Thursday, March 31, 2011

Car Rental 101

I used to travel quite a bit so I have every express rental car membership there is. You give them all your info beforehand and get your Wizard, Fastbreak or whatever card from them. Then, when you rent a car, you just show up, grab the keys and go.

Great idea. Except it never works that way. Like...ever. They always want to see your credit card, driver's license and a urine sample. What's that all about? And then..they want a "local" phone number where I'll be staying??

This makes no sense. I can see the airlines needing to call me to tell me the flight's been cancelled or whatever. But if I bring the car back, then the rental company has no reason to be calling me. And if I don't bring the car back? Well, there are only a few reason's for that:

A) I've stolen it. - At this point, calling me isn't going to do too much. I'll probably just hang up.

B) I'm lost and can't find my way back to the airport. - Tough to find me at the local number if I'm working my way through Flatbush trying to find La Guardia

C) I'm dead - Self explanatory

In any case, they don't need to reach me unless they plan on telling me that Jennifer Garner is going to be on Letterman with Ashley Judd hosting.

Next item? Seinfeld was so right when he said they're good about taking the reservation, they're just not good at HOLDING the reservation. I rent a mid-size car almost every time. Yet, when I arrive, only the Chicago Bears team bus is left in the garage. This sort of upgrade used to constitute an adventure when I was young and stupid. (Ok, when I was young anway). Now, with gas prices at 1 million dollars a gallon, it's not so cool. Plus, chicks do not dig the Buick Century. I've checked. I'm returning the car, there's a sign that reminds me to check for items I may have left in the car. You know, illegal narcotics. Small children. My glock. Whatever. The kicker is that this sign is illustrated for those who can't read English. (This is a good thing for just about everyone in some of the departments where I work.) So you see pictures of keys, glasses, wallets etc. Then I notice something. It shows an area where illustrated is a picture of a cassette tape, then a compact disc..then..wait for it...a VINYL LP!!

Now, I know my memory isn't flawless, but how did I miss those cars that had a TURNTABLE installed in them? I can just see driving down the road, trying to drop the needle on the Beatles "White Album" or "Convoy" by C.W. McCall. Potholes would be a bitch.

If Avis is having a lot of trouble with people leaving their 12" records in rental cars, I would like to pull up a stool and hear the story behind that.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Unfrozen Caveman Blog Entry

1) I miss Phil Hartman. I swear, there are close personal friends of mine whom I've lost touch with that I do not miss as much as Phil Hartman. "My name is John Johnson, but everyone here calls me Vicky."

2) I may need psycho analysis if I cannot have a more arm's length relationship with my Saturday Night Live friends.

3) should not be one word above. Psychoanalysis implies therapy so you can get better. I need Psycho see if I am a Psycho.

4) I have a confession to make. I don't give a hoot about the new Wonder Woman coming out. I'm not really a comic book kind of guy. And to be honest, if anyone is going to tie someone up and make them tell the truth, it should be me. Then I could finally get to the bottom of who keeps feeding bath oil to the betta fish.

5) Actually, I know who did it. It's you Tara. Ha! But you're two and you can't read. So you will wander around the house, smiling, thinking you got away with the deed. That is, until approximately 2016 when you'll be old enough for Google. Or Bloogle or whatever Ooogle we're using by then. And you'll read this. And you'll know. I was too smart for you. I win.

6) I have A&W Root Beer in my fridge and you don't.

7) I wonder how A&W was formed? I bet at one time, back in the golden age of roots and beers, you could get a root beer for every letter in the alphabet and even some dipthongs. Perhaps in Dodge City a young chap strapped with a pearl handled Colt 45 sidled up to the bar and ordered an ice cold Q Root Beer.

But then times got tough. In the depression, a lot of the letters just went under. A merger of LMNOP was attempted for the brand loyalty alone among children learning to sing the alphabet, but alas, it could not compete with "A" root beer.

Of course it couldn't. How could any mortal root beer compete with "A" root beer. I mean, people inevitably walked into a store and said "give me a root beer". "A" had the built in advantage that any product craves. That's why the Automobile Association of America isn't called Triple Z.

So why W? How did W outlast the other 24 beers of the root and force what I can only imagine was a difficult merger. Perhaps a proxy fight at a 1920s depression era board meeting. Who can tell? But today I, for one, salute you "W" root beer. Like David standing in front of goliath, you took your delicious bark of sassafras and brought Big Root Beer to its knees

8) Before anyone gets any ideas I am enforcing a no-fly zone over my mini-fridge with one of those remote controlled helicopters you get at the hobby shop.

9) My daughter went to the emergency department to have a raisin professionally extracted from her sinuses and that was only the third most stressful thing that happened yesterday. I might have to switch off of root beer to the hard stuff if this keeps up.

10) The local announcement channel...(you know the one that tells you when the lodge meeting is happening or that the Class of '81 is having their 30th reunion)'s still adorned with Christmas background. I wonder if somebody got shot over there and nobody is looking in on him. But then again, the announcements keep getting I guess everything is ok...

11) Is there any way I could learn to play the guitar without actually being taught or spending any effort at all? Like maybe hypnosis? I really want to learn...but I also don't want to do anything about it. Come on's the new millenium. Weren't we supposed to have flying cars by now? Where's my player guitar?

12) I wonder if there was a player guitar, would there then follow playa hata guitars? (That's for you, Cassie)

13) I swear someone installed a Wheel of Fortune channel on my TV. It's on ALL the time. Seriously, if this is some kind of prank, you got me. I give. Enough of Pat and Vanna already

14) I wonder if when they were figuring out the prime numbers, they found that no numbers were actually prime. Then some really smart young mathematician stood up and said "If we don't count division by 1, we'll have a whole bunch of primes!" So they decided that even though a number could be divided by 1, it was still prime. Then another guy said..."Dude, that's unreal." - and voila! We get non-real numbers. I bet it happened something like that. Or there was heavy drinking involved.

15) If I were to invent a brand new font, I would name it "Smug"

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Commuting 101

I like to begin blog entries with the word "so". So I was taking a bath... So I was going to the mailbox to mail "Sinbad in Vegas" back to Netflix... So I was dangling off of the side of Nakatomi Plaza like John McLane...

Not today however.

So I'm on my way to work (there it is!) and my brain is doing its own thing. I have the radio on, but it could be Korean folks singers crooning about...well...Korean folks stuff I guess...because I have no recollection. My drive is a steady stream of thoughts that entertain, confuse and annoy me. Naturally I thought I should share them with you.

1) Why do some tombstones tilt over while some don't? I know the standard explanation is that the ground settles and moves over the years. But my parent's patio has been there forever and the picnic table isn't at a 45 degree angle. Some of these people want out and you're not gonna tell me differently

2) I come up to a bridge and a very helpful sign (this will become a theme) tells me that the right shoulder is closed. I should hope so because the right shoulder is filled with 10-15 port a johns. If it wasn't closed that would be one exciting drive for me (and quite a shock for anyone using them I suppose). Also, it's not enough to have the sign and block the right shoulder with portable personal relief devices, but 20 yards of police tape stretch across in front to further encourage me not to drive on the shoulder. If someone sees the road sign AND the Olympic Port A John Village and still has a wild hair to barrel down the right shoulder, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that a few feet of "Police Line: Do Not Cross" isn't about to deter them.

3) Dolley Madison Avenue has a gigantic sign saying "NO RIGHT TURN ON RED FROM LEFT LANE". Is this really a problem? If you're gonna cut across 4 lanes of traffic on a red light, are you the type of person to see the sign and say "Oh. Damn. Didn't know that wasn't kosher."

4) The road is spelled Dolley Madison. Is that right? My whole life I've spelled her name Dolly, not Dolley. I should have a bit more historical awareness of the woman who risked life and limb to sneak back into the White House during the War of 1812 to save all of the historical documents and the recipe to fudge ripple ice cream.

5) More fun with signs: "Slow down, gate is closed". I'm gonna say you should do a bit more than that if the gate is closed. Are they just wanting you to smash through it at a reasonable speed? Further, that's a permanent sign. Does that mean the gate never goes up? Not much of a gate then in my mind. More of a blockade then, isn't it?

6) I live in the National Capital Area (TM), at least as far as you know, and people go on and on about the cherry blossoms. Yeah, yeah, They are great. They're great every year just like they have been since I moved here in 1995. I'll let you in on a secret, the Cherry Blossoms are like that hot celebrity you've never met or a beauty pageant contestant. Everybody talks about them and they're universally thought to be fabulous but up close they're taping their breasts together and putting Vaseline on their teeth.

7) The Methodist Church a quarter mile from the CIA has a sign up that says "Mission Sunday". Hmmm...

8) More fun with signs: "No STANDING, STOPPING, PARKING". Isn't parking a bit much considering the first two restrictions? If you can figure out a way to park your car without stopping, I'd like to hear it. On second thought, I'd rather see the YouTube video.

9) I worked construction for an ENTIRE summer while going to college in order to avoid manual labor of any kind. As such, I feel empowered to give you my opinion that a "Ditch Witch" while very manly, does not sport a manly name. I may, in fact, call my venture capitalist friends even tonight to suggest that we invent the "Ditch Warlock". I predict 100 percent market share.

"Hey Bob. What have you got there, ditch witch?"

"Helll no! Ditch Warlock."


"Yep. It's the the WARLOCK model. You need to get one too. That one you're sitting on might as well be pink with a wicker basket in the front."

Honestly...every big tool should just be called "SmasherXJ17 Rodeo Testosterone Explosion". All of them.  This is why I have a marketing degree.

10)  Apparently they people using the ditch witch work for "Rock Hard Construction". Yes. That's the name of the outfit. I tried to take a picture of their HUGE yellow sign but my 6 beep rule prevented me. If you're not familiar with that rule...I'll stop in the middle of the road with no warning, no signal and office no concept of what I'm trying to do, but upon the sixth beep of the person behind me, I'll get moving again. It used to be a seven beep rule until that unfortunate incident where I got my ass kicked.

11) I be the Rock Hard construction guys would really enjoy a Ditch Warlock.

12) There's a sign about 1/2 mile before the bridge into DC that says "Bridge work ahead". I appreciate the warning especially when the line for the bridge is 3 miles long. After I've waited 45 minutes to move two miles, knowing why I've been waiting is critical. If Dolley Madison had to use this bridge when fleeing the British, we wouldn't know the taste of Rocky Road today.

telework, fool."?

13) Crossing the bridge, I see a flock of seagulls. This confuses me because we are MILES from the nearest Burger King.

14) In the National Graffiti Tournament, the number one overall seed would have to be railroad bridges.

15) Rural mailboxes would be the 11th seed and Jay Bilas would complain that the mailbox should never have gotten into the tourney before the suburban 7-11 bathroom.

16) "Left turns prohibited Tues, Wed and alternate Fri between 6am and 10am" Are you serious? No way in hell I will ever take a road that needs to be modified by a subordinate clause. The sign might as well have an arrow and the words "Head on collision, THIS WAY"

17) Just got an email from my Flex Benefits Coordinator reminding me that March 31st is the last day to file for reimbursement or I'll lose all my money. That happened one year and boy did it hurt. To avoid that ever happening again, I make sure my wife attacks me with a claw hammer every year between Christmas and New Years, just to be sure.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Man vs Chimney: A Love Story

I hate doing the laundry as much as a married man can. I know my wife hates laundry as well. I'm not trying to corner the market on laundry hatred or anything. Just trying to assert how much I detest doing it.

Perhaps it's because despite all of mom's instructions on how wearing clothes doesn't necessarily mean they need washing, I just can't wear something that's been worn matter how short a period of time it's been worn for.

Thus, the same treatment is given a t-shirt I put on on my way over to the pool as would be given to a t-shirt I wore while chimney sweeping.

OK, I don't really chimney sweep, but I wanted a really good example of a dirty shirt and that's as good a one as I could think of. As an aside, I met a chimney sweep once. I was home from college on summer vacation and for some reason wasn't going to work. I mean, I was going to work that summer, but not that day. I'm not that much of a deadbeat.

My parents scheduled this dude to come over and sweep the chimney. "All you have to do is let him in."

Yeah. Famous last words.

This guy shows up a top hat and tails - straight out of Mary Poppins. I let him in in the manner of a 21 year old guy at 8am....I grunt and tell him "fireplace is me if you need anything". Oh no. He accuses me of not taking my chimney safety seriously and threatens to leave unless I come down and have a dialog with him about the chimney. Now at this point, I'm ready to tell this guy to stuff his broom up his rear end, but I fear my dad way too much, so I accompany him downstairs. He pulls out his mirror and looks up the chimney...alternately smiling and shaking his head. He turned with a Law and Order courtroom twirl and pounced: "Has this chimney ever been swept before?"

I wake up from my grog. "Er...I don't think so."

"Well how OLD is this fireplace???"

"I don't know. About 10 years I guess."


Well, at this point, I think he's going to call the other sweeps in the area and give my dad and I a good ass kicking. He practically demands that I get one of my parents on the phone so he can verbally ream them.

"This should be done every six months! You could start a fire from all this buildup." Of course, I'm wondering what the heck is the danger of a fire in a fireplace, but he continues on about masonry fires and soot and all kinds of horrors. After about 30 minutes, he finally throws me a softball...

"When you burn a fire, do you burn it hot and big?"

"Yes SIR we CERTAINLY do!" And we did. I myself always made sure to ramrod enough wood in there to warm the stuff we had in the freezer. I didn't want to haul my cookies to the hearth every half hour much less the woodpile.

"Well, at least that's something." He gruffed. He seemed to calm down a bit. Huh. Good for me.

So then he starts in {still in his top hat, even though we're indoors} trying to sell me these fire extinguishing flares in case we get a chimney fire. My brain is still half asleep, but using the sheer willpower and genuine indifference, I convince him that I am not in charge. I mean, come on dude, I'm in joe boxer pj bottoms and a "Don't F with Mr. Zero" t-shirt." I have a near fatal case of bedhead. Do I look like I'm the decision maker of this house?

"Can't you just sweep the chimney?" I give him my best look of desperation. (I'm sure many of my dates have seen this look in subsequent years.)

He shakes his head in disgust, but goes to work. I can identify. This dude is in sales. I had to do that once. He didn't increase his margin at all with any add-ons. That's a bummer. I'm sure he figured a half-a-sleep rube like myself would probably order a "chimney massage" and a "lefthanded smoke shifter". No luck dude.

Of course, as he starts cleaning, I have to remain awake and he continues to narrate everything he's doing for the entire 45 minutes or so. It's like a bad episode of "A Personal Story" and you've lost the damn remote. When he's done, I have to sign off on a 25 point checklist that basically says he cleaned the chimney and I also have to admit that I'm stupid and that I'm sorry I haven't had my chimney swept in 10 years etc.. etc...

Now that I'm a grown up, I've solved this problem by having a gas fireplace that doesn't need sweeping. At least, I don't think it does. Does it? Does anyone know? 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The more you know....

1)When you start a family, people come out of the woodwork to give you advice. They want to tell you how it will be and what skills you will need to cope. They tell you their mistakes and caution you to avoid them. They suggest books, videos and personal one man shows by Richard Simmons that will help you become a better father, husband, lover, friend and joint bank account trustee.

What they don't tell you:

*You'll never have a relaxing shower again in your life. When you have babies, you have to be listening. Listening ALL the time. Because the baby might be crying. That's if you're daring enough to shower when your spouse isn't home. "So what's the big deal dummy", you might say. (Pretty tough words coming from you, my dear anonymous internet reader). "Shower when your spouse is home" you say. You can't relax then either because you have to listen for your spouse crying because the baby will SIMPLY not stop crying. And if the baby is sleeping, it's an exciting thing. So freaking exciting that your spouse will want to tell you all about it...while you're in the shower.

When you're a rookie daddy this seems fabulous. You'll open the door and try to twirl your John Thomas around in a circle saying "woo woo!". This will almost certainly entice your wife to ignore the fact that she has diaper cream on her eyebrows and jump naked into the shower with you. But that won't happen. And the conversation about the sleeping baby will devolve into grocery lists, how you could save 10 dollars a month if you drove an extra 2 miles to buy diapers at a store that will double manufacturers coupons up to $.99 and a confirmation that your parents are, in fact, visiting on the 25 and not the weekend of the 18th because you originally said the 25th but your mother said something about two weeks from now and that would actually be a Wednesday so could you please call your parents and ask which weekend is actually is?

And now you're out of hot water. At least in the shower.

But Mark! Certainly this gets better as the kids get older? Honestly, how would I know? I left those people years ago to get a decent shower. But for the sake of argument, let's say I had stayed around and the kids are now older. Maybe preschool age. They can all understand the shower and they don't need constant observation.

No. You're still not getting a relaxing shower. No. Not even if you have a bedroom master suite with a private shower with a triple locked door.

You: (Enjoying a shower.)

Child: Daadadd. Wlkjar is theeres doo ockkkkkk?

You: I can't hear you. I'm in the shower. (Or, when did you learn Norweigian?)

Child: Daadadd. Wlkjar is theeres doo ockkkkkk!!!!!



You: (Turning the water off) WHAT??

Child: Daddy, why is the door locked?

You: I'm in the shower.

Child: Are you getting clean?

You: Yes. Go find mommy.

Child: Do you have a pickle?

You: Yes. Go FIND MOMMY!

Child: I don't have a pickle because I'm a girl.

You: Yes. I know.

Child: This is a white door.


Child: Mommy's in the basement.

You: Go find mommy, please baby girl ok. Daddy needs to wash his hair.

Child: Are you using shampoo?

You: Yes.

Child: Do you have toys?

You: (Now freezing) No. No toys. Ok honey. Daddy's gonna turn the shower on again.

Child: Ok Daddy. (Water on.)

Child: Daaddyyyy. Doeooaoss gramkkkka taasslkdj assstiiii?

You: I'm in the shower honey. I can't hear you.

Child: Wurstlin epock fruit bat Kenobi hit by hurrify with me???

It is at this point that you will shut the water off and go hose yourself off in the yard to have more privacy.

For the record I did epock that fruit bat Kenobi with her, because that's what you have to do if you're going to be a good daddy.

2)My childhood home was just added to the National Register of Historic places. Won't my parents be surprised?

3) Hurricane Gilma checks in as the 7th most powerful Pacific Hurricane on record. As you all know, Hurricane's start as tropical depressions. I'd be depressed too if my name was Gilma.

4) Get out of my room. Yes, you. Get behind the velvet rope and observe my bed, writing desk and vast array of pennants pinned to the ceiling. Where the hell is that Park Ranger anyway?

5) You never hear about any Hurricanes being named after dogs. Or dinosaurs. Or Sean Penn. Why is that?

6) You know the banking industry is in trouble when American Express is touting it's Plum card. Is this what we have become? It's a card with a made up color and they're practically begging people to sign up. That's not the American Express *I* know.

I'll know we're on the right track again when I see a little green card with a sexually ambiguous, yet menacing Spartan on the front. You won't be able to apply for the card unless you hear about it from a friend who heard it from a friend. In fact, REO Speedwagon will be put directly in charge of new members. And in the very unlikely event that you qualify for the card, you won't be able to use it anywhere.

If you do defy the odds and use the card, you'll have to pay the money back within 6.2 hours or the hefty late fees will pile up.

Plum card? Please. American Express has historically done business like a Long Island bookie or a ruthless Chicagoland loan shark. I'm trying to "win the future" here and I can tell you one thing, the future ain't plum.

7) "Excuse me? Do you accept Diner's Club?"

8) Once I accidentally clicked "random article" on the Wikipedia homepage. Why does anyone do that? The only time I'm even on Wikipedia is to settle a bet, prove my wife incorrect, or edit a page to win a bet or an argument with my wife.

9) Metzler Orgelbau is a firm of organ builders based in Dietikon, near Zurich, Switzerland. It is one of the most important makers of the European classical organ revival and has built many important and respected instruments throughout Europe. I happened to know all of that off the top of my head.

10) I will bet any of you that Walt Disney was only 4'8".

11) Speaking of Wikipedia. The Donate to Wikipedia button always intrigues me. What kind of scam is that? We input the data. We update the articles. Now you want me to pay? Fine. I'll throw you a few bucks, but could you wait at least 24 hours before correcting my edit that I was the inspiration for "Blood Diamond"?

12) I've had a lot of complaints about the time to load this page as well as the length of time between updates. You'll be glad to know I've finally done a major hardware upgrade. I ditched my Amiga and am now working on a spiffy Commodore 64.

13) That last one was geek humor. I'm not REALLY wasn't really working on an Amiga and i'm not REALLY working on a Commodore 64. In fact, no matter what computer I use, I'm not really working anyway.

14) Yeah, yeah. I'm on a break, ok?

15) Since I'm on a break, I considered sitting down and entertaining my fellow co-workers with a little sonata by Beethoven or maybe "Eye of the Tiger". Who can tell? It depends on my mood. However, the organ was some knock off piece of crap and I refuse to play on anything other than an authentic Metzler Orglebau.