Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Now Is The Time For All Good Men And Women To Come To The Aid Of... Me. (Thinking The Lions)

As much as I hate to do this, I'm going to have to ask for your help, you readers of this blog.

I need your help to convince society -- which is mostly made up of people, people just like you -- to take whatever steps are necessary to free up my time so that I can make the world a better place.

Free up my time, and your money. I'm going to need that, too.

It's come to this -- my plea to you to get together, as a society, to free up my time and my money, because I've decided that it doesn't make any sense to go on the way I've been going on so far, and that we need to improve things, improve them by implementing my various ideas and solutions for society. I've got plenty of ideas and solutions for society. I just don't have the time or the money to implement them. Or the power, but that will come if you give me time and money.

All my time, and money, is currently taken up with things like "having to go to work to earn the money" and "going places to spend the money that I worked to earn," the result of which is that I never have any time, and I never have any money, and society just muddles along without the benefit of my many possible improvements.

Improvements like better lip stuff, and like indoor playgrounds.

Those are just the two most recent of my many many brilliant ideas, ideas that now range from the "EZ-Mover" (TM me, some year or other) to the In-The-Cupboard-Dishwasher (which lets you take the dirty dishes, put them back in the cupboard, and then throw a switch, washing them right there so that you save the steps of putting them into the dishwasher, and then putting them into the cupboard)(or which would let you do that, only it doesn't exist yet.)

These are ideas that came to me in recent days, as I was struggling to get by in what passes for a "civilization" these days, a civilization that can hardly be referred to using that word, considering how few of my ideas are actually adopted by that "civilization."

First, over the weekend, I had to bravely bear up under intolerable conditions imposed by society, the intolerable conditions in this case being "other people wanting to use the McDonald's playland at the same time as I did."

Living in Wisconsin, as I reluctantly do, means that for 11.5 months of the year, there is snow everywhere. You may live in Wisconsin, or have been to Wisconsin, or otherwise have some knowledge of Wisconsin and/or basic weather and physics principals, in which case you're likely saying "There's not snow everywhere, and not for 11.5 months, you're exaggerating." To which I respond: (a) I'm not, and (b) there's enough snow, and enough cold, that it really doesn't matter, does it? Is there a big difference between there being some snow and cold, and perpetual snow and cold? Not to me, there isn't. If it snows at all, then it might as well be snowing always and everywhere, because when it snows, people get left with snow-covered ground, and snow-covered cars, and snow-covered roads to drive those cars on, and slush-covered sidewalks to walk on to get from their cold cars to their cold offices, after which they'll realize they have slush in their shoe, and realize that it's time to replace the pair of black dress shoes they've had for five years.

Technically, it was time to replace those shoes about a year ago; I've been putting it off because I really like those shoes and I really dislike spending money, so I never went and got a new pair until recently when the old pair got a hole in the bottom and I spent a day at the office with slushy socks.

It's cold all the time in Wisconsin -- and snow gets everywhere, even in our socks, and for great big chunks of the year it's too cold to go outside and do anything, period. Who wants to go outside when the temperature is measured in the negatives, risking frostbite and having to bundle up before going outside, only to then immediately begin to sweat the moment you move around outside so that you have the disparate feeling of freezing to death and dying of heat exhaustion at the exact same time? Not me. And even when it's not actually life-threateningly cold, what's the point of going outside when there's snow all around and you can't do anything because you're so bundled up you can barely move and you've got big clunky gloves and boots and jackets on?

I took the Babies! outside about two weeks ago, on a "nice" day -- it was 23 degrees -- getting them, and me, bundled up to do so. We put on warm pants and sweatshirts and socks and boots and jackets and hats and gloves, and they had snow pants on, too, and after all that, we walked out the back door and tramped to the back yard, which was covered in snow, and the three of us just stood there, and I thought to myself, "Now what? What was it I thought I'd be doing out here once we got here?" The snow wasn't pack-y enough to build something with, or have a snowball fight with. But it wasn't the right kind of snow for sledding, either, making the snow useless for everything snow could possibly be used for. It wasn't even good for decoration, since it was melty and brownish-gray.

But with the snow, and our bundling, we couldn't play other outside games. We couldn't throw a ball or kick it or play tag or engage in Mr F's favorite backyard activity, which is to pick up things in one area and drop them in another area. There was nothing to pick up here and drop there. It was all covered by ugly, useless snow.

(Then things went from bad to worse, as Mr F remembered that outside is also where he once saw the neighbor's dog, a dog that, of all things, came into our yard and sniffed Mr F, who decided then and there that he didn't like dogs, and because the dog he didn't like in particular was outside, Mr F also started disliking outside, which he remembered all of a sudden that day and which made him want to be picked up and carried on the offchance that the dog would come back and sniff him again.)

After that day, I gave up on "going outside" for the winter, and went back to my usual practice when I want to take the Babies! somewhere to play in the winter, which is to take them to the mall playground or the McDonald's playland.

The Mall playground is bigger, but we don't go there as often, for a couple of reasons. First, it's farther away than the McDonald's playland. Second, the Mall playground is usually a lot more crowded, which poses many problems for me when I take the Babies! there. The Mall playground is surrounded by seats and a low wall, but the seats and the low wall don't really help me keep track of the Babies! when we're there -- because the Babies! can climb up the seats and over the wall, if they want to. (And they want to.) Plus, the wall is low enough that any stranger who wanted to could lean over the wall and grab one, or both, Babies! and get away with them, selling Mr F or Mr Bunches into slavery and making me have a lot of explaining to do for Sweetie (an explanation that would likely begin "Well, I was trying to decide if I really wanted to go get an Orange Julius..." and would likely end in divorce court.)

I'm not crazy, either. I know, as a result of my upbringing, that the world is teeming with serial killers and rapists who are lurking around everywhere, but most especially malls, waiting to steal children. And mug me, which is why I keep my wallet in my front pocket when I go to the mall. I'm no sucker.

So when I go to the Mall playground, it's exhausting. I have to try to keep track of Mr Bunches and Mr F, and they head off in different directions, surrounded by a teeming throng of other kids and other parents, causing me trouble already when I try to watch both, trouble that gets worse when one or the other demands my attention by wanting to play with me, or taking my cell phone, or taking some stranger's cell phone, or trying to climb the wall to get out to where the kidnap-y strangers are waiting. Then I have to focus on that one, giving the other one a golden opportunity to steal a cell phone or get kidnapped. After a while, I usually end up carrying one twin under an arm while chasing after the other one. I'm sure it's amusing to other parents. To me it's just the beginning of an aneurysm.

Plus, when I go to the Mall playground, there's always one kid, a new one each time, who appears to be there without parents and who tries to glom onto me to play with him or help him. This kid -- generally it's a boy, but always a new one -- will follow me around, or try to talk to me, or ask me to help him up onto the yellow construction-worker's-hat display like I just did for Mr Bunches, and that puts me into a bad position, because what do I do about that? In this day and age -- in what passes for our civilization -- I can't go around just talking to random kids, let alone picking them up and putting them places. That's the kind of thing the kidnap-y strangers do, and it'll get me arrested... at best. But if I walk away, or ignore the kid, I look like a total jerk to everyone around me, including the kid. I end up usually trying to act as though I don't see the kid, and trying to go get Mr F or Mr Bunches to do something like steal someone's cell phone so that I have an excuse to leave the kid there, but it always ends up with me getting the worst of both worlds: I feel like people are thinking That guy's a jerk... and probably a kidnap-y stranger. (I always want to yell out "Hey, if you're this kid's parents, why don't you pay attention to him because he's talking to strangers"... but I never do.)

Instead, I try to avoid the Mall playground and go to McDonald's, which has the advantage of being closer, and more cheeseburger-y, and more confined: the playland is enclosed and has only one door (plus the emergency exit), reducing the ways the Babies! can escape and the ways the perverts can kidnap them, so I can relax a little. But McDonald's has its own problems, mostly by virtue of the fact that it has rules.

McDonald's has rules like "No food in the playland," and like "You must wear socks but not shoes." I don't follow these rules, but that's not by choice. Not really. I don't follow the rules because I can't.

I always buy some food when we go there. I'm not sure McDonald's would kick me out if I didn't, but I don't want to risk it. Technically, I'm supposed to eat that food outside the playland, or at least to leave it outside the playland, but I can't, for several valid reasons.

First, the Babies! won't wait to eat outside the playland. They want to go play, and now, so getting them to sit in the chairs and eat a McNugget is impossible. (It's not like they ever sit, anyway.)

Second, if I leave the food outside the playland, then I not only have to step out to get it for the Babies! when they do deign to eat a french fry -- exposing them to the kidnap-y strangers in my absence -- but that leaves the food unattended, and if there's one thing I know for sure, it's that in addition to the hordes of serial killing rapists roaming our country, there are also millions of sickos and deviants who want nothing more than to poison or spit in my food if it's left unattended for even a second. So I don't risk it. I take my food into the playland and hope that nobody calls me on it.

Then there's the socks-but-no-shoes rule. Here's the thing about the Babies!: They won't wear things on their feet. They're barefoot about 99.9% of the time. I can get them to wear shoes and socks if I get the socks on, and then get the shoes on, and then keep them distracted the entire time they have shoes on, so that it never occurs to them that they have shoes and socks on because they're so distracted. But if they get even a moment to think about it... even one moment, those shoes and socks come off. So when we get to the Playland, if I take their shoes off, that directs their attention to the fact that they have something -- socks -- on their feet, and they will take those socks off and go barefoot, which seems to me to be a horrible thing to do in an eating establishment, which I guess McDonald's counts as.

The Babies! are distracted by the playland, though, so they won't take their shoes off if I don't point out the fact that they're wearing shoes. Once I realized that, I was left with being a rulebreaker no matter what: either I'd have shod Babies!, or barefoot Babies!, but either way, the socks-but-not-shoes rule would not be followed. (I only once tried to keep putting the socks back on, only to have Mr Bunches take his sock off somewhere in the tube-maze and lose it.)

I end up, then, in the Playland with our food, and with Babies! with socks-and-shoes on, which wouldn't be bad at all, except that (as happens so often when one lives in a society), other people are occasionally around wanting to also use public accommodations. And those other people also have other kids, who come into the McDonalds' playland and cause all sorts of troubles by making me think that they're thinking ill of me, and also by commenting on things.

It's not all in my head. Maybe part of it is, but not all of it. I'll be sitting in the playland, watching Mr F and Mr Bunches do their thing, which is typically this: Mr Bunches climbs up into the higher part of the tunnel-jungle-gym, and looks out the windows at me and waves and walks around. Mr F, meanwhile, is afraid of heights and so won't go up to the higher part. Instead, he sits at the entrance and makes loud noises, and occasionally crawls through the lower tunnels before coming to sit at the bottom of the slide where he waits, looking expectantly up the slide, for Mr Bunches to come sliding down. Mr F doesn't like the slide, because it's tall, but he does like to watch others come down it.

He waits in vain, though, because while Mr Bunches loves being on the upper level, Mr Bunches, too, does not like the slide because it's tall and scary, so Mr Bunches never comes down the slide. He just walks around up on the higher level, waving and occasionally coming down to have a french fry. (Or hash brown, if it's the morning.)

That's how we while away the time, generally, if there's nobody there: Mr Bunches walks around, Mr F looks expectantly, and I alternate between encouraging them to go down the slide, and encouraging them not to open the emergency exit. Or not to lick the windows, which sometimes Mr F does. (Actually, he does that often enough to make me wonder whether the windows, maybe, taste good. I have to assume that, or else I have to assume that Mr F knows it grosses me out when he licks them and so he does it to test me, the way Mr Bunches sometimes tries to get me to eat things he finds laying around the house or the car.)

If there are people there, though, all kinds of problems start. First, the people will occasionally look at the food I've brought with me, and will do so with what I can only interpret as the kind of look that says "Who do you think you are, bringing food in here when the door clearly says not to do that?" I try, in turn, to not notice them looking at me while I also try, simultaneously, to give them a look that says "I'm not trying to break the rules, not really, and I always clean up after myself, and anyway, who are you to judge me? Didn't you ever break a rule?" I'm pretty sure I get my point across.

Meanwhile, the people's kids are causing worse trouble, by noticing the food and asking to bring their own food in there -- which always startles me, because it means, when I hear it, that the people have left their food unattended. "Don't you know about the sickos and deviants?" I want to ask, but I have to focus on making sure my other defenses are communicated via facial expressions, so I don't bring it up. Then, the other people's kids start saying stuff like "Why do those boys get to wear their shoes?" and their parents say things like "I don't know but you have to keep your shoes off and socks on" only it comes out with a subtext, a subtext that seems to say "Because that man is a horrible horrible person" or that's what I feel in their comments. I don't even know how I could begin to explain, about the bare feet and the fact that I'm really not a very good parent, so I don't try. I just offer Mr F a french fry.

Worse yet, the other people's kids sometimes play on the other equipment that the Babies! want to use, the "little kid" area for kids under 3. Mr F and Mr Bunches sometimes like to go play on that smaller version of the jungle-gym-and-slide, chasing each other around and going down the (much smaller) slide, and I let them even though the rules (ha!) say that equipment is for kids under 3, because if I've already broken every other rule, why would I follow that one?

But I'm not completely sociopathic; if there are actual little kids on the other equipment, I never let Mr F and Mr Bunches over there, out of concern, mainly, for the little kids: Mr F and Mr Bunches, surrounded by their giant older brother and sisters, have learned to fend for themselves and play rough.

Plus I worry that they'd simply carry away one of the little babies that play on the equipment. Mr F actually tried that one time; there was a mother at the Playland holding an infant on her lap while her other kids played. Mr F likes babies and kept watching this one, watching right up to the moment when he ran across the playland and tried to steal the baby from the mother, who was very surprised but managed to retain possession of her daughter. Mr F wasn't yet two years old and had already developed a kidnapping habit.

Not letting Mr F and Mr Bunches play on the little kids' equipment upsets them and wrecks the morning for them, putting a damper on their waving and expectant looking and french fry eating, and making me keep fending off their increasingly desperate attempts to get to the little kids' side of the playland until we finally leave. So when I notice other parents coming in, with little kids, I naturally grow very annoyed at the way other people continue to take advantage of things like that and make my life harder. Here I am, minding my own business and ignoring all the rules so that my boys can play, and they have to go and wreck things by having their own lives and wanting to do things.

I've come up with a solution to that all, though, a solution I came up with some time ago but have never been able to put into action because, as I said, I'm always busy with other things like working and ignoring my horribly chapped lips that cause me an incredible amount of pain and make it difficult to concentrate on anything because I'm constantly thinking to myself "Don't lick your lips anymore," but then I lick them anyway, and then I realize what I did and I try to dry my lips off, quickly, but that doesn't help, it just makes it worse.

The odds are, if you talk to me at any time in the winter -- which in Wisconsin is always -- I will not be focusing on what you're saying. I'll be thinking Don't lick your lips and then I'll be trying to dry my lips off. Don't take it personally.

To help with my permanently chapped lips, I am forever investing in various lip balms and lip products and Chapsticks, all of which follow one of two life cycles: They are purchased, they are used once, they are then put in a pocket, and they then either go through the wash and are wrecked, or they are dropped out of the pocket and picked up by Mr Bunches, who then tries at some point to get me to eat them.

The problem is, I already have so much stuff in my pockets, and in the pockets of my briefcase, that I can't really keep track of more stuff in my pockets. On a good day, I've got my keys, and my other keys, and my wallet, and my cell phone, and then in my briefcase pockets I've also got my idea notebook and my iPod and headphones, and a pocket tape recorder, and a metal binder clip for some reason, and a folded up envelope that I don't know what it is but I'm afraid to throw it away in case it's important for a case-- so a lip balm gets lost in the shuffle and ultimately washed or fed to me.

But I've solved that problem, too -- a chain reaction of solutions that would let me solve other problems, and which would improve the world for everyone (mostly me) and would also let me not have lips that are so chapped that it hurts to eat salty foods, which I do all the time (forcing me to lick my lips even more), or that problem would be solved, if I had the time and your money to solve it.

Here's the solution to the lip balm products problem: Wallet-sized lip balms. I'm picturing a credit-card sized packet of lip balm that opens at one corner (and then reseals easily), so that it can be slipped into a wallet slot and carried with me, and used as necessary.

See? It's genius, right? Of course it is. That way, I would never lose my lip balm (or have to eat it) because how often am I going to lose my wallet? (Twice. At least.) The lip packets could be sold in sets -- 2 or 3 or 5 - -and held onto forever, and they'd fit in other things like women's coin purses or shirt pockets or business card holders. They would be endlessly useful (as most of my inventions are) but they don't exist yet, because I'm too busy working and earning money to spend on the errands I run to buy the stuff using the money I worked to earn, and because of that, I have chapped lips all the time and I'm pretty sure I've eaten at least two Chapsticks.

But if I could get all of you to pitch in and convince society (you) to pay me to develop things like the Lip Balm Packet (TM Me, 2010), and to pay for those things to be made, then we'd all have lip balm packets and nobody would have chapped lips, and we'd go on to allow me to make (with my time and your money) my other inventions, one of which solves the Playland problem, and which is this:

Indoor playgrounds.

How is that not already a thing? How have people existed in the subarctic climes of Wisconsin for two thousand and ten years and not yet built an indoor playground? I'm not talking about playlands, or Mall playgrounds. I'm talking about big municipal playgrounds, just like they have at parks, but indoors. What's wrong with society (you) that for all these years, you've taken your kids to the playground in spring and summer and fall but then, when winter comes, nobody ever said "Boy, it'd sure be nice to have a playground to go to" and built an indoor playground?

It's not like there's a shortage of space: there are ten billion empty buildings in the world, all just waiting to be converted to a playground with a merry-go-round and swings and slides and a bunch of bright lights and restricted access to kidnap-y strangers. And it's not like there's a shortage of kids -- they're always there, hogging up the playland and Mall playground. It's just that for some reason, we as a society (you) have decided that once November 1 hits, nobody should be allowed to go down a publicly-owned slide anymore, and we've got to all cram ourselves into the McDonald's playland and buy some McGriddles if we want to get the kids out of the house.

I first thought of the public playground idea a couple of years ago, and I revisit it each time I have to go and watch Mr F and Mr Bunches compete with seventy-zillion other kids in the crowded confines of a commercially-built playland stocked with lame displays (the one at the mall includes a tube shaped like a fluorescent lightbulb... fun!) or with limited space. I've come up with designs and names and locations and funding ideas and ways that the playground could be used in the nicer months, too...

... and then I have to go back to work, with my chapped lips, and scrap it all until next time, with the result being that we never get any closer to fixing my lips, or my playground problems, until now, when I've thrown it out there for the public (you) to help me out, by deciding as a group to let me stop working and start just thinking up great ideas like this to give to society (and getting paid to do that)(and paid handsomely. Let's face it: I'm worth it. It's not like any of you came up with Lip Balm Packets or Indoor Playgrounds) and then getting society (you) to pay to create those things.

If you all pitch in and do that for me, it won't be long until we're living in a Nirvana-like state where nobody ever suffers from chapped lips, everyone's dishes are all put away all the time, everyone's Moves are EZ, and my kids get to play in the indoor playground without any interference. (Your kids won't be allowed at the Indoor Playground, because it'll just make my life harder. But you're free to use the Mall. Watch out for the kidnap-y strangers.)

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