What’s In Your Wallet?

 

 Big-Wallet

               A few weeks ago, my wife bought herself a new wallet. It was a carefully thought out plan, as she debated the various benefits of coin pockets, checkbook holders and the placement of card and bill slots. When she found the perfect wallet, the only flaw was the slender little loop that holds a pen. It’s not large enough to hold the chunky, foam encrusted pens that seem to be all the rage now.

                I still have no idea why a woman’s wallet is so crucial to organizing her life. After all, isn’t that why they carry a purse? I’ve made social observations of women’s purses and some of them are enormous. You can put a small child and an Easter ham in one, so why does a woman’s wallet have to be such a carefully thought out device? There’s certainly enough room for a slightly obese pen in a purse.

               On the male side of carrying things, all men have is a wallet. Pretty much all of our stuff has to be crammed into a tiny leather rectangle and shoved in a back pocket. My wallet is so thick, I feel as if I’m sitting on a rock, and there’s only fourteen dollars in there. I’ve tried to pare it down to the essentials, but there’s still a lot of stuff to carry.

              The bill compartment in my current wallet is divided in two, and on one half, there are the aforementioned fourteen dollars and on the back half, there are receipts that date back to well before Christmas. I also have a punch card from the place where I get my hair cut, and a Subway card that will someday earn me something free. I have no idea what that will be, but I haven’t been in a Subway in five years. In the various slots and compartments, there’s my driver’s license, my health care card, a library card, a few pictures, some business cards and two credit cards. Still, I can never remember in which slot or compartment something is stuffed, so every time I need something, I have to take everything out and shuffle through it all like a croupier. 

             What I have is a back-aching rear pocket wedge that tilts me over like the Leaning Tower of Pisa when I’m seated or makes me appear as if I have some sort of gangrenous butt tumor when I’m not—and my wallet is small compared to some I’ve seen. I’ve seen men pull out wallets the size of a dictionary, crammed full of billfold crap that dates back to high school.

             Do you know what I need? I need a purse. You can butch it up any way you like – man bag, murse, messenger bag, satchel, tote or simply bag—but it’s still a purse, but I don’t have the nerve to make this accessory a part of my everyday life.

            There are some things I wouldn’t mind carrying around with me on a regular basis, but I don’t want to load up my belt and pockets as if I’m Batman going on safari. A couple of Band-Aids or a Leatherman multi-tool could come in handy. My iPad would certainly be nice to have, or a book or a Kindle. A snack bar of some kind or a bag of nuts would be a welcomed addition and maybe a small bottle of water to wash it down and a tin of Altoids to freshen up. I also have a small notebook that I always carry, along with a mechanical pencil. I could shove those in there too. I carry my phone in my front pocket, but sometimes that’s not comfortable. I’m sure there’s a place for a phone in one of these bags.

            Why can’t I do this?

            I have tool bags that have shoulder straps on them and that seems OK because it’s a practical way to carry drills and hand tools. My briefcase has a shoulder strap. Same with my camera bag. I carry that around without an ounce of self-consciousness, so I’ve pretty much established that this is a phobia I have about the switch to a functional  … um … whatever you want to call it for everyday use but in so many ways, it makes perfect sense.

            I have a black nylon backpack with one padded ergonomic strap that I use when I travel and I love it because all my stuff fits in one easily accessible spot. I also swap out my regular fat wallet for an abridged, slimmer wallet with a clip to hold cash and just enough room for two credit cards. The whole thing fits discreetly in my front pocket.  I Unknown-1feel so sleek and worldly when I pull out this small wallet with all life’s essentials for commerce boiled down to a few items, yet if I need a camera or a snack, it’s right there in my shoulder bag. I’m a self-contained man for a week or two.

           When I get home, I always think that I can adapt this system to my daily life, but it never pans out. I’m simply not a hip, urbane, bag-toting man. I’m a thick lump in my back pocket wallet toting man; one who has his keys clipped to his belt loop with a carabiner.

           I realize that this doesn’t make any sense, but that’s how it is. I’m sure a kilt with a sporran works out great for the traditional Scotsman, but pants with a wallet are the norm around here and I’m not the guy to break that trend. I’m the guy with the big lump in his back pocket; a guy that has to ask his wife to carry his sunglasses in her gigantic purse because he has no other place to put them.

 

 

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Here’s Where I Explain The Winter Olympics

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*These are not copyrighted Olympic rings. These are donuts. Don’t sue me.


          For roughly the entire month of February, the world’s attention will be fixed on PyeongChang, which is located in The Other Korea, which in case anyone didn’t know, is South Korea, not North Korea. There have been two Koreas since 1945. One is known for reliable cars and electronics and is a bustling modern city, the other enjoys watching soldiers stutter-march as tanks and rocket launchers roll down Main Street.

          The Olympics will be an opportunity for South Korea to show the world just how much they really appreciate ice dancing. It’s also a chance for NBC (and its various cable and streaming affiliates) to somehow make the fourteen-hour time difference vanish to avoid social media spoilers. It’s all very complicated but the big, showy events will be shown live (mostly) as there is nothing a skater loves more than triple lutz salchowing at 6:00 am so that Americans can watch them on TV at a convenient hour.

          I love the Winter Olympics, I really do, more so than any other televised sporting event. It’s cold in New York right now and it gets dark around 5:30 in the afternoon, so it’s the perfect time to watch hours of obscure sports on TV. This couldn’t have come at a better time.

          The winter games have fewer disciplines than the summer games and since most of the events aren’t really games in the conventional sense (think of them more as feats), this makes them easier to follow. It’s also simple to know who to root for since the athletes are sorted out by country, except for Russia which has Russian athletes but they represent themselves, not Russia because Russia is being punished for doping their athletes. If any of them win gold in an event, they will not play the Russian national anthem, but as I understand it, they will play Who Let The Dogs Out by the Baha Men.

          So, I’m going to take a break from watching women’s hockey at 10:00 in the morning on a Saturday and let you know what you can expect over the next few weeks:

          Hockey. Everybody knows what hockey is, and just about everybody knows about the Miracle on Ice that happened at the 1980 games in Lake Placid when Team USA beat the heavily favored Soviets. I saw that game on TV and it was amazing. It’s been thirty-eight years since then, yet it is still next to impossible to see a hockey game on non-cable TV, even though the season runs from September until April and probably longer. Putting it another way, they don’t delay 60 Minutes for a hockey game. The U.S. is a Big Three sports country (football, baseball, and basketball) and hockey comes in at a distant fourth. Sometimes I wonder if soccer laughs at hockey in the United States. The Olympics will be a chance for hockey fans to cram a bunch of games into a short amount of time—kind of like football fans do on a Sunday.

          Women and men both play Olympic hockey, although not together. Once they are on the ice, either team can be equally exciting to watch, as they are all skilled players. The legendary hockey fights are a bit different with the women’s teams, though. When they throw off the gloves, they stand there wagging their fingers at each other and will make fun of the other woman’s weight, her uniform, her hair, her make-up, and her boyfriend. Smack talk such as “those pads make you look hippy,” and “those bangs make you look like you’re wearing cafe curtains on your head” are common. After a few minutes, they all skate off and have a glass of chardonnay and watch The Bachelor.

          Skating. Ice skating, in some form or another, is probably the biggest Olympic draw for spectators because people seem to enjoy watching tiny, flexible skaters in sequined, low-cut costumes who can pull their foot up behind and over the back of their head and spin around in a sparkly blur. And these are just the men. The women do all this in heels.

          Skating is divided up into different categories, including singles, pairs, triplets, twins conjoined at the head, freestyle, mime and my favorite—that thing that Apolo Anton Ono used to do really fast in a circle. It’s crazy fun to watch speed skaters because their thighs are bigger than their entire torso and they go about thirty-five M.P.H. on skates that look like katanas strapped to sneakers. They also drag their fingers on the ice, which creates flames. It’s very dramatic.

          Skiing. I’ve skied exactly twice in my life and my area of expertise was the horizontal spin with legs in the air move. I think it’s called The Turtle or perhaps The Break Dancer. These Olympic skiers don’t do that and if they do fall, it’s a spectacular cartwheeling affair that usually results in a torn ACL or some such painful knee injury. It’s always the knees. The Russians have been banned from skiing because it was discovered that they have dipped their skiers in liquid titanium to avoid knee injuries.

          My favorite skiing event is ski jumping, where a skier will fly down a ramp and then burst off into the atmosphere before finally landing in Tokyo, six-hundred and thirty-seven miles from PyeongChang. It is the only Olympic event that requires a passport.

          I also enjoy the biathlon, which takes the drop-dead boredom of watching miles of cross-country skiing and combines it with guns. I mean, wouldn’t any sport be improved if the players had to stop what they are doing and plink off targets with a .22 caliber rifle? I know soccer would be a lot more interesting if they added rifles.

          Skiing also includes some X-games events, which are really nothing more than Shaun White trying to add another fifteen gold medals to his collection by defying gravity, physics and common sense. That probably won’t happen because White is now a thirty-one-year-old senior citizen while the up and coming X-game athletes are kindergarteners who have been on snowboards since they were fetuses.

          Curling. One word. Awesome. Two words. Freaking awesome. Curling combines the skill of sliding a heavy, polished rock across the ice with an absolutely maniacal rubbing of the ice with a Swiffer. This year, they’ve added a new wrinkle to make it even more challenging—washing dishes. I don’t know how curling isn’t more popular than football.

          Luge and Skeleton. Luge and skeleton are events that have no other purpose than to be weird Olympic sports. These are essentially guys who enjoyed sledding as kids and took it to the next, insane level. I love watching it, but sadly for them, I don’t think they impress women in bars too often with, “Hey, I’m the bad boy your mother warned you about. I’m a professional sledder.”

           Here’s how one can tell luge and skeleton apart.

          Luge is the event where a guy lays on his back on a tiny sled and launches himself feet-first down a hill faster than the maximum speed limit for a car on the expressway. He has to hold his head up so he can see where he is going while withstanding G-forces of up to three times his body weight. This explains why a luger will have a neck larger than a speed skater’s thigh. The luge driver will hurtle down a banked, icy track, steering with pressure from his legs, while hitting speeds of up to ninety miles per hour. After all this, he could still lose by 1/1000th’s of a second and just miss dying by a fraction of an inch. It’s remarkable and is only slightly less dangerous than skydiving with a lace parachute.

          There is also a two-man luge event, where one guy will lie on his back and then another guy will lie on his back on top of the first guy, and they will both fly down the track, knotted together by their legs. This sounds difficult, but not as difficult as telling your father that you’re the bottom man in the two-man luge.

          What makes skeleton different? Skeleton takes all of the danger of luge and does it face first, on a steel sled that is prohibited from having any steering or braking mechanisms, so who’s taking the bigger risk? Skeleton racers or luge racers? Certainly, not the crybaby quarterback for the New England Patriots who plays football for millions of dollars, that’s for sure.

           Bobsled. Take two or four people, have them shove a big, high-tech sleigh a few yards to get it going and then watch them all jump in and tuck down on top of the person in front of them. After that, they all hang on for dear life while the driver steers this thing with ropes and pulleys. While not as risky as luge or skeleton, bobsledding is a lot more than yodeling guys racing in a canoe with runners. Put it this way—the Germans and the Swiss regularly hand the U.S. teams their hat in this event, and we have some pretty talented athletes. On the plus side, there’s hot chocolate, a campfire and s’mores at the bottom of the hill for everyone.

          PyeongChang has been preparing for this for years, and all of this fun will be coming to your television, phone or tablet over the next few weeks. If you’re at all interested in backstage drama or in men and women training their entire lives at what is often just a hobby, then the Winter Olympics is for you. It’s also an opportunity to view a nation of people in a different light and perhaps learn something about their rich culture and geographic landscape. I know I’ll never get to South Korea, so it’s fascinating for me to see this.

          I also know I’ll be watching every chance I get and if I could justify $160.00 for a custom Ralph Lauren Team USA, I’d be dressed for it too.

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Well, That’s Alarming

 

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           I was up early, quietly putting the finishing touches on a story I was writing about dog turds when the smoke alarm started to shriek, and by shriek, I mean an eighty-five-decibel blare that sent my heart bursting out of my chest.

            “What the flying swear word!” I blurted, but those words were drowned out by the screeching smoke alarm. The alarm then stopped as suddenly as it started.

            “Huh,” I said, slightly amazed. Swearing apparently can silence a smoke alarm, but that silence didn’t last long before the alarm started again, and it was even more terrifying and belligerent than the first time.

            It should be noted that my gut reaction when the alarm went off was not to wake my wife and gather her, the dog, and the family photos, and race out to the front yard before the house was engulfed in flames. No, no, no, not at all. My reaction was probably the most common male reaction to this particular situation—to swear loudly and creatively and look for a hammer with which to smash the offending alarm.

            The second time it went off, I got a little worried, so I did what any reasonable person would do under the circumstances. I wondered if a spider might have crawled up inside the detector or maybe, it was the humidity. Believe it or not, these are two common causes for false alarms with smoke detectors. Then I wondered why smoke detector manufacturers couldn’t make a smoke alarm that is immune from spiders and humidity. These things must go off all the time in Florida, which is the world capital for spiders and humidity. No wonder those old snowbirds are hard of hearing. I’m surprised they aren’t twitchy too.smoke

            Oddly enough, I never once considered that there might be a fire in the house, but I did sniff the air. All I smelled was coffee, but I was now filled with smoke alarm jitters, so coffee felt redundant. Meanwhile, Mrs. G. and the dog were both still sleeping.

            Without warning, the smoke alarm started blaring again, so something had to be done. The unit is mounted nine feet off the floor and flat to the ceiling, and in a remarkable bit of technology; it has a symbiotic relationship with the other eight smoke detectors in the house. They all talk to one another, gossiping back and forth as if they were a row of 1950s housewives having their hair done. “Did you see what he did the other day? What a goofball,” has likely been a very buzzy topic.

            Since my reach falls about a foot short of being able to grab the device, I went to the kitchen pantry and got the small two-step stepladder. This is the type of ladder that women used to use to get up and away from mice, only to realize that their hair was now entangled in spiderwebs.

           Once I was under the now quiet alarm, I unfolded the ladder and climbed up one step. Not enough. One more step and my head almost hit the ceiling, so too much. If I could have hovered in between the steps it would have been perfect. While I was eye-to-eye with the alarm, it fired up again, which caused me to recoil like a terrified toddler playing with a Jack-in-the-box.

   jack-box_0        “What in the holy swear word on a birthday cake?!” I said. I then grabbed the screaming alarm, twisted it by the neck, and popped it off the bracket. “Take that, evil screaming alarm beast,” I said, but that was not the end of it. It was still squawking in my hand, refusing to die. I clearly had the Jason Voorhees of smoke alarms.

            I finally figured out that it was experiencing separation anxiety from being disconnected from the rest of the gabby smoke detectors, but being the heartless creature that I am, I opened the little trap door and plucked out the backup battery. It let out one last fading gasp before it died in my arms. Not taking any chances, I swaddled it in a towel and shoved it in the closet.

            So here’s what I know. If there had been an actual fire, the nearest alarm would have sensed it, relayed the information to the other eight alarms, and they all would have gone off in unison. Had this happened, the noise would have been so loud, it would have shattered the windows, thus allowing air to rush in and fuel the flames up to wildfire level in about two seconds. One of these alarms is loud; nine of them in harmony would make coal miners in West Virginia wonder what the heck was making all that noise.

            So this specific alarm was bad, but why was it bad? Well, it’s hard-wired with a backup battery, so the battery must have run out of juice or was about to do so. I went into the basement to my battery stash and looked for a nine-volt battery. There was an entire alphabet of batteries, but only one that was nine volts. Perfect. I poked it under the lid into the smoke detector, and as soon as I slid the little cover closed, the unit sent out a bone-chilling scream.

            “Son of a bad swear word (as a verb) red-butted monkey on a merry-go-round!!” I said. That was a good one. I’ll have to remember that.

            Out came the battery, on came the pants and shoes, and a trip was made to Lowe’s.

            Since we have nine smoke detectors in the house, it seemed prudent to replace all of the batteries at the same time. They advise changing the batteries twice each year when the clocks are changed, but since the Daylight Saving Time people and I have a huge disagreement on the worth of their time altering lunacy, I choose to ignore their battery advice.9V

            I found the Great Wall of Batteries and looked for the squatty nine-volt size, which has fallen in popularity because AM transistor radios are no longer the height of technology. I believe they are only used now for garage door opener transmitters and smoke detectors, and of course—by eight-year-old boys with damp tongues and more curiosity than brains.

            There they were, buried behind the bargain-priced fifty-count pack of AA batteries, and … huh … would you look at that?

            Four batteries in a pack and I needed nine. This was the hot dog/hot dog bun situation all over again. They were also absurdly expensive, but without any choice, I bought twelve batteries. This will leave three of them lost in the wilderness, hopefully with enough power left when I need one in the middle of the night in a few years.

            Once I got home, I brought in the normal stepladder from the garage, which gave me the perfect amount of headroom, plugged in the smoke detector, twisted it back onto the bracket, and with the trepidation of a crack-addled bomb diffuser, I inserted the fresh battery, and slowly slid the cover shut. I then closed my eyes.

            Silence.

            One down, eight to go.

            So that’s how it went, and as far as I can tell, I bought myself another year or so of peace for thirty-six dollars. Plus tax.

            And that included three extra batteries.

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