Thursday, March 06, 2008

No Six-Minute Milk, And Other Rules For Living.

I have a great many rules for living.

The first and most important is, of course, The Golden Rule. You know that one: Do unto others ... etc.

Don't hold it against me that I abbreviated that rule, either. I don't think that Jesus would mind if I save a little typing. Then again, I didn't think that Jesus would mind when my sister and I used to give "high fives for Jesus," but Mom thought that he would mind. But I'm pretty sure he wouldn't because we didn't do it sarcastically or anything. Well, not sarcastically towards Him. A little sarcastically towards Mom.

I didn't invent the Golden Rule, but I try to follow it. I try to follow all of my rules. Like the Second Most Important Rule. It may not be Golden, but it's worth a lot. Worth so much that I'd like others to follow it, too, although all too few people actually try. The Second Most Important Rule is to constantly ask yourself: What can I do to make Roy's life easier today? I don't know why that rule is not more popular. It doesn't require all that much effort. All you have to do is, say, not be ahead of me in line in the 15-items or less lane and refuse to let me skip even though all I've got is 2 cartons of milk and you've got 14 items, and it's 14 items only if you count the three Twix bars as one item, but they're separately packaged, so I think they're three, and then you ask the cashier to get you some packs of cigarettes, and it's two different kinds, so that's clearly over 15 items, all of which is taking place while my milk is getting warm, and a gallon of milk over the course of its lifetime should really only be out of the refrigerator for maybe 5 minutes, in the aggregate, and you're using all of those up while I stand in line behind you.

So following The Second Most Important Rule would have saved all that trouble just by letting me skip, and then we're all happy, right? Well, I'm happy, and that's what The Second Most Important Rule is all about.

Plus, you'd be helping enforce The Milk Rule, which, as I said, is that Milk should not be removed from the refrigerator for more than 5 minutes, total, in its lifetime. I can taste it if its been out longer than that, and it's gross. 6-minute Milk is disgusting.

You've got to have rules in your life, or everything will devolve into Cloverfield. (Cloverfield is my new word for chaos, because I assume that the movie was about the chaotic effect of some kind of monster attack on New York. I assume that because I never got to see the movie. Also, now, when one of the Babies! acts up, I refer to them as "Cloverfield" because I think maybe the monster was called "Cloverfield." I probably should just see the movie.)

(I also call the Babies! other nicknames. In the mornings, when I go get them for breakfast, they are the Raspberries, because Raspberries is mine and Sweetie's code word for "Help me with the babies!" If you go into their room, for example, and they're both jumping so high they're almost bouncing out of the crib and they need their diapers changed and they start fighting, you yell raspberries over the baby monitor. And pray.)

(And I call them "Bungalow Bill" and "Captain Marvel" after the Beatles' song. But that's mostly when they're at work with me and we play a lot of Beatles' music.)

(The Babies!, by the way, do not have any idea what their actual names are. I'm serious. We have nicknames for them that we use all the time and have since they were born, and they've never been called by their real names, so when they go places like the photo studio for pictures, we have to explain to the photographer what their nicknames are and why we call them that, because the Babies! do not answer to their real names. So keep that in mind when you get around to picking a nickname for your own kid(s).)

So to avoid Cloverfield in my own life, I have a series of Rules for Living that I follow religiously -- and not religiously like "high five for Jesus" religiously, religiously the way your great aunt went to church every day: seriously and without bending them, ever.

My rules range from clothing-related rules like "Always take dress shirts from the right side of the closet," because I hang my shirts and pants to the left, so the shirts on the right are the ones I haven't worn in the longest. That way I don't repeat shirts too often. Or "Don't take off my shirt while jogging until I'm through the park," a rule meant mostly to protect the little kids; I don't tan much and I'm not in what you would call peak physical condition, so I don't want to be responsible for scaring little kids by showing them what almost-40 really looks like. Or "Corduroys can only be worn between October 1 and March 31 no matter what the temperatures are on other times," which is the only reason I get a little excited about cold weather, and the only reason I'm a little sad when spring gets here: I love the zoop zoop zoop sound my cords make when I walk.

I've got non-clothing-related Rules, too, like "Lunch has three categories," which has as its corollary, And one of the categories should be Ramen noodles. And rules meant to protect me, like When you're going to the doctor, leave your wallet and keys in the car and wear the light shoes in case they weigh you, because everyone knows that the wallet bumps that weight way up. And sometimes they round it up, too, for no reason at all! The last time I went, the little slider was right in the middle and it could be a 2 or 3, and the nurse went with 3. Why? I don't know. Maybe she was accounting for the fact that I'd taken off my belt. Belts are heavy.

You get the point. My Rules for Living make the world a better place. For me. Especially The Second Most Important Rule. Commit that one to memory. And if you don't let me skip, at least get only one Twix. Because there were none left for me.

Raspberries! Raspberries!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

When someone asks you what it all means, you could always tell them this.

Middle is quite the creative thinker. I'll give her that.

This past Saturday, Middle was going to take her SAT test. Note that I said "going to," not "did." Middle was almost as prepared as you can possibly be to take the SAT test. She had done the practice tests. She had done the nightly vocabulary review. She had done the one-a-day emailed SAT questions. She had printed up her entry ticket, gotten her #2 pencils and calculator, and even gotten up early and made a good breakfast.

Here's where the complications came in. We have three cars and only two slots in the garage, so on Saturday morning, I was driving Middle to the test (she didn't know how to get to the location) and then taking Mr F and Mr Bunches to work with me. We maneuvered around the cars so that I had Vuey (our Saturn Vue -- all of our cars have had names, going back to "Zippy," and through "Denty," "Newey," and "Bluey." Then we got a Durango, too. That doesn't have a name. Nobody really likes the Durango except Sweetie) ready to go, and Middle pulled Bluey, the older car she uses, into the garage.

She asked me: "Should I leave my keys here?"

I said: "No, your mom's not going to need to get into Bluey."

So she left her keys there, I dropped her at the test site, and she called me at 7:40 at the office to tell me that she could not get in to take the test, which began at 8 a.m., without her ID.

Her ID that was in Bluey.

My office is at least 30 minutes from home and another 20 from the test site, so I called Sweetie, who was all set to get the ID from Bluey and to run the ID to Middle until she called me back and said:

"Bluey is locked."

Bluey was in the garage.

Which shouldn't surprise me, because I, too, lock my car in the garage, having lived in Milwaukee for a long time and having grown up with the belief (instilled in me by my Mom) that around every corner lurks a burglar/sex fiend waiting to steal your car and/or your manhood. Mom still talks about a guy that lived near her apartment in a small town, a guy she refers to vaguely and disturbingly as "Panty Hose Man." I don't know if Panty Hose Man exists but he does scare me -- scare me enough to lock my car even when it's in the garage.

The locked car put the kibosh on Middle taking the test. I didn't get too upset with her, though, since I once went to a seminar -- in Milwaukee-- on the wrong day. I drove all the way there, parked, went into the location of the seminar, and only then realized I was a day late. (I expect that will come up at my review this year.)

Middle later tried to pin the blame on me -- she said "I asked you if I should leave my keys, and you said no."

I responded: "That's because you didn't ask the right question. If you'd said I'm going to leave my ID in the car and call you later to get it from the locked car, so should I leave the keys, I'd have told you, yes, leave the keys."

She pouted and I couldn't help adding "Or, I might have told you just take the ID."

Comic courtesy of

While I didn't blame her for locking the car or forgetting her ID, here's what really bugged me about that day: On the way to the test, I said it would be an excellent practical joke if they made up a fake test with impossible questions. One impossible question, I said, could be the essay: Explain the meaning of life in 15,000 words or more. You have 10 minutes. Do not use the letter 'e.'

"Or, don't use vowels," Middle said. We laughed.

"What would you put down?" I asked. She shrugged. I said, "I'd write grrblnka."

"No," Middle said. "That has an e in it."

I don't know where Middle gets off thinking that she knows how to spell a word that I made up to explain the meaning of life without using vowels -- but she was very very certain that "grrblnka" has an e in it, and that it would require other vowels, too. And she made me start doubting myself -- after all, she was the one who'd been doing all that vocabulary work.

But in the end, I held firm and used all my moral authority to tell her that, no, she was wrong and that's all there is to it. I may not know a lot about a lot of things, but if there's one thing I do know, it's that the meaning of life = grrblnka.