Patterns and Routines


Why do certain chores feel more time consuming when we do them a different way? If we mow the lawn in a different pattern, chances are it will still take around 45 minutes if everything else remains constant. We thought if we mowed in a different direction, it might shave a couple minutes here and there, but it doesn’t. The perimeter equation of a rectangle remains constant regardless how we do it. Our primary goal was not to shave minutes. It was to do this tedious chore different. We don’t get too far into the mow before it dawns on us that this tedious chore appears to be taking longer. It isn’t, and some part of us knows it isn’t, but we can’t shake the perception. On those occasions when we mowed in our typical pattern, it flew by because we were probably sleepwalking through it. How many typical patterns and routines do we sleepwalk through in this manner? How many times do we wake up with the realization that it’s July, and we forgot to appreciate the beautiful month of June for what it was. How many times do we realize that we’re almost fifty, and we forgot to appreciate our forties for what they were? How much time do we lose following typical patterns and routines?

I saw a bunch of bright yellow bananas in a supermarket bin on Monday, and I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into its brand-new solidity. I thought about that first bite a couple times in the store, and on the short drive home, but by the time Tuesday rolled around, I realized I slipped Monday’s banana into the routine of eating breakfast that Monday. I normally eat two eggs, toast, and I drink a glass of orange juice for breakfast. Then I top it off with a banana. I absently ate that banana as part of my breakfast routine, and I totally missed its freshness. When I bit into Tuesday’s banana, it was delicious, and I tried to appreciate it, but I couldn’t help but think about how much more fresh and delicious that recently purchased banana might’ve been if I remembered to appreciate it.

Most of us hate to admit that our lives have fallen into patterns and routines, but to those who might argue that they’re an exception, I say add a dog to your life. Dogs spend so much of their lives studying our patterns that when they peg them, they can often tell us what we’re about to do before we decide. On that note, my primary takeaway from the movie My Dinner with Andre was that we should try to break routines and patterns whenever we can. If we can break a couple of rituals one on day, we might feel more aware of one Monday before we turn fifty. In that movie, one of characters talked about opening the door with his left hand for a day or two just to break that routine in a way that might lead to other breaks. The gist of that exchange was that we have so many patterns and routines that some of the times we accidentally sleep walk through life.

One of the best ways I’ve found to avoid falling too deep into routine is a grueling workout. I’m not talking about a simple workout, because some of the times we workout so often that working out becomes nothing more than a part of our routine. I’m talking about a grueling workout that leaves the buns and thighs burning, and when the buns are burning, the brain cells are burning just as bright. This idea led me to believe that a grueling work out might provide a brief, temporary cure to what ails us.

When too many Mondays melt into Tuesdays without notice, the best way to break the routine is to push our body beyond our otherwise lazy boundaries. If we’re feeling excessive fatigue, we can burn our brain and body bright with a long and grueling workout. I’ve expressed variations of this cure so often that some people say it before I do, to mock me for routinely advising that this is the ideal way to break up routines. The footnote I now add to that routine advice is before we put our mind and bodies through a rigorous workout, we need to make sure we’re happy first. It doesn’t happen after one grueling workout, of course, and it might take a regular routine of three workouts a week, with at least one grueling workout mixed in, but after a while, we might start to become more aware of the choices we’ve made in life. We need to make sure we’ve attended to life’s matters, because the acute awareness grueling workouts provide can make us happier than we’ve ever been, but they can also make us angrier and more depressed. If we have dotted our I’s and crossed out T’s, a grueling workout can cause us to appreciate life a little more than we did yesterday, but it can also lead to some painful critiques.

I’ve snapped at people on a Tuesday for something that didn’t bother me that Monday, and the only difference was I had a grueling workout the night before. My various computer chairs were comfortable for years before I decided to discipline myself to working my buns rock hard. I’ve always liked Peanut M&M’s, but after a couple of grueling sessions, I considered the candy so delicious that I thought of eating them by the pound. I also realized how unproductive my job was in the grand scheme, how fraudulent my bosses were, and how I had little to no home life to look forward to once my excruciatingly slow workday ended. The grueling workouts made me more aware of the little things life has to offer, and some of them made me happier, but others made me so angry and depressed that I realized one of the reasons that people drink so much and smoke so often is to dull their brain to a point that they don’t question the choices they’ve made in life.

The mantra of patterns is, “If at first you don’t succeed try, try, and try again.” An addendum to this quote, that some attribute to W.C. Fields, suggests, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try—and then quit! No use being a fool about it.” A quote by the Canadian humorist Stephen Leacock and published in 1917, suggests that, “If you can’t do a thing, more or less, the first time you try, you will never do it. Try something else while there is yet time.” My addendum to this line of thought is, “if one thing doesn’t work try another.” If you can’t jam a square into a round hole, there’s no sense in making a fool out of yourself by continuing to jam it home. Try something else, or look at the thing and realize that it’s never going home. How many people make fools out of themselves by screaming at the manufacturer of the shapes? We scream to gain distance from our personal failing, “It ain’t me. Don’t look at me. The instructions say do this and that should fix it.” We throw a fiery temper tantrum to distract from the fact that we’re incompetent. We just fixed something just last week with wonderful aplomb. There’s nothing different about us with this particular project. It’s the manufacturer. “That’s fine, but have you tried a way other than just jamming it home? Try another way.” We then paraphrase Albert Einstein, “The definition of insanity is trying one thing one way, over and over, and expecting different results.”

We’ve all heard the phrase life is short, enjoy every minute you’re alive, because before you know it you’ll be on the other side of fifty thinking about how much life you’ve missed. “I agree with that in principle,” a person in pain told me, “but, at times, life seems to take forever.” No one wants to be in pain, and when the conversation switches to that topic, most people say, “Pull the plug.” I don’t want to face that scenario, but if I do, I believe I might think that I want another 45 minutes of being alive in an otherwise pattern life of too many routines.  Mowing the lawn might be a poor example for this scenario, for no matter how one mows a lawn, the results will always be the same. Unless we push a mower faster, it’s always going to take the same amount of time, and unless we change the levels, it’s always going to mow the same length. Nothing will change in other words, unless we realize that we’re not sleepwalking through it in the manner we normally do. On this particular mow, I thought about how much time we lose by adhering to the routines we develop. I was thinking about writing this piece too, and while writing this piece might not add much to my life, it’s different from anything I’ve written before.

Scat Mask Replica VI


My son has a very healthy imagination, and I encourage it in every opportunity I can. We play all sorts of imaginary games, some involving his stuffed animals. We put these animals through various life scenarios. I am in charge of developing these stories, but he will often spider web these stories into other side stories. In one of these sessions, he gave his stuffed turtle an unusual name. Playing the role of the tiger in this production, I asked the turtle if his parents were weird. “If they gave you such an unusual name,” Tiger said, “your parents must be weird people.” I was not testing my son, or playing any type of psychological game. The reader might flirt with such notions, because it was an odd thing for a dad to say to his six-year-old son. My only defense is that we play so many of these games that he wears me out.

Tiger pressed turtle for an answer on this question, and the turtle refused to denounce his parents in anyway, saying, “No, I have great parents who love me and don’t let me get hurt.” That was all turtle said, and we moved into other areas of the turtle’s life story. Months prior, someone suggested that my son’s lack of displays of affection could suggest that he might be on the spectrum. Boulderdash, I say. I say his lack of displays of affection means that his parents are doing one hell of a bang up job. I’ve seen my son’s six-year-old friends worry when they can’t see their parents at the park. ‘Shouldn’t that be the other way around?’ I wonder. I know my son doesn’t worry about such things. I know he considers every minute we can’t see him a momentary minute of freedom. I’ve witnessed other boys appreciate their parents. I’ve seen other kids his age, kiss their parents without them having to ask for one, and my reaction is 180 degrees different from envy. I think if a six-year-old voluntarily displays affection for their parents, it suggests there might be some deficiency in their home. It’s a guess, and it’s probably wrong. Some six-year-old boys are just more affectionate than others are, but that just seems so unnatural to me. If my six-year-old boy says, “Leave me alone”, and he hates hugs and kisses, it means he takes me for granted. He takes it for granted that I’ll always going to be there for him, and he knows that I will always “protect him from getting hurt”. As a person who has never had a parenting job before, it strikes me that if you’re doing your job, your child should be surprised to learn that other kids like you and think you’re fun to be around you, because he thinks you’re one of the most boring people on earth. Then, if you’re doing one hell of a bang up job, you might eventually reach a point when you’ll hear how much he appreciates what you do from his turtle.

A forty-something man on our block died recently. It’s a sad thing when any person dies that young, but I didn’t know this guy as a man. I knew him as a rival when we were in our early teens. One could go so far as to say we “hated” each other in the harmless way young, testosterone-driven teenage males hate each other. We did whatever mean, harmless territorial peeing things that two teenage boys do to each other. I tee peed his house, he egged mine, I threw an M-80 in his yard, and he shot a bottle rocket under our car. I sidewalk chalked something awful about him on his driveway, and he lit firework snakes on the sidewalk leading up to our house (some of those stains are still there some 35 years later). I spotted him on our old block some 35-years later, and I waved at him. He did not wave back. He apparently believed that our teenage rivalry should extend into our forties, and I found this out soon after I waved at him. I was driving into our old neighborhood, and he was driving out when I stuck that hand up. He gave me the nastiest look he could. That look said, “I don’t like you, and I never will!” That’s fine, I guess, but how about I wasn’t asking if I could come over for dinner, or if I could play with his Star Wars figurines. I was putting my hand up in the air to him as nothing more than a momentary, symbolic greeting. It’s your job, sir, to put your hand up in the air back at me! You don’t have to smile when you put your hand in the air, and a wave is not a promissory note on future conversations. You just wave back, and everyone moves on with their lives. It’s what we adult humans do when we somewhat, sort of recognize each other. If you can’t forget the things I did to you at 13, well, that’s kind of on you. If he was still alive, I’m sure he could give you a laundry list of things I did to him, but I don’t remember them, and none of them would post date 1983. If anyone suspects that I bullied him, and it affected his personality in such a way that he could never forgive me, I can only say this in my defense, this kid gave as well as he got. When my family would drive onto our block, he would have a special twinkle in his eye when he spotted me, knowing that we would be spotting his latest bit of carnage. When I saw how much he enjoyed this, I realized what I was up against, and I stopped. He didn’t, and he apparently didn’t want to let it go 35 years later.  

Sports announcing is a cut-throat business. The person who gets more excited will win the job. I know that’s not an earth-shattering revelation, but when I hear a hockey announcer almost lose his lunch when a goalie sticks their foot out, I see the profession for what it is.

“HE STUCK A FOOT OUT! HE STUCK A FOOT OUT!” the announcer screams.

As we watch the replay about seven times, the color analyst speaks about the command the human being playing goalie has of his body, as if he’s never seen it before. “I hope the viewers at home recognize how brilliant this save was,” the analyst says with reverence as we watch it. “To have the wherewithal to know not only how, but when, to stick that foot out, you just can’t teach that. The goalie is in the zone, and he’s just playing on another level.”

As one who has never played hockey, I have to imagine that sticking a foot out is the very thing they teach goalies that when they see a puck nearing the goal line. It is not our intent to diminish the athleticism it takes to play goalie in this piece. When a puck is traveling at a high rate of speed and the goalie has a center in front of him, trying to block his view, and that goalie gloves the puck, it’s impressive. Those of us at home know we probably couldn’t do that on a regular basis. When a wing flicks a puck to the goal and a goalie sticks his foot out to stop its progression, however, that’s just what we call sports.

The key to most sports (spoiler alert!) is to cross lines. The other people on defense don’t want the offense to do that, so they will use the parts of their body to try to prevent that from happening. The idea that a person puts a hand out to block a pass, and another puts a hand out to catch that pass can be brilliant at times, but most of the time it’s just a guy doing what he’s practiced for years. If an announcer can convince a viewing audience that’s brilliant, they will win the job.

Some of my favorite inspirations arrived in tight spaces. My manager put me on suspension. “Get your numbers up in 90 days or you’re gone!” he said. With my little world crashing down around me, flashes of inspiration bombarded me. Some were so good that I had to write them down. A guy interrupted me with a question, and I thought his mannerisms were perfect character-driven piece. The inspiration for another piece arrived when another fella said goodbye to me. My mind was on fire when I heard a set of lyrics from a Sufjan Steven’s song, and those lyrics inspired a novel I would spend the next two years writing.

It turned out it wasn’t a great novel, but the inspiration for it struck me during a very inopportune moment of my life. I’ve had these moments before, I think we all have. They’re the “You’re not supposed to think about that now” moments when creativity seems to flourish. I had an “in-class” friend one time. We engaged in “what you’re not supposed to do” fun in class, when the teacher wasn’t looking. When we ran into each other in the hallway, we had nothing to say to one another, other than a conspiratorial “there he is” point. I used to love to make my brother laugh in church, with stupid, little in-jokes that would not have been funny anywhere else. This was naughty “You’re not supposed to do that here” fun that required subtlety and a deft hand to avoid getting caught. Was that what I was doing here, with my job on the line and my boss watching every move I made? Regardless, my mind was on fire with naughty, “You’re not supposed to be thinking that now” thoughts that I would spend the next two years completing.  

I did manage to quiet the inspirations long enough to survive the suspension, and I spent the next five years juggling my need to be creative and the need to be productive for the company. I wouldn’t say that these tight spaces always resulted in creative inspiration, but I was never that close to losing my job again, and I would never have that much inspiration flooding my brain either. 

So, you want to be a Kindergarten, Flag Football Coach


We should applaud anyone who volunteers to coach kindergarten football. It’s not easy, it’s a learn-as-you-go job, but it is rewarding and fun. In their own intangible ways, these kids appreciate what you’re doing for them. Most of them want to play football, and in some ways, they’re receptive to what we’re saying, because they want to learn the game beyond what they see on TV.

In my year-and-a-half of teaching kindergarten kids the game of football, I developed a few rules, based upon trial and error. Two quick notes before we continue: These are tidbits and observations, nothing more and nothing less. I will also use the term “tackle” to describe the act of pulling a flag, as this discussion focuses on flag football.  

  • Be a Coach with a Plan. Enter your season with a plan. Develop a few bullet points, or talking points, that you want your team to know by season’s end. These bullet points should focus on teaching the kids some of the fundamentals of playing football. Walk into your first meeting with the team thinking that if you can teach them a couple of things that will stick, your season will be a success. Accomplishing this, of course, requires repetition. My advice to the new coaches is to watch some YouTube videos on “coaching kindergarten flag football”. Some of these videos provide some very helpful drills a coach can run in practice, and they offer some simple plays to run. Some of these plays involve simple fakes, reverses, and some simple passes. This leads us to rule#2:
  • Keep it simple. If this is your first season with a fresh group of youngsters, you’ll witness more organized teams pull better fakes and more complicated plays. I don’t know if they practice more often, or if they stick together for years, but in my experience, it’s best to keep all plays as simple as possible. Again, the best thing you can do, as a kindergarten coach, is teach them the basics of the game.
  • We’re talking about practice. Some leagues require one mid-week practice. Anyone who has worked with kindergartners knows that coaches need to make their practices simple, active, and participatory. If you are a born leader with a commanding presence, and your team is largely comprised of good kids, they might behave 51% of the time, but those who enter into this with the idea that they can manage adults, and they have a well-behaved child, might be in for a shock when they try to corral 10-to-12 other peoples’ kids at the same time. They’re not bad kids, but they are kids, kindergarten aged kids. My advice is to try to diminish the chaos is try to develop drills and activities that don’t let the kids stand around idle. If there is some idle time for some of them, you might want to develop an activity until their turn arrives. (Some examples are jumping jacks and other forms of running in place. Whatever we do, we want to keep them moving.) If you’re lucky, another parent will volunteer to assist you. If that’s the case, divide the team into offense and defense for drills, then allow them to scrimmage. Drills are important, but they do create a line of kids with nothing to do until it’s their turn. Kids will also run around and pull each others’ flags off. A rule we incorporate is, if you pull someone’s flag, while playing around, you have to put it back on. 
  • No Juking. When game time rolls around, one of the most important rules we try to teach the kids is, “When you have the ball, don’t try to juke, shimmy, or shake your opponent.” Most kids want to flash the dreams they have of becoming an NFL running back, but at this level we need to teach them that the key to scoring more touchdowns is to run straightforward as much as possible. “How difficult it is for you to pull flags when someone is running past you?” we ask them. “You have one, quick chance right? The toughest flags to pull are those on someone who is running as fast as they can. When you run your fastest, it’s just as tough for the other team to tackle you.”
  • Two hands. Two eyes. “When you catch the ball, use two hands and two eyes. Look the ball in.” We institute this rule to try to prevent them from running before they catch the ball. (Once they secure the catch, we can tell them to run, but this happens so infrequently that we should be able to get away with only preaching those first two steps for at least half the season. 
  • On defense, we teach the principle of “side integrity”. It might sound like a complex concept for kindergartners, but that might be why they like it. Our advice to our outside defenders (linebackers or corners), “Don’t let the ball carrier run outside of you, because if they get past you, it’s probably a touchdown.” We line our outside defenders outside the furthest player on the other team, and we stress that they not let the runner outside of them, even if they don’t make the tackle. 4b) “When the other team tries to block you inside, watch the ball, and the minute it moves outside your blocker, use a spin move on the blocker to get outside of them. (Some of the kids love the idea of a spin move, as we can tell them NFL players use it to get past blockers. It also seems tricky and an advanced concept to the kids, and some of them use it quite well. They are also quite proud when they do it well, regardless if they make the tackle.) “Even if you don’t make the tackle,” we tell them, “you need to push the runner inside to the rest of your teammates.”
  • Safety. We established the position of Safety as the most important position on the defense. As a result, every kid on our team wanted to play Safety. (It might also have something to do with the idea that kids don’t like being blocked.) Based on the idea that this became the most prized position on defense, we developed a rule, whoever made the last “tackle” on the last play becomes the safety on the next play. Everyone wanted to be safety, so they strove to make the tackle. (This also ended the “Can I play safety?” yells that occurred after every play.)     
  • Back at Practice. When you’re done with the repetitious drills, in practice, let the kids have some flag football fueled fun. We call one of these games Sharks and Minnows. The shark(s) (two if you have over seven participants and one if you have less) start in the middle, and they try to pull the flags of all of the other players (the minnows). When a shark “tackles” a minnow that minnow then becomes a shark, and they join the shark(s) in trying to tackle the other minnows remaining, until there is only one minnow left. Other than teaching them how to pull flags, the game also teaches them the concept of boundaries, as we set up four-to-six cones to mark out of bounds.
  • First game. Your first game will probably be a disaster, if you’re a new coach starting out with a bunch of newbies. It’s important that we do two things here. First, during the game, we need to compliment the players for every good play they make on the spot. A casual high five with a “there you go Joey!” will do wonders to lift that morale and self-esteem. When the game is over, remain enthusiastic, regardless of the outcome. You will learn some things about your team, and the game itself, after your first game, and you will need to make some necessary adjustments, but try to stick to the tenets of your game plan. At this level, if you’re in it to win it, you’re probably in it for the wrong reason.
  • Plays. In this, my first season, I flirted with dropping the whole notion of plays, as they only invite more questions and different levels of chaos, but just handing the ball off on every play doesn’t teach kids the fundamentals of the game very well. On the subject of plays, I don’t think it will shock the potential volunteer to learn that if you plan to have a playbook, the goal should be to as simple as possible. I thought adding a simple reverse would fall under this heading, until I witnessed one in real time. (Picture a herd of wet cats attempting to run to the source and away from it at the same time.) I also added a pass play, in which the receiver runs a simple curl route. I thought this was a simple enough play, until I saw it play out live. (If the coach is lucky, they’ll have one player who can throw and one player who can catch. It’s the coach’s job to determine who can do this with some modicum of success.) The goal here is not necessarily to achieve a good play, a touchdown, or a win. We just want to put every player in a position to succeed, and if a player doesn’t throw or catch well, they might become demoralized. The coach should also prepare for the idea that most players won’t know what they’re supposed to do on any given play, so you’ll have to provide individual instructions to each player before the snap, and you’ll have to tell them where to stand. Again, the coach will have to accomplish this while trying to keep the referee happy by getting your players to the line and pulling off a play in time.
  • Repetition. The kindergarten coach should prepare to repeat their very specific instructions throughout the season, and answer all questions that follow. The most popular question a coach will have to answer in each huddle is, “When do I get to I score a touchdown?” My pat response is, “That team over there is not going to let you score a touchdown. You have to go get it, when it’s your turn.” The reason we must continually express the idea of turns is that once they score a touchdown, they want to do it on every play, and as many times as we express the idea, most kindergarten-age children don’t fully comprehend the idea of taking turns, or if they do, they don’t prefer it.
  • One voice in the huddle. “Coach! Coach! Coach!” is something every kindergarten, flag football coach will hear in a huddle, on just about every play. When the coach responds, they are likely to hear classic gems like, “I have a new shirt,” “I felt a raindrop,” or “I have a loose (or new) tooth.” Then there are the most common questions that follow every play, “When do I get the ball?” and “When do I get to score a touchdown?” The other comments I’ve heard are, “I don’t have a mouthpiece,” and “how come you’re not wearing sunglasses today?” Some of the kindergarten children repeat the shouts of “coach!” so often, while you’re attempting to tell the players involved in the next play how to run it that by the time we get to their question/comment, they forget what they wanted to ask/say. Once we complete that exercise, and get the kids to the line of scrimmage, ready to run the play in the time allotted by the referee, be prepared for them to forget everything you just said. Even when we keep it as simple as possible, by telling them to hand the ball off and run left, they often run right about 50% of the time. (Hint: point the direction of the play out to them. It’s okay to remind them at the line which way they should go, because chances are most of the kindergartners on the other side of the ball aren’t listening to you either.)  
  • “We can only have one voice in the huddle,” is something we say in the huddle. Some comply, but most forget these instructions when the next play rolls around. I’ve instructed them to keep all comments and questions related to football, but they’re kindergartners. One important note to add here is the patience and understanding a flag football coach must employ. Remind yourself, throughout the game, that they’re kindergarten kids. Most of them have the retention levels of a goldfish, and they can’t remember what we said five seconds ago.
  • Injuries. Anytime kids are involved in a game that involves running, they will inevitably run into one another. Most volunteer coaches have no experience in such matters. The simplest thing to do is address each injury on the spot. Depending on the severity of the injury, of course, our goal should be to diffuse the minor injuries that occur in a game. Ask the injured player if they are okay, where they are hurt, and what happened. Most kids need nothing more than a couple plays off, and a drink of water, and they are okay. We might also need to address the fact that the other kid didn’t injure them on purpose. It was just a part of the game. 
  • Displays of Anger. The coach will also have to deal with the emotional aftermath of a child having their flag pulled. To us, this is part of the play. Person A runs down the field, person B pulls their flag, and the play is over. To the kindergarten mind, this is a humiliating condemnation of their athletic ability. They might regard it as an unfair part of the game, or the coach’s fault. At times, they will express their anger. When we experienced such a display, we simply moved on and let his parents handle the matter. As a voice of authority, on the field, the inclination might be to correct that child’s behavior in some way, but we have to remember that these are other people’s kids. It might embarrass us to have one of our team members act this way, but we have to respect our boundary while trying to keep control of the individual players. The best advice I provide the disappointed kids who don’t succeed on a play is to have a short-term memory. “Try your hardest on every play, but if you don’t succeed, employ a ‘next play’ mentality.” Also, if they gained any yards, focus them on that. This mindset requires repetition. I developed this short-term mindset after years of playing recreational sports. It worked well for me, but it’s often too complex for the disappointed, kindergarten mind to comprehend.
  • Winning and Losing. We all have egos. All coaches want their game plan to work, and we want our coaching techniques to result in wins. A season and a half of kindergarten coaching have taught me to control what I can control. Let the players worry about winning and losing. We should also make sure we take turns giving the ball to each kid. Not only is that what they signed up for, but it maintains their focus. I try to compliment each player on their strength and ignore any weaknesses they might have. This keeps them happy, focused and interested. The most important ingredient is to try to keep it fun for the kids. Structure is vital, of course, but we need to institute a balance of fun and structure. 
  • Dealing with Kids. After dealing with these kids one hour a day, for six weeks, I now have profound respect for anyone who chooses a career that requires them to deal with kindergarten age children full-time. If, at one time, I considered my son’s teachers unreasonably strict, by instituting a level of structure to try to establish some level of order, I now empathize. “Could you take care of Johnny today? I can’t deal with Johnny today,” I heard one kindergarten teacher say to their assistant. I was shocked at the time, because I thought it meant the kindergarten teacher couldn’t control her class. I now have a couple of Johnnies that I only deal with for one hour a week, and if I could have one on-field assistant answer the questions, and tend to, just one of my Johnnies, I probably wouldn’t be writing this piece to voice my frustrations.

Scat Mask Replica V


Turtle Porn. We’ve all read reports from conservation biologists detailing the trials and errors involved in saving a “critically endangered species like the Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle”. Some of us might view such a chore as thankless and not very rewarding financially, but for these people it’s a passion. Most passionate people have, at least, one or two stories to tell about moments they’ve experienced in their field that define their reason for being, what the French would call their raison d’être. Others spend their careers chasing such moments. For a conservation biologist, zoologist or anyone else involved in the field, the idea that they might one day play some role in saving a species would be that raison d’être. Reading the note in the accompanying photo, even the most casual observer can’t help but feel that passion coming off the plaque.

Courtesy Henry Doorly Zoo

Perhaps no story better illustrates the frustrations of working with animals in this manner better than the tale of Lonesome George. Lonesome George was a “Pinta Island giant tortoise who lived in captivity in the Galápagos for 41 years, as biologists tried to coax him into copulating with a female of a closely related species. His caretakers tried just about everything—they even considered showing him videos of tortoise pornography (though it’s not clear if that ever happened). But the 100-plus-year-old George just wasn’t in the mood. He died in 2012, taking his species with him.”{1}

Numerous testimonials from conservation biologists inform us that as common as these captive breeding programs are, they don’t work near as often as some might think. The frustrations of years of such failures probably lead to feelings of such hopelessness that end when the male Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle finally violates the sanctity and purity of the female. When that moment happens with a critically endangered species, one can only imagine the euphoria that must occur in those observation rooms. Those involved probably lose all sense of professional decorum, as they begin unleashing all of that frustration by using crass words to describe the moment of truth. We can also imagine that they try to abide by a self-imposed governor placed on any displays of jubilation, as a viral video of such a celebration might cast the entire profession in an awkward light. We can also guess that colleagues in these fields try to hold one other in check by mocking and ridiculing those who get a little too excited. “Did you see Darren when the pandas started going at it? He was out of control. I bet he doesn’t get that excited in his own situations.” 

Baseball is boring. Anyone who has any appreciation of the history of baseball can’t help but feel nostalgic when they enter an old Major League baseball stadium. When we smell the peanuts, the hotdogs, and something we can only guess is the smell of age-old soda drying on the ground, associations between game and country come to mind. When we hear the crack of the bat, as the players take batting practice, we think of all of the great players who stood astride home plate waiting for their pitch. When the warmth of the summer sun hits us, we think of the associations most Americans have with summer and baseball, and it makes me feel a part of something larger. When the players take the field, we take some pride in knowing their names and a little bit about their history. We also know that every team has a scouting report on their tendencies, and that this will dictate how the opposing team pitches to them and plays them in the field. “It’s a chess match,” we tell our friends.  

In that first inning, we watch the best players in the game do battle, and we understand what the sportswriters are talking about when they write about the historic lore of the game. It’s an experience that anyone who hasn’t been to one of the older ballparks must experience for themselves. Those of us who have been to a number of them know this magical feeling. We see it, we feel it, and we get it. By the time the third inning rolls around, however, these qualities begin to wear thin. We’re not short-attention span types, but the game just isn’t one that can captivate an audience for three hours. It might have something to do with the uncomfortable seats, the pace of the game, or the awful concessions most baseball stadiums provide, but by the fourth inning most of us want to be anywhere else. By the time the sixth inning rolls around, the children around us are so bored that they’re screaming and few adults are still paying attention to the game. I’ve witnessed a grand slam to win a ballgame with two outs in the bottom of the night, and I saw an extra-inning, game winning home run to complete the cycle on another night, and I almost failed to calculate how historic those moments were, because by the time they occurred I was so bored I almost missed them. The baseball purists might not be, but anytime I think of hard-core fans, I remember something a hard-core race car fan said, “We watch the first five laps and the last five. No one I know watches all of them from the edge of their seat.”  

Eating your appetite. When we are younger, we eat anything and everything, all the time. Eating is just something we do when we’re young. Ask a teenager their favorite places to eat, and they will inevitably list off the top five fast food restaurants. They don’t appreciate the quality of food they eat. They just eat. They’re not especially hungry when they grab a sandwich en route to a meal. They just eat it. They eat while they watch TV, when they drive, and so they have something to do with their hands. When we’re young, we eat because we’re bored, because it’s there, and because everyone else is doing it, but we offset all of this eating with rigorous physical activity.

As we age, and our rigorous physical activity begins to slow as much as our digestive system does, we limit our eating. Some of us start by eliminating snacks, or we change our snacks to healthier fare. Some of us even go so far as to eliminate entire meals, so that we’re only eating once, or twice a day. By doing so, we make mealtime an eventful moment of our day, and for some it becomes the most memorable moment in a given day. Then we talk about past meals, and we labor over deciding future ones. “What are we going to eat?” “Where are going to go?” and “When are we going to eat?” We don’t know what we want to eat yet, but we want it to be tastier than the meal we had yesterday. We want something that might help make today even more special. Once we finish that meal, we are often disappointed, because it wasn’t as great as the other meals we’ve had.

We still talk about french dip we had the other day at the corner deli, and we use all of our creative skills to describe it, “I was literally and actively walking down the sidewalk, and I just happened to literally look up and see the sign Corner Deli. I didn’t think too much of it at the time, but then I literally ordered the french dip sandwich. You haven’t tried it? Oh, you simply must,” we say to the uninitiated. “The meat is so tender, and the au jus is to die for there.” Some of the young people at the table might listen to such observations, if they have nothing else to distract them. Some of them might even begin to mimic them, but no matter how they might react, they don’t care as much as we do. They just want this whole dining experience over, so they can do whatever it is they do to make their day eventful. For us, the meal is the event. “You don’t know how to eat,” we say to them to try to establish some level of appreciation in them. They might want steak, but it’s only because we place so much value on it.

If we grill the most beautiful, tasty filet mignon, a cow has ever produced for their nourishment, they might say, “It’s good,” after they search for a suitable response between shrugs, but they say it with the same emotions they say things like, “The grass is green, sky is blue, and I love you.” They may not even look at us when they answer, and they might not answer us at all, if we fail to inform them how rude it is if they don’t. To us, this is such a delicious slab of meat that we will remember it for weeks. We also think that, at the very least, people our age should treat it the same way, until we witness one of them eat a sandwich on the fly. I can appreciate it when Seinfeld says adults don’t lose appetites, but when one of my peers eats an apple on the way to the restaurant I don’t think that they’re ruining their appetite by doing so, but I can’t help but think they’re diminishing the event status of our meal tonight.

Literally and actively. The next generation has probably been twisting and turning the language to have others take them serious for as long as humans have been alive. The next generation is insecure and they don’t think anyone will take them seriously, or find their stories funny, because few people do at this point in their lives. I empathize with their plight for when I was a member of the next generation I always thought I was missing something. I didn’t know what it was, of course, but I thought I needed to add something extra to generate interest and/or laughter. For my generation, it was all about cussing. We relied on swear words, delivered in a confident rhythm, to give our stories provocative punctuation. I don’t know if the comparative prevalence of swearing in movies and TV shows makes it passé to cuss now, or if young people don’t cuss around me now that I’m old, but the young people I know don’t swear as often as we did.

The problem for them, as I see it, is how does one punctuate a story without swear words if they want to provoke a response from an audience? If they tell us a relatively common story about how they noticed that the stop sign of at the end of their block was upside down the other day, for example, they know that they won’t receive quality reactions if they tell such a story flat. They know they need to spruce it up a little. When my generation told such a story, we said, “I was walking down the street the other day, when I noticed the [insert the popular swear word of the moment] stop sign was upside down.” I don’t know if we felt compelled to add the swear words to acquiesce to the rhythms to which our peers were accustomed, or if we thought adding them would attach some gravitas to our stories, but we added them whenever and wherever we could. The special ingredients this next generation adds to their stories now are the infamous –ly words. Thus, the new way to add provocative import to one’s otherwise banal experiences is to add an adverb. “I was actively walking down the street when I literally noticed that the stop sign at the end of our block is now upside down.” I might pay too much attention to linguistic trends in the popular culture, but I’m curious about how such trends start, and what the user hopes to accomplish with them. The next generation obviously uses the –ly words to affect the rhythm of their stories, but I don’t think the words provide the provocative punctuation they seek. The only rationale I can find for adding these –ly words as often as they do, is that they seek to add gravitas to their stories in a way they might not otherwise achieve. When I listen to them, however, I hear the effort more than the story, and it distracts me so much that I can’t take them seriously.   

{1} https://psmag.com/environment/is-breeding-endangered-species-in-captivity-the-right-way-to-go

Falling Down Manholes


“When you fall down a manhole, that’s funny. When I do, that’s a tragedy.” –Mel Brooks

Is it funny when a healthy adult falls down a manhole? It’s a little humorous when a faceless entity on the local news, or someone with whom we have no association, but what if we have some sort of attachment to the victim? Does familiarity affect how we view such an incident? If it does, how much familiarity do we have to have before the incident becomes tragic, and is there a middle ground that reveals the unusual relationship these comedy and tragedy have? If we find a tragic incident like that funny, what is funny, what’s tragedy, and what’s the difference?

Laughing at other people’s pain is just kind of what we do. We can call those who laugh heartless, but we also need to recognize how prevalent this reaction is in our society. We can also say that such laughter represents a dark side of humanity, but we should also recognize it as part of human nature. I’ve found few exceptions to this rule, but those who don’t laugh tend to be in professions that experience other people’s pain on a daily basis. Do they develop an emotional immunity to such moments, because they hear about them so often? If that’s the case, is our laughter an impulsive reaction to something we find shocking? We’ve all heard the phrase, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. If we worked with other people in pain on a daily basis, would we develop something of an immunity to these moments that might lead us to deal with them in a more compassionate manner?

Most people who fall down manholes don’t fall straight down the manhole clean, like Yosemite Sam, and most of them aren’t mumbling comedic swear words to themselves as they fall. They will likely damage something precious upon entry, and depending on the depth of their fall, they’re probably going to be screaming. They might not have enough time to fear death, but anyone who has fallen from a decent height knows that it’s such a scary experience that it’s not funny to them.

If our friend walks away from the fall with some superficial bumps and bruises, that might be funny, but what if he chipped a tooth? What if he took a nasty knock on the head, or broke an ankle? What if his injuries were so severe that he required Emergency Medical Technicians to free him? Does the severity of the injury make the incident more tragic or more humorous? Before you answer, think about how you might tell the story of the incident. Any time we tell a story, we want a punctuation mark at the end. What better punctuation would there be than a prolonged hospital stay that involves tubes and machines keeping the victim alive? “They’re saying that the nasty knock on the head could leave him mentally impaired for the rest of his life?” We might be using an extreme here, as few would find that funny, but where is the line or the lines of demarcation that define comedy and tragedy in this matter?

The initial sight of Jed lying in the sewer might be funny, unless he’s screaming. What if he’s hurt? How can he not be? We laugh. We don’t mean to laugh. We don’t find this funny, but we can’t stop. Some of us might wait to find out if Jed’s okay before we laugh, and some of us might wait until he’s not around, so when we can retell the story of his fall and laugh with others. Most of us will laugh at some point. It’s often our reaction to something tragic.

Laughing, or otherwise enjoying, another person’s pain is so common, that the Germans, developed a term for it: schadenfreude. Is our laughter fueled by the relief that it’s not happening to us, or is it the result of comedies and comedians molding our definition of what’s humorous by twisting dark, tragic themes into something funny? Whatever the case is, incidents such as these reveal the relative nature of humor, the fuzzy line between tragedy and comedy, and how we find comedy in others’ tragedies. The purposeful melding of the two even has its own genre now: tragicomedy.

✽✽✽

My personal experience with the fuzzy line between comedy and tragedy, didn’t involve falling into a manhole, but licking a pole. I was in the fifth or sixth grade, old enough and smart enough to know better, but young enough and dumb enough to do it anyway on one of the coldest days in February. I didn’t know the philosophical details of the symbiotic relationship between comedy and tragedy, but I knew people would laugh if they saw me stuck there. I knew there would not be a “Well, at least you’re okay” sentiment among my classmates. I knew this wasn’t one of those types of mistakes. I didn’t know a whole lot about human nature, but I knew that certain people live for stories of pain and humiliation. We all know those types, and we know they never forget. We could win the Pulitzer Prize, or become a world-renowned adventure seeker, and they will say, “Wasn’t he the kid who got his tongue stuck on a pole in fifth or sixth grade?”

I didn’t stand there and think about all this while stuck in the moment of course. The only things I thought about were how am I going to rip myself free and how much is this going to hurt? When I thought about the pain, though, I knew it would be worth it to prevent anyone from finding out about this. The idea that one person might see me stuck on this pole compelled me to pull my tongue off as quickly as possible. The pain involved in ripping several layers of my tongue off led me to believe I should’ve given it more consideration, but I still didn’t regret it. I still considered the physical pain secondary to the mental and emotional pain I would’ve endured if I hadn’t ripped my tongue off the pole.

I’ve read stories since of others suffering a similar embarrassment, calling in civil servants to help them get free. The first question I have for these people I’ll never meet is, what were you thinking?

These unfortunate victims had to know that the chance of someone seeing them in that embarrassing position increased exponentially with each second they remained stuck to the pole. They had to know that calling someone over would lead them to call another over, until they all gave up and called in a rescue squad. The very idea that that many people might know about it, still makes me so uncomfortable that I cringe when I think about it. With that many people involved, the chances of this information making it to their peers is so great that it’s not even worth considering.

I have to imagine that this victim was either younger than I was at the time, or that the severity of their incident was much worse than mine. For if all of the circumstances were even somewhat similar, then I have to ask them why they didn’t just rip themselves free? My empathy goes out to them if they feared how painful that would be, but they had to consider all the ridicule, teasing, and bullying they would endure in the aftermath. Even if they feared the pain so much that they wanted an adult to come along and find a less painful solution for them, I would ask them if it was worth it. Even if that adult went inside and retrieved a cup of hot water for them and prevented the kid from knowing the pain I did, I would wager that the physical pain I endured paled in comparison to the emotional abuse this kid endured from his peers.

Even when I was still stuck on that pole, I knew my bully would be waiting for the details on my tragedy with baited breath. I also knew that his audience wouldn’t be able to restrain themselves from laughing at his displays of cruel and clever creativity. I didn’t know what nicknames or limericks he would develop, but I knew he would develop something. He was our class clown, and he was always developing material on someone. All of the pain I experienced in the aftermath of the toe curling rip of my tongue was worth it, because at least he wouldn’t have this material on me.

We’ve all heard talk show guests say that they were the class clown in school. We all smile knowingly, picturing them as children dancing with a lampshade on their head and coming up with the perfect response to the teacher that even the teacher considered hilarious. Those of us who knew a class clown saw some of that, but we also saw what happened when they ran out of good-natured and fun material. I knew the minute our class clown ran out of material he would begin looking around for victims, and I was always one of his favorite targets.

We all enjoy making people laugh, but some have a deep psychological need to make people laugh, and they don’t care who has to get hurt in the process. Based on my experiences with class clowns, I can only guess that those who would fashion a career out of it, such that they were so successful that they ended up in a late night talk show chair talking about it, probably learned early on that no matter how you slice it, if someone falls down a manhole, or gets their tongue stuck to a pole, there’s comedy gold there waiting to be excavated. They may be too young to know anything about the complexities inherent in the symbiotic relationship between comedy and tragedy at the time, but at some point they realized that anyone can get a laugh. To separate themselves from that pack, former class clowns-turned-successful standup comedians would have to spend decades learning the intricacies and complexities of their craft, as everyone from the Ancient Greeks to Mel Brooks did. They would also learn that for all of the complexities involved in comedy, one simple truth they learned in fifth to sixth grade remains, if one wants to achieve side-splitting laughter from the broadest possible audience, someone has to get hurt.

Stuff Stuck in the Orifice: The 2018 Edition


My guess is that human beings have been jamming foreign objects so deep in various orifices that we require assistance throughout our history, but we didn’t have a Consumer Product Safety Commission’s database catalog them until recently. We also didn’t have writers like Barry Petchesky from Deadspin.com condense that database of emergency room (ER) visits to entertaining bullet points until more recently. For most of human history, we didn’t know the luxury of having skilled professionals trained in removing such things for much of human history, so we can only guess that the cavemen who experimented in this manner paid dearly for their curiosity. We can also guess that these incidents, coupled with the threat of predators and their dietary habits, are all reasons that the cavemen worshiped the elder members of their clan who lived to fifty. I think everyone and their kids listened to this people, because they wanted to know their formula to living to fifty.

1) Petchesky’s select version of an otherwise lengthy database begins with the people who stuck things so far in their ear that they needed to go to an emergency room to have it removed. If the person who “Was cleaning ear with Q-Tip, accidentally walked into wall, [and] pushed Q-tip into ear” was a caveman, I don’t think he would’ve been one of the few to live to fifty. Whatever the Q-Tip of his era was, he would’ve walked around with it in his ear for the rest of his life, and it probably would’ve led to an infection that brought him down. Either that or he and his buddies might have developed some form of surgery to remove it, and he probably would’ve died during that surgery or from its aftereffects. 

2) The best “verbatim” quote in Petchesky’s summary, and he claims they are all quoted verbatim, is from an ER attendant who wrote, “Popcorn kernels in both ears, ‘feeds her ears because her ears are hungry’” in the ER report for the patient. The obvious question here is why would anyone use such a line to explain their situation? The less obvious and more humorous question is why would ER personnel write that into their report? How much grief did they have to deal with after writing it?

Anytime a person involved in the field of medicine writes such a report, their professional reputation is on the line. Attending physicians, insurance company agents, and fellow ER personnel read these reports, and I’m guessing that attempts at humor do not go over well. Years of training have shaped such reports in this manner, and all ER personnel know they could get fired by sprucing them up for entertainment purposes. It’s their job to stick to the facts when they write these reports, and their only defense to the interrogation sure to follow is, “That’s a direct quote.” We can also guess that the ER attendant asked the patient if they want to revise their characterization of the incident. “Are you sure this is what you want going into your final report? A number of people are going to see this, and they’re going ask both of us a lot of questions.”

3) Another thing that struck me throughout this report is how do people fit such things in their ear? I’ve never tested the capacity, or threshold of the orifice leading to my ear canal, but I’ve seen the toy mouse, and I have to imagine that getting it in so deep that they required a medical procedure to get it out required a great deal of time and effort on their part. They might also walk out of the ER saying something along the lines of, “I really need to find a hobby or something to fill up some of my free time.”

4) In the nose section of this report, we encounter some incidents that we can lay at the feet of human error. We don’t know why someone would put a rubber band up their nose, but we can guess it involved doing some kind of parlor trick. As for the butterfly, the cotton ball, and the paint, these are all unusual things to have near the nose, but they’re not freakish. My guess is Petchesky wanted to lay a relatively common foundation to build a rhythm for, “Sneezed and a computer key came out the right nostril, sneezed again and another one almost came out.”

Those of us who have viewed these lists for years now know that some people have a propensity for sticking unusual things up in their body. One thing to keep in mind throughout this list is not only did this person stick a computer key in their nose, but they stuck it so far up there that they needed someone schooled in medical procedures to retrieve it for them. Another thing we can speculate about, based on some of the items on this list, is that a greater percentage, if not all, of them didn’t go to the ER right away. They were probably so embarrassed by their action that they left it in there hoping that they might find a way to get it out themselves, or that it might work its way out in some more natural way. At some point, they realized that wasn’t going to happen, and they couldn’t live with the pain anymore. The way this person addressed their computer key sneezes, it sounds as if they are more accustomed to computer key sneezes than the rest of us are. The next logical question is, “How did they get in there?” Some ER attendants probably ask such questions, but some don’t. Those who don’t probably want to avoid pursuing the matter to avoid further embarrassing the patient.

5) Petchesky includes the “gum, gum wrapper, and gum in wrapper” incidents of things stuck up a nose as if they involved three separate incidents in emergency rooms throughout the country, but what if they weren’t. What if this prospective “America’s Got Talent” nominee managed to put all three in her nasal cavity in an attempt to outdo the friend who could tie a cherry stem in her mouth, but she was unable to extract the fruits of her labor?

6) The final one, listed under things stuck in nose is “piece of steak.” I file this one under simple human error too, because of the errors we all make while eating. We all make such mistakes, and they’re always a little surprising when they happen. How many full-grown adults, with decades of practice chewing on things, still bite their lip or the lining of their mouth when they eat? How many of us still attempt to speak while chewing in a manner that opens our epiglottis in a way that causes us to cough and choke. Most of us are able to hit our mouths with whatever we put on the end of a fork, but with the ratio of eating to incidents, what are the chances that someone could miss so badly that they end up putting a forkful in their nose on accident? They’re remote, perhaps infinitesimal, but they’re not impossible. Perhaps this person was so engaged in conversation, while eating, that they went a couple degrees too far north. I understand that this particular person put it so far up that they required medical assistance to get it out, but we don’t know what their conversation was about either.

7) The first item on the list of things stuck so far down the throat that it required medical assistance is banana. I know what happened here, because I’ve been that guy who was so habitually tardy that my job was on the line. I’ve woken up, while on probation, with so few minutes to spare that I dressed, grabbed my keys and my wallet and rushed out the door. I’ve been so late that I accomplished whatever rudimentary grooming I needed in the car, on the road to work, and I’m sure it showed. Buttoning a shirt eats away precious seconds on these mornings, so I don’t button until I’m halfway to work. I’ve even learned how to button with one hand while driving with the other. I don’t shower on these mornings, of course, so I have to follow the age old ‘spit on the hand and pat down whatever hair is sticking up’ on the road to work. In the midst of such mornings, we grab whatever quick food we can find and stick it in our mouth to shut the stomach up. For those of us who place ourselves in such circumstances, chewing is a luxury for those who have seconds on spare.

8) The next entry in the throat category is, “Throat lozenge still in blister pack.” How many of us have chewed on a lozenge at one point or another? We didn’t just swallow it. We chewed on it. I blame the manufacturer, because they package these lozenges in such pleasing colors that they look tasty. The first time this patient took a lozenge on his own, he chewed on it and consumed the foul liquid inside. When he informed the person next to them how awful the liquid tasted, the other person said, “You’re not supposed to chew on them. You’re supposed to swallow it whole.” This patient mistakenly conflated the word ‘whole’ to mean including the blister pack.

9) I’m guessing the person who swallowed the “mood ring” was depressed. I’m guessing that their lover dumped them, and that they believed in the mood ring’s suggestions to such a degree that when it suggested they should be happy, they internalized it to see if it could change their emotional interiority.

10) As for the items stuck in the male reproductive organ, we can only guess that the guy who stuck a pipe cleaner so far in so far that he required physical assistance to get it out, is a clean freak who never forgets to clean behind the ears. He probably uses a paper towel to open the doors of public restrooms. He probably soaps himself between the toes, and he has spent a lot of time searching for nooks and crannies that could become gross if left unattended, until he ended up in an emergency room.

11) The guy who had a straw reach an inextricable location in his reproductive system doesn’t understand the hoopla surrounding the anticipation portion involved in the act of love-making routine. Some find the moment before punctuation so exhilarating that they try to make it last for hours. This guy is one hundred and eighty degrees different. He and his lover tried to find a way to be more expedient.

12) We’ve all had lovers cheat on us, and we’ve all thought about the perfect way to exact our revenge. The guy who required medical assistance to remove six to seven BB pellets from his reproductive organ, decided that the next time he and his lover were involved, he was going to blow her head off.

13) The person who put a billiard ball in their rectum is a trick shot artist, and in the world of trick shot artists, there’s very little room for originality. Most trick shot artists are simply showing the world that they can duplicate the tricks Minnesota Fats and Willie Mosconi did fifty years ago. There is no room for originality in this world, because there is only so much one can do with ten balls and a pool table. This guy thought he was really onto something, but he failed miserably.

14) The poor patient who “sat down on the sofa and accidentally sat on a ball point pen,” only to have it lodge so far up his rectum that he required medical assistance is now suing the pen manufacturer. He doesn’t want any money. He is suing for one symbolic dollar to direct our attention to his primary goal of forcing the manufacturer to put a very specific warning on their package. His goal is an altruistic one, in that he doesn’t want others to have to suffer his (now very public) humiliation.

15) Amateur astronomer Gil Burkett’s excitement was understandable. He thought he was going to be famous. He thought he just discovered a new planet. He was so emotional that he couldn’t contain himself. He began jumping up and down, all over the place, screaming with joy. In his reckless and irrational exuberance, he landed on the “leg of a telescope”, and after he put some effort into extracting it, he realized it was so far in his rectum that he knew he would need medical assistance to retrieve it. If that wasn’t humiliating enough, Gil consulted four other amateur astronomy society websites, while waiting for the EMTs, and he found that a previous astronomer already named the planet.

16) The first time we introduce some intoxicants to our system, we will receive the greatest high we will ever experience with that particular intoxicant. Every drug effects our system differently, but from what I’ve read on the subject, that first high is almost impossible to reproduce for some of them. Most of us either don’t know that, or we don’t consider that when we attempt to reproduce that first experience. We fall prey to the notion that if we do more, it won’t just reproduce it, it might outdo it. Drug users refer to this pursuit as chasing the dragon.

Firsthand knowledge eventually teaches us that in the interactions between body and intoxicants, more is not always more. After we reach this depressing conclusion, we seek alternative routes to the great high. Some who enjoy intoxicants gain some education in their pursuit of a great high. They learn basic knowledge of nutrition, as they seek to replace what their drug of choice depletes, they learn about chemistry, and they learn a surprising amount about their biology. They learn, for example, that the various ways of taking their drug of choice orally allows the liver to distill some of its impurities. The liver does this to protect the body, of course, but some of those impurities can increase feelings of intoxication. By one way or another, we learn that taking an intoxicant through the rectum is a way to circumvent the liver. In their quest to utilize that alternative route, and achieve their greatest high ever one patient “pushed drugs up rectum using a lighter, was able to retrieve the drugs bag yet believe lighter got stuck.” Another person, “Took a soda bottle with Fireball whiskey via his rectum, stuck bottle in rectum and squeezed.”

17) We can also find some elements of this pursuit in those who use sexual toys. When users upgrade to larger toys or pursue greater depths, they seek to achieve the arousal they probably experienced the first time they experimented, or they try to outdo the last time. This is probably what happened when Neil stuck a “vibrator in rectum and tried to remove it with screwdriver and lacerated rectum; object in colon now.” He probably tried to outdo previous experiences with his toy, when he discovered the painful difference between far, farther, and too far.

18) Neil’s dilemma also brings to mind a nagging question I had reading through this list. I understand that no one would be on this report if they didn’t require medical assistance, but how much effort did they put into removing these items themselves? We’ve all met people who aren’t embarrassed easily, and they seemingly have no problem telling another person “they got a toothbrush stuck in their rectum after jumping on the bed.” If you’re sitting next to such a person in the waiting room, and you ask them why they’re here, these types provide far more information than you care to hear. “Aren’t you embarrassed?” you ask them. “Well, why are you here?” they’ll ask you in reply. No matter what you say in response, they will respond, “Aren’t you embarrassed?” They will tone their response with a whole lot of sarcasm to mock you and your original question. You could tell them that you fear you’re exhibiting early signs of the Ebola virus, and they would still respond in that sarcastic manner, to imply that the reasons the two of you are in there, are more similar than you ever considered.

Readers perusing such a list can’t help but place themselves in the shoes of the victims in such scenarios. It’s difficult to imagine us doing some of these things, of course, but if we did, what would we do? Most of us would be so embarrassed that we would do anything and we could think of to avoid the embarrassment of having to look people in the face, while telling them what we’ve done. We don’t know how much physical pain we would be willing to endure to avoid it, but we would probably test our threshold. We would likely consider that pain secondary to the painful embarrassment of telling another person what we did. We all know that doctors, nurses, and various other ER personnel probably see more in one month than most of us will see in a lifetime, but they’re people too, and in their off hours, they surely think this stuff is funny. They probably say something along the lines of, “Oh yeah, the job is incredibly stressful, long hours, and all that, but there are some moments. There are moments that make it all worth it. Just the other day, there was this one guy who …”

Neil and I probably share the “I don’t ever want to be that one guy who …” mentality. Neil probably said something similar to himself before reaching the point of desperation where a screwdriver appeared to be a reasonable solution. “This thing is coming out!” Neil probably said with visible determination.

How many hours of digging and painful scraping did Neil have to endure before finally realizing he was doing more harm than good, and we have to think of this in terms of hours, because the thought of leaving something as large as a vibrator in there for days is unimaginable and anything longer seems so impossible that its unfathomable. Would Neil be able to find a pain-free way to sit in his office chair, if some of it is sticking out, and we have to imagine that some of it is sticking out. Would he be able to find a way to deflect questions if this dilemma lasted for days? As cringe-worthy as these questions are, we also have to factor in all the scraping Neil did in his efforts to end this dilemma. How early on did the idea of removing it with a screwdriver hit Neil? If it was the first day, we have factor that into the equation. He may not have lacerated the walls of his rectum, for that probably didn’t happen until his embarrassment and the resultant frustrations got the best of him, but we do have to factor this into Neil’s dilemma.  

One other question I have on this subject is, did the ER attendant have to inform Neil that the item in question reached his colon, or did Neil already suspect as much? Neil obviously knew the item was irretrievable, or he wouldn’t have lacerated his rectum, and he wouldn’t be in the ER, but was there a particular sensation he felt when it reached another level? Did it feel like the item reached a shelf beyond his reach?

19) The guy who put a “significant amount of string” so far into his rectum that he couldn’t get it out without assistance is another curiosity for me. Was this just another boring Tuesday for him, was he measuring his depth in Mark Twain fashion, or was he desperately constipated? If I were the ER attendant on staff, I think my curiosity might overwhelm professional discipline. Once we worked our way past the procedural Q&A’s, I would have to ask him why he stuck so much string up his rectum. The two of us could probably chalk “a little string” up to an embarrassing and perverse curiosity, but I would have to know what drove him to continue past those levels to one we both agreed was significant.

I also wonder about the process involved in the word ‘significant’ making it into the final report. If the ER personnel see as much as these reports suggest they do in one year, I’m guessing that superlatives to describe such incidents almost become passé over time. The words, “If you think that was as a lot, you should’ve seen what I saw last night” probably get passed around ER break rooms all the time. ER personnel probably grow so competitive in this unspoken manner, over time, that they become reticent to introduce adjectives like “a lot” when describing the amount of blood they saw, or the word “unusual” when describing a smell coming from some organ, because they know their peers will call them out on those adjectives. That peer pressure likely effects the manner in which they write reports over time. Thus, when they find some string, they simple write “some string” to provide a succinct description of what they’ve found. When they find “a lot” of string, they probably don’t have a personal or professional measurement to distinguish it from “some” string, but they know it when they see it. With that in mind, how much string do seasoned veterans of emergency rooms have to find in a rectum before they allow the words “a significant amount of string?” into the final report? Barry Petchesky’s list of reports the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s database does not provide clarity in this regard, but my guess is that the addition of the word significant is an indicator that we’re no longer talking about inches here but feet, and likely yards. If the ER patient declared that a significant amount string was in his rectum, we can guess that the ER attendant probably checked him. “I’ve witnessed a significant amount of string before, and trust me you likely don’t have that much in there. Why don’t we just write “a lot” for now, and we’ll address the verbiage later.” I don’t know how much editing goes on in the process, or how vital the terminology would be in such a case, but I’m guessing that most emergency rooms undergo a number of unofficial and professional series of checks that occur before a medical report ends up on an insurance agent’s desk. At this point, we can guess that the operating doctors and nurses have their say, based on their own individual experiences, before the description “a significant amount of string” ends up in the final report. If everyone agreed that it was a “significant amount of string”, we can also guess that in post op, some wisenheimer dropped some joke about magicians pulling handkerchiefs out of their pockets.

The Social Contract of Lending: Hairbrushes and Rakes


I didn’t make a sound when the lovely Paula handed me my first paycheck, but I had a marching band going on in my mind, complete with a field commander leading a marching band, drum and bugle corps. To my fellow employees, standing in line to collect their own checks, this was just another payday. I flirted with making it more memorable for them. Paula didn’t last long at the restaurant, for reasons endemic to her character, but due to the fact that she was the one who handed me my first paycheck, her face is enshrined in my personal Mount Rushmore. As I walked away from that cash register, I thought of the lessons my father and grandfather taught me about the value of a dollar. Those lessons may have been nothing more than a creative way they found to avoid giving me more money, but whatever it was their lessons did to me were born the day I received my first paycheck.

Sleep was an inconvenient conclusion to the night for me back then, but a precious commodity in the morning. I didn’t greet mornings with a “healthy, wealthy and wise” attitude. I wasn’t happy to see another sunrise, and I wasn’t happy to be alive for another day. I wanted more sleep. I took advantage of every opportunity to sleep during the day, because I didn’t want to sleep during the night back then.  

The eve of my first paycheck was different however. I went to bed early. I didn’t sleep, I was too amped up, but I was in bed. I purposely woke early the next morning. I knew what morning it was the moment I awoke. There was no mid-morning delirium, and the first words out of my mouth did not contain a swear word. I didn’t go back to sleep on this morning, as I would any other normal morning when I didn’t have to awake early. I threw my warm, comfy blankets off, ready to greet the day. Even though we were in the crack of dawn hours, I already had a mid-morning smile on my face, and that hadn’t happened since a certain someone ruined Christmas for me. I don’t remember the bus ride over to the restaurant that day, but I remember stepping off the city bus, knowing that my paycheck was waiting for me inside the restaurant.

I knew that the days of asking my father and grandfather for money were officially over that morning. I was as free as a teenager could be. That day was the day I learned the power of the dollar, firsthand, and it is still one of the top ten greatest days of my life.

My first official purchase, with my money, was a hairbrush, and I considered it an argument against my father and grandfather’s claim that I would never learn the value of a dollar. My grandfather lived through The Depression, and my father lived in the aftermath of it, and they knew the value of a dollar and the subsequent scarcity of it better than I ever could. Their words went in one ear and out the other, until I cashed that first paycheck. Buying products with my own money, introduced me to the power of the dollar, but the more profound lesson I learned occurred soon after the intoxication with my financial freedom led me to blow that first paycheck in the course of one weekend. Even with all of the lessons they taught me, I went from being a power player in control of my financial fate to the vulnerabilities inherent in being dead broke in the course of one weekend, and the only thing I had to show for it was a hairbrush.

My father and grandfather informed me that when I purchased a product that I was to care for it in such a way that extended its life cycle beyond generally accepted norms. Doing so, they said, paid homage to the cogs in the system that made that product available for my convenience. Caring for it also displayed a level of appreciation for the idea that I was only able to demand quality services from my fellow man by providing quality services to him. If I purchased a meal, for example, they suggested I should all but lick that plate clean in appreciation. If I purchased a rake, I was to hang that rake in such a manner that it wouldn’t fall off its peg, and/or collect any water that might cause rust. There was no excuse for a rake falling off a properly secured peg, in their world, and if it did, its rattling tone would reverberate throughout our genealogical tree. This newfound purchasing power, and the subsequent values inherent in the dollars I earned, taught me more about the power of the dollar than their theoretical lessons ever could.

Their lessons also suggested that while I should care for the products I purchased, I should display reverence for the products another might lend me. If a man were generous enough to lend me his rake, in my time of need, not only was the rake not mine, it was not mine. I was to treat such a rake as if the Baby Jesus himself had once suckled it. Not only was I to return it in a timely manner, but I was to return it in the condition in which I received it, or replace it for the man if it was not. This horrible responsibility I considered inherent in borrowing things from others, often led me to just purchase a brand new rake. It’s also much less emotionally taxing on me to simply do without. 

Purchasing a new rake is not easy for me either, for doing so is a condemnation for how I treated the previous one. I would much rather use a rake that is not 100% productive than endure the personal embarrassment and remorse I experience when replacing one. Even if my standards and practices lead the productive lifespan of the lawn tool to last ten years beyond its life expectancy, I still experience a small scale Oskar Schindler dilemma when I throw away an old rake away thinking there was something I could’ve and should’ve done better to extend the life of that old rake.

I know most people do not receive the philosophical training seminars on preservation and conservation I did, but when I decided to loan my hard-earned hairbrush to a friend, and he disrespected it, I considered him unprincipled. I worked hard for that hairbrush. It cost me approximately one half hour of manual labor. As a general practice, I didn’t keep that hairbrush in the family bathroom, fearing that others in my family might use it, ruin it, and alter its life expectancy. I knew where this hairbrush was at all times, and I developed a special spot for it that I thought might prevent me from losing it. When I did loan the brush to my best friend, I monitored his usage and stipulated the terms of its usage. Once he no longer needed it, I told him, he was to return it in the manner I loaned it to him.

On a separate occasion, I loaned a Queen’s Greatest Hits cassette tape to another friend. Although this tape endured thousands of plays, over the years, its condition was excellent relative to usage. The friend I loaned it to managed to lose the plastic jewel case and the inner jacket sleeve within a week, and he had to spend another week locating the cassette tape. He never found the jewel case or the jacket, but he did manage to locate the tape. The friend didn’t offer to compensate me for my loss, or display any of the guilt that should’ve followed such an egregious violation. I would’ve considered this a reflexive response, he did not. When I informed him, in a heated argument, that I would be compensated, he said. “It’s just a cassette tape geez.”

“It’s my cassette tape,” I said, “and you do not dictate its usage.” He decided to compensate my for the loss later, after I offered him a month’s long sampling of our father and grandfather’s many lessons on value, relative value, and what I considered the epistemological penalty of violating those standards in regards to his character. In the aftermath of this incident, my friend found it less stressful to buy the products he wanted, rather than borrow anything else from me.

The thing that still grates on me is that this friend who borrowed my cassette tape knew the backstory of my hairbrush, and the friend to whom I loaned it. He even joined me in condemning my hairbrush friend. So, “It’s just a tape geez,” was what I considered a violation of the values I assumed he and I shared. I wasn’t sure if I should continue to befriend him if our values were so disparate, and I told him so. “It’s just a tape geez,” he repeated, and he added my name at the beginning of this repetition to strengthen his case that I should rethink my whole line of thought on this matter.

There wasn’t a whole lot of clamor for usage of my hard-earn hairbrush, and that’s the way I preferred it, but anytime one values a possession in the manner I did with this item, some people are going to be seduced by the intangible qualities we assigned them.

After a couple years, a piece of plastic splintered off the mainframe. The splinter started as a simple fracture in the border of that hairbrush, but it grew over time, until it was sticking out from the brush at a length as long as the average person’s index finger. The splinter soon became an eyesore, and an embarrassing detail for its owner. I didn’t want to cut that piece off or try to fix it in anyway, however, for it had been my experience that whenever I tried to fix something I only made it worse.

When my friend asked if he could borrow the hairbrush again, I was reluctant. As I said, I consider the whole practice of loaning items out rife with unforeseen ramifications. I don’t think either party gains anything in the transaction. If the recipient returns the product as it was, it is a relief to the relationship. The relationship continues as is without any EKG style movements. Anything less than as it was, could cause unforeseen turmoil and/or unseen tension between the two parties involved that might damage the relationship.    

As a responsible lender who didn’t want this transaction to end in any tension, I laid out some of my stipulations for him to consider before using it, and he said, “It’s a brush (he added my name with a hint of condescension). I’m going to brush my hair with it a couple of times, and I’ll hand it back to you. I promise.” His intention was to make me feel silly for valuing a hairbrush in such an inordinate manner. When he added the words ‘I promise’ after evaluating me, it revealed how uncomfortable I was with the notion of lending out my beloved brush to anyone, even someone I considered a best friend. I felt foolish, and I begrudgingly acquiesced, but I watched him use it intently.

He watched me watching him use it, and he informed me that I might have some hang ups a psychologist would find fascinating. He then pretended to throw it, and my near hysterical reaction caused him joy. As anyone who knows anything about psychology can probably guess, my friend asked me if he could borrow my hairbrush as often as he could. He enjoyed watching my squirm. I lied at times, and told him I didn’t have it on other days. He knew I was lying, and he capitalized on it. He enjoyed doing things that might cause me to lie, and he tried to force me to prove that I didn’t have it by opening up my school bag. I told him that I would not be emptying my bag to show that my hairbrush was not there and that he would just have to take my word for it. I also speculate that he knew I wouldn’t be able to use the hairbrush for the rest of the day, in fear of revealing the lie. If I wasn’t going to allow him to use my brush, then he wouldn’t permit me to use it either. Whether he knew it or not, this tactic was very effective, because I knew I could never use it in his company again. 

To thwart the effectiveness of this tactic, I told him he could not borrow my hairbrush on another occasion, and I offered him a pre-planned explanation. I informed him about the hygienic concerns he should have when using another’s hairbrush. I wasn’t concerned about such matters, but I considered it an excellent excuse regarding why he shouldn’t want to borrow another person’s hairbrush. When he proceeded to rip that excuse apart, I endured that rant with the knowledge that my rationale was sound.  

On one of the other occasions when I did lend it to him, he began fiddling with the splintered piece of plastic that hung off the brush. His fiddling included twisting the splintered piece in such a manner that it would eventually fall off. I caught him in mid twist, “Wait a second,” I said. “What are you doing?”

“Oh, you want that left on there?” he said.

A brush is just a brush, and a rake is just a rake, but it seems common sense to me that when two parties enter into a social contract of lending, an unspoken stipulation accompanies that agreement that suggests the recipient of another’s largess has no standing when it comes to the condition of said product. This, it would seem to me, is an ancient rule that compels both parties to recognize the guiding principles of such a transaction, regardless the relative value of the product in question. I realize that I may have been over-schooled in this concept, relative to the rest of the world, but I would think that everyone would have a firm grasp on the elementary aspects of conscientiousness and respect. 

I understand that a rake is just a rake, but if I was to borrow another’s rake, and I damaged one of its rake teeth, I wouldn’t say, “It’s just a rake. Just favor the left side from now on.” I would consider such a statement an atrocious violation of my personal constitution that I wouldn’t be able to look the owner in the eye ever again, and I don’t understand how other grown adults, with presumed mentors teaching them about guiding principles, can violate them and absolve themselves of any guilt by commenting on how inconsequential the item in question is. It’s not your product, I say, and you have no standing in this arena. 

I have tried to understand this matter in an objective manner, and I can report to you that these two friends do not engage in subterfuge. They might attempt to excuse their guilt away, but I do not believe they do so to insult me, or minimize my valuables. I think they genuinely believe that my tape and my brush were disposable items that would eventually be lost, broken, or in some way ruined. The fact that it happened while in their possession was simply the laws of chance occurring in that brief window of time. In the case of my friend who lost the Queen’s Greatest Hits tape, he wanted me to buy the idea that because I owned the product for ten years, it was bound to be lost sooner or later whether I loaned it to him or not. He didn’t say those words, but that was the gist of his reaction to my righteous anger.   

I could go into further details on this matter to break it down into the minutiae involved in such an agreement, but I consider them so fundamental that neither party involved should be required to undergo the near-militaristic training I received, in this field, to understand its fundamental role in a civilized society. Expressing such concerns in the hope of changing their mind, or opening it to the possibility that they should reconsider how valuable these products are to me, and that they should value them accordingly, is an exercise in futility.

My friends’ defense was that they did not intend to lose, ruin, and destroy my products, and they did not seek to insult me by placing so little value on my possessions. They were just careless people who hadn’t been taught the same principles I was. In the case of my hairbrush friend, he was also an unconscious fiddler. He fiddled with everything he could get his hands on, and that fiddling often led to an unconscious destruction of everything he didn’t lose. I knew my friend’s habits, and I knew that the subtext of his condition involved a mother replacing everything he lost or destroyed. 

My friend and I came from different sides of the track in this regard, for if I fiddled with a hairbrush in a manner that led to its destruction, and/or lost it, I might have to create a ten point dissertation describing my careless act, and why a young man, my age, might need a hairbrush in this day and age, before my father or grandfather regretfully parted ways with the money I might need to complete such a transaction at Walgreen’s. My friend would just have to say, “Mom, I need a new hairbrush.” Say what you want about the binary constraints my father and grandfather placed on me, but their stubborn, frugal ways led me to learn their lessons on value long before I was able to purchase products on my own.  

If my friend and his mother valued their products in ways I could not see, they had no regard for the products of others. I knew if I loaned one of my products to my friend, and he destroyed it, it would take nothing short of a civil case to get his mother to replace it. I knew that if he destroyed my hairbrush, I would have to work another half hour to buy another one, and I would have to budget accordingly. He didn’t understand any of this, because he didn’t have to, and he considered my desire to have my hairbrush returned to him in the condition he received it quaint and quirky.

I spent most of my teen years with this friend, and I watched him blow through money like a high stakes Vegas gambler. He had no regard for the various components of power money wielded. He spared no expense when it came to having a good time. He didn’t make discerning choices with money in the manner one might to make his good times last as long as possible, but, again, he didn’t have to. I was the tightwad who made discerning choices. I decided, for example, not to throw a softball at the target to win my girlfriend a prize at a fair, because I knew I would not hit the target. I also knew that when I didn’t hit it, I would play the stupid game until I did to prove to everyone involved that I could. The idea that attempting to win a girlfriend a prize at the fair is a time-honored staple of a relationship was not lost on me, and I knew she wouldn’t hold it against me if I didn’t win one, but my competitive instincts were so powerful that they would override good sense, and I would end up blowing through whatever money I did have to win her a prize of minuscule value.  

At various points in my life, I was a kid with money, making decisions on how to spend it. I was also the kid without money, at various other points in my life, who lost the power to decide. I knew that the kid with money had a lot more power and prestige than the kid who didn’t. I decided against playing the stupid softball game, enduring the abuse for doing so to spend my limited resources on tickets for her to ride the rides at the fair with me, and I bought food for her too. I thought the fun we ended up having proved that I made wise, thoughtful choices with my money, but the only thing they remembered from that weekend was my refusal to play the stupid softball game.

In the course of that night at the festival, my hairbrush friend played every stupid game the fair offered, and he won his girlfriend prizes, and he ran out of money. He called his mom to inform her of this, and he chastised her for her lack of foresight. “I told you that $20.00 wouldn’t be enough,” he said. Not only did my friend’s mom avoid commenting on my friend’s irresponsible spending habits, she accepted her role in the incident by not showing enough foresight to give him more than $20.00, and she felt guilty about it. The heated exchange that followed also involved my friend accusing his mother of making him look foolish in front of us, his friends, and his girlfriend. This exchange was so foreign to my experience that the only reaction I could find was laughter. 

The natural arc of such a piece should lead the reader to a laundry list of how the antagonist’s lack of principles led to his eventual downfall, and how the author wallowed in the glory of that man’s eventual realization. This is not one of those stories. My grandfather, my father, and I thought my friend’s story would not end well. We thought he would eventually learn the responsibilities inherent in responsible spending. “One way or another he will learn,” they told me. “Every man does in his own ways and on his own time.” My friend did go broke numerous times in his adult life. After an employer fired him, he filed for unemployment, then disability, and then welfare. He said, “I don’t agree with the idea of government assistance, in general, but I can tell you they saved my tailbone.” After discovering a loophole in the bankruptcy laws, he found a way to file for bankruptcy twice. When he needed a loan from a bank, he knew his credit rating was such that they would turn him down, so he and his wife filed for it under his wife’s name. I thought our principles would reveal our relative characteristics over time, but they didn’t. The reader might suggest that falling to a point where he had to use such resources was a punishment in and of itself, but my friend had excuses all lined up for anyone who might condemn him for such actions. As far as any shame or remorse he might have felt, I can tell you that he took some pride in figuring out how to manipulate bankruptcy laws, and all of the other systems that provided him more money.

“So, why were you friends with this guy?” some people have asked. My first inclination is to say, he and I shared a set of values. We talked values all the time, in all the indirect ways friends do. He and I talked on the same page so often that we became brothers. Yet, when I try to come up with a defense for why I decided to befriend him, the words “good friend” don’t come to mind. I want to say that, “For all his faults, he was a good friend,” but he wasn’t a good friend. He wasn’t always there for me. He wasn’t loyal or trustworthy. He wasn’t a good husband. His kid didn’t turn out too well, from my limited experience around the young man, and his parents ended up falling prey to some news worthy charges. All I can say, in defense of our friendship is that he and I became brothers in the formative years of my life, and we have been brothers ever since. Anyone who has a brother understands that he can be 180 degrees different from us, and that might confound us considering that the two of us were born and raised in the same way, but we’re still brothers. We realize that shortly after we disagree, and after we fight and hate each other in the short term, the two of us can sit down together to strengthen the unbreakable, inexplicable bond between us. 

The search for any lessons my friend may have learned require a deep, philosophical dive on my part, and it has something to do with my friend never learning the basic definition of value. The objects involved in this discussion are of relative minuscule value, but if we do not value the relatively meaningless articles and aspects of life, it ends up forming an underlying layer of definition of our character that surfaces throughout our life. 

Can the desolate feelings of desperation teach us anything about ourselves? What happens to us after we’re backed into a corner? Some may joke that the desperation we experience in such situations are relative, and that the problems listed here are first-world problems, but they still require proactive and reactive solutions that we learn over time to define our character, unless someone steps in and helps us avoid ever having to endure them.

“She always believed in me,” my hairbrush friend said at his mother’s funeral. “Even when she probably shouldn’t have, she always had my back.” I considered that sentiment a touching testimonial to his mother in the moment, and in my experiences with the two of them, it was 100% true. As a person who spent most of my maturation without a mother, I envied her unconditional loyalty to him, but that jealousy blinded me to the idea that although unconditional loyalty can be a beautiful thing to watch, it doesn’t always serve the recipient well.