Wait, you mean I didn't write a column last week? I just turned in this old one from 2008? Man, that was lazy. Actually, I'm blaming Zack. He had the audacity to run up a fever of 104 on a deadline day. Some babies are just selfish like that. (He's all better now.)
Still, I don't have a new column to post. Perhaps you will forget about that if I throw some cute kid pics out here? It's worth a shot.
“We should call,” my wife Kara said, using her wineglass to motion toward the phone in my pocket.
“Yes, we should,” I agreed, dangling my feet off the dock for another moment, squinting as the sun danced off the water.
Even though we are parents with two young children, we were finding that it is entirely possible to have a nice, relaxing weekend away from home, as long as you dump the kids off at their grandparents’ house on the way there.
“They’re probably putting the kids in bed right now. Seriously, we should call,” Kara repeated, taking another sip.
Mustering my energy, I leaned over far enough to extract the phone from my pocket. By that point, my liver had just about caught up on the backlog it had incurred during the day’s wine tour.
A couple of months ago, I’d decided that my years of hanging out with friends were over, at least at venues that did not prominently feature bouncy castles. The regular reader(s) of this column might recall that my recent night out with friends in New York City ended with a party transpiring around my prone body at 4am as I tried to sleep on the bare mattress of a hotel pull-out couch. I’m just lucky nobody tried to use me as a bottle opener.
But on this wine tour, Kara and I actually got to relax together and reconnect with friends, something we haven’t done since around, and I’m just spitballing here, June 15, 2009, the day our first son was born and our social lives died.
The day also attempted to be educational, but I did my best not to learn anything.
“This selection was aged in a steel-lined tank, which gives it a nutty bouquet and a finish of middle-aged orangutan droppings,” the bartender would say, holding out the bottle and delivering a brief monologue before pouring a thimble-full into our glasses.
I suppose it’s important to know about wines before you drink them, but the wine-tasting ritual seems a bit like going trick-or-treating and having the person who answers the door holding the treat in the air just above your outstretched pillowcase, telling you about the candy’s origins.
“This Three Musketeers bar was milled in a galvanized vat, which gives it a robust structure and full-bodied complexity. You’ll also notice its rustic nose, subtle vegetal undertones and lively nougat.”
My feeling is that it’s candy, and that’s good enough for me. You put it in the bag, I’ll make it disappear.
But this day wasn’t really about wine. It was about seeing friends and leaving responsibilities behind, just for a little while.
At the end of the day, on the end of the dock, Kara and I excused ourselves to check in with our real lives.
“How was your day with Grandma and Grandpa?” Kara asked.
“I had chocolate pudding and vanilla ice cream with blue sprinkles and gummy bears,” Evan said, apparently not scarred by our absence.
“He also had corn-on-the-cob and meatballs!” Grandma chimed in.
“And I played Candy Land and I won twice. I’m going to win at Candy Land forever,” he said, a bold statement by someone yet to be acquainted with his father’s cupcake-crushing Candy Land skills.
Kara and I smiled, chit-chatting with our son until our entertainment value wore off, which took about three minutes.
“Bye!” Evan said abruptly, then his footsteps pattered off until they were inaudible.
The next day, we’d pick our kids up and swing them over our heads, glad to hear their laughter, and even their shrieking, again. Until then, though, someone needed to watch that sunset.
You can ask Mike Todd to take a long walk off a short dock at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Is it here yet? Is it here yet?” my son Evan screeched from the backseat as I pulled the mailman’s daily recycle-bin-filler out of the mailbox.
“Children’s Place, Toys R’ Us, Gymboree. Man, the marketers really have us pegged,” I said, throwing the coupons and catalogs into the empty passenger seat.
“But is it here yet? Is it here?” he yelled.
“Bill, junk, bill, junk,” I replied. I paused, looking at one envelope that read: “IMPORTANT! TIME-SENSITIVE DOCUMENTS ENCLOSED!”
In general, there is an inverse relationship between how important a piece of mail looks and how important it actually is. If it’s an offer for a new credit card with an interest rate that’s higher than your final grade in calculus, it’ll have 72-point font stamped across the envelope: “YOU’D BETTER OPEN THIS, OR THE KITTEN GETS IT!”
Every now and again, they’ll trick me into opening one. Earlier this year, as tax documents were trickling into the mailbox, a credit card offer fooled me into thinking it contained actual life-relevant information.
“Oh, you got me, Capital One, you devil,” I said. Every time I open a credit card offer, the company scores a point on me. Also, somewhere, an angel gets its wings repossessed.
If an envelope contains something you actually want, like an insurance check, or credit card rewards, it’ll come in a nondescript envelope crammed into the grocery store circular.
“Nothing to see here, Occupant. Please discard before I waste any more of your time,” it will say.
“IS IT HEEERE?” Evan yelled again.
I reached the end of the pile. No postcard from Mommy.
“No, bud, I’m sorry, it’s not,” I replied.
“But I want it to be here!” he yelled, clearing up any ambiguity on his position re: postcard acquisition.
With my wife Kara travelling on business for four days, I’d become a temporary single parent, which allowed me to experience all the relaxation and bliss that single-parenthood had to offer. But since it wasn’t offering any, I hung out with my kids instead.
“Unleash the hounds!” I’d say as I unbuckled the boys from their car seats each evening. They’d tear around the house, ramming things with their heads until dinnertime.
“Just don’t do anything that won’t heal before Mommy gets home,” I’d advise while the chicken nuggets spun around in the microwave.
“Come find me!” Evan would yell, sitting in the middle of the living room, his legs sticking out from under a blanket. I’d run over to him right away, because if you don’t find him quickly enough, he’ll start running around with the blanket over his head, content to bounce off whatever surface he hits first.
Somehow, we all survived, though our daily mailbox routine was fruitless. Kara got to our house before the postcard did. Two days after she returned home, we pulled up to the mailbox again.
“Hey, Evan, look what came today!” I said, waving the postcard around. Kara smiled and handed it back to him.
“How do you open it?” he asked.
“It doesn’t open, Evan,” Kara said. “It just has a picture on the front and my message to you on the back. See? That’s where Mommy was. It’s called Atlanta. Then, on the back, it says, ‘Dear Evan, I love you so much and can’t wait to see you soon! Love, Mommy.’”
Evan flipped the postcard over a few times, then gave it one last shake to see if anything interesting would fall out.
“I don’t want the postcard because it’s not very exciting,” he announced, handing it back.
Someday, he’ll come to understand that the least exciting mail usually has the most important stuff in it. You can return Mike Todd to sender at email@example.com.
“Could you please not leave your slippers there? I always trip over them when I’m going to the bathroom in the middle of the night,” my wife Kara said, pointing at the floor as if I was a dog who’d done a bad thing and needed to reminded again about what is acceptable behavior inside the house. In fairness to her, it must be difficult to mentally separate me from our dog Memphis, since the pooch and I both devote what some might describe as a disproportionate level of zeal to the pastime of scratching our respective selves.
The dog and I also both hide upstairs when we get caught trying to steal the kids’ Easter candy, the bulk of which is STILL sitting on the kitchen table, taunting us. If the apocalypse came tomorrow, our family could probably subsist through the summer on our stash of stale Peeps alone.
As I paused, considering a response, I realized that this was the beginning of the most geriatric argument Kara and I had ever taken part in. It had everything: Nagging, slippers, nocturnal lavatory breaks. Just thinking about that conversation, even now, makes my mouth taste of Metamucil, and I can hear a few more hairs from the periphery of my bald spot gently landing on my shoulder.
Of course, it’s unfair to characterize what Kara was doing as “nagging.”
As she explains: “It starts out as asking. It only becomes nagging when you don’t do it.”
She’d asked many times for me to stop setting Burmese wife traps in the bathroom, but I’d had more important things to do, like Googling “how to avoid repetitive motion injuries from staring at your iPhone too much” on my iPhone.
With Kara waiting for me to respond, I peered in at our bathroom, the site of the infraction, to see just how bad it really was. She’d actually been kind to me. I hadn’t just left my slippers there. It was much worse. There, at the base of the toilet, were my slippers, facing out, with my crumpled underwear and pajama pants resting on top, an undershirt tossed nearby. That morning, I’d jumped straight from the toilet to the shower, leaving all my worldly trappings behind.
If an archaeologist from the future had wandered into our bathroom, preserved at that moment, the only logical conclusion he could possibly have drawn is that some sort of flannel-based creature had molted right there.
“Looks like this specimen was in too much of a hurry to clean up after himself. Probably fleeing a flannel-eating predator, like a giant moth,” he would guess.
Nine years ago, on our honeymoon, Kara and I went bungy jumping in New Zealand. We weren’t the coolest people in the world, but we had some decent cool-person credentials. We even used to be able to watch MTV reality shows and say, “I can understand why people would act like that.”
Since then, it’s been a long, downward spiral into complete uncoolness. Looking at that pile of clothes in front of the toilet, I realized that I’d reached a new nadir of not being cool, and that I was likely to keep reaching new nadirs until my mid-life sports-car purchase.
I felt a deep shame, similar to the shame I felt that time I looked at my reflection in the microwave as I gnawed the melted cheese off a Mama Celeste pizza box. If you prefer to think of yourself as more-evolved than a baboon, don’t look at your reflection when you’re licking food off of something that most people would agree is garbage.
“Sorry, babe. I’ll try not to do that anymore,” I said. She patted me on the head, and I knew that I’d been a good boy. You can ask Mike Todd, then nag him when he ignores you, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*** Note to reader(s): I turned in an old column again this week. These days, I feel like I'm doing pretty good if I can keep my fingernails clipped - getting a column done is extra credit. But that's the benefit of writing a weekly column for eight years - after a while, you can start plagiarizing yourself and nobody will notice. The column below is from 2009. I barely recognize it, and I wrote the thing, so hopefully it'll be like new to you, too.***
Getting my mom to join Facebook seemed like such a good idea at the time. In retrospect, it was an innovation on par with New Coke, the Hindenburg and The Matrix sequels.
“Oh, that’s for you kids. You don’t want me lurking around on Facebook, seeing what you all are up to,” she said a few weeks ago. Up to that point, Mom’s favorite social networking site had been her living room.
But my wife Kara and I insisted, thinking that Mom would enjoy using Facebook, catching up with some old friends and keeping up with current ones. So during a weekend visit to our house, while my dad and I huddled around the kitchen sink, trying to figure out the right combination of expletives and wrenches to get the new faucet installed, Kara and Mom huddled around the laptop, working on installing Mom into the world of online social networking.
Initially, the installation looked very promising. “Ooh, hey, I haven’t talked to her since high school!” Mom said, high-fiving Kara as they trolled through Facebook’s oceans of people, chumming friend requests overboard along the way. By the end of the weekend, Mom had connected with a couple dozen friends and family members. Your Facebook account isn’t fully mature until it gathers more friends than the number of people you’ve actually met in your life, but it was a good start.
The troubles began later in the week, when Mom changed her relationship status to “Married” to reflect her forty-one years of marriage to my dad.
Immediately, some family friends from my generation posted comments like: “Congratulations on finally getting him to tie the knot!” and “Hubba hubba -- who’s the new beau?”
“They’re making fun of me,” Mom said over the phone. “What did I do wrong?”
“Nothing, Mom. They were just joking around,” I said.
“Well, okay, but I don’t really understand the point of all this. Your cousin just told the whole world what he ate for breakfast,” she said.
“You don’t have to read everybody’s status updates,” I replied.
“I had Special K with fresh blueberries this morning. Do you think I should tell everyone?” she asked.
Clearly, her generation lacks the healthy narcissism of mine. Mom’s enthusiasm for Facebook gradually waned over the next few days as waves of shallow communications washed across her screen. Then a family friend uploaded a picture of Mom in which she’d been caught mid-sentence, clearly not ready for the flash to go off. It was the upload that broke the camel’s back.
“I’ve been trying for three hours to delete this photo of me,” she said, sounding exhausted. “How do I get rid of it?”
Unfortunately, pictures from your past, uploaded by your friends, are an indignity one must suffer as a Facebook user. A friend of mine from college recently uploaded pictures of me from the regrettable period several months after I’d decided to grow my hair out. Growing your hair long isn’t something you just do. It takes lots of dedication and baseball caps.
The first comment read like this: “Hey, Mike looks like a mushroom. Look out, Mike! Super Mario’s going to jump on you!”
I tried to explain to Mom that she couldn’t delete pictures that she hadn’t uploaded. The best she could do was to remove the tag that contained her name.
“Well, I don’t think Facebook was meant for my generation. I’m going to leave,” she said.
“Leave? I don’t think you can leave,” I said. “It’s like the mafia.”
Somehow, though, Mom left. I picture her dropping from the ceiling at Facebook headquarters, suspended from the small of her back by a cable like Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible.
If you’d like to issue a friend request to my mom these days, the best place to start would probably be her living room.
You can de-friend Mike Todd at email@example.com.
Over the top of my iPhone, I sort of witnessed our three-year-old son Evan bowling into his one-year-old brother Zack, knocking him to the floor.
“It’s okay Zack,” Evan said before anyone could yell at him, picking Zack back up to a crawling position. Zack continued motoring along as if nothing had happened, like a turtle who’d been flipped back onto his feet.
I flicked past another few Facebook updates, looking at pictures of children begat by people I hadn’t seen in real life since high school and probably would never see again. Somehow, at that moment, this was more interesting than looking at my own kids, who were trolling around the toy room (formerly known as the living room) looking for things to crack their heads upon.
I have the luxury of being able to half-watch our children in that room because every inch of it is covered in so much padding that you could play dodgeball with uninsured Faberge eggs in there. We’ve also installed a baby gate that most adults can’t figure out how to operate, leading our more agile guests to decide it’s easier to hurdle their way out.
When you’re child-proofing a room, you have to think, “This coffee table looks harmless enough, but what happens when you smash your face into it?”
Because that is what your children will do, methodically going around the room, smashing their heads into things until they find something hard or sharp enough to require an emergency room visit, which is the only way to escape from the toy room.
Even if they can’t possibly hurt themselves without finding inventive ways to collide into each other, it’s really not cool to ignore your kids while you’re fiddling around on your gadget of the moment. You need to give your kids lots of attention, because if you don’t, while you’re looking the other way, in the blink of an eye, they’ll stomp right on your crotch. Oh, and also they grow up so fast. But mostly the crotch-stomping thing. Children have no regard for crotches as stomp-free zones. When you’re on the floor with them, your crotch is just one more obstacle between them and their Hess trucks.
These days, though, it can be hard to muster the energy to get down on the floor and crawl after them. Zack is still not sleeping through the night, and the dog has taken up snoring at the foot of our bed. A good night’s sleep, like vacuuming and eating dinner sitting down, is something that only happens in other people’s houses.
When you have one kid, you can nap when they nap. With two kids, you’re trapped by this terrible Venn diagram, and you can only nap in the tiny little sliver where the two circles of your kids’ naps intersect, which is when the mail truck will come and your dog will attack the windows.
I yawned and rubbed my eyes, sitting on the floor, flicking past another seven Facebook updates from acquaintances who wanted me to know how far they jogged that morning. “Do everyone else’s friends jog this much?” I thought as Zack continued across the carpet, searching in vain for a good, hard object to knock his head against.
Just then, Evan’s face popped up over my phone.
“Daddy, Zack fell down on the floor. I helped him up,” he said, neglecting to mention why Zack fell down.
“Wow, you sound like a hero in that story,” I said.
“Yeah,” Evan replied.
Then he disappeared again. In a moment, he popped back up and handed me a little helmet that had fallen off one of his action figures.
“Choking hazard,” he said. Good thing somebody’s paying attention in there.
Then, as I glanced back at the screen, Evan ran over to his wooden trains, stomping on my crotch en route.
You can multitask with Mike Todd at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Love u…Gunfight,” my wife Kara texted me last week, her phone’s spellchecker taking some second-amendment liberties with her attempt to wish me a good night.
“Gunfight to you too, babe,” I replied, clicking off the lamp in the hotel room.
I don’t have to travel for work very often, but that week had me scheduled for two trips, abandoning Kara to juggle our two kids with her own work schedule. Every time one of us gets ditched, we develop an appreciation for single parents that borders on incredulity.
“How do single parents do this?” I will ask, unshowered and starving, cradling a screaming baby while a screaming three-year-old demands pancakes.
But Kara was doing just fine without me. She’d picked the kids up from daycare and gotten them through the evening routine without an issue.
Then some issues happened.
The stomach bug that had been making the rounds at daycare finally paid our house a visit.
“Knock, knock! Who wants some violent gastrointestinal distress?” it said.
You don’t need all the details, but if your washing machine is running at 3am, as ours was, nothing good is happening in your house.
Just before my big presentation the next morning, I received this text: “Both kids up barfing all night. Had to stay home from work. Great timing!”
“Whew! Dodged that bullet!” I texted back. No, that is not what I said, which is why I am still alive.
“I need you to come home. Can you get on another plane? How long is the drive?” Kara asked later that day, sounding frazzled and worn-out.
I stood on the sidewalk in Greensboro, NC, trying to think of a way to get home sooner than my 5:55am flight the next morning. There wasn’t one. Even driving would have only gotten me home a few hours sooner, and I didn’t have unlimited miles on the rental car. It would have been cheaper to hire a private jet.
The next day, the kids were feeling better. I got home just in time to take them so that Kara could finally have a few moments to herself, moments that she spent in the bathroom, barfing.
That was Thursday. On Friday, I was scheduled to go to New York City early, getting home in time to pick up the kids from daycare. On Saturday, we were having Zack’s first birthday party at our house. We knew the week would be crazy, but manageable. That was before our family went viral.
At 5am on Friday morning, Kara moaned in bed as I got out of the shower.
“Babe, I have to be on the 6:30 train to New York. Daycare doesn’t open until 7:30. Can you take them?” I asked.
“UUuuuugh,” she replied.
“I already made their food. Maybe you could just drop them off and come back to rest? That could work,” I said.
“HWAAAARF!” she replied, in rebuttal.
It’s really hard to negotiate with someone when their head is in a trash can. Unable to foist the kids on Kara again, I took the kids to daycare myself and caught a later train, sliding headfirst into my lunchtime meeting.
That night, sanity returned to our house, as much as it ever does. Everyone was feeling 100% again.
“Okay, let’s have a party!” I said, relieved that the weeks of preparation, including the cauldrons of food that our moms had prepared, wouldn’t be wasted.
“I really hope you don’t get sick, too,” Kara said.
“Don’t worry about me. I have the immune system of a water buffalo,” I replied.
After napalming every surface of the house with disinfectant, Kara set about putting the finishing touches on the cake masterpiece she’d been creating.
The cake was a big hit. People really enjoyed it. At least from what I could hear from the bathroom.
You can go viral with Mike Todd at email@example.com.
“I never had a bachelor party, and perhaps never will, so let’s get together in New York City for the last chance to have fun in any of our lives,” my friend Johnny wrote a few weeks ago, drumming up our old group of buddies to celebrate his 35th birthday.
“Why not just skip straight to the funeral, since our lives are over?” I suggested.
We’ve all been friends since the first grade, so even though the premise for the festivities was debatable, I wanted to go. When you have two small kids, though, you can’t just leave for the night without some serious spousal negotiating. In the end, you can make it happen, but not before agreeing that, for the foreseeable future, the ripest diapers will have your name on them.
Of the six guys who descended on New York City that evening, three of us were married, and I was the only one with kids.
“We’ll have some laughs, they’ll make fun of my bald spot(s), and I’ll be in bed by midnight,” I thought.
The evening started out as expected. A few six-packs in a hotel room, back-slapping reunions as people arrived, pre-emptive arguing over the hotel bill.
“Gimp!” we all yelled when our buddy Gimp finally arrived, always the last one there. We all know that we’re too old to call someone by a nickname like “Gimp”, but we forgot his real name long ago, and at this point, we’re too embarrassed to ask.
From there, the evening slowly progressed. And regressed.
“To the bars!” someone said. If you’ve never been, a New York City bar on Saturday night is the place you go when you no longer want to be able to hear the people you’re talking to, and you want to pay $16 a drink for the privilege.
“Don’t you want to stay here for a little longer?” I asked.
“Dude, let’s go meet people,” Johnny said.
“I’m too old to meet people. I like the people I already know just fine,” I replied.
9pm became midnight. Midnight became 2am.
“Please, can we leave?” I begged, but I don’t think anyone could hear me. The next day, my kids wouldn’t care how little sleep I’d gotten. My friends, who could nap all day if they wanted, had no sympathy. Such is the luxury of those who are only responsible for wiping their own behinds.
Finally, at 3:30am, I convinced Gimp to go back to the hotel with me, a suite we were sharing with Johnny and his brother, Ryan. Since this was Johnny’s party, Gimp and I volunteered to take the pull-out couch. Just as I closed my eyes, snug in my flannel pants and undershirt, Ryan returned.
“Johnny will be up in a minute,” Ryan said. Then, as an aside, he added, “with a bunch of people.”
Those words floated in the air as I considered their ramifications. Then the door flew open and Johnny entered carrying more six-packs, flanked by what seemed to be the entire patronage of the bar I’d recently escaped.
They plugged an iPhone into the hotel’s alarm clock and blasted party music, passing beers over my prone body. I turned to Gimp, wondering if this was actually happening, and he just shook his head, closed his eyes and went to sleep.
I would have been happy to have been having that nightmare where I was the only one at the party wearing jammies, but wasn’t as keen on it happening in real life.
Strange new people pulled up chairs next to the pull-out bed, laughing and acting as if I was a willing party participant. It was exactly like that movie “Weekend at Bernie’s”, where people party with the dead guy. I was Bernie.
At 6:30am, long after I’d stolen the good bed, the party broke up. Next time I hang out with those guys, it’ll probably need to be somebody’s funeral.
You can crash Mike Todd’s party at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Can’t you just wait two days?” the pharmacist asked.
“So my baby should go off his medicine for two days because our insurance won’t cover us until Saturday?” I asked, feeling myself turning into Mr. Angry Customer Man.
He paused for a moment to consider an answer. To help him arrive at the right one, I tried to flex hard enough to shred my pants and shirt into tatters, but my face just turned red instead of Incredible-Hulk green.
“Hmmm, yeah, that doesn’t sound right,” he replied. “Let me call your insurance company.”
I took a deep breath, thanked him and stepped away from the counter, wondering how my wife Kara was faring out in the car with our two sons, who were surely threatening mutiny by now. If they ever figure out how to unbuckle their car seat harnesses, our reign will be over.
“This’ll just take a sec,” I’d said when I hopped out of the car, thinking that I was just picking up a prescription, not arm-wrestling the medical-industrial complex.
Leaving the pharmacy without the medicine was not an option. Kara and I are very close to celebrating our 365th-consecutive terrible night’s sleep, an anniversary that is easy to remember because, through no small coincidence, it falls on our son Zack’s first birthday.
On the recommendation of his specialist, we’d recently doubled Zack’s dosage in hopes of finally taming the reflux that has caused more lost sleep than the world’s collective car alarms and beagles combined.
Living with Zack is like living with a werewolf, and every night's a full moon. In the morning, he is all smiles and coos, a sweet child with a wonderful temperament. He has no recollection of the wailing beast he'd become during the night.
“Not again,” we’ll say when the howling begins.
The next day, he’ll crawl up to you, eyes twinkling, looking up as if to say, “Good morning! Hey, what's with the bags under your eyes, and the claw marks across your face?"
After resigning ourselves to never sleeping again, Zack’s specialist had given us hope that doubling the dosage could do the trick. Zack needed more of his medicine, not less, and we’d given him the last dose at our house that morning.
“Yes, but they had to double the dose. That’s why they ran out a few days early,” the pharmacist said over the phone, and I appreciated him arguing on our behalf.
Usually, Kara dukes it out with the insurance company, which can be a full-time job. We chose her insurance plan, and covered our kids with it, because, while being ridiculously expensive, it was one of the few plans that promised to reimburse the cost of Zack’s wickedly overpriced reflux formula.
“There’s been a mistake,” the cashier will say after ringing up his formula.
“No, I’m afraid that’s right,” I’ll say. It is the Dom Perignon of formulas. Once Zack’s off it, we’ll have to feed him pureed lobster tails just to keep up the standard of living he’s grown accustomed to.
I’ll save the receipt and give it to Kara, who will submit it to the insurance company to be rejected. Kara will call and complain, they’ll approve it and promise never to reject it again. And they won’t, until next time.
The first time might have been a mistake. The second time, an oversight. By the sixth time, it sure seems like a policy.
“Okay, they won’t cover you until Saturday, but you can pay a full month’s market price now and submit to be reimbursed,” the pharmacist said, while shaking his head as if to say, “Don’t do it.”
“Don’t do it,” he then said out loud, in case I’d missed his drift. I bought two pills at market price to get us to Saturday, at which time I’d come back to bargain again.
When dealing with medical insurance, it helps if you have good drugs.
You can reject Mike Todd’s claims at email@example.com.
Instead of writing a column last week, I thought it'd be more fun to tend to Zack's recurring ear infection (he's feeling better now). I turned in this old column instead. Back to regular programming next week.
In other news, the Poughkeepsie Journal might be running a story that includes some details on the hiking site I've been working on for the past couple of years, which would be pretty righteous. They asked me to submit some pictures of our family out hiking in the area -- I've already posted most of these here, but it still makes me smile to go back and look at 'em.
'Til next week! Assuming everyone's ear canals cooperate.
“Good luck today,” my wife Kara whispered into the darkness.
“You’re going to need the luck,” I said, leaning to kiss her goodbye, then tiptoeing out the bedroom door, abandoning her to a few more moments of sleep before the morning routine with our two kids would begin, a ritual that requires the assistance of a small team of live-in nannies, but which we somehow juggle between just the two of us anyway.
I checked my tie in the mirror one last time, grabbed a granola bar off the kitchen counter, patted our dog on the head and dashed down the stairs, determined to catch a train for once in my life without the usual headfirst slide through closing doors.
After four months of planning and countless calls and emails with my fellow organizers, our big work conference was finally happening.
I hopped into Kara’s Civic in the pre-dawn gloom of the garage, proud of myself for departing in time to stop for gas on the way to the train station.
“Let’s do this,” I said, turning the key.
“Let’s not,” the Civic replied, adding, “Click-click-click, CLIIIIIIICK, click.”
The dashboard lights flickered then went dark.
Since Kara and I carpool to work in the big car, dropping the kids off at daycare on the way, the Civic usually sits in the garage, waiting for one of us to go on an errand without the kids. In this way, it functions less as a car and more as an escape pod.
But on that morning last week, the Civic decided that the garage was a splendid place to spend the day. It was cold outside, after all.
“No, no, no. Not today,” I said, turning the key again, panic slithering up the back of my neck.
“Yeah, today,” the Civic responded, speaking in clicks.
I had two options.
Option 1: Get that car working.
Option 2: Flee into the woods, leave civilization behind and subsist for the rest of my life on my neighbors’ rhododendron.
Giving Option 1 a whirl first seemed like a good plan, so I put the Civic into neutral, leaned on the hood with both hands and pushed with all my insufficient might.
“Come on, you weigh like three pounds. Why is this so hard?” I said.
Finally, the wheels began to budge, and after much grunting, swearing and scuffing of wingtips, the Civic rolled to a stop in the driveway.
My automotive knowledge starts at changing a tire and ends at jumping a dead battery, with nothing in-between. Hands shaking, I popped the hood, clipped the jumper cables to the battery and ran to retrieve the one functioning automobile from our garage, the one I needed to leave for Kara and the kids.
“Who cares?” I thought as our cars nearly collided in the driveway. And I really didn’t care. Getting the Civic running was the only thing in the universe that mattered.
I popped the hood on the big car and peered inside, using the flashlight app on my iPhone. And what I saw was nothing.
“Dude, where’s the battery?” I said.
A few years ago, when we upsized our family car, we bought a hybrid, mainly due to its best-in-class smugness-per-gallon ratings.
“Stupid Earth! I don’t even like you anymore!” I said, frantically Googling “jump a regular car with a hybrid car” on my phone. I landed in a Car Talk forum that mentioned something about an auxiliary battery in the trunk of some hybrids, but we didn’t have one of those. With a sinking feeling, I realized that I was going to have to do the unthinkable: read the owner’s manual.
In my mind, I could hear that train a comin’, and I wasn’t going to be on it.
In desperation, I jumped back into the Civic and turned the ignition again. Click, click, click, VROOOOOM! And then, with knuckles still white, a headfirst slide through closing doors.
You can defibrillate Mike Todd at firstname.lastname@example.org.