Monday, July 13, 2009

When did we get Stupid?

I was driving on the Las Vegas Strip this week, heading home and out of the crazy traffic. While waiting at a stop light I noticed the crosswalk-bridge above the street and it struck me how stupid we Americans are getting.

First, the fact that we had to take the crosswalk off the street and put it up on a million dollar bridge because of the stupid things we do. We try to beat the traffic on the crosswalk or simply ignore the two-ton vehicle bearing down on us and walk in the middle of the traffic. OR we try to use our two-ton vehicle as a weapon and run through yellowish lights because we don’t want to have to wait for the pedestrians. In Las Vegas there are over 100 pedestrian/traffic deaths every year. How stupid is that?

Second, the fact that the crosswalk-bridge has to have a plexi-glass guardrail that is over 8 foot tall is also because of stupid things we do. This guardrail allows us to see the Las Vegas Strip but prevents us from jumping off and killing ourselves. OR it prevents us from throwing things at oncoming traffic besides our bodies like cans of beer or those crazy two-foot tall Margaritas.

When did we get stupid in America?

When did judges quit throwing people out of their court when they brought stupid lawsuits?

When did attorneys quit getting fined for taking stupid cases or have the sense to say “That’s stupid, the judge is going to throw it out and fine you AND me for bringing it up.”

When did people stop taking responsibility for their own actions and start blaming others for spilling hot coffee?

When did our labels on products have to include warnings like the heads of matches are now “non-toxic” for those who eat them. My wife’s curling iron came with the warning “for external use only” and “Warning: this product can burn eyes.” On her hair dryer it says “Do not use in shower!” and “Do not use while sleeping!” On the sunshield I have for my car it says “Do not drive with sunshield in place” and on the toner cartridge I just bought for my printer is says “Warning: do not eat toner!” Isn’t it hilarious to listen to the auctioneer voice reciting all the possible problems with the latest pill to ask your doctor for?

When did we get so stupid?

We all know what happened; we all know that one stupid person did one stupid thing and instead of saying “Boy! That was stupid!” they said “Who can I blame so I don’t look so stupid!” and viola! We have stupid lawyers and stupid laws. We all do stupid things all the time. I, in anger, swung a large hammer at a tractor tire not expecting it to bounce back and hit me in the head. Should I have sued the tire maker? Maybe the hammer maker for not putting a “Warning: Hitting rubber with hammer will cause a bounce back into your stupid head.”

Maybe the problem isn’t that we got stupid. The problem is us not taking responsibility for our stupidity. We should all practice saying: “It’s my fault! I was stupid! I was wrong!” AND we should all start saying: “That’s okay! No harm, no foul. Don’t worry about it, we all do stupid things.” Being a forgiver is much better for you than being a sewer. (Sorry, I mean suer).

Monday, July 06, 2009

And I Cry

My wife is embarrassed but I cry. I cry easy and frequently. I often feel like my son when he was small and he would come up to me and just say, “I have to fry”. Even though he had a problem pronouncing the “k” sound I knew what he wanted to do. He would hold it in until he got on his rocking horse in our basement and rock back and forth just frying away until he had it out of his system. Yea, I know how he feels. Sometimes you just need to fry.

I cried at a movie with my wife this week. I cried at a TV show’s sad ending. I cried at Extreme Home Makeover even though I saw it before. And I cried.

The thing that makes me cry the most though is the relationship between my country and the military that fights for it, for me. I attempted to get into the Air Force when I was 18 and just graduated. I don’t remember if I told my parents about it or not. Unfortunately I had had three major knee surgeries by then and he pretty much rejected me outright. “You’ll never pass basic.” I can still hear him saying to me. I have had a love for our military since my dad explained the whole Memorial Day Parade and 4th of July celebration to me in a way it should be explained. He told me that good men died just so that I could sit here, eat hotdogs, and watch a fireworks display.

I am just old enough to remember my mom shielding me from some news reports from Viet Nam that were too graphic for my young mind. I remember a discussion about my oldest brothers and whether they would be drafted or not. Gulf I still is a proud memory filled with flags flying and Whitney Houston bringing the nation to tears with her singing of the National Anthem at Super Bowl XXV. (Catch it on Youtube and see if it doesn’t bring you to tears too). Korean War is usually only remembered in MASH reruns and World War II has been dissected so many times on the History Channel it has become paper thin. Although after the movie “Saving Private Ryan” I wanted to hug the first WWII vet I say.

Even with my little experience I watch troops come home into the waiting arms of family and I cry. I watch flag-draped caskets come home to the tear-stained salutes of fellow soldiers and I cry. At sporting events I still cross my heart and sing the National Anthem facing the flag and if it is well done and not canned music, I still cry. Then I look over at the masses of people, young and old, looking inconvenienced because they have to stand and put their beer or hotdog down for the crazy song. They wait until they hear “land of the free” and start cheering, NOT because they live in the land of the free but because that signifies the song is almost over and they can go back to their beer and hotdogs. And I cry.

Peaches in my Cereal

There was only 5 seconds left in the game and I was driving down the court at top speed. A quick dribble of the ball through my legs left one defender in the dust and only two more to go. A pause and a fake at the foul line left another slack-jawed in amazement. All I had left was the number one player on the opposing team. Somehow I got to full speed again and went straight at him. Only a second left now as we both went up together and I knew my superior jumping ability would make dunking on him a thing of beauty; if only I could beat the buzzer. I went up, he went up, my arm came down and...

“Reveille! Reveille! Reveille!” my dad yelled at the foot of the stairs, banging his hand on the side of stairway. Dragged out of my great dream at the worst possible moment, worst possible second; I rubbed my eyes, pulled my pillow over my head and tried to tune into the dream to see if I could get it back again. One of my brothers rushed to be the first into the small bathroom while the rest of us waited until the sound of the flush to leave their warm blankets. It was cold upstairs in our old farmhouse as my feet hit the uncarpeted floor and took my turn standing in front of the toilet. A long bus ride and even longer school day awaited me as I pulled on my uncooperative clothes and made my way downstairs to cold cereal and annoying siblings.

Around the table were brothers and sisters pouring cereal and milk and the only conversation was dad and the oldest brother talking about which fields to work on and the upcoming nitrogen tank delivery; they had already been up for hours and were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and just plain annoying. I poured my cereal with a grumpy attitude and then crunched it all down with the palm of my hand so I could fit even more in the bowl and so it would soak up the milk better. I splashed the milk on the heaping bowl and almost as much bounced off the cereal onto the table as it found its way between the smashed layers of cereal. I waited with my head in my hands for it to soak in because cereal is a dish best served cold and soggy.

Mom touched my head which caused me to back off my waiting prayer over my bowl and she leaned over and put some fresh picked, fresh cut and diced peaches into my bowl. She lovingly flattened a few wayward hairs on my head as she went on to do the same for my brothers and sisters. I looked down in disbelief as my regular bowl was turned into a child’s gourmet meal and suddenly the day was brighter: my siblings didn’t bother me, my dad and oldest brother’s loud talking didn’t annoy, the bus ride seemed like a limo and school was a challenge worth tackling. All this from a few fresh peaches!

It is the littlest things that can make someone’s day. A kind word, a remembered kiss, a cheap but meaningful gift, an email or letter, a joke, and, yes, peaches in cereal. Make someone’s day today.