink on his forehead. Not wanting to leave him to the snickers of other noticing folks like myself, I was about to tell him about it to help him save face. But for whatever reason, I didn’t.

Now I’m not generally the type of guy who will let something like this go on while  some pour soul becomes the laughing stock of his or her peers. But whatever held me back this time, by doing so, I was the one who saved face that day.

I come from a non-liturgical tradition that never really observed Lent, certainly not on a large scale. And while I may have heard the name dropped every so often over the years, I remained blissfully ignorant about the significance of Lent to my heritage.

Now it seems I’m not the only one to fall prey to such folly. The other day, Vice-President Joe Biden, and President Obama were making an appearance for a press conference, where the Catholic Biden visibly bore such a mark on his forehead. On CNN the following day, audio was played from a couple of journalists for Britain’s Sky News speculating about it as they watched news feed for the conference—apparently mistaking the mark for a bruise (I wondered this, too, at first, from seeing a small photo from the conference online. What is meant to be the mark of the cross in ash sometimes ends up being an amorphous blotch. Still, even the less descript marks are synonymous with Ash Wednesday for those who know.).

At any rate, I now know about Ash Wednesday as the faith community of which I’m a part practices Lent. The significance of the season is to anticipate the resurrection of Christ, which for many, makes Easter even more important than Christmas. Lent takes place 46 days out before Easter, or the biblically significant 40 days when not counting Sundays. Traditionally, people give up something—some food, drink, or practice—as a willing sort of self-denial.

For my first Lent last year, I gave up caffeine (no easy feat!). But it’s about more than just giving up something. It’s about getting something in return. Replacing it with something good which hopefully will draw one closer in their relationship with the Lord.

This year—the coffee stays. But I have been more mindful about the why (drawing closer to God) behind the what (what I’m giving up).

To bring my folly full circle, the other night I walked into work not long after attending our Ash Wednesday service. A few minutes later, my partner on the night shift made a comment regarding my forehead—“Ash Wednesday, huh?” (You kind of forget it’s there after awhile). Then mused, “Good ol’ Catholics.”

I started to take exception—not being Catholic—probably more than anything from some long-standing issue going back to childhood where I feel I have to correct someone who misunderstands me.

But then I had to catch myself. And smile a little, moreover glad at the general recognition that got it right. Of being identified with something I had chosen to willingly identify with. And risk a little ignorance if needed, no doubt which my business friend was well familiar with that day a few years ago.

And it takes me back to the what and the why again—both in what I seek to give up, as well as what I hope to gain. If it were merely discipline or religiosity I was looking for, I could join a class at the gym, or attend a seminar. But I’m already happy enough with the fitness routine I have. And as for gaining more knowledge, I’m trying to make better use of that which I’m already acquainted with.

No. This is more about presence and connectedness in the here-and-now. Awareness and encounter of realities outside of myself—Holy Otherness—without any sort of self-editing for whoever may be watching. Real journeys are like this, off-the-beaten path sort of affairs that while possessing public and community dimensions, nevertheless take their journeyers into very personalized experiences.

Granted, this sometimes feels elusive, and not always my actual experience. So far, my 40 day season is not off to the best start. But there are moments that this awareness and encounter happens. And the aim has a way of focusing the general movement in the aim’s direction, where even the common has a way of becoming holy.

Last year, I did notice a positive difference in myself at the end of the season. It wasn’t one of those dramatic changes that takes place overnight. But I was happier, and more spiritually connected…

I’m hoping history repeats itself this year as I look forward with great anticipation to something new.

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So I was over in Winter Park getting recertified for CPR the other day.

I’ve done this routine several times now. But what I expected to be a fairly tame if not boring experience proved to be anything but. The fact that the instructor who welcomed us sported a cap reading “MARINES” in big block letters—and even more the fact that with his hulking no-nonsense presence he looked every bit the part of a former drill instructor—should have been an early tip-off.

Jumping right into our test, Tony immediately started grilling us for answers. And if you blinked, you might miss an important bit he’d be sure to call you out on any second.

At one point, wanting some clarification, I asked Tony about a particular item. In response, he had me go to the ground and give him thirty. Thirty chest compressions on the training dummy, that is.

Another question was asked. In response, Tony started lecturing on the evils of poor hygiene and spread of hepatitis (Lesson: never do CPR without a breathing shield.). Things seemed to calm down a bit, then began a lecture on medical liability (Lesson: make damn sure you have verbal or implied consent before performing any treatment.).

The other class member, Lanika, and I thought we might get a small break when a new person walked through the door. But without missing a beat, Tony’s assistant, Patty—who until this point had been dropping wry comments throughout our grilling—gladly jumped in to take over.

I shouldn’t have been fooled by her friendlier demeanor. For it wasn’t very long before Patty was going, So what are you gonna do now, Brian?! This person only has a few seconds to live! Then came her crazy laugh upon seeing the deer in the headlights look in my eyes.

What seemed perhaps a slightly unorthodox teaching style actually proved to be one of the most effective classes I’ve ever attended. Tony and Patty waste no time helping you to experience the material, not just passively hear it. And barking at us like they did helped cement this serious content.

I was reminded a bit of the late Sam Kinison. His trademark comedy routine always had his characters starting out in a low, calm voice as they asked questions of another. But it was never long before he erupted into a series of screams going, “Ahhhhh!!!! Say it!!!”—reducing his victims to tears and ashes.

Okay, so they didn’t exactly reduce us to tears or ashes. But they didn’t mind giving us a little heat. All I can say is “Thanks.” It might just save a life one day.


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The Narcissistic Kitty

I live in a cat house.

No—not that kind of cathouse. The kind that is full of felines, as both my roommates have cats.

Now I’m no cat expert, and it had been years since I’d had regular acquaintance with any. So I’m learning a bit more about cats in general as I get clued in to the particularities of each of these kitties. No newsflash for the pet owners among you—but it really is true how these critters have “personalities” of their own, and can amuse one for hours on end based on the character traits that make them uniquely them.

This was first bought home to me with an episode I was unfortunately not present to witness, where Kaya, the male cat, attacks my other roommate as he reaches down to pet one of his own cats (female) by jumping on his back from behind and sinking his claws in deep. Clearly jealousy kicking in. Though neither of the female cats will give him the time of day, nevertheless, according to Kaya’s owner they are “his bitches” now…

Well, the other day, I was walking down the hall when I happened to look through the door into my roomie’s bedroom. There in the corner was Kaya, standing atop his perch looking into his own mirror.

Now I’d never really stopped to think about it before that a cat would really need his own mirror. But seeing him there admiring himself for minutes on end, and then realizing the fact that along with his mirror Kaya’s food dish and water bowl happened to be elevated off the floor, drove home to me why. It would just not do for Kaya to eat off common ground! No sir! Kaya must have an exalted perch.

It was further explained to me that Kaya will let his owner know when his water bowl needs to be changed—as he will flatly refuse anything near approaching day-old water—the point further made by his threatening demeanor for you to go do something about it. Like most firmly established but dysfunctionally-suspect relationships in the human realm, theirs is a pattern that has been established over time, with certain ritual moments even looked forward to with a sort of glee. In telling me more about their history, my roommate starts to engage in a type of blood sport, where Kaya will often start whining, hissing, and flaring his fangs at any signs of affection such as attempts to pet him. His owner just laughs it off as he darts his hand in to pet him anyway then quickly retreats it, then eventually goes in for the kill as he swoops him up off his feet, rendering his claws immobile as he hugs him.

No doubt this springs from kitty issues.

When my roommate’s sister, Kaya’s original owner, essentially abandoned him after later getting a dog, her brother stepped in to adopt Kaya. So abandonment, lack of trust, jealousy, snobbery—and now, it appears—a healthy dose of narcissism…

They say you never really get to know someone until you know their story.

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Who are These Guys???

Ever been on a website where a company encourages you to contact them, where friendly operators are standing by? There’s always a photo shown of a very nice looking individual, often a young woman who also happens to be dressed like she’s modeling for Ann Taylor. Presumably this person works for said company and this is an inside view of what things look like there.

I got to wondering about this recently, asking the question, “Who are these guys?!” I was on some company’s site showing a bunch of executives there looking like the happiest things in the world—like they had just bagged the deal of the century. More confident than The Donald after a round of telling someone, “You’re fired!”

Now, I’m not against attractive people in the workplace. Or trying to present a positive portrayal of one’s company, whether it’s to project confidence or a sense of cutting edge technology or expertise.

Plus, everyone knows that’s the business of advertising. Maybe in some instances, these images capture what it might look like to work in one of these places. And on occasion, I can think of situations where some persons or other I knew at a company could have modeled for one of these pics. And just maybe I’ve been influenced by too many episodes of The Office.

But ask yourself, How much does this look like the workplace you know? It’s kind of funny the consistently clean look of some websites that are obviously using stock photos of beautiful, grinning people in situations bearing little resemblance to the call centers and negotiation tables of much of Corporate America.

Ah, the magic of advertising!

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Starbucks Etiquette

I’ve spent a lot of time in coffee shops, and Starbucks in particular (Yeah, I’m okay with that, for those of you snobbier than this coffee snob. What are you going to do about it?). From my time as both a patron and barista, I’ve come up with some of the unwritten rules of patronizing Starbucks:

  • Spill sugar on counters so that baristas have something to do when making periodic sweeps through store.
  • Pour extra coffee into the trash portal at the condiment station to make room for creamer. Patrons regularly doing this without a second thought may be surprised to know how many trash bag malfunctions out by the dumpsters have ended up saturating baristas’ clothing. For the love of G-d, stop the violence! (Okay, this may not be considered etiquette, but since it originates from behind the counter, it’s considered common practice.)
  • If good customers, will take empty creamer vessels back to the counter for a replacement from barista, and even assist further by putting it out on the condiment station themselves.
  • If bad to the core customers, will leave it empty for the next righteous (or otherwise peeved) customer to take care of.
  • Avoid cell phone conversations while ordering at the counter.
  • If taking a call on their cell, will keep it very short or otherwise incite scorn in other customers over their obnoxious and intrusive behavior (and likely loud—as though to say, “Hey everybody—Woowee! Look at me! I’m on a cell phone! You should think I’m as important as the person on the other end of this thinks.”).
  • If talking with each other at a similar volume in the store, are perfectly within their rights and won’t be given much mind by anyone else. Somehow, everyone knows that conversations with real persons present are less bothersome than those through a phone.
  • “The customer is always right”… to a point. Outstanding customer service is one of the pillars that helped to build Starbucks into the global phenomenon it is today. Still, that’s no reason to further beleaguer a barista with non-essential requests if they’re slammed with a line back to the door. You’ll not only gain points from a group of employees who often know their customers by name, but you’ll keep the respect of your fellow patrons.

No formal survey was used for this list. You could probably add a few observations of your own. If confession is good for the soul, then I’m guilty of violating some of these myself. I’ve learned over time, though, how to be a better patron.

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Get That Bird!

I heard a really good one just recently… A couple days ago, I was having breakfast with my father at Prosser’s Restaurant. A round of colorful stories was being shared by the men at our table, when something said prompted my dad to say, “Greg, tell the one about the emu.”

Greg Moore proceeded to relate how a good friend of his had gotten into the emu breeding business. At some point, having more than he really needed, his friend convinced Greg to take a few of them, given that he had enough space for them on his horse farm. Greg was assured it would be easy and he would enjoy having them. (Greg did not say if he was still friends with this guy, but with what follows, I’m kind of doubting it.)

One day Greg came home surprised to find the dominant male emu running around outside the pasture. He had earlier reasoned his five foot fence should be high enough for the emus since it was tall enough for his horses. The moments that followed gave him pause to question the wisdom of owning emus.

Greg’s wife told him to “Get that bird!” Greg grabbed the emu.

The emu did not like being grabbed.

“He started ripping my pants with his talons. Blood was running down my legs.”

My eyes got wide as saucers.

“Then he shredded my drawers!” Our shock shifted to amusement.

In retaliation to the emu’s parry, Greg reached for his long neck. “I was so mad I was going to break that S.O.B’s neck! At one point, I bent it over double!”

Now Greg is a big man, with big hands. He’s the kind of guy you’d expect to have some acquaintance with tools, a guy who’s seen his share of manual labor.

“But I couldn’t do it,” he continued. “He was a tough old S.O.B.”

In exasperation, Greg made for the quickest retreat he could. “I finally grabbed him and threw him back over the fence.” With adrenaline flowing and a hostile emu loose, tossing a 90 lb bird over a fence wasn’t a problem.

Some time after he recovered from this incident, Greg came home to find the emu loose again. Bracing himself to face his old nemesis, Greg marched the warpath toward his truck where he could see the giant bird on the other side.

He rounded the corner to find his wife there–the emu eating out of one hand, while petting him with the other… The emu then stood his ground to protect Greg’s wife…

This would not be the last run-in with this bird. Some time later, he disappeared altogether. Shortly after, footage was shown on the local news of Lake City police officers chasing an emu around town, trying to capture it.

When I heard this, I could just picture an episode of the Keystone Kops. Recalling my visit to an Australian sheep farm several years ago, I now understood why the emus there were tightly fenced in, with chicken wire going up to the ceiling of their pen. Dang, man…

Thank you for sharing this great story, Greg!

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