Monday, July 26, 2010

Beard, Bathrooms and Bears, Oh my!

Every time I use the men's restroom at work and go to wash my hands I am greeted by a light dusting of gray beard trimmings all over the sink. This means that one of my co-workers trims their beard in the public restroom and doesn't even have the decency to clean up their beard shavings.

I hate washing my hands with beard everywhere, but mostly I hate being reminded that I share the space with about 15 other people. I like to pretend that I'm the only one who uses it but when confronted with castoff facial hair or an un-flushed toilet this illusion quickly evaporates.

Everyone knows that public restrooms are unsanitary. Dr. Dipak Chatterjee of India even said that public toilets are so unsanitary that it's better to use adult diapers, but most of us have to use them out of necessity. I just can't hold it a whole work day.

So I do my best to get by. First, I've tried to track down the beard trimming guy, but out of the 15 men that work in my office, 11 have gray beards, meaning there are 11 suspects. I now hold the clean shaven and dark bearded guys in higher esteem because they are follicularly responsible.

Also, let me say that the little paper “seat protectors,” so called, are a joke. I can't go while I'm sitting on a piece of wax paper. I feel as if I will slide right off the seat.

The most important thing a person can do when using a public restroom is lock the door or stall. At my work it seems like someone is always trying to open the door while I go. I guess we all feel the urge at the same time. They don't just gingerly try the knob, either. They try and break the door down like they are some horror movie monster and I'm the stupid teenager who picked a poor hiding place.

At one office building I spent time at each restroom was unisex and sealed with an electronic lock that all the employees knew the code to, so anyone could get into any restroom at anytime. Each restroom had a two-sided sign with one side colored green and the other colored red. To prevent awkwardness, people were supposed to flip the sign to red when they were using the restroom and green when it was vacant. However, people were always forgetting to flip the sign appropriately and walking in on each other (Yikes! Hey, Boss.) or waiting patiently at the door of an unoccupied restroom.

The good news is people are taking matters into their own hands. Jack Sims of Singapore has founded the World Toilet Organization which has a mission to improve toilet and sanitation conditions worldwide. He also has started the World Toilet College to provide training in toilet design, maintenance and sustainable sanitation.

I'm going to write the WTO and see if they can do something about my work restroom and I request a World Toilet Organization bumper sticker.

Monday, July 19, 2010

I believe in a thing called duct tape

I had my heart broken this week. I thought it was Friday but it was really Wednesday, which was heartbreaking.

I was at work and people were yelling at me and making all kinds of demands, but I was calm and serene because in my head I was like, “Yell and demand all you want, suckers, tomorrow is Saturday.”

Only it wasn't. After that, it felt like Saturday was never going to come. And just like that, my heart was broken.

I wasn't able to fix my broken heart, but there was some other broken stuff I was able to fix. Let me first say that I believe in the power of duct tape. When my wife's car window broke, I used duct tape to fix it, and later my music recording device went bad but I duct taped it back health.
Duct tape is an American institution, like apple pie, overly large cars and credit card debt. I once used duct tape and JB weld to fix a friend's carburetor on his '72 Ford Maverick, no joke. I estimate that between my father and I we have used approximately enough duct tape to stretch from the earth to the Planet Formerly Known As Pluto and back, so I wanted to research duct tape a little.

As it turns out, “duct” tape is a misnomer and duct tape is actually really not meant for use on ductwork, go figure. Duct tape scholars assert that “duct tape” derives from “duck tape,” which was the products' supposed name shortly after it was invented around World War II because it repelled water. Say it ain't so, duct tape.

There is a “Duck” tape club, and every year, “Duck” brand duct tape holds a contest in which high-school students create prom dresses out of duct tape, which sounds like way more fun than I had at my prom. The winner receives a $3,000 scholarship for college. I would have loved to go to college on a Duck tape prom dress scholarship.

Duct tape can be used to cure warts, although – like all medical discoveries – that fact is disputed. Duct tape has been used in the NASA space program and on the space station, so I feel totally legit using it to fix my Geo Prizm.

Springfield, Missouri, is the unofficial Duct Tape Capital of the World, because it claims to have sold more duct tape per capita than any other place in the world. I get a hunch there's not a whole lot going on in Springfield, Missouri.

Things I've used duct tape to fix: bike, chair, shoe, headphones, flip-flops, car stereo, toaster oven, refrigerator, relationship, clock radio. If you combine duct tape with JB weld and WD40 you have, like, the Triumvirate of DIY Fixing Power.

And, um... can you tell that I couldn't think of anything to blog about? Does it show that bad?

The moral of the story is that duct tape can fix everything, except this blog.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Placenta. It's what's for dinner

I set out to write about eating lethal amounts of frozen custard but I ended up writing about eating placentas. Strange, I know.

Here's the story: Chillz, a local custard place offers a “challenge,” which is to eat eight scoops of frozen custard, eight toppings and eight waffles. If you do it in 30 minutes they take your picture and you get it free. If you can't do it, you have to pay $25 for it. I jokingly mentioned this to my brother and he seriously suggested we try it. Now I knew it was a stupid idea, but when I'm around my brother my competitive side comes out and I agreed to do it.

We knew we were out of our depth when we arrived at Chillz. We announced that we were here to do the challenge and the girl behind the counter said, “Have you been training?”


“You know, like going to all-you-can-eat places for several weeks, drinking several gallons of water in a sitting, eating drills. Stuff like that.”

Uh-oh. As you can imagine it was pretty much downhill from there. As my brother and I tried to kill ourselves with custard, the owner of Chillz talked a lot about “competitive eating,” where there are leagues and people stretch out their stomachs on purpose and compete to eat ridiculously large quantities of food in ridiculously short quantities of time. Competitive eaters run the risk of stomach paralysis and stomach perforations. “Competitive eating” is basically a cool name for Binge Eating Disorder that sounds better on ESPN2. The perversity of it all was too much for me to bear.

And speaking of perverse eating habits, around this same time my wife was doing a little research and was horrified to discover “placentophagy,” which – not unlike “competitive eating” – is a fancy word for something disgusting.

Placentophagy means “mammals eating the placenta of their young after childbirth,” which is fine if you are a goat, cat or woodchuck, but there are human women who advocate a mother eating her own placenta to prevent postpartum depression, no joke. Supposedly the practice has its roots in ancient eastern medicine, and if there's one thing hippies love, it's eastern medicine.

We had a lot of questions about placentophagy. For example, does a pregnant woman go to the delivery with a doggie-bag and say to the doctor, “Can you wrap this up for me, Doctor? I'd like to save this to eat later.” What if they mixed up the placentas and accidentally give you someone else's placenta to eat? Has one mother ever said to another, “Are you gonna eat that?”

These placentophagists aren't totally crazy, though. Instead of eating the placenta raw they say to freeze-dry it, grind it up and then put it on pizza or stir it into your coffee. (“How do you take your coffee?” “Cream, sugar, and a spoonful of placenta, if you please.”)

Which begs many more questions: Are there placenta recipe books? Does eating placenta give you “placenta breath”? I would not come within ten feet of someone who had been eating their own placenta, there is not enough mouthwash in the world.

And what do you use to grind up a placenta? A blender? Once you've ground up a placenta in a blender, you can't use it for anything else ever again. Not smoothies, not anything.

One placentophagist argument is that, “All mammals do it, humans are mammals, so humans should do it.” I took an English class in college, and that sure sounds like a “logical fallacy” to me, especially because other mammals live in holes, eat insects and clean themselves with their tongues, and I am not about to do any of those things.

The moral of the story is you are what you eat.

Monday, July 5, 2010

D.I. Why?

My wife and I are trying to buy a house and I've decided I'd rather live in a cardboard box than go to the trouble of actually buying a house.

The first problem is that buying a house or even just making an offer on a house is death by paperwork. Your realtor locks you in a room stacked floor to ceiling with paperwork and you have to sign your way out and hope that you can sign everything before you die of starvation.

The second problem is that house flipping and home makeover reality shows, in conjunction with the Home Depot, have given a lot of unskilled people the idea that they can turn their average home into a dream castle by themselves. Do-It-Yourself-ing is cool, the only problem is some people really can't “do-it-themselves.” Looking at houses in our area we have seen all kinds of amateur monstrosities, and in order to buy them we'd have to put in a bunch of work to fix what some wannabe has already “fixed.”

For example, one of the homes we looked at was painted “Burning Orange” from floor to ceiling. That's right, someone had used a large quantity of drugs and proceeded to paint every room in their home bright, glaring orange. When I looked at the house I started to bleed from my eyelids due to retinal hemorrhaging.

The third and most irritating problem of all is: mortgage brokers. Mortgage brokers are professionals whose job it is to promise potential homebuyers the moon without a single intention of delivering. Here is a sample question from the Mortgage Broker Certification Exam:

As a mortgage broker you must be:
A. 10% full of crap

B. 20% full of crap
C. 50% full of crap

D. 100% full of crap, unable to speak the truth under any circumstance”

And of course, the correct response is “D.”

If I sound desperate it's because I am. I want to get into a house so my wife and I can buy a bigger bed. Right now we are sharing a “full” size mattress. It's not luxurious by any means, but it's not too bad when we go to sleep together. We fit the space allotted.

In chemistry the process of “diffusion” will take a group of concentrated particles and distribute them uniformly.
In like manner, if my wife goes to bed before me she will “diffuse” from her side of the bed until she is miraculously taking up every square inch of our bed. And then when I come to bed she is impossible to wake up or move.

I need that new bed, man. I'd even move into an orange house at this point.