Using a Public Toilet 🚻 A Ritual 

You walk into the restroom and smell that first waft of stale piss, but that doesn’t stop you. No. You are on a mission to sit and expel solid waste. You rush to the toilet not knowing who or what has sat on it before you. You don’t even know if the toilet has been cleaned recently.

It doesn’t matter. There’s a golfer trying to bore its way out and you absolutely must use this toilet.

OR…

You enter the restroom to the pleasant scent of Pine Sol and walk to the nearest stall. A heavenly sight awaits you as you open the stall. The water is still dyed a deep blue from the cleaning detergent used by the janitorial staff. You’re the first person to use this toilet today, and it’s as clean as it’s ever going to be.

This is a virgin toilet! 

Regardless of how clean the toilet may be, you still have a cleansing ritual to perform before your cheeks will touch that seat. The ritual is:

  1. Grab some toilet paper and wipe the seat. Some people use sanitizer to clean the seat.  
  2. Use even more toilet paper to cover the seat.  
  3. Only when the seat is covered to the point it looks like a flat bird’s nest, do you sit to lay your rotten “eggs”.

Don’t lie, you’ve done this ritual.

We all have our reasons for doing it. It may have been a learned habit from walking into public restrooms and having to clean the seat so many times. Maybe you remember missing the bowl yourself and are pretty sure everyone else pees on the seat too. Or maybe you’re a germaphobe and feel an extra compulsion to clean the seat. My father drilled it into my head that public toilets were disgusting sources of disease. 

Some restrooms have those thinner than paper seat covers mounted on the wall. Those seat covers are psychological constructs designed to keep people from wasting valuable toilet paper. They’re so flimsy you run the risk of destroying the cover while trying to get it out of the holder. You end up wasting not just the liner, but the precious few seconds remaining before that gofer runs out of your hole.

Lifting the Seat

If there’s no urinal and you only need to pee (and if you’re male), it’s polite to lift the seat so you don’t dirty it when the next person uses it. This type of situation is becoming more common now that unisex public toilets are appearing in restaurants and coffee shops.

But I don’t want to touch that thing, and then touch my junk!

If we bother to lift the seat, we use our feet which are protected by “germ-proof” shoes. We balance on one foot and use the other to lift the seat. It sort of looks like a martial art’s fighting stance.

***

We all share the same cleansing ritual to help put our minds at ease about using a public toilet of dubious cleanliness. We clean the seat, cover it, and sit on it. And once we’re comfortable, or are sitting and there’s no turning back, most of us will whip out our phones to brows our news feeds.

Who knows, you may be reading this story while on the pot!

Tow Truck Cross ✝️

We’ve all seen them as they drive around the city. They’re the vultures of the road who prey on traffic accidents. They roam the streets looking for targets of opportunity and victimize unsuspecting drivers who may have parked in a parking spot after hours or too close to a no parking zone, and for fraudulent reasons.

We’ve all heard of a friend victimized by one of these things, or have had personal experience. After having a great time out with friends, the unsuspecting victim returns to the location where they parked their car… only to have that joyous evening ruined because their car was stolen by a tow truck driver.

It’s a common situation.

But, have you actually looked at the trucks themselves? Have you looked beyond their utilitarian use, and any preconceived biases you may have against the operators? 

The next time you see a tow truck driving down a road, look at the back. You’ll notice the bed of the truck has a device that looks just like a Christian cross (✝️). The operator must bear the cross as a symbol of the bourdon of working as one of the most despised professions in the civilized world… the street’s carrion-eaters.

The cross a tow truck carries on its back serves to remind other cars of their own mortality. That they will end up being hauled away by the vehicular version of the “Grim Reaper”.

Similar to how a superstitious person knocks on wood to keep their good fortune, surely all cars must whisper a silent prayer to stave off their own demise. And when their time comes, dying cars may appear to bow and pray before the cross one last time before it conveys them to the afterlife, in a junkyard.

Not only do cars fear the tow truck, but so should humans. For both can become victims at the operator’s sadistic whim. Nowadays, the operator can steal the car for dubious legal reasons, but what will happen in the future?

If the worst-case scenario happens to our civilization, we won’t have much use for tow trucks. There’s no profit in cleaning the streets when nobody can drive any more. No. If they’re used at all, tow trucks won’t be used that way.

People can be creative with their cruelty, and the future may see victims strapped onto the backs of these trucks. If there’s a steady supply of gas, a highway warlord may mount a live (or dead) victim on the “cross” to serve as an example to others. The terrorized victim will scream as the driver speeds through the world.

Perhaps the director of a future “Mad Max” movie can use this idea.

The next time you see a tow truck driving around, take a moment to look at it. You’ll notice that it doesn’t have the “hook” you may have seen in cartoons or videogames like Grand Theft Auto V.

It has a cross.

Given that tow trucks often serve as the Grim Reaper to cars, the cross is a suitable symbol for it.

Phantom Hair Syndrome

You know that feeling you get after shaving your nose hairs? The feeling that a single hair survived and it’s scratching the inside of your nose. That’s what I call phantom hair syndrome[1].

You shaved the hairs growing in your nose, wipe the inside of each nostril with a tissue or toilet paper, and are pretty sure you got everything. But with each breath, you feel a hair fluttering in the breeze like a lone flag on a battlefield. You better check it out before leaving for work.

You walk back to the bathroom and examine your nose, yet see nothing where the itching sensation is located. You grab the clippers and run it over the location just to be sure. Maybe you even hear a satisfying “clip” sound and think: There, I got it.

You’re getting into the swing of things at work, when you notice a tickling feeling as you breathe! You try to satisfy the tickle-itching sensation, but end up looking like you’re picking your nose. You can’t feel the hair, nor can you alleviate the itchiness, so you go to the nearest bathroom.

If there’s someone in the restroom, you pretend to pee before examining your nose.

You go to the mirror and poke your nose up as though you’re making a pig’s snout. You use your phone’s flashlight to shine light into that deep dark cavern as you lean closer, and closer to the mirror. You’re so close, your humid breaths are fogging the mirror. It kind of reminds you of the velociraptor peeking through the kitchen door on Jurassic Park[2].

Your careful spelunking adventure yields no pesky stalactite.

You can still feel the hair as you breathe, and wonder if there’s a loose clipping irritating your nose. You grab some toilet paper and thoroughly clean the inside of each nostril. But, to your surprise, the toilet paper comes out clean. There isn’t even a booger!

The feeling must be in your head… literally.

You go back to your desk and work some more. The itching sensation seems to have worn off and you forget about the hair altogether. But when you’re halfway through an extra-long email, a tickling sensation returns…

That goddamn hair is still there!

You resign yourself to living with this hair for the rest of your life and try to ignore it. Your hand keeps subconsciously rubbing your nose throughout the day. You notice people shooting concerned glances your way as though you’re sick and should have stayed home.

You try to distract yourself with more work.

You try to forget it.

Nothing works, and the sensation is driving you CrAzY!

You somehow manage to make it through the day and just got home. You rush into the bathroom with a flashlight in one hand and the clippers in the other. You’re determined to find that accursed hair.

You find a hair… inside the wrong nostril.

You clip that newly discovered hair.

You run the clippers through both nostrils several more times.

You lean closer and closer to the mirror and peer into each cavern. You’re so close to the mirror, you keep knocking your forehead against the mirror-version of yourself, and he’s starting to look pissed.

You make a pig’s snout out of your nose to get a better look into each nostril.

You make a ghoulish O-face with your mouth to help you see the bottom of the nostrils too.

You spend half an hour with this examination and are finally satisfied, without a shadow of doubt. There isn’t a single hair inside your nose.

You notice that your forehead left an oily smear on the mirror, and clean it before leaving the bathroom.

You have a great evening. You eat leftovers for dinner and sip wine while binge-watching your new favorite show. You don’t even check the mirror when using the restroom one final time before going to bed.

Now, you’re lying in bed and are relaxed in your favorite position. Your brain is just about to switch to sleep-mode, when a single hair starts tickling the inside of your nose.

The rest of your night is fucking ruined.


[1] This is comedic story. This story is not intended to “make fun of” or “pick on” those who suffered the tragic loss of a limb. Nor, people who have prolonged suffering because their nervous system is trying to reestablish a connection with a lost limb.

[2] Spielberg, S. (Director). (1993). Jurassic Park [Motion Picture].

Schrödinger’s Baby on Board

As I was driving out of a parking lot today, I noticed a “Baby on Board” sticker on a parked car. I first asked myself, why do people brand their cars like that? It’s a waste of money and in a couple years the baby will grow into a toddler, and that sticker will make a liar out of the driver. Unless, the owner of the car intends to become a baby factory[1].

But what if there really is a baby on board that car?!

What if the baby is being cooked alive in the Texas summer heat, and I just drove by not knowing that an innocent life is being extinguished by a terribly negligent parent?

What would I think if I saw it on the news? Would I be sad that I could have stopped my car and checked to make sure there truly wasn’t a baby on board?

Could that sticker be a posted warning to the public the owner practices a deranged form of survival of the fittest? Could abandoning the baby in the car be a deadly test inspired by the ancient Spartans to see if it’s tough enough to survive?

Should I call the fire department to check it out? Afterall, there is a posted sign stating a baby is somewhere on board that car. We have a moral and legal responsibility to tear that car apart until we find that baby.

If the fire department does tear the car apart and discovers there wasn’t a baby in there after all, the owner should be responsible for the damages caused investigating because there was a posted sign indicating a baby was on board[2].

I remember when I was a kid, a vile creature some people could mistake as a stepmother, purposely left me in a car for hours in the Texas heat[3]. That never would have happened if cell phones and social media were around back then, because the risk of being publicly shamed or charged for criminal neglect would have been an all too real possibility.

Maybe that’s why I’m thinking so much about that simple sticker on a car, that’s obviously going to be parked for hours. Maybe my childhood experience may have made me overly sympathetic to a child being cooked alive by the Texas heat, which, nowadays has been made even worse by global warming. Despite the mere fact that such an endangered baby exists solely because I read the message of a bumper sticker metaphorically.

Or is there really a baby in there?

We’ll never know until someone looks in the car.


[1] Baby Factory – I just thought of what may be considered a real baby factory, an “axolotl tank” from Frank Herbert’s Dune universe.

[2] I wonder if that would be a good legal defense when the angry owner of the car sues the good Samaritan, who was concerned for the safety of a baby?

[3] Being cooked alive in a car as a child may be why I can tolerate the steam room much longer than most others. Should I be thankful for that?

My Commute to Work

I wake up to the sound of my phone’s alarm clock and throw the covers off my body. I swing my legs over the side of my bed and try to use the momentum to carry the rest of my body into a sitting position. It didn’t work this time and I’m forced to push and pull myself up the rest of the way. The alarm is still chiming, so I reach for my phone on the side-table to tap the “Dismiss” button. My hand moves to the remote control for the ceiling fan right next to it, and I push the button to turn on the light. Before reaching my arm back, I grab my phone and learn how to walk again as I hobble to the kitchen for a glass of water.

I’m still carrying the phone when I walk to the bathroom. I set it down next to my smart speaker and bark my usual order at the speaker, “Alexa, play my news brief.”

Reuters begins playing an annoying commercial which is obscenely too loud compared to the rest of the newscast. Why can’t we regulate the volume of ads on our podcasts or smart devices, similar to TV[1]. I listen to my news brief from my 5 preprogramed sources and do my normal 3-S’s grooming routine: shit, shower, and maybe shave.

My news brief is on the 4th news source when I turn the volume up to counteract the usual mumbling from the British[2] as I check to see if I need to shave today. I don’t think a shave is necessary today, maybe tomorrow. I grab my phone and leave the room, leaving Mr. Mumbles behind. I think about how nice it is to have a slow-growing (yet full and not patchy) beard. I set the phone on the dining table next to my gym bag and other daily items, thankful that I only need to shave twice a week.

I walk into my closet and pick out which shirt and slacks I want to wear today. I only have a few pairs of pants that fit now that I’m obese from being Covid-ly sedentary for pretty much a year. Working out these past few months has improved my waste, but isn’t making the dang pant legs fit better. I’ve always had muscular legs, and pant or slack manufacturers seem to think that everyone must be the ideal skinny white guy with chicken legs. I decide on a purple shirt and grey slacks, and grab them as I walk to the bedroom to get dressed.

I half-hear my last source of news declare: “This is a Bloomberg Money Minute.”

I throw on a white undershirt to absorb the inevitable sweat I’ll exude several times throughout the day. I slip on the purple shirt and button it as I lament the high cost of having my clothes dry-cleaned just to satisfy an outdated social imperative that requires office workers to play dress up. I look at myself in the bedroom mirror and jokingly think to myself: Okay boomers, we’ll play it your way for now. You won’t be working much longer anyways.

I walk back to the closet and frown at my uncomfortable shoes I wasted $500 on, but haven’t worn in years because they’re too uncomfortable. Hardly anyone makes dress or work shoes for people with wide feet. I still remember the sales person said I simply need to break them in and they’ll feel better than going barefoot. My hand glides past the shoes and I think of how I wore those damn shoes for nearly a year and they never got any more comfortable. Instead, my hand grabs the much more comfortable, $30 pair of grey “leather” shoes I bought on Amazon.

I grab the shoe horn from the front door and take the shoes to the couch. As I slip my oversized feet into the shoes, I think about how someone told me that people pay attention to the shoes you wear. What kind of weirdo with a foot fetish pays that much attention to people’s shoes? The only time I purposefully look at someone’s shoes is to check if there’s anyone in the stall at the work restroom. I’m not like that one attorney who bursts into the room, like the T-rex from the original Jurassic Park movie, and scares the occupant shitless by yanking at the stall door without checking.

I get up from the couch and walk to the refrigerator. I grab the leftover shrimp fried rice I put in the water-tight container last night, and rush over to the dining table to shove it in my gym bag. I throw the gym bag over my shoulders and drape my Bluetooth headset over my neck and balance the earbuds over my upper chest. Before heading to the door, I quickly stuff my phone, keys, and wallet into their respective pockets.

I hang the shoehorn back at the door before opening it.

I feel a refreshing wave of cool air as I step into my floor’s main corridor and lock the door to my home. I enjoy the crisp and cool air as I walk to the elevator and press the button to call it. I turn on my headset while squeezing the earbuds into my ears. Only when I’m satisfied the earbuds have a perfect seal, do I push a button to continue my Audiobook. I’m rereading Dune: House Atreides for the 4th time as my ritual preparation for the new Dune movie that’s coming out in October[3]. I have just enough time to tap House Harkonnen in my library, starting the download process, before the elevator doors open.

I hide my displeasure at seeing “Nagatha” in the elevator, and quickly pause the book just in case she said something during the ride down to the first floor. I left the elevator as soon as the doors opened again to escape the awkwardly silent ride. I walked to the table in the lobby and collected my daily newspaper.

I set Nagatha’s paper aside along with one belonging to the nice lady on the 11th floor. I turn when I hear the garage door slam shut and wonder if she’s in a hurry. Since I’m safe from socialization, I push the button to continue my audiobook.

Paper in hand, I open the front door and step out to Houston’s sweltering heat and near 100% humidity. I barely walk a block before noticing the first trickles of sweat form on my face. There’s only a block and a half more to go before I reach the nearest tunnel entrance. Can I hold it together until then?

I dodge a zombie-like homeless person before reaching the next intersection, having already decided not to wait on the light to change before crossing. I remind myself that I’m not brainless, and should at least check to make sure there’s no oncoming cars. Thankfully, there aren’t any, and I keep walking. The sweat is getting worse now, so I grab a rag I stashed in my bag for situations like this.

Just 50 more feet!

Yes! I’m in. It’s not cool in here, but at least the air’s dry.

I walk to the elevator and push the call button. I need to recover from the short trek through the steam room most people confuse as a city, and start fanning my face with the newspaper. The elevator arrives and I’m thankful to have this elevator to myself. I continue the fanning while riding down to the tunnels.

The elevator doors open and I immediately walk to the air conditioner unit in the wall next to a parking validation machine with an out of order sign taped to it. I set my newspaper on top of the machine and take a moment to soak in the gentle cool breeze coming from the A/C unit. I know more people are going to come out of the elevators soon, so I fumble for my facemask as I steal more time under this bastion of cool air. As predicted, three people spill out of the elevator and each one of them looks at me. One man isn’t wearing a mask, and he averts his gaze as he walks by. The other two people look at me with approval because I’m doing the responsible thing by stopping to put on my facemask before continuing into the tunnels.

I smile and silently chuckle to myself content with the knowledge that my act fooled all of them. Right now, I care more about this air conditioning than Covid-19 safety precautions.

With my facemask on, and with paper in hand (again), I start my trek through the vast network of underground tunnels. I fear working up a sweat again despite the tunnels being air-conditioned, so I slowly plod past the floodgate which kind of looks like a blast door from the Cold War era. As I walk up the stairs immediately beyond the door, I recall seeing the real blast doors in the tunnels linking the courthouses a quarter mile away. And when I reach the top of the stairs, I think of how a lot of sections in the Downtown Tunnel system aren’t very accessible to handicapped people. I walk down the narrow tunnel and try to remember all those places where I have to climb stairs and think about how embarrassing it may be for someone in a wheelchair to have to take an alternate route when having lunch with coworkers and friends.

I’m halfway through the first tunnel before becoming aware that another wave of people entered the tunnels behind me. I glance back and make a quick navigational calculation. I figure they’re far enough behind that I don’t need to increase my pace. They can’t overtake me before I reach the next building, unless they start running.

I continue at my slow pace as I enter the JP Morgan Chase Tower wondering what might make the people behind me start running.

Rabid dogs? No, how’d they get down here.

Free coffee at Starbucks! Yes. That’ll definitely do it.

I see my reflection in the polished chrome elevator doors, but don’t really look at it because my attention is drawn to a trio of sexy businessmen who walk past the building’s ground-to-tunnel escalator. I try picking up my pace toward them and am forced to look at my gross midsection while walking past the mirror-like panels covering the escalator.

I notice the gaggle of sexy men had queued into line at the Starbucks as I walk on by.

I leave the building’s tunnel and enter the next building. Upon entering, I walk past a dry cleaning drop off unit and wonder if that company is cheaper than my current one. The container says they deliver to your office, and one of the benefits to living in Downtown is that our lofts are close enough to the rest of the offices to be included with that delivery promise. I commit to check them out when I get to work.

That commitment is immediately forgotten when I see another gaggle of hot men standing in line at another café. I notice how they playfully banter with each other like they’re from the same fraternity. These face masks really are great because nobody can see my smirk as I think of frats and hazing…

I reach the end of this food hall, and restrain myself from touching the chain-rope curtains and satisfying a lingering curiosity of how cold those chains must be.

I know I’m about halfway through my journey when I reach the Esperson building. The building blasts 50s and 60s music through their part of the tunnel system. The music is so loud I can hear it over my audiobook, despite the noise-cancelling function. I like this era’s music, but I push the volume up two levels to compensate anyways. I still hear “incense and peppermints” in the background a couple times[4] as I walk through this section of the network.

I’m passing the threshold between the Esperson and the 919 Milam building, when I notice a piece of lint on the ground. From my perspective, it looks remarkably like the “Playboy Rabbit Mascot”[5]. I don’t slow down to ponder this coincidental find any further.

I fully enter the most boring section of the Downtown Tunnels and pass several vacant retail units. Some of these units were vacant for at least a year prior to Covid-19. I can’t imagine how horrible business must be for landlords and property managers in Downtown nowadays.

I pass what used to be a Subway restaurant and began to reminisce about how I used to get $5 footlong “Veggie Delights”, but dreaded smelling like the store afterward. That stench permeated my clothes after a mere 5 minutes of being inside the store. I remember being hard-pressed to wait through the line, order, and then pay as quickly as possible to save myself from smelling foul. I make a sharp right turn around a corner where the former Subway restaurant was and half-smell that iconic aroma, but know it was just my memory playing tricks on my senses.

I veer off to the left and head toward the tunnel leading to the Commerce Towers. As I enter the tunnel, I’m reminded as to why I don’t wear my facemask outside. This section isn’t air conditioned very well and my breath begins to make my face feel warmer than it should. I pick up my pace because I only need to get past the convenience store and turn the corner to enter the McKinney building, and cooler air.

A man half-limped into sight from the corner I need to turn at. I instantly know he doesn’t belong. He has a look of amazed wonder, like he discovered a magical cave. Another office worker notices the outsider and looks at him with disgust before passing around him. I’m almost at the corner and start hoping and wishing this guy doesn’t ask me for money, or worse, directions.

The outsider looks at me and, thankfully, doesn’t say a word. He seems too amazed at his new discovery. I imagine he’s mentally rubbing his hands with delight as Aladdin must have when he entered the Cave of Riches. So many business people to solicit money from! Mwah hahaha!

I scold myself for thinking such an ugly thought when I make my turn.

I pass a raggedy accordion-style gate and notice a hall where restrooms are supposed to be located, but always seem to be locked. There’s some sort of berry-colored fluid trailing from that hall and appears to be leading me past a hair solon. There’s a smoothie store just beyond the salon and I guess that someone’s smoothie must have leaked and the owner must have ran to the restroom to rinse the cup off.

I wonder how the person got into the restroom?

I follow the trail to the smoothie store and smile at the lady working there. As I walk past, I realize she can’t see my mouth smile, but comfort myself with the possibility that my eyes probably did the smiling for me.

Now, I have something new to smile about. I finally made it to the garage elevator where my car is parked. I reach to call the elevator, but one of the doors are already opening. An unmasked lady smiles at me while she exits. I enter and see someone turning the corner heading to the elevators, but the doors close so fast I can’t reach the “Door Open” button in time.

The elevator is hot and I fan myself with the newspaper as I ride the sauna up to the level where I parked my car. I rush out of the elevator and walk half a block to my car. I can already feel sweat forming on my face and am already unlocking the doors as I approach my car. I open the back door to throw my bag inside and close the door so fast, I can’t believe I didn’t slam the door on my hand. I open the driver’s door and throw my body into the seat and turn on the car. I toss the paper into the front passenger seat and notice the air conditioner is pushing air out too slowly and impatiently increase the fan speed.

I’m in no hurry. I have about an hour before I need to be at the office, so I just sit there for a couple minutes, basking in the refreshing coolness of blessed air conditioning. I notice that in my haste I forgot to pull my phone out of my pocket. While listening to Pardot Kynes rant about terraforming Arrakis, and telling his would-be assassin to “Remove yourself,” I lean back in the tight quarters and pulled my phone out of my front pocket. The assassin fell upon his knife by the time I was able to fish it out and place the phone in the holder clamped to the A/C vent closest to me[6].

I decide I’m cool enough to travel and drive the car out of my usual spot. I must be the only person who leaves the garage in the mornings, because the attendant always steps away from her desk to help me. I quickly scan my keycard and “roll” the window back up when I see the gate arm rise. She stops halfway between her desk and the office’s door when she sees the same arm lift. I’ve been using this garage for a month now and the attendants may not be used to me leaving, while everyone else is entering.

I follow the winding driveway down the ramp to exit the garage. There’s an angry-looking old man with an orange flag who waves me by. Despite his implied clearance, I don’t take his word for the path being clear of pedestrians and slowly roll out of the garage.

I continue listening to my audiobook through the rest of my work commute from Downtown to Houston’s Upper Kirby District. Once I park the car at my job’s parking lot, I pause the audiobook so I can focus on reading the newspaper I carried all this way. I have to read it now, because I have to be ready to handle anything and everything the instant I walk through the door of my office building.


[1] The CALM Act is a law regulating commercial volume and requires commercials to have the same average volume as the programs they accompany. It became effective December 13, 2012.

Federal Communications Commission. (2015, December 11). Loud Commercials. Retrieved from Federal Communications Commission: https://www.fcc.gov/media/policy/loud-commercials

[2] BBC really needs to increase the gain on their microphones.

[3] Dune’s release date is: October 22, 2021.

[4] Incense and Peppermints, by Strawberry Alarm Clock. (1967).

[5] The Playboy Rabbit Mascot should not be confused with Playboy Bunnies, who are cocktail servers and hostesses.

[6] If you are familiar with the book, please note that I listen to audiobooks at 3.15 times the normal playback speed, which means that it didn’t take me very long to fish out my phone.

Oh no! I’m one of “those” gays 😱

While washing my hands the other day, I noticed the walls of the men’s restroom were painted a dark grey color. I never noticed the color of the walls before, and as I was scrubbing my hands, I corrected my initial observation that the color was merely grey. It was charcoal grey.

I instantly stopped my scrubbing and took a long, horrified look at myself in the mirror. I had the sudden realization that I’m one of those gays who knows the specific names of colors! 

As I finished rinsing my hands, I asked myself: How could this happen!?

While struggling to make the automatic paper towel dispenser, dispense a couple towels I thought:

I don’t even care about colors. When someone asks me what my favorite color is, I have to think about it for a long time because I don’t have a favorite. I just tell people grey is my favorite because it’s in between black & white.

I finally got a couple paper towels from the stingy machine, and continued thinking about colors while drying my hands.

I guess if I had to pick a normal color, I’d choose dark green. But, that “oxidized avocado” colored shirt I have is hideous. I only keep it because it-

Dammit! I did it again!

Why is this happening? I hate colors!

I used the damp towels to open the restroom door and tossed them in the trash bin as I left the room. I continued my mental tirade as I walked back to my desk.

If I had my way, I’d never paint or repaint the walls of my home because changing the color is the worst investment of time and money. Why bother? I won’t notice the color after the paint has dried, unless someone comments about it.

I was about halfway back to my desk when I remembered I had spent about 30 minutes helping the family look for a list of paint-chips at Home Depot recently. I felt a wave of relief because it makes perfect sense that I’d still have those weird color names rattling around in my head[1].

Before then, I had no idea different shades and hues of colors actually had names. The isle littered with a collage of colors was an abstract location in the store, and I don’t normally need anything from that section. The last time I noticed the name of a different shade of color was when I had to pick a color to differentiate my comments in a group email. The color I picked was: Dark Blue, Text 2, Darker 25%.

Now, I’m keenly aware stores sell colors named: Charcoal Grey, Thudercloud (greyish blue), Glacier Pearl (dark blue), Beavertail Brown, Shiitake Mushroom, or Dove (off-white) … and the list goes on.

***

I’d like to preempt any misconceptions, by explaining that I am proud of being a gay man and I enjoy all aspects of gay culture. “I’m not one of ‘those’ gays.” “We’re not ‘those’ kind of gays.” Are phrases which may pop into a conversation in or out of the gay community. It’s said as a description of oneself to inform the other party that the stereotype does not apply to us.

I’ve certainly seen many people who fit the gay stereotype, including a few straight men. I don’t particularly think there’s anything wrong with the stereotype, or anything is wrong about being the embodiment of it. I just tend to see myself as an average guy who happens to like other men, including those who fit into the gay stereotype.


[1] I think I invented the color “Oxidized Avocado”.

How we must look while using self-service checkouts

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

By now, pretty much everyone in America has either used or seen a self-service checkout. We’ve all heard[1] the annoying instructions commanding us to “Please place the item in the bagging area” if we don’t immediately bruise our potatoes by slamming them into the bagging area. We’ve looked at the weights of our produce with surprise as we’re charged about $0.83 for 3 bananas. Or looked at the weight suspiciously as we see how much the Whole Foods salad bar costs and can’t believe that lighter-than-air salad weighs more than a pound. How the hell?!

Have you considered how funny we must look to staff or other customers while we use these kiosks?

We tend to have a look of disappointment when something doesn’t ring up the way it should. Some of us will have a worried look as we try to figure out how I’m going to get this fixed and get the sale I saw?

Some of us may get nervous and fear being judged by those behind us because we’re holding up the line after ringing up that bottle of wine and the kiosk says, “Approval needed.” And then some of us get slightly offended when the attendant approves the purchase without glancing at ID. I’m not that old!

Sometimes the packaging will have 3 different bar codes and we accidentally scan the wrong one. An error message normally pops up requiring the assistance of the attendant. Then we scan again, but the dang barcodes are so close together we scanned the wrong code again. Ugh! We experience a creeping sense of shame that it’s been proven we’re incapable of completing this simple task and have to watch as the attendant scans the item for us. This feeling can be made worse if the attendant uses a scan-gun which was already at the kiosk, but was invisible until this moment. 😀

Sometimes we’re scanning our merchandise and then one of the items doesn’t scan before we place it in the bag. We could swear the machine beeped, but the machine chastises us for trying to steal the item by saying: “Unexpected item in bagging area. Remove this item before continuing.” We quickly take the last item out of the bag and try scanning it before the attendant comes over to see what happened.

Or my personal favorite, the bar code doesn’t scan at all. When this happens, we tend to go through the same routine:

  • Wave the item horizontally over the scanner toward the bags, and wave it back.
  • Wave it upward and back down.
  • Check that nothing is covering the barcode (like fingers), and wave it past in a circular motion.
  • Finally give up and call for assistance or walk defeatedly to a cashier who must have seen that awkward dance we just had with the machine.

This happened to me again this morning. I had the grocery store all to myself, and the cashiers were standing around chit-chatting. I was listening to an audiobook and didn’t want to pause it, so I went to the self-checkout lane. I tried scanning my breakfast taco, but nothing happened. I did the normal scan-dance routine. This time, however, I made it more entertaining for the idle cashiers…

I elaborately bowed and waved at the machine a couple times as though I was worshiping it. After which, I placed the taco on the scanner and exclaimed, “I offer this as a sacrifice to the Cash Register God! I pray my humble sacrifice brings you eternal profits.”  📈

The cashiers giggled as they waved me over to their registers so they can help me.

It’s good to be generally aware of how others may see you as you go about your daily routine. We may never know that our reactions are the bit of humor which brightens an employee’s day. I certainly was the highlight of the day for those cashiers this morning.


[1] I apologize in advance to the hearing impaired.

The Lie we tell Teens

When I first started middle school, I started to get puss-filled bumps all over my face… acne. My parents told me this was cause by all the changes my body was going through and said the acne would go away when I became an adult.

That’s a lie!

I’ve been an adult for over a decade and still have problems with acne. It’s not as bad as it was back in my teens, but it’s still a major problem I have with my skin.

What the hell is causing it?!

My parents told me to stop touching my face when I was a teen. It’ll all clear up if you wash with Dial soap, and don’t touch your face. Washing is easy, but not touching your face is next to impossible for a teen. I had a huge head I was trying to balance on my thin neck. I needed to use my hands to prop my head up, if only to get myself through the boring classes I sat through all day.

I tried propping my head up by only touching places where my hair grew. I thought the zits would appear in my hair and nobody would notice. It didn’t work, and I still got acne in areas I knew, for a fact, I didn’t touch.

Surprisingly, I didn’t get any zits in my hair. :-/

Fast-forward to adulthood, and I’m still battling the blemishes. I don’t think my face has been clear for longer than a week. As soon as one zit goes away, another takes its place. I’ve even had some zits crop up on one cheek, only to reappear on the opposite cheek, at almost the same exact location. Some of these zits develop deep under the skin and become week-long growths before finally getting pushed to the skin’s surface.

Gross!!!

It’s been a constant battle trying to keep my skin clear. I’ve tried everything I can think of in my losing war against acne.

  • I never touch my face, not even to scratch an itch.
  • I sleep on my back, so my pores don’t get clogged while I sleep.
  • I’ve avoided various foods I heard supposedly cause acne and didn’t see any noticeable improvement. I avoided alcohol as well with similar results.
  • I’ve tried many different soaps, some specifically designed to help with acne.
  • I used over the counter creams without much success.
  • My doctor prescribed me a few creams, which seemed to work at times, but I’d still suffer flare ups.
  • I’ve considered asking my doctor about a pill I heard about to treat severe cases of acne. The guy who used it said it caused his skin to shed all over his body, but it helped him with his acne problem.
  • I even broke up with a regular fling after a month or so because he had a nasty habit of wanting to pet me and touch my face. That guy was making me break out, so I had to break it off.

I tried everything I can think of to ward off acne over the years. I’m not quite at the point I need that skin-shedding pill, but it sure seems like it sometimes. I’m at the stage where I’ve learned to cope with acne as a regular part of life and am treating it to speed my recovery when a zit rears its ugly head.

My story is a living example that acne is not a skin condition experienced during adolescence, and then magically goes away in adulthood. That’s a fable we tell kids to make them feel a little better about the changes they’re experiencing. We should tell them the truth instead, or at least try to avoid promising it’ll go away one day.