In which cell phones ruin everything

We are all, I think, familiar with the idea that modern technology has managed to degrade our abilities to do things that we used to be able to do and now no longer need to. The most common casualty of this for most people, I think, is the ability to easily remember phone numbers. I used to know phone numbers for at least a couple dozen people at any given time, and right now I know four– mine, my parents’ home line, which has been their number for my entire life, my dad’s work phone number for some reason, and on a good day, my wife’s, which keeps getting interfered with by something else and I can only recall with some difficulty. It’s just not necessary any longer to commit random strings of ten or seven numbers to memory. Could we recapture this ability if we needed to? Sure. Our brains haven’t actually degraded, there’s just a very specific skill that we used to need that we don’t anymore, and so we don’t have it.

I got caught by surprise by something this morning, though. I was at my mom and dad’s house and the land line rang and I answered it. And it took me a few seconds longer than it probably should have to realize that it was my brother on the other end of the line, especially since he 1) recognized my voice, 2) commented on how he was surprised that I was there to answer the phone, and 3) referred to Mom and Dad as “Mom” and “Dad.” For a split second I thought he was one of my older cousins who it would not be completely unreasonable to hear use those words, and then the world kind of snapped back together around me and I realized what was going on and felt a little stupid.

Thing is, though, when was the last time I needed to recognize someone’s voice over the phone? It basically never happens any more. I see who’s calling before I answer the phone to begin with– and, for me at least, if I don’t recognize the number of the person calling I don’t answer the phone. So this scenario where someone calls me and just starts talking and I need their voice to tell me who they are just never happens any longer.

I mean, it was my brother. I should have recognized his voice, obviously, and I’m going to blame a combination of my head being in a weird place at the time and my first time being on a land line in a while for my sudden weird phonagnosia, which is a word I just learned. But still. Before cell phones a solid majority of my phone calls didn’t involve anyone saying their name; folks would just start talking and we’d know who it was. That doesn’t happen anymore. Makes me wonder what the next ability that I have now that I won’t need in twenty years will be.

Probably something involving surviving in a world with electricity and air conditioning, because climate change will have ensured the collapse of society, but hey! It could be something else, right?

On my other kid

Pictured: not my kid, my kid

I just dug through a month’s worth of posts from five years ago to determine that, probably because she was a minor at the time and isn’t actually my kid, I didn’t mention that a former student stayed in my house overnight before the last Washington D.C. trip I chaperoned way back in the day. Technically she probably shouldn’t have been on the trip, but she’d signed up before moving to Arizona and I literally had her mom assign me temporary legal custody of her and just didn’t tell anybody about it.

I took a picture of her sitting on my couch, and I remember posting it to Facebook with a caption something along the lines of “Why is this in my house?,” which entertained a number of her other teachers who I was friends with at the time.

She is 19 now, and is back in town again, and I picked her up at the airport last night, and she’ll probably be here tonight too before spending the rest of the week with other family and friends. And last night, as we were driving back from the airport, she got a text message from one of her friends directing us to visit her at her job at Arby’s. The friend is also a former student.

So were two other employees at that Arby’s, including another kid who had been on that same DC trip. All four of them were in the same class, which was hands-down the best group of kids I ever had. And I had them twice, first in 6th grade and then when they were 8th graders. So it happened that I, a grown man less than a month from his 43rd birthday, found myself in an Arby’s at 10:15 on a Friday night, after the lobby had closed, at least nominally hanging out with four nineteen-year-olds, three of whom were at least technically at work (and one the manager) and none of whom seemed to think it was remotely weird that 1) I was there in the first place or 2) I was the person who had been assigned the duty of picking this kid up at the airport, a job that one might think would have gone to, like, actual family, but we all have our priorities where they should be apparently.

And I spent about twenty minutes bouncing back and forth between this is at least a little creepy and hey, Hacienda is right across the street, do you guys want to go over there for a while after you get off work? Because age difference or not this really was a great group of kids and it turns out they have not gotten less interesting as they’ve aged into young adulthood.

And I’m just gonna leave that thought there, because I’m not sure I have anything else to add to it, but yeah: last night was kind of surreal.

(About the picture: the boy didn’t remember her from her last visit, which wasn’t surprising, but as soon as he discovered she was wearing Psyduck socks she became his favorite person ever.)

On unclear relationships

1179px-CousinTree.svg.pngThis isn’t so much a customer gripe as a WTF moment that could have happened anywhere.  I had a pair in last night that appeared for all the world to be a dad and his, oh, I dunno, 10-year-old son.  I don’t know for certain that I ever heard the boy call the man “dad,” but they were very clear that they were looking for barstools for the kid’s mother as a Mother’s Day present.

I leave aside the question of whether barstools are a great present for Mother’s Day.  It’s perhaps an unorthodox choice.  But they were convinced she’d be happy, so whatever.  They ended up picking some red stools that were available in several other colors, mostly because red was Mom’s favorite color and were definitely the color she wanted.  Okay, cool.  $58 each, bropeople, thanks.

An hour or so later, the phone rang.  It was Mom.  I recognized who she was from her name immediately because their name was one of those hyper-Polish collections of consonants that are thirty letters long and somehow phonetically identical to “Smith” when pronounced.

And then something really weird happened.

“My husband and my…”

two second long, uncertain pause

“…friend were in there earlier, and they bought some bar stools for me?”

Now, I immediately can reconstruct what’s going on if it’s her “…friend” and her son.  That’s a somewhat uncertain relationship between two adults.  Cool.

But in what world is your relationship to the ten-year-old, a kid who calls you Mom, weird enough that you pause before describing him as a “friend” to the furniture salesman who you have never met on the other side of the phone?  Especially when she’s just calling to see if they’re returnable for another color (they were) and you don’t really need to go out of your way to name your relationship to these people in the first place unless you want to?

Creative writing assignment, guys:  figure this nonsense out.

Feel free to psychoanalyze me

2016_1.pngThe Olympics start tonight, if you’re into that.  I personally am not.  For my part, I’ll count them a success if none of the athletes die and the Games themselves don’t lead to a global pandemic.  My years as an educator have predisposed me to high standards, you see.

I’ve been having weird dreams lately, guys.  I generally don’t remember my dreams at all– more than one in a month that I remember past my morning shower is unusual.  So the fact that I can still remember dreams from three of the past five days and am pretty certain I can reconstruct the other two given some time is Goddamned weird, and possibly a sign that I’ve been a bit too sleep-deprived lately.  And, again, in addition to the fact that I’ve remembered them, they’ve been weird dreams, mostly dreams about people I have little contact with outside of occasional Facebook likes and haven’t seen in years.  One of them was about trying to get a woman to take me back after a mutual breakup; in the real world we not only never dated but I was never even into her like that.  She’s married with a couple of kids now and we haven’t spoken face-to-face in damn near a decade and a half.  Another was about going to New Orleans with three of my oldest friends– or, to be a bit more precise, two of my oldest friends and one of their husbands– only to realize partway through that the husband was with the wrong woman and that everyone had been really uncomfortable the entire time and I just hadn’t noticed.

Also, I swear to you that I’ve had dreams set in this weird proto-New-Orleans before.  I’ve never been to Louisiana, much less New Orleans specifically, so it’s really odd that my brain has this chunk of NO mapped out well enough to revisit it in more than one dream.

Oh, and I woke up seriously mad at the husband, and had to fight off the urge to text one of them to tell them about it.

Three hours until my eye doctor appointment.  I have high hopes that fiction might actually be accomplished.  Or at least lunch.  Cleaning.  Something.  I also got Searching for Malumba available at Smashwords.  It is, naturally, griping at me about Various Issues, so it’ll pop up at the other non-Amazon services as soon as I get around to fixing whatever it’s mad about.  But it’s up at Smashwords!

More later, if anything interesting strikes me.

Tinted back window with a bubble in the middle

51NDuZehByL._SY355_.jpgMy car is a 2001 Ford Escape with just over 150,000 miles on it.  I got it when I traded in my beloved Toyota Yaris (shut up, it was the perfect city car) for something with a backseat big enough to put a car seat into.  I literally walked into the dealership with one car and walked out with another; the Yaris was paid off and we did an even swap off the lot.  I traded a relatively new vehicle for a much bigger, older one.

Calling it a hooptie is probably overstating things.  It actually runs pretty damn well for its age; there’s an oil leak deep in the engine where it’s not worth the money to fix, and the brake lines chose a surprisingly convenient (that’s not a typo) time to blow a couple of years ago, but it’s done well for a car that is itself actually old enough to drive.

The running boards were rusted out enough that several months ago I tore them off the car barehanded.  For the last little while, then, these ugly, rusty, sharp brackets have been hanging off of the sides of the car where the boards used to be attached.  I finally got around to trying to remove them myself last week and my ratchet sheared off on the first bolt, so today I took it in and had professionals remove them.  My car looks 50% less garbage now than it did this morning, which is nice.

There was a television in the waiting room, which made the experience way more surreal than it ought to have been.  First of all, I’m so glad that the primary is just a few days away and that our usual television-watching methods don’t involve commercials, because holy shit does Ted Cruz have a lot of commercials.  And he’s simultaneously running against Trump and Clinton, which is kind of hilarious.  There was one Trump commercial and what seemed like a hundred Cruz commercials during the hour or so I was waiting.

The actual program being shown was the Today Show.  The Today Show was celebrating 90s hiphop for some reason.  Either that or I took some very serious drugs this morning before dropping my son off before school and then forgot I did it, which… might be possible?  I guess?  I brought a book, and was buried in it when the first verse of Ice Ice Baby broke into my brain, and I looked up to see Vanilla Ice dancing on a stage with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  And the word live was up in the corner.


I thought, for a moment, that I was either hallucinating or had gone back in time.  Only the crowd, filled with old white people, managed to convince me that the body shop hadn’t warped back to 1993.

A performance by Salt n’ Pepa followed, which was also weird, as I could have sworn that at least one of them had sworn off rap forever.  Kid n’ Play were interviewed.  Fucking Kid n’ Play.

This is why I never leave the house, guys.