Finding common ground

In the world of everyday interactions, it’s commonplace to have misunderstandings in communication. Lacking the social and facial cues that could be gleaned from face-to-face dialogue, emails and texts can be misconstrued depending upon the recipient’s frame of mind while reading the correspondence. The written word can easily be taken out of context.

People are complex and each one of us has a unique way of processing written and verbal communications. When we read or listen to written and verbal communications, we tend to process that information through our internal perspective filters. Perspective filters are how we interpret our world according to our views on religion, political ideals, world views, etc. That perspective filter can also be affected by our emotions. Reading a correspondence while we’re in a positive mood does not always have the same meanings if we’re in a negative mood. The content is the same but the context becomes skewed.

How do we limit communication breakdowns?

I believe we can become more effective in our communications if we start from a common ground. We’ll never eliminate all the variables that contribute to poor communications but we can try to minimize them. Using the correct mode of communication is very important. While it isn’t required in most situations, follow up verbal conversations with an email to reiterate what was discussed. This is especially true in business environments.

Written communications

I’ve found in my personal and professional life, that it helps if you keep texts and emails brief. Use clear language and simplify the content. Focus on words that promote unity instead of division. Avoid information overload. Try to read received content in a neutral emotional state. If you’re not quite sure about what is being communicated, ask for clarification. Don’t assume. When sending emails, review what you’ve written for grammatical errors and words that could be taken out of context.

Verbal communications

Let’s face it. Most of us say things without putting much thought into the words we use or how it may be received. This can cause hurt feelings and negative reactions which limit the effectiveness of further communications. People shut down emotionally when they’re offended and it becomes much harder to then communicate.

Verbal communication, done face-to-face, can give your intended audience subtle cues about your intentions when sharing information. The words you use, the tone of your voice, the cadence of your speech, can all be received either negatively or positively. It’s important to understand perceptual and language differences that could cause miscommunication. When speaking, actively ‘listen’ to the verbal and non-verbal cues of your audience. Do not to assume your words are understood by others.

I’ve found that when you initiate a conversation in which you’re seeking to sway the other party, it’s helpful to engage them on friendly ground. How do you achieve this? Ask them about their day. Compliment something about them. Promote an atmosphere of friendship. People are much more receptive when they feel a sense of appreciation or gratitude from another. Adversely, if you are confrontational when speaking to someone, they’re likely to emotionally ‘shut down’ and not be at all receptive to anything you have to say… no matter how correct your points may be. In the attempt to sway someone, you’ve lost before you began.

 

 

 

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Mucking about

Quite often, I find myself bored to tears. My everyday life is filled with monotony. Things that hold my interest for any length of time, are hard to come by, so I tend to create things that occupy my time. Those things could be some sort of word game, designed to engage others and study their reactions… using language that can be easily confused, to see if the other person knows or catches the usage. Purposely mispronouncing words while watching the eyes of the one to which I’m speaking… It can be fun, I must admit.

Or, I would take whatever I had in my environment and ‘do the math’. ‘Doing the math’, might involve trigging out distance to objects from my immediate location, or the steps people would take between certain known points within the room and figuring out the length of their strides, and maybe… the quantity of the many shapes around me, the squares, hexagons, etc., that populate my surroundings. Anything, anything to break up my days into bearable segments.

At one small company many years ago, a couple of us would play word games with one of the owners. We’d choose a ‘word of the day’ and use it in our conversations with the select owner. The word chosen could be something purposely mispronounced, or so obscure that to hear it once would be unusual, but to hear it several times in one day, would be highly suspect. It would go something like this…

Example 1

Owner: “What does the production report look like this morning?”

Reply: “Well, we’re ejactly on track to meet our goals and should incur no penalties by coming in ahead of our deadline.” Ejactly being used in place of the word ‘exactly’ and the word ‘penal’ in the word ‘penalties’, stressed heavily.

Example 2

Owner: “How much material do we need to order to produce the job quantity required?”

Reply: “I think we can order 10 feet of material. That will give us enough to do the job and leave a tittynope in case we need it.” A tittynope is a small amount of leftover, in this case material. It’s also a word no one expects to hear several times a day.

It’s the little distractions that make my day more interesting and helps to pass the time. And, in a round-about way, I learn about the people I involve with my word games. How they react, respond, etc., gives me insight into their educational level and attention to details.

 

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The product of our choices

We’re constantly bombarded with ‘poor pitiful me’ stories from the media outlets, to include social media. Sure, bad things do happen to good people, but I really do believe that the primary reasons why those ‘bad things’ happen, are a direct result of decisions we’ve made in our daily lives.

I’ve always been the type of person who is curious as to why things are the way that they are. Why people do the things that they do. The motivations, or lack thereof, for people’s life decisions.

Many choices we make daily have little bearing upon our lives as a whole. But… I do think the underlying reasons behind those daily choices, do set us upon a path that ultimately defines how our lives turn out.

I also believe that economic factors can influence poor choices. People are creatures of habit. We tend take refuge in things that are familiar to us. Often, our decisions reflect our habits. Growing up in poverty can put people into the position where they trade short-term gains for long term stability. It can be difficult to think about your economic future when you’re struggling to live day-to-day.

If you’re in this cyclical situation, what do you do? No one solution works for everyone. Starting with making wiser short term choices is one approach to improving the direction of your life. It could be relatively insignificant things, like being more conscious in how you spend your monies… not buying that cute dress you want, that pack of cigarettes you crave, etc. Instant gratification is so alluring. It’s easy to say to ourselves ‘it’s just a couple of dollars’, or ‘this purchase isn’t going to break me’. True, in both cases, but those small decisions often set us up psychologically, in making larger financial decisions.

Break the decision cycles that keep you tied to a life you’re not happy with. While we may not be able to achieve that perfect life we dream about, we can determine the path that leads in that direction. We are, essentially, the product of our choices.

 

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The pathway ahead…

It was dark. The pathway ahead was faintly visible and the ground felt soft, absorbing my footsteps as I passed over it running. The air was cool and damp from a recent rain. At first, running was easy. A slight breeze was blowing towards me. As I increased my pace, so did the resistance from the breeze. I reached a point in my speed that the breeze subsided… almost as if I had ‘punched’ through the resistance. My running became easier.

This went on for a while, so I decided to increase my speed again. The breeze returned and this time it was stronger. Again, I ‘punched’ through the resistance and it was somewhat less turbulent. I increased my speed… the resistance returned more strongly than before. Increased speed certainly meant more wind resistance. But this was a dream and I was well aware it was a dream. I had the distinct feeling that these breezes were in essence, more like walls. Each wall that I passed was met with more walls and more resistance. As I eclipsed each breeze wall, my strides became longer and the distance between the walls decreased, meaning that I was transcending the breeze walls more rapidly and not enjoying the reduced turbulence before encountering the next wall. I was caught in a constant state of buffeting air. It was interesting and annoying at the same time.

It’s funny when you’re dreaming and you know it’s a dream. Yet, it’s frustrating. Things happen in dreams with which we’re given very detailed feelings we can’t describe, and information we don’t know quite how to fit together. I don’t think this was a very hard dream to analyze. I’m no Sigmund Freud, but this dream felt very much like I was running towards goals and meeting resistance all along the way. The goals achieved were met with more resistance in accomplishing the goals ahead.

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Just because…

Just because someone is highly intelligent, doesn’t mean they won’t make stupid decisions.

Many moons ago, I owned a tile setting company in the Deep South. The homes I would lay tile in were owned by well-to-do people. These were mostly self-made folks, starting out in humble beginnings and working their way into prosperity. I enjoyed talking with them as time allowed and a favorite question of mine was, ‘What is the secret to your success?’.

One such client, which I admired greatly, had grown up very poor. He said that he was the first person to graduate high school in his immediate family. But here he was, a very successful businessman, a prolific inventor, well respected in his community, and had no college education… how did he accomplish so much?

In speaking with him (I’ll call him Ted), I learned a little more about his life story. It turns out, what he would do was invent medical devices and take out patents on them. He would then ‘sit’ on the patents and wait. Eventually, someone would produce a product, which infringed upon his patent, and start to generate monies from the sales of said product. This was the point when Ted would step in and sue for patent infringement. By not suing immediately when the infringement was initially discovered, the offending party used their own monies to develop and market the product. This saved Ted a lot of his own time, money, and risk usually associated with bringing a product to market. All Ted had to do was claim royalties from the offending patent. Genius, right?

Well, on the flip side of Ted’s story, were a lot of missteps. For instance, Ted was building a large home overlooking a huge lake system in the area. From atop the hill, his master bedroom had a 270 degree view of the lakes below. On one part of his property there existed a cliff wall that was a local favorite for rock climbers. This presented a problem in terms of liability issues. If someone were to be injured, Ted might be held liable. This sort of thing is known legally, as an ‘attractive nuisance’. To protect himself from such a situation, Ted decided to gift the cliffside area to the city. Sounds great thus far, right? Wrong. When Ted, months later, decided to put up a fence close to the cliff, he was informed that he could not fence off city property. Now, people not only climbed the cliff, they also trespassed constantly across his land because he had no fence. Had Ted done his due diligence, he would’ve known about the restrictions concerning the fencing off of city property. Knowing this, he could’ve installed the fence and then donate the land to the city… his fence would’ve been grandfathered in and the law not applicable.

Sadly, Ted passed away before his dream home I was working on was completed. He was the pilot of an aircraft in which his wife, and a son were passengers. The plane went down and there were no survivors. The way his will was written, each benefactor of his estate was awarded a percentage. That meant everything had to be liquidated so that a monetary value could be determined and percentages divided up. Homes were sold, a private WWI airplane museum hit the auction block, and one of the country’s largest Disney figurines collection at the time was broken up… all because his will was in percentages.

I have little doubt that Ted was every bit a genius I thought him to be. He was a truly remarkable man. Even geniuses can, and do, make boneheaded mistakes.

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The IQ bell curve

 

This is a difficult topic to write about. The general population is somewhat squeamish on the subject. The topic of IQ can be explosive. As with anything, IQ can be controversial.  The information is out there if people really have a desire to know and learn. My attempt here is geared more towards laying out the basics in order to obtain a general understanding of the subject.

An IQ score is a composite score of several tested areas comprised of reasoning, memory, acquired knowledge, and mental processing speed.

In the chart above, we can readily make several observations. The mean IQ score is 100. The standard deviations are by 15 point (SD=15) increments. Standard deviations can be both negative and positive. If a score falls below the mean of 100, it will be a negative SD. Above 100, a positive SD. Each SD above or below the mean is represented as SD- or SD+.

Referencing the chart again, we can see that roughly 68% of the general population will fall between SD-1 and SD+1. That correlates to an IQ value ranging from 85 to 115. And 95.44% are between 70 (SD-2) and 130 (SD+2). It should be noted that IQ tests are ‘recalibrated’ over time to obtain a 100 mean score. As the population gets ‘smarter’, the mean will adjust.

So, what does all of this mean? Without some sort of corresponding scale, IQ scores are hardly of any use. This is where we go to other sources to define the differences in IQ. The chart below breaks down IQ classifications.

I refuse to comment much on the classification ranges. It’s a minefield to even try. I’ll let you come to your own conclusions. But I will say this much… less than 2% of the population fall into both the SD-2 and SD+2 ranges respectively. It has been suggested but never conclusively proven, that very high IQ people suffer from mental illnesses in greater frequencies than in normal intelligence ranges. True? God, I hope not…    😉

 

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Input = output

A question was recently asked in a Mensa based online group. It went something like this, “What does Group Name mean to you? What do you love? Why do you stay?”

For obvious reasons, I won’t mention the group name… but the comments in response to the questions are very applicable to Mensa in general. Often times, people will sit on the sidelines and make observations about how ‘Mensa can be so much better if only…’. Rarely, will the people making the suggestions, attempt to enact real changes. To paraphrase a Mensan, ‘To complain, is to volunteer!’ And that’s the essence of this post. Everyone will have different experiences and interactions, as is true with anything else in life. Mensa, to me at least, is a relationship wherein the value we get out of it, is proportional to our participation.

What follows, are a few comments to the questions.

  1. Making an obscure reference or joke and people getting it. But what really keeps me here, and what will keep me fighting for our Group Name? Family. The fact is that anyone who *wants* to belong to this family is accepted with open arms.I can be loud and obnoxious and self-centered and a total attention whore. I have a lot of opinions about a lot of things. I know there are plenty of people here who believe differently than I do about almost everything. And I’d be willing to bet there are people here who just don’t like me, for whatever reason. You know what? THAT’S OKAY. We’re still family.The reason I stay and fight is because I know a lot of y’all would do it for me. If my life caved in, Group Name would have my back…and not just the people I count among my IRL friends. I know I’d have help from lurkers, and from those who disagree with me, and maybe even from those who don’t like me. And that’s not because I post all the time, or I’m a “cool kid,” or whatever. It’s because FAMILY.
  2. Friendship. Acceptance. Belonging. I joined Mensa in 2010 on a dare. I didn’t get my money’s worth until February of last year when I found Group Name. Some of the people here have become incredibly important to me, and there is nothing I wouldn’t do for them, because they allowed me to be myself, without judgment, without condemnation, and they liked me in spite of my flaws, which are legion. This is my family. My tribe. My Island of Misfit Mensans.
  3. I love the people… y’all are just some damn fun people! The fact that so many people have offered to drop everything and come help me… people reach out to check on you… people who you didn’t even realize knew who you were! The jokes, the sarcasm, the drinks… all awesome! Y’all have become family so quickly…. I’m all emotional today so I’m just going to leave it at I fucking love y’all
  4. For me, it is a testing facility for advanced ideas and language, which can go anywhere.
  5. Freedom to be me. Family – the one I choose. Fun because every serious matter has a joke in it.
  6. A bunch of smart people who are from a wide variety of backgrounds.
    I love the fact that some of my dearest friends I have become acquainted with in this group and then met in person. I like the fact that friends I have made through here have proven to be very loyal in the face of opposition.
  7. My wife will hear my full-throated laughter from the next room and comment, “You’re reading Group Name, aren’t you?” Sometimes I laugh so hard that I cannot breathe. Group Name: Witty, sarcastic and clever people to whom I am much obliged!
  8. In just one year’s time, my social circle has completely changed for the better. As others have said previously, I feel like I’ve found my people. I’m kicking myself for putting off the test all these years. [Bonus annoyance about that: After taking the test and being offered membership, I found some previous test scores that would have had me in years ago.] Many of you have become closer to me than I am to my “family of origin.”
  9. Group Name is (my) tribe. I love people who make irreverent statements and think really out of the box.

If you belong to a similar type of organization, why do you stay? What’s your motivation?

 

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Interpretative dream?

Dreams are funny things. What purpose they serve, is debatable and speculative.

A recent dream of mine, so rich in details, that it remained fresh in my mind for some time after awakening. That’s rarely the case for me. I’m sure I dream frequently but usually don’t recall them once I’m awake. This dream was different… and it went something like this…

A group of us were gathered in a large room, awaiting others for a planned meeting. I walked around the perimeter of the room, talking with a co-worker. The time came and the boss walked  into the room. She began to give us a quick, rehearsed speech, thanking everyone for a job well done. As she talked, she walked around the room handing out summations of each recipient’s work, with a detailed analysis of their strengths and weaknesses. In turn, I recieved my handout. It was a two page report. The top page consisted of a written summary, broken down into sub categories. The second page was a circular chart that plotted my strengths and weaknesses, as noted on the first. A quick glance at the circular chart had me pegged at the most extreme top right of the chart. Reading the first page, the summarized narrative went on to explain that ‘despite Patrick’s recent kerfluffle stating that the state has no need of…’. I had the impression that I was being admonished for not embracing the idea of socialism… which was odd because the dream was work related. Why was my political stance included in something that had to do with my employment? I didn’t get that concept. But I did get a distinct feeling, looking at the circular chart, that I was somehow (symbolically at least) on the autism spectrum. Like I said before, I was pegged at the extreme range of the chart, and couldn’t go any farther. I assume that the goal was to be as close to the center as possible. I was nowhere close. It was at this point that I awoke.

What does it mean? I don’t know. I firmly believe there’s some link between dreams and waking reality. I think dreams are a way to sort out ideas and problems while we sleep. A way to examine outcomes to problems, scenarios, etc., without suffering real world consequences. And maybe, they’re a way to give us insights into ourselves?

The circular chart bothered me. It seemed that the chart was somehow important in the dream. I remember that I kept flipping back to that page and looking at it, trying to grasp its meaning.

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Mimics

People are funny. We’re often doing things the make other people scratch their heads and wonder ‘What the hell?’.

One of the interesting types of people that humor me are what I call ‘mimics’. Mimics are simply defined as someone who presents all the characteristics of a certain type of person, but in reality, lack those attributes. We see these people every day. They’ll wear glasses to appear intelligent, expensive clothes to appear wealthy, etc. But it’s all a false pretense. They’re devoid of true substance.

The mimics that interest me most, are the ones who try to project intelligence. Their attempts usually involve layers of facade, to buttress the image the mimic is trying to craft. While they can be humorous to observe, these mimics are relatively harmless. I see them more as aficionados rather than a menace.

The mimics who have the potential to be troublesome and which can pose an immediate threat to you, are the ones that can have a negative influence upon you in terms of your employment. They can shape how your co-workers view you and interfere with opportunities for advancement denied to you because of their input. This is especially true if they’re in a leadership role above you. While this type of mimic can be hard to deal with, all is not lost. Recognizing the mimic is just as important as how you deal with the mimic.

Fortunately, mimics can be dealt with much the same way as dealing with regular folks. Here are a few suggestions…

  1. Do not overplay your hand.

Never offer up too much information when the mimic in a leadership position above you, asks a question. Answer only the question at hand without any superfluous details or examples. Allow them the opportunity to ask follow up questions. In this way, you can assess just how much the mimic understands. Knowing the mimic’s limitations can be advantageous. In a group situation, this tactic strengthens your position as more knowledgable than the mimic.

2. Know your audience.

It’s always a good idea to use words and terminology that is easily understood by those with whom you’re speaking. Words convey thoughts. If those words are confusing to others, you’ve lost your audience.

3. Know your subject matter.

There’s nothing worse than listening to someone, who really doesn’t understand what it is they’re talking about, attempt to explain it to you. I’m reminded of Einstein and one of his many quotes. He said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Before speaking, consider the possible questions that may result. Have in mind the answer to such questions before they arise. Fumbling to answer a question, can make you appear unqualified. In your response, be direct. Be sincere. Put forth potential obstacles before another mentions them. This will illustrate the fact that you’ve thought through how outside forces can impact your ideas and/or solutions. Be willing to admit that you don’t have ‘all the answers’.

4. Ask for suggestions.

Lastly, I would say that you should ask for input from those above, and around you. No matter how smart you are, there’s always something you do not know. Sometimes, additional information may alter your opinions or suggestions. At the very least, input from others, will give them a feeling of ownership in the final decisions being contemplated. Ownership of an idea or process, lends itself to becoming adopted by those charged with implementing it to begin with. More importantly, unanimity within a group can help avoid a poor decision being driven by a mimic superior. It also spreads consensus across the group, rather than you shouldering and defending the ideas by yourself.

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Monkeys shines!

It’s remarkable to think of all the funny happenings and stories that have punctuated many of the moments of my life. Comprised herein are some of those humorous moments.

I was born six months to the day before the climax of the United States space race in 1969… culminating with man walking on the moon. So the late seventies and all of the eighties were the years that defined my childhood.  My childhood was marked by constant change. From the loss of a parent, resulting in an unstable home life and constantly moving from place to place… state to state… country to country. From preschool to high school, the numbers of different schools I’ve attended number nine. Think about that for a moment… nine different schools… It seemed like every other year we were moving to a new place, making new friends, and figuring out just how to fit into our new environment. The questions were always there… ‘How long would we live here?’ and ‘Will I make new friends just to lose them in another year or so?’ With all the constant changes, I was fortunate enough to spend all four years of high school in the same school. Of course, I went to a different high school than my brother and sister. That was the result of yet another move in the same town but to a different school district. My brother and sister finished at one high school since they had already started there and we moved just before I entered high school so I went to the high school in our new district. All of my friends from the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades went to the high school my siblings attended. Again, I had to start all over… new school… new friends… new everything.

I’ve been exposed to many things over the years, different cultures, peoples, etc. Those experiences, both positive and negative, have helped shaped the person I am today. I think the difference between it either being a blessing or a curse, lies in how you choose to embrace the chaos that is life.

We’ll start our walk through the past in the year 1982. That summer was hot and humid, as is typical in the Deep South… our own little slice of hell in a place known as Huntsville, Alabama. I was 12 years old and lived half a block away from a K-6 elementary school. The school grounds were a popular hangout for the neighborhood kids. There were bike trails in a far corner of the school grounds and a large pine wooded area at the front of the school. There were wide open areas between the back of the school and the dirt bike trails in the rear.

During the summer months, the city had in place a public health program to keep down mosquitoes. They sent out sprayer trucks that would spray entire neighborhoods as the truck drove down the streets at least once a week. People got into the habit of closing their doors, windows, etc. when they heard the truck coming down their streets. Others would try to outrun the trucks and escape the area before becoming sprayed. On one such occasion, a group of us kids were riding our bicycles in the wooded area previously described at the school when we heard the bug spray truck turn into the neighborhood. Someone had the bright idea of throwing green pine cones at the truck as it passed in front of the woods on the surface street. So we hurriedly gathered as many pine cones as we could find as the truck slowly made its way towards us. As it came within range, we pelted the truck with as many pine cones as we could unleash. The truck screeched to a halt before accelerating forward and turning into the school grounds. A little gravel road hugged the edge of the woods and wrapped around the upper area where we had planned to escape. The race was on! We hopped on our bicycles and took off towards the top of the woods as the truck sped along the gravels. As we exited the woods, the man driving the truck was jumping out of his vehicle. He was really close to us. All he had to do was to catch one of us and the rest would’ve been busted. My friend Billy was the easy target. I vividly remember Billy standing up with his back arched and pedaling his bicycle as fast as he could and the man making a grab for his seat bar. The man missed and bit the dust. I don’t quite remember what all the angry man said but he had quite a few ‘sons of bitches’ and ‘little mother fuckers’ in his screams. We didn’t throw at the bug spray trucks any longer after that.

We moved from that neighborhood shortly thereafter and relocated to the northeastern part of town. I entered the ninth grade at Lee High School. Our new neighborhood had a lot of other teens around my age. Two of my closest friends were my next door neighbors, Tony and Tim. Tony was several years older than me and his brother was a year younger. Since Tim and I were closer in age, we tended to hang out more often. Behind our homes was a creek that ran parallel to a strip of woods that was divided by an abandoned railroad bed.  Beyond that was a large field that led to a major roadway known as North Memorial Parkway. This would become the scene of many, many adventures over the next several years.

One cold winter day, during our two week Christmas break, Tim and I had taken our air rifles into the woods to target shoot. We wore several layers of clothing to help protect us from the biting winter wind and wore double socks to shield our feet from the cold wet snow. We had taken provisions with us into the woods to make a temporary camp site and warm our food. Over the course of the next few hours, we had traversed all through the woods and worked up an appetite. We made our way to the abandoned railroad bed. All that was left of the former railroad was the raised gravel bed the rails used to sit upon when anchored to the rail ties. Most of the rail ties were taken, along with the steel rails, but some of the unusable wooden ties were left behind off to the side of the bed. Tim and I dragged a few of the ties back onto the bed and formed a makeshift fire pit. We then filled the fire pit with dry pine straw and sticks we found underneath the snow covered trees. Our ‘roughing it’ skills of lighting the fire with flint and steel gave way to the trusty lighter. Soon we had a nice fire to warm our faces and hands. Digging into our provisions, I pulled out a few cans of Beanie Weenies and handed one to Tim. Out came my P-38 can opener and I punched a few holes in the top of my can to release the pressure the can would generate when placed at the edge of the campfire. We both placed our cans of Beanie Weenies at the outer edge of the fire and were discussing our day. A number of minutes had passed when suddenly, a huge explosion went off. My ears, face, and hands were all burning. Looking down, I saw that Tim and I were both covered in steaming Beanie Weenies. Turns out, Tim had failed to punch holes into the top of his can of Beanie Weenies. Talk about a freakin’ mess. I learned a valuable lesson that day… never assume someone has any common sense.

Both Tony and Tim lived with their grandparents. With such a difference between their respective generations, it tended to produce conflicts. The grandparents were of the World War II generation. The grandfather had served in the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific during the war. After the war, the grandfather went into the painting business. As was common for the time, it turned into a family business. Both Tony and Tim followed in the footsteps of their father and grandfather. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with them and for their grandfather during the summer months of my teenage years. It afforded me the ability to earn more money than a conventional job and I could work far more hours than the law provided since I was paid ‘under the table’.

There are so many funny things that occurred on the job when I was painting. Seems like there was never a dull moment when working with Tim or Tony. Tony had a habit of doing his ‘business’ on the job site. If we were working on a new construction site, before the plumbing was installed, Tony would grab a plastic bag and a 5 gallon bucket and head for a closet… thus creating his own personal toilet. In occupied homes, Tony would use the homeowner’s bathroom and stink up the room. Once, when he was finished doing his ‘business’, he went looking for Tim. He told Tim about the amazing porn collection that was stashed in the bathroom. Tim being Tim, dropped what he was doing and took off for the stinky bathroom. Upon entering, his dear brother Tony pulled the door shut and secured it so that Tim couldn’t leave. Needless to say, the porn collection never existed, and Tim certainly wasn’t amused!

Another ‘poop’ story… and there are many! We were working a new construction home just north of Huntsville on Bob Wade Lane. The owner was a lay minister and an insurance broker. The home was massive!  The living room was two floors tall with tongue-in-groove poplar ceilings and recessed can lights. Poplar is a hardwood that is very knotty. When poplar is made into planks, the colors will vary greatly over its length. Part of the process of installing poplar ceilings requires using a pneumatic nail gun to nail the wood to the ceiling. The holes produced by the nails then have to be filled in with special wood putty. The putty resembles clay and can be mixed with special pigments to match the color of the wood it has to blend with. On this particular day, we ran out of putty. Tim and I went searching for putty in different parts of the house while Tony went out to the work van to see what he could find. Tim and I came up empty. Minutes later, Tony comes back into the house holding a rag. As he approaches us he says ‘I think I found some extra putty!’ and extends his hand holding the open rag with the putty clearly viewable. Instantly, Tim starts to grab the putty but stops short when he realizes the putty is actually shit Tony had put in the rag. Yep, Tony didn’t find any putty but had plenty of time to take a crap in the van.

On the same job site, and in the very same living room, one day Tony was messing with Tim again. Tony had climbed the scaffolding erected in the living room to install the poplar ceiling, and climbed up to the upper level window and thereby made his way to the outside roof. Tony began calling Tim’s name down the chimney. Tim kept walking around downstairs yelling ‘Where are you?’ After coming in and out of the living room several times, he figured out that Tony’s voice was emanating from the fireplace. The prank was over and Tony came back inside. Later on that day, Tim… being an original thinker… decided to play the same prank on Tony, but with a twist. He made his way up the scaffolding and then the roof. ‘Tony! Tony!’, Tim called out. Tony came into the room and immediately knew Tim was on the roof. It happened that the home owner, his wife, and his sister-in-law entered the room just behind Tony. Nobody knew they had driven up and we weren’t expecting to see them that day. ‘Tony!, Tony!’, Tim yelled again. The home owner went over to the fireplace, bent down, and stuck in his head to look up the chimney. No sooner had he done so, ‘splat’, something hit the stonework beside his head. Tim’s twist on Tony’s prank was to crap down the chimney. It goes without saying that was Tim’s last day on the job site.

I worked with Tim, Tony, and their family for several years in the painting trade. Once I married in 1990, I wanted something more permanent and year round employment. I worked for a few years for a large local computer corporation before landing a job at an ambulance manufacturing company in the Madison, Alabama area. The company employed around 200 people at the time. Of the 200 employees, most were members of one of three families. How that happened, I don’t really know. Regardless, that’s the way it was. I worked second shift and one my team members included a supervisor (Ray), his son David, and his son-in-law Mark. I don’t know what was wrong with Mark. Maybe generational inbreeding finally caught up to him or he was dropped a lot as a child… anyway, Mark wasn’t very bright. He was always full of stupid questions and comments. After one such comment, I turned to him and asked, ‘Mark, did you graduate from high school?’ Everything seemed to pause. His father-in-law, brother-in-law, and others close by stopped what they were doing and waited for Mark’s reply. ‘Yep.’ Mark answered. Then I followed up with, ‘If you don’t mind me asking, what was your GPA?’ To my complete surprise, Mark responded ‘I didn’t get one of them, I got a GED!’ David turned and walked away and Ray, his father-in-law started cussing under his breath but I vaguely made out ‘I’ve got grandkids from that dumb son of a bitch!’

A few years passed and I found myself enrolled in a machine tool technology class, working my way through school training to become a machinist. After just one quarter of school, Parker-Hannifin raided me from the machinist course. I still went to trade school for the next two and a half years but was also learning on the job as well. I was employed by Parker-Hannifin as a screw machine machinist. The people of north Alabama are good and true but they are also a riot to be around. At break time one day, I shared an outside picnic table with two middle aged women, Linda and Kathy. Linda was commenting on the weather, ‘It sure is airshy out here and the sun makes me wanna squench my eyes!’ I whipped around my head towards her and asked, ‘Do you mean airy , as in breezy? And do you mean squint, as in to partially close your eyes?’ Her stare was cold and her face nearly turned into a scowl. ‘You know what I meant! You ain’t from around here are you?’ she asked. ‘Actually, Linda, I was born in Birmingham, Alabama and raised all over the place, but spent the better part of my time right here in Huntsville!’ I replied. ‘Then how come you don’t sound like us?’ she asked in her heavy southern drawl. “Because you guys sound like a bunch of fuckin’ idiots, that’s why!’ I retorted.

I ran into an old friend, Bobbie in 1998. I hadn’t seen her for several years. I asked her how she was doing and how were her sisters.  She said that she was well and one of her sisters was in the hospital.

‘Is she ok?’ I asked.

‘Yeah, she’s just gonna have her dick cut off.’ Bobbie said.

‘What???’ I was taken aback.

‘Yeah, no shit dude, she’s got a dick.’ stated Bobbie.

‘But she’s married and has a kid!’ I said.

‘Yep!’ said Bobbie.

‘I thought hermaphrodites were sterile?’ I shot back.

‘Nope, there are several types of hermaphrodites. Some have testicles…’ she started to say.

‘Hey! I don’t really want to know!’ I cried.

‘Dude, you asked!’ she giggled.

‘Well, it does make you wonder… In the morning when she pees, does she sit or stand? And, when she gave birth, did the doctors have to duct tape her dick out of the way? The bigger question is, does that make her husband gay or at the very least, bisexual???’ I asked.

Many more comments were made but those were the most tasteful, so to speak. A few weeks later I met up with Bobbie once again and inquired about her sister. ‘Oh, she’s staying with mom so she’ll be closer to her doctor appointments.’ Bobbie told me. ‘But Dude, check this out!’ she continued. ‘The other day, she came downstairs when my mom had her friends over for tea. She walked right up to a lady sitting on the couch, reached down and lifted up her skirt, with no panties on, and asked ‘Does this look natural?’.’

‘No way!’ I laughed. ‘That takes balls!’

‘Um, not anymore!’ Bobbie snickered.

I divorced my first wife in November of 1998 after eight years of marriage. After finalizing all of my property matters, I picked up and moved to San Diego. I had no children, no responsibilities, and the chance to start my life over again. I was thirty years old and free to do as I pleased. It was a toss-up as to where I wanted to move. It came down to two locations, Montana or San Diego. I longed for the tranquility and wide open spaces Montana offered. I wanted to drop out of the rat race and reconnect with nature. I’ve always found peace when I was alone with my thoughts, no distractions, and in the midst of the great outdoors. The practical side of me said to go where I had ties. Both my brother and sister were in living in southern California. My sister lived in San Diego and my brother lived 30 minutes north of her in Oceanside. The obvious and practical choice was San Diego so that’s where I went. Still, every so often, I think how differently my life might’ve been had I gone to Montana.

I stayed a few months with my sister and her husband until I could get on my feet and find a place to live in San Diego. My sister’s husband, Derrick, likes practical jokes. I’m a machinist as I’ve previously stated. We use a lot of oil based coolants when machining. It is because my sense of smell was thusly compromised, that I did not notice Derrick had played a joke on me. As it turns out, Derrick had gotten ahold of an old pair of my sister’s pantyhose, went outside, and filled it with dog poop. He then hung it underneath the bed I slept on with a paper plate under the poop. The plate was there to catch the excess water from the spray bottle Derrick was using daily to keep it nice and ‘fresh’. One day Derrick finally came in and asked me if I smelled anything. I replied in the negative. He then pointed out what he had done and couldn’t believe I never smelled it. Nope, never did.

There were many great times over and my sister’s and Derrick’s home. She lives in a home that backs up to a canyon that’s a dedicated green space. Hot air balloons would dip down into the canyons behind their home and ride until they approached the far canyon wall. They would then charge the balloon to gain altitude and climb over the canyon wall. One late summer afternoon, another hot air balloon dropped into the canyon. My brother, his girlfriend Kelly, my sister, Derrick, and I were all hanging out in the backyard. My sister, Lillian, was using a video camera, recording as we horsed around. As the balloon reached the end of the canyon, they attempted to climb over the canyon wall. We could hear the people, which numbered about 8, talking very clearly. No matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t gain altitude. The gondola containing the passengers started to drag along the ascending canyon wall. My brother, Tony, being the outspoken one in the family… decided to offer some helpful advice. ‘Throw the fat one out!’ he shouted. He must’ve shouted it half a dozen times or more. Mind you, we could hear the passengers speaking clearly before they ran into difficulties, it was safe to assume they could hear my ass of a brother the first time he yelled ‘Throw the fat one out!’ In any case, the hot air balloon operator gave up and landed as best he could. Chase vehicles arrived shortly thereafter and picked up the passengers and retrieved the balloon.

When I first moved to San Diego in 1999, my brother Tony was dating a sweet girl name Kelly. Tony was a helicopter Crew Chief in the Marine Corps and Kelly was a Psych Tech with the Navy. They had been dating a while but never set a firm date when they would marry. We were all gathered at my sister’s home one Christmas Day when the topic of marriage was broached. My brother, in true Tony fashion, started to rationalize why they weren’t setting a date. He said that he didn’t have a wedding ring yet suitable for the occasion. Off Lillian darts upstairs. A few moments later, she comes back down and hands Tony a ring. ‘Will this work?’ she asked. Then Tony says he doesn’t have a band either. This time Derrick takes off. In a bit, Derrick comes back with a band. Tony is getting painted into a corner quickly. ‘After the holidays…’ he starts to say, when someone mentions Las Vegas. We looked it up and find that yes, you can get married on Christmas Day in Vegas. So the five of us pile into my sister’s GS400 Lexus around 6 pm on Christmas Day and head out to Vegas. The wedding was on!

We get to Vegas around midnight, arriving at a wedding chapel. They send us to the county courthouse for a marriage license. So, sometime after midnight on the morning of the 26th, we’re finishing the required paperwork for a license at the courthouse. We then made our way back to the wedding chapel. Ceremony was performed shortly thereafter and by 6 a.m., we were sitting at a Vegas hotel buffet having breakfast. Twelve hours… a lot can happen in twelve hours. Yes, Sin City at it’s finest.

Kelly decided that she wanted to undergo elective surgery for a slight under-bite. Being military, she could have the procedure performed at the Navy hospital. In addition to having the under-bite corrected, Kelly also wanted to have a fuller lips. She was wanting to tell me all about her upcoming surgery. ‘Kelly, are you sure you want me to know?’ I asked. But she persisted. She explained how they were going to cut two ‘S’ shape fragments from both sides of her lower jaw and slide it backwards to correct the bite. While they were at it, they were going to insert a sphincter from a cadaver, underneath her lips to fill them out. Apparently, somebody’s dead asshole has similar characteristics to human lips. Who knew? Kelly soon regretted telling me these beautiful nuggets of information. The humorous observations began! ‘Doctor, why does everything taste like shit?’, ‘What’s the difference between oral and anal sex, Tony? NOTHING!’, and so on…

Some time later, Tony, Kelly, and I were going to Lillian’s home to hang out. Entering the bottom of the neighborhood, Tony saw two very overweight German Shepherd dogs walking around a front yard. Remember, Lillian’s home backed up to a canyon. Seeing wild animals in the area wasn’t uncommon. Anyways, Tony points out the dogs and says to Kelly, ‘Kelly, look at those coyotes!’ Kelly’s eyes grew large and exclaimed. ‘Those mother-fuckers are HUGE!’ I laughed and said, ‘Kelly, I think they escaped a research facility.’ ‘How do you know that?’ she asked. ‘Well, you see those fucking collars they’re wearing…?’

Kelly was a lot of fun to be around. She wore her heart on her sleeve. One day she came by my sister’s home and we were hanging out again. She started to tell us about her day at work in the psych ward. She opened by saying, ‘I was talking to a friend at work today…’ when I interrupted with, ‘Hold on, are we talking about a patient or a co-worker?’ and then Lillian asked, ‘Yeah, can we see them too?’ Kelly was not amused.

I worked for a couple of years in Scripps Ranch at a machine shop. After work, some of my coworkers and I would go out bar hopping. On one occasion, two of my coworkers and I went to visit the PB Bar and Grill downtown. We parked a few blocks away from the bar as there were no parking spaces available closer. Floyd, Mike, and I were walking along, making our way towards the bar when we noticed that Mike started to lag behind. We stopped and I asked Mike, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ Mike walked up to us, turned and pointed out a homeless lady a short distance away. ‘Yeah, so?’ I asked. Mike continued, ‘I’ll bet she’ll do anything for a cheeseburger!’ Sick bastard… we grabbed him and kept walking towards the bar.

Floyd is a fun guy too. He comes with his own set of issues. He’s Pakistani by birth. When I first met him he introduced himself. I asked if ‘Floyd’ was his given name or a nickname. He assured me that yes, ‘Floyd’ was indeed his birth name. Ok, the guy is dark, he’s Pakistani, and his name is Floyd. Just how the hell did that happen? As it turns out, Floyd’s grandfather was from the UK. He met and married Floyd’s grandmother when India and Pakistan were still one country under English colonial rule. From that point on, the family was raised Christian in a majority Muslim country. No need to point out the many serious problems that created for the family. Eventually the family immigrated to the United States.

Floyd use to make a Tijuana run with another coworker named Richard. They frequented a rat hole in TJ whose name translated into ‘The hairy cave’. There, they would pick up prostitutes for the evening. One Monday Floyd came to work with a strange look on his face. I asked if he was ok. Floyd informed me he thought he had fallen in love. ‘With a hooker?!’ I exclaimed. His story went something like this… after having sex, the prostitute got up and went to the bathroom. She left the door open and Floyd could see her cleaning herself out while straddling the sink. It was then he said that he fell in love. Really, Floyd? Really??? That’s seriously fucked up, dude.

 

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