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Friday, August 29, 2008

The 50 Greatest High Schoolers On Film. Part Three: 21-30

We're getting close to the top 10! Here's the next set.


30: Randall “Pink” Floyd (Jason London) from Dazed and Confused
Just like Cappie, Pink is a jock who’s also cool. He takes freshman Mitch under his wing after receiving his “licks” from O’Bannion and the other seniors. He offers to let Mitch hang out with them at the Emporium and even helps him hook up with Julie Simms. But the star quarterback also is hounded by his coach imposing on him to sign the pledge that promises he will not take drugs or do anything else to jeopardize a championship season in the fall. Pink throws the pledge in his coach’s face and says he’ll play, but on his terms. Leader or rebel, he’s a jock with his own identity.


29: Terry Griffith (Joyce Hyser) from Just One of the Guys
You might think I’ve snapped, but Terry Griffith was hot. Sure she dressed like Elvis Costello and looked like the Karate Kid but two important scenes solidify her hotness and my….well you get it. The first is the opening scene when she gets out of bed. The second is the big reveal…and I do mean big and I mean reveal… when she is forced to prove to Rick Morehouse that she’s really a sheep in wolf’s clothing.


28: Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger) from 10 Things I Hate About You
When Patrick Verona serenades Kat, women just swooned. Though Ledger is gone, 10 Things…leaves a lasting and indelible impression of overall charisma and chemistry for those who loved that the stud muffin from down under was mostly misunderstood in his mysterious ways. Whether he was camped out on his grandmothers couch watching Wheel of Fortune or keeping Kat concious after sustaining a concussion, he wasn’t too good to be true.


27: Ronald Miller (Patrick Dempsey) Can’t Buy Me Love
It’s hard to believe that McDreamy was once McNerdy. But, oh, yes, he was. Ronald strikes up a deal with popular cheerleader, Cindy in order to help her out of a jam. He pays her $1000 to help him look cool by pretending to be his girlfriend for a month. Miraculously, he goes from dud to stud, like all good, believable 80’s movies, and while trading in his dorky threads, he trades in his dorky friends, which makes him one of the bad guys. In the end, he makes up for it in a “deus ex machina” moment and announces that once “We were all friends until cliques divided us.” Cue the cheesy music.


26: Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) from Election
Remind you of anyone? Ruthless, ambitious, and running for President. No? Well, the manipulative Tracy Flick inspires the worst in Jim McAllister which leads him to take matters into his own hands to stop the Flick campaign from succeeding. Tracy once had an affair with one of Jim’s fellow teachers which led to his divorce and termination. She also managed to use dirty tactics to undermine fellow candidate Paul’s campaign. Ultimately, she wins in the end and for once the Bitch gets the better of the rest of us.

Bad Asses

25: Angel Guzman (Lou Diamond Phillips) from Stand and Deliver

Guzman’s pose is such an iconic image, instantly recognizable. His hard stare down letting you know he’s no cabron. Hiding behind his tough guy exterior, Angel is bright and wants to learn and do well, but he also wants his friends none the wiser. In a genre that sees a lot of films come along like Dangerous Minds and Freedom Writers, the inner city classroom struggle to rise above stereotype can be muddied by outlandish storylines. With Stand and Deliver, Angel is the epitome of the class struggle to rise above what is expected while being afraid to show that you can succeed in a world that wants you to fail, even though that famous pose of Lou Diamond Phillips has Angel Guzman seated and chilling.


24: Steve Stifler (Sean William Scott) from American Pie
Steve Stifler is not your typical bully. Yeah, he calls Finch “Shitbreak.” Sure, he put a laxative in his moccachino and humiliates him in front of the student body. After all is said and done, Stifler is much like any bully, alone in the world. The people he thinks are his friends only want the perks of being a hanger on to Stifler in hopes they can be invited to one of his awesome parties. However, he does get his share of comeuppance, whether it be from a glass of “Pale Ale” early on in the first of the American Pie film or finding out that his nemesis, Finch, just bedded his MILF of a mom, basically known as "Stiffler's Mom."

Freaks and Geeks

23: Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) from Rushmore
Over involved in extracurricular activities, Max finds little time for anything like actual schoolwork. His quirkiness is only heightened by his infatuation with a widowed teacher, Ms. Cross. Soon, he goes from friend to foe, informing his rival Herman’s wife of her husband’s infidelity as well as cutting the brake lines on Herman’s car. In the end, he tries to make amends by reuniting the object of his ire and affection.

Dead and Undead

22: Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) from Donnie Darko
If you try and reason why Donnie made the list under this category blood will shoot from your nose. Just accept it because if you haven’t seen it, I don’t want to ruin it. Let it just be said that Donnie should be on the list in this category. The awkward teen has gone off his meds and starts seeing a demented six foot tall bunny named Frank who tells him the world will end. Trippy time travel theories and Star Search play out while Donnie contemplates how it all involves him.


21: Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) from Back to the Future
Though the only one who really perceives McFly to be a slacker is Principal Strickland, a slacker Marty shall be in my book. Marty is usually late for school which plays into his slacker persona but he is also a hothead never backing down from a challenge to prove he is not a coward. The movie only serves to feed the idea that capitalism is good and that we should all want to have a rich family, nice car, and a bright future. Marty assumes that he will make it one day in the world of rock music with his band called the Pinheads. Yet, McFly is the Everyman for all time and can rock a mean guitar to Chuck Berry.

Go to the next set: 11-20>>>

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The 50 Greatest High Schoolers On Film. Part Two: 31-40

Continuing on with our list. Here is the next set of 10

40: Cappie (Charlie Sheen) from Lucas
In the world of film high schools, the jocks are supposed to either be the protaganist or the antagonist. More often than not, they are usually the heel. They make the smaller and weaker main character have to rise above their pranks and compete for the affection of the "out of their league" girl. However, Cappie was a protector of sorts for Lucas in the sense that he had contracted Hepatitis, (perhaps a bit of forshadowing of Sheen's personal life being a regular of Heidi Fleiss' call girl empire.) and Lucas brought him his homework so that he didn't fail school. While Cappie does end up with the girl, you can't hate him. Deep down we wish all the jocks were like that in school.

39: Marilyn McCauley (Kelly Preston) from Mischief
The 80's were rich with gratuitous nudity in movies. Kelly Preston was one of the few who never seemed to mind. In fact, there were only a few instances where body doubles were used in place of the actresses' real assets, Tuff Turf and Zapped! come to mind in their usage. However, what red blooded 80's teen in America can say that they didn't wish they had DVD quality pause and zoom capabilities when Marilyn McCauley took Gene to bed while her dog watched? Holy cow. Mrs. Travolta only got better with age, come Jerry Maguire.

38: Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) from Say Anything
Call "Bullshit" all you want but Lloyd was a stud. He got the girl that was out of his league. Who here tried the boombox trick? Anyone? I did it. Now, you may think I'm crazy for putting Lloyd so low on the list. I apologize but I didn't have a hero category and I felt Mr. Dobler belonged on the list somewhere. Since he's into kickboxing, "The sport of the future," I almost threw him into the Jock category but I felt I was lacking in studs so I made room just for him in your eyes.

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37: Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon) Christine
The hair, the glasses, the clothes. Arnie Cunningham embodies nerd-dom in the Carpenter directed adaptation about Stephen King's killer car. The only who understands him is Christine and she will do everything in her power to protect him. Ultimately, Arnie pays the price and dies at the hands of her lack of safety features like air bags.

36: Betty Rizzo (Stockard Channing) from Grease
As leader of the "Pink Ladies" Rizzo makes the call on whether you're too pure to be pink. She doesn't have the blonde and petite looks of Sandy, and that only drives her to make fun of Sandy's inability to handle one cigarette, eh, eh, eh. However, deep within Rizzo is a tortured soul who knows that she is not what she seems to be, especially when she finds her self unsure that is pregnant by on again, off again boyfriend, Kenickie. In the end, she ends up not pregnant and perhaps a little nicer.

Bad Asses
35: Zeke Tyler (Josh Hartnett) from The Faculty
Sometimes the bad ass isn't what he seems. Sometimes he's a smart kid that just happens to be repeating senior year because he doesn't care about graduating. Zeke is just such a bad ass who sells a pixie stick style of drugs made mostly of caffeine. But when the school becomes a breeding ground for aliens, he goes into kick ass mode as he doles out the death with a pen to the eye of John Stewart. By the end, he's wised up to applying himself in class and on the football team as well as getting to nail Famke Janssen's "Miss Burke ."

34: Fred O'Bannion (Ben Affleck) from Dazed and Confused
Y'all ready to bust some ass? Fred O'Bannion is the typical hot headed, grade repeating, foul mouthed, and ignorant bully. He hangs around the ballfield waiting patiently for Mitch Kramer to finish up his game, just so he can give it to him real good. It is only fitting that his punishing ways come back to haunt him as the freshmen devise a plan to get back at O'Bannion by dumping white paint all over him while he attempts to paddle a student.

Freaks and Geeks
33:Edward 'Pee Wee' Morris (Dan Monahan) from Porky's
Before Superbad and American Pie there was Porky's, the quintessential high school movie of the 80's. And inside was the quintessential geek, "PeeWee." Every morning he'd measure his member, hoping for some improvement. Every day he'd hope it would be the day he'd lose his virginity. We can all relate, I'm sure.

Dead and Undead
32: Danny Vinyard (Edward Furlong) from American History X
Danny Vinyard looks up to his brother. He wants to be like his brother. Unfortunately, he doesn't get the chance to turn his life around like his brother. The film is essentially narrated by Danny in his redux paper on American History X, detailing how his brother changed after going to jail for murder. One simple act of intolerance leads to Danny's murder the next day in the bathroom. His paper ends with part of Lincoln's Gettysburg address as he dies in his brother's arms.

31: David Lightman (Matthew Broderick) Wargames
"Shall we play a game?" Those words nearly spark WWIII from the comfort of a slacker's "high tech" bedroom. Lightman is the ultimate underacheiever. He's forced to go to summer school, but uses his computer know how to change his grades. Truly, if Lightman had applied himself, he probably could have been the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Instead he saves the world by teaching a computer to play Tic-Tac-Toe. Now, if only his parents could get him to fasten the lids tight on the garbage cans.

Go to next set: 21-30 >>>

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The 50 Greatest High Schoolers On Film. Part One: 41-50

Everybody in the entertainment industry comes out with a list. I've done it with video games. AFI comes out with a new or revised list so much they've almost killed their credibility. Recently, Entertainment Weekly came out with a 25 Greatest High School Movies of All Time list. While I agree with their categorization of those flicks, I do believe we can beat a dead horse just a little more. So, I offer you the 50 Greatest High Schoolers On Film. There is only one rule for this list. It will be a High School Musical free zone. No Zach, no Vanessa, none of that. I don't even want to think about it. In order to be fair to all involved, I've decided to break it down by social class. We have the Jocks, Bitches, Studs, Bullies, Babes, Freaks/Geeks, Slackers, Dead/Undead, Nerds, and all around Bad Asses. In each category there are five teens starting at the bottom and working our way up. So, here we go.

50: John "Mox" Moxon (James Van Der Beek) from Varsity Blues
Dawson grows a set in this look at Texas high school football fanaticism. It's not Friday Night Lights, but it has all the major themes of tyrannical coaches, win at any cost attitudes, and choosing to lead vs. following the pack. While he doesn't quite grasp the concept of a team sport, he understands the concepts of high school fame at the cost of your future. While he does lead his team on the field, he puts a good General in place on the sidelines with the gimpy, ex-quarterback played by Paul Walker.

49: Jacy Farrow (Cybill Shepherd) from The Last Picture Show
The town of Anarene Texas boasts a pool hall, a theater, and the Number 1 and 2 seductress within the same family. Sherpherd's film debut as rich, homecoming queen, Jacy Farrow has three boys vying for her attention. Manipulative and smoldering, she gets to play the role twice with the 1990 sequel, Texasville. Now, a world weary traveller experiencing a life of acting and one of death, losing her son, she returns to stir up more trouble in Anarene.

48: McLovin aka Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) from Superbad
Who's the man with the fake ID looking out for his homies? Who's the cat hanging with the cops when there's danger about? (McLovin) Chick-a chick-a yeah! Booya Mutha..(Shut your mouth.) I don't care what you say, he got drunk with the cops, is the only one who came close to getting laid, got hauled off by the cops, and blew up a car. Now, tell me he's not a stud. Break yo'self, FOOL!

47: Paul Stephens (Christopher Collet) from The Manhattan Project
This under the radar film was an HBO mainstay during my high school years. Paul Stephens takes eco-terrorism to a new level while trying to be clever. Looking more like MacGruber than MacGyver, the extremely bright teen devises a way to break into a secret government lab using shampoo, glitter, Frisbees, a remote controlled car, and pre Sex in the City Cynthia Nixon. Constructing a nuclear device that counts down in increments that only John Lithgow can understand he makes his point that "Not in my backyard" isn't just a statement, it's a declaration of nuclear retaliatory readiness.

46: Regina George (Rachel McAdams) from Mean Girls
"Queen Bee" Regina heads up "The Plastics", a clique in charge of the school where Lindsay Lohan struggles to fit into the mix. Regina is a figurehead which needs to be taken down but cutting the head from this snake only serves to replace it with Lohan's, Cady. Still, Regina has her own set of bitchy qualities, such as spreading rumors about best friend Janis' sexuality and setting Cady up to see her crush being kissed the bitch herself. It seems like the only thing that could really take her down was a bus.

Bad Asses
45: Ricky Linderman (Adam Baldwin) from My Bodyguard
Unrelated, yet more talented than 3/4 of the actual Baldwin Brothers, Adam has made himself the Bruce Campbell of television by appearing in several cult shows as well as high profile spy geek show, Chuck. However, it was his film debut as the brute for hire that gave us the number five bad ass. Suspected of killing his younger brother, the sullen Linderman is the inspiration for extortion by Matt Dillon's, Moody. When Clifford Peache decides to hire Linderman as a bodyguard, he befriends the loner and finds out the real pain that Ricky has been living with over the years.

44: Mick McAllister (Mark Arnold) from Teen Wolf
While Scott Howard dealt with lycan puberty he always had to have one yellow eye fixed towards his nemesis, Mick McAllister. Mick was the star player for the Dragons and dated the hot chick from Scott's school. Even though Scott became the wolf and a threat to Mick on and off the court, Mick never lost animosity for the animal and never backed down, even during the win or go home final basketball game. Even though he was beaten in the end, he showed his true grit and never became a joke.

Freaks and Geeks
43: Barney Springboro (Scott Baio) from Zapped!
Not so much a nerd but a freak with powers of telekinesis, mostly put to use for removing clothes from girls, Scott Baio played down his real life role of Babe Bedder to play Barney in yet another HBO 80's staple. He sucks at baseball and can't get the hot girl, Heather Thomas, so he uses his powers for no good, with help from his gutter minded pal Peyton. After his powers prove to be too much for him he decides to abandon fame for the mousy Bernadette.

Dead and Undead
42: Mark Kendall (Jim Carrey) from Once Bitten
Almost ten years before he started talking out his ass, Jim Carrey played a high school student seduced by Lauren Hutton's gap fanged vampire called The Countess. While, not yet the undead, Mark Kendall begins showing all the symptoms of being a vampire, drinking blood and avoiding sunlight. However, it takes three shots of virgin blood to keep The Countess young and the only way to save Mark's soul from damnation is to sleep with him. Yeah, I'll buy that.

41: Miles (Curtis Armstrong) from Risky Business
Before picking his nose with the nerds or snorting pure snow with Lane Meyer, Curtis Armstrong debuted opposite Tom Cruise as Miles, the philosophical slacker who believes that sometime you have to just say, "What the f*@k!" While not helping Joel in his brothel business, Miles had to prepare for a trig midterm while being chased by Guido, the killer pimp. That's a lot of work for a slacker to do, but "What the f*@k!"

Go to next set: 31-40 >>>

Monday, August 25, 2008

Olympic Games Missed Opportunity

Now that I've had a chance to digest the entire 16 days worth of Olympics, I must say...I have a tummy ache. Actually, I didn't get to watch much of the games. I don't get to watch much television as it is. I still have four episodes of Grey's Anatomy to watch from last season and the rest of my DVR is 93% full from other junk. To actually sit and watch total coverage of the Michael Phelps Olympics would be insane but I'm sure there are people who did it.

Now, I did catch the Michael Phelps phenomenon and while I'm really happy for the guy, I have to say, "Leave him alone for one night." The other event I made sure to watch was Women's Beach Volleyball. Wow, if anyone has bragging rights is these girls and guys, too. They should all go into the gym and make snickering laughs at the indoor volleyball teams. To be able to cover almost the same amount of court, in sand, with only two people takes talent. Now, of course, USA won the gold and there was some matches, especially those wacky Belgian ladies with that freakishly tall Mouha woman. Though, it didn't take long for May-Treanor and Walsh to figure out how to drive around the Mouha block and park it in there. However, what really made teary eyed was watching the final match and seeing how far the fandom of my hometown's NFL team reaches. Check out the corner of this picture. The Terrible Towel is in the house out in China. Hell yeah!

All seriousness aside, the Beijing games left me with little satisfaction. Perhaps it was all the controversy leading up to the games. Maybe it was the fact that they pulled an Ashley Simpson and had a little girl lip-synching during the opening ceremonies, because the original girl wasn't cute enough for television. I think I contribute my disdain for the games to the lack of good marketing of the games themselves. I don't mean the commercials. I mean the graphical representations of the events.

Now, I can remember being a nine year old sweating it out in my family room, watching the LA games in 84. We had no air conditioning and even though my friends and I were usually playing baseball or some other outdoor activity during the summers of my youth, I was glued to the set watching the games because not only were they on American soil during the Cold War, the TV guide gave me this wonderful little handy dandy viewing chart to all the events. It was pretty cool. It folded out and everything. Beside each row of times was this little pictogram of a stick figure that represented each event. Finally, someone with my drawing capabilities was speaking to me. But we're beyond that, now. 24 years later we have Photoshop and talented people working on these types of projects. I would have expected a little more flair. Let's just take a look at what we're dealing with here at the Beijing games.

OK, this is....anyone...yes, Badminton, twenty points if you're playing along at home. But, how do you really know what it is? It could be someone blowing bubbles at a piece of candy corn for all you know.

Here we have Beach Volleyball. Not too hard to figure out. But, what looks like sand could be anything such as water or even bird tracks.

Now, what in the Blue Hell could this be? Is it a giant 'R' riding a toothbrush? No, it's Equestrian. Oh, wow, now I see it. Here I thought it was a dental hygiene picture.

Lastly, we have a man running from three balls. Um, wait don't tell me. Oh yes, Triathlon.

Not very artistic and awe inspiring are they? To me, the artwork for the games should reflect a certain aspect of the home site culture. Perhaps if all the pictograms were designed like Chinese lettering if would be more stylistic. Personally, I think they really missed the rickshaw when it came to depicting the events. Thankfully, someone over at Google was taking care of business. In fact, the Athens' games of 2004 had some catchy logos that used Greek Mythological deities quite well. Beijing and China have so much culture and legacy that the artists could have done some pretty cool things with the pictograms. How eye catching would it have been to see a giant panda doing a handstand split depicting gymnastics or a South China tiger jumping in the air ready to spike a volleyball? With other animals like the golden haired monkey or an ancient dragons to choose from the artists could have had a field day.

I admit, I'm not in marketing but even I would have drawn into the games more had they played on the anthropomorphic design with the pictograms. But then again, I probably would have just set my DVR to record and been forced to scuttle my last four episodes of Spaced. After all, I really wanted to watch events like kayaking and archery but never knew when they were aired. Unfortunately, I didn't have a TV Guide handy to tell me what this symbol is...

P.S. If you guessed wrestling, good for you. I was stuck on female reproductive system. You should see my results from the Rorschach test.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Jack In The Box

On Sunday, I took my family to the local pool and we had an awesome time. My daughter loves the water and could stay there all day if given the chance. When we got home, my wife tried to call her Mother to tell her all about the fun the baby had. What she got was no dial tone. We tried every phone in the house and none of them worked. Now, I've been in this situation before. A few weeks ago, my alternator went out in my car and I had to call home for a ride. My Father-in-law was watching the little one while my wife was working and he answered the phone. After a few minutes of talking the line went dead and we couldn't a dial tone. Turns out that the battery had died in the cordless phone that he was using and it would not disconnect. I figured the same thing had happened here. It's happened before. The battery goes dead in a phone or the answering machine and the phone gets stuck in some sort of loop that you can't break.

I went to work that evening disconnecting every phone from the phone line and the electrical outlet. Next, I tried each phone individually to see if I could figure out which one was faulty. After an hour of retracing my steps I was no closer to a solution. My Mother-in-law worked for the phone company at one time so she has some trouble shooting skills at her disposal. She told me that I needed to take a phone and plug it into the line outside of the house at the box to figure out if the issue was in the house or the line. If it is in the line, it's the provider's issue. If it is in the house, it is mine. I told her that in the four years I've lived in that house I have never seen a box with a phone jack on the side of the house.

When we got home that night, it was too dark to try and search around the outside of the house for some mysterious and elusive box. We both had cell phones so we had some contact with the outside world. The next day I stewed and stewed about what could be wrong with the phones. I did a quick Google search and found that out that my provider had service issues on the day in question. Apparently, a malfunctioning router was able to cripple the phone service for about 14,000 customers. Eureka! It was their fault. All right, I'm not crazy, I'll just call the provider and.....wait a minute. I kept reading. Crews responded quickly and had service back up by 7:45 p.m. Well, what about me? How come I don't have service. What could possibly be the issue that singles me out in the crowd of 14,000? I began to sense that my entire evening would be plagued by this Indiana Jones like search for this phone jack outside my house. I would get home and relieve my babysitter so that I could strap the little one into her stroller and take her on a some snipe hunt looking for this outside jack. My Father-in-law is a technician and quite handy around the house. We both wandered around the outside of the house with baby in tow. The side of the house where the lines are coming in from the street is overgrown with vines, hastas, and peony plants. We traced the lines to the side of the house and only found one box, my electrical one. The phone line came down the side of the house and went right into a hole in the brick. "Well, that's great." I thought. Not only was there no jack, there was no box. The wire went straight into the house and it was obvious that it was above the ceiling from its placement above a glass block window. The last thing I want to do is go tearing up the ceiling trying to trace a phone line.

We went back inside and looked at the exposed rafters in my laundry room where all sorts of cabling runs along the ceiling. We found what appears to be the main phone wire running to a junction box on a stud wall at the other end of the laundry room. My Father-in-law said, "Well, there you go. See that opening on the bottom? That's your jack. Plug a phone in there and see if it works. I looked at the box and said, "There's no jack here." He then informed me that I would have to remove the cover and figure out if there are any frayed or broken wires. Now, instead of ripping up the ceiling, I was going to be dissecting a junction box and troubleshooting a bunch of wires. I don't have these types of skills. I've worked with plumbing and electrical wiring, but never have I looked at phone wires. I wouldn't know how to see if they were properly connected. Now, granted the provider experienced an outage roughly the same time I did. It seemed highly suspicious that they aren't connected. I think it was time I called the professionals.

I called the provider and waited on hold for about five minutes. After getting someone on the line, I explained what was happening. He tried calling my number and agreed that all he could get was continuous ringing. That indicated that I had service inside the house. He said I should try hooking a phone directly up to my modem in the telephone jack slot and see if I get a dial tone. If I don't then call for service. Now, here is where it gets really complicated. At that moment I realized I have cable phone service. My internet, cable, and phone service all come into the house on a standard cable line. That cable hooks into a modem that sits right on the desk next to my computer. From there it feeds directly into my cable line that supplies the house with television cable. It also feeds into a phone jack on the wall and supplies the rest of the house with my service.

Now I had a plan. I would take every phone from inside the house down to the modem and try each and every one in that modem jack. If one didn't work, then I could be certain it was a phone issue and could just remove that one from service allowing the connection to be broken from it. If all the phones worked, then I knew that it was a line issue and that would require a technician. I hated this idea just below ripping up the ceiling and above tearing a junction cover box off to investigate wiring. Still, at least I could tell what was not the cause and that's like Michelangelo carving David from a block of marble. Take away everything that isn't the statue. I prepared to get to work gathering all the phones up and taking down to the modem. I would have to string an extension cord to the desk to plug in the cordless models as I didn't have an open outlet handy within a few feet. At that moment, I had a thought. I better make sure the cord that runs from the modem to the wall jack was working. You see, since the modem handles the service into the house, one of the phone jacks has to serve as an input line and that feeds the rest of the wires in the house. That wall jack is right next to the computer and that wire runs right into that junction box I spoke of earlier. I decided to test the wire between the modem and the wall jack to make sure it was operational first. I took the phone that sits about five feet from the computer desk. My wife had tried it earlier from the modem and it worked. At least I had a working phone if I needed it. I was going to unravel the phone cord and use it to run between the modem and the wall jack. I reached down to disconnect the end of the cord that was in the wall jack when I nudged it. It sucked into the wall and I heard a distinctive "CLICK!"

It was at that point that I experienced both the thrill of victory and the feeling that I had completely wasted an afternoon on one of the first rules of technical support. That "CLICK" sound was the end of the phone jack snapping into place. Somehow, the phone cord became dislodged from the wall jack severing the connection from the rest of the house. I had this stupid look on my face as I ceased my experiment and took the phone back to other wall jack that served as an output. My wife looked at me and said, "What!?!" I reattached the phone to its original position and handed the phone to my wife. "Here, call somebody to take me away." She grabbed the phone and heard what I already knew was going to be there, a dial tone.

I felt like such a tool. I work on computers all day long. I have over 26 years of experience with computers and can pretty much figure out most gadgets and technology in just under five minutes. I am so smart that I am the biggest idiot on the planet. The first rule in technical support is to....and you can all say it with me....."MAKE SURE IT IS PLUGGED IN." I spent two days turning a crank in my head trying to figure out this problem only to have my head pop open and a big old clown come flying out of the top. And yet I am somehow relieved that I didn't go to step four of my ingenious plan. After trying the phones, checking the wires at the junction, and ripping up the ceiling, I was about to do the most drastic part. I was going to rip up all the greenery on the side of the house looking for a jack in the box.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Squeaky Wheel

There is an old metaphor that states "It is The Squeaky Wheel that gets the grease."  It means that the most noticeable or loudest problems are the ones likely to get attention.   You'll see it at a restaurant or a place of business.  If a customer complains about something enough, the merchant is more likely to appease them in order to keep their attitude from influencing other customers.  While, I'm usually all about metaphors and literary techniques when it comes to writing, this is merely a literal post.  I have a squeaky wheel on my car and it's driving me nuts.  So, instead of this being a pithy little post about my Pontiac, it is a plea for help.


To give you a little background on what's going on the car is a 1999 Pontiac Sunfire.  It has just south of 70,000 miles on it.  The transmission was replaced in 2002.  In 2003, some punks looking for loose change used a pry bar and opened the window enough to unlock the door, breaking the appliqué off the side.  Since then, heavy rains tend to allow water into the passenger side.  In 2007 I had some power steering and exhaust problems so a mechanic friend of mine did some work on it.  Now, after he fixed all that I noticed a distinct squeaking in the front wheel whenever I turned the car to the right.  When the car went for inspection at the end of the year, I needed to replace the rotors and brakes.  The guy at the garage said that something wasn't fully releasing and that's why the brakes were so bad.  Did he actually fix the issue?  No.  Lastly, in the summer of 2008, I had the alternator replaced.  After that got fixed, I had no air conditioning.  By now, you've probably stopped reading and started thinking, "Just buy a new car." 


Let's hold off on that thought for a second as I explain my theory of why I think it is in the brakes. It still squeaks repeatedly as if something is catching on each revolution of the wheel.  I took it to another mechanic who said there was a piece of plastic in the wheel well that was bent.  He said that it was catching and that was causing the squeak.  He filed it down, but when I picked up the car, it still squeaked.   Since then it has progressively gotten worse.  The car squeaks when I turn right.  The car squeaks when I turn left.  The car squeaks when I go straight.  In fact, the car squeaks when it's sitting in park and turned off as I get in or out of it, on occasion.  The only time that car doesn't squeak is when I am stopped at a red light or if I apply the brakes.  That is what makes me think that something on the braking system is catching.  A piece of plastic may squeak at high speeds but accelerating from a stopped position would make a different sound.   To top it all off, it also smells like something is burning when I get out of the car. 


I had the same mechanic who cut the plastic off look at it and he pulled the brakes and rotors and noticed nothing out of the ordinary.  He also tried to put freon into the car and it wouldn't take it.  It's probably the compressor which by now is not worth repairing with the current value of the car.  Other than that, it still squeaks.  Now it's closing on the last half of 2008 and I have a car with no AC, a wet passenger side if it rains, a bit of rust on the right quarter panel and it squeaks like hell.  People stop and stare at me as I go by.  Other than just getting a new car, which I don't exactly have the money to do, I would like to get the squeak out so that when I do try to get some cash for it, they don't hear me coming a mile away.


That's where you come in, faithful 2.5 readers.  I need you to offer any suggestions as to what is wrong with my car.  Now, don't be funny and say it's a dipstick problem or a something wrong between the seat and the steering wheel.   I need real help here or I will go nuts.  Ask your friends.  Ask you neighbors.  Ask your clergy for a prayer. In any event, if I squeak long and loud enough, maybe that wheel will get greased....and my car will get fixed as well.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Space Time Delerium

These are facts I never learned in Physics or any other Science classes I had in school.   I don't know who came up with these but here is a system of measurement based on some weird pseudo reality. 


15 minutes

One of the most well known measurements of fame, coined by Andy Warhol.   "Everyone in the world will be famous for fifteen minutes."  Unfortunately, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Kim Kardashian, Nicole Richey and Britney Spears are collectively past their allotted time by a megawarhol which is 15 million minutes or 28.5 years.

One Week

In the hair care industry this is the accepted unit of measure depicting the difference a bad haircut and a good one.  Even if you have your head shaved, in a week, it will look nice no matter how bumpy your head is. Apparently, it doesn't matter if you were to even have half of your head shaved, in a week, it's perfect.

One Year

The point at which you can stop counting your baby's age in weeks.  Now that my daughter is 13 months or 57.5 weeks old, I'm glad to not have to tabulate the number of weeks in any given month to determine her age.  I mean honestly, how annoying is it to sit there and figure out weeks when eight months have 4 weeks and 4 have 5.  I get it.  Every 3 months is 13 weeks.  Fine, but after the first month is it really necessary to say my kid is 8 weeks old versus 2 months?  Unless you are a doctor or an astrologist, let us keep it at months for the first two years.

Two Years

The point at which you can stop counting your baby's age in months.  This is the other one that bothers me because I'm in the first month of our daughter's second year.  I feel like I'm calculating a high school relationship anniversary.  As much as I want to relish in these hysterical moments when my daughter looks at me, shakes her finger, and says "No! No! No!"  I also want to get to the two year mark so I can stop saying "She's 13 months or 16 months or 21 months."   For some reason the next logical step is to say that she is a half year after the age of 3.  "She's 3 and a half."  It almost sounds like were talking half life in a radioactive setting.   In all my 396 months or 1716 weeks of life, I will never understand this mathematical process.


2 Beers

The maximum amount of alcohol needed to sedate most uncommon drinkers.  The only way to counteract this is to drink a third beer.   I had a friend in high school with an amazing tolerance for alcohol.  The only problem is that he had to have that third beer.  If not, he was drunk and passed out on the floor.



Witches Tit

I've never had the pleasure of measuring this, but I guess it must be pretty cold.  Somewhere south of the temperature needed to freeze the brass balls off a monkey but only comparable if the Witch is wearing a brass brassiere as well.

The Hinges of Hell

I don't think that the temperature is 666 degrees Fahrenheit but it is definitely hotter than a sonafabitch.  In my previous life I was a waiter and as a direct result I have very little sensitivity to temperature in my fingers.   However, if I am told that something is "Hotter than the hinges of Hell."  I know that it is too hot for me to touch.  Again, there is a slight variation if Hell's hinges are made of brass.  Apparently, brass has a moderate conduction of temperature.  The only known thing that is hotter than the hinges of Hell is the Devil's anvil.



20 Minutes

The standard answer for how far are you away from any point in the universe or at least the Pittsburgh area.  How is it that everything appears to be 20 minutes away from your present location?  Does a wormhole open up and magically transport you to your destination when that 20th minute passes?  Could this be the Rosie Ruiz Wormhole?  In my hometown there is a place called Casparis that has caverns throughout the area.  We used to always joke that we could get anywhere, quickly, by taking a shortcut through Casparis.  Now, I understand that a minute is not a common unit of measure in distance or area....unless you are talking in latitude and longitude or using Han Solo's guide for measuring time.

Mendoza Diagonal

The point at which a girl's crazy and psychotic tendencies outweigh her physical appearance.  Thank you Barney Stinson. 

Hell's Half Acre

This is is one of my favorites.  Apparently, anytime you have to reluctantly go anywhere or look for something this is the place.  From what I can tell HHA is located somewhere near East Bumf@#k.  This is apparently where you park when stopping off in HHA.  But be careful of the hinges around there.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Kennywood's Open

Those words summon two ideas to the mind of a kid. One is that your zipper is down. That's a Pittsburgh area euphemism akin to "Your barn door is open." While that might not conjure magical thoughts, well perhaps it does, but in any case the other meaning of that phrase means that a local amusement park is open for another magical season. One that means cotton candy, funnel cake, and French fries are yours for the taking. Opening in 1898, Kennywood has become a familiar setting of schools' and businesses' annual picnics and just recently was a filming location for a new comedy called, Adventureland. As a kid, living that close to an amusement park is utterly awesome. There is something amazing about the sound of the coasters and the calliope music piping. Smelling the aroma of funnel cakes and cotton candy while you gawk at the amazement of the grandeur of the midway sends a child spinning in his bed the night before his trip to the park. Come sun up, you want to be at the park extra early so that you are first in line for your favorite ride. You have every intention of riding it again and again, no length of queue is enough to deter you from your task. You plan on eating your weight in junk food and spending every last dollar on trying to win a stuffed animal. And you can not leave the park before the lights come on at night. That's when the real magic happens as the midway is illuminated by different colored lights chasing each other into infinity.

Of course, something happens when you grow up. The park seems small and dirty. The food turns your stomach. You can't look at the Pirate Ship or The Enterprise without wanting to hurl. You want to leave five minutes after you arrive. The crowds that filled the park now become bothersome and the mentality of the average amusement park going person is reduced to that of a zombie from Night of the Living Dead. I should know. I worked at an amusement park for four summers in college and as employees we all thought the same thing. "When you enter the park, you must have to check your brain at the gate." In short, you are now an adult and the magic of the midway is now just a memory. You don't know when it happened but at some point in your maturation you turned into a recluse who hates to leave the house except for food. Gone is that child who once had the felt jester's hat that he won because he put three pounds of gravel into his pocket in order to fool the "Guess Your Weight" guy. Replacing him is the grumpy middle aged man who will hold a neighbor kid's wayward football hostage if it should land in his yard.

I guess, for me, the switch over came after I graduated high school. Every year I spent in school until that point was a year I went to Kennywood. We lined up in the gym of our school to buy tickets. The night before we had begged and pleaded with our parents to chip in another few dollars for ride tickets. You see, in those days, there was no such thing as an "All Day Pass." You bought a general admission ticket that allowed you into the park and then purchased tickets for rides. The more thrilling the ride, the more tickets it required to ride it. This was back in the day when you could take an entire family to the park and spend less than a hundred dollars. Now, even if you don't care to ride or if you are a parent who plans to take their child to "kiddieland" you must pay full admission. It's a bit of a scam, really. This is probably another reason why I'm no longer a die hard. Since graduating high school, I've managed to make a trip every so many years and since starting with my current employer I am willing to go for free every summer. Although, now I go to eat more than I do ride. However, in my youth I was a ferocious rider and at the age of 15, I once rode The Rotor five times in a row just because my girlfriend at the time wanted to. This premise of this ride is that you stand in a drum, against the wall. The room begins to spin faster and faster until centrifugal force holds the riders against the wall while the floor is lowered beneath them. Imagine that scene towards the end of TRON where all the programs spin around inside the MCP and you'll understand. If you haven't seen the movie, shame on you. Go rent it, now. I'll wait. Finished? Good, get it? At 33, that kind of assault on the vestibular system would have me hurling on the first trip yet at 15 I could withstand the urge to purge.

While Kennywood may have lost its luster in my mind, whenever I go to another amusement park I take full advantage of their rides, especially coasters. These behemoths of engineering and physics are to me what drugs are to rock stars. I wouldn't go to a park that didn't have one. I first became enthralled with coasters before the age of ten. Even though Kennywood was practically in my backyard, I had to go to Virginia to ride my first coaster. Until that point, I had been deathly afraid of the things. They were loud and fast and went real high, something I still have problems with in my adulthood. On a family trip to Busch Gardens I had decided that I needed to conquer this fear and picked an easy target to tackle, The Big Bad Wolf. Kind of fitting that I should face a fear that should be named after a fairy tale creature that embodies fear. The Big Bad Wolf is a suspended roller coaster that has the seats hanging below the track. This allows for a more suspenseful ride as there is no barrier between you and the ground or the river as the second lift hill drops you directly over the water for a 90 foot plunge. I was pumped. I wanted to take on the world or at least another mythical creature and so I graduated right up to the top by riding The Loch Ness Monster, next. The gimmick behind ole Nessie was the double loops that interlock allowing two trains to circle each other if the timing is perfect.

Returning home, I decided to feed my coaster addiction by going to Kennywood to hit all the coasters there. Knowing that these mean machines were no match for my new found bravery, I went right for the juggernaut, The Thunderbolt. The coaster itself maybe considered tame by today's standards, but it still provides a thrill as you immediately drop down a hill right out of the station. Following it was the Racer and The Jackrabbit. These coasters boast legendary merits as being the only remaining continuous track or moebius loop coaster still in operation and one of the few operational wooden coasters with a double dip hill. After these beasts were slain there was only one coaster left to tackle, The Laser Loop. This short track with one single loop in the middle shuttles riders backwards and forwards along its track and it scared me shitless. To this day I never got to ride it as was taken down and moved to Mexico in 1991 in order to make way for The Steel Phantom. Truth be told, I did intend to ride it but when I had finally found the stones to do so, it was always non-operational, constantly closing during my trips to the park.

When the Laser Loop's replacement opened during the 1991 season, I couldn't wait to try it out. The Steel Phantom, at the time, boasted the fastest max speed for a coaster clocking in at 82 mph, a record it kept until 1996. Even though the first hill was a dizzying 160 feet high, it was the second hill that rocked at 225 feet. It used the naturally hilly terrain of the surrounding area and plunged you underneath the first hill of the The Thunderbolt. I had to ride this sucker. I was a sophomore and still had to rely on other forms of transportation to the park. I am ashamed to admit that I rode the school bus for our class picnic that year but had a plan. My friends, who were a year older, had planned to go to the park in the eldest of the group's station wagon. Pete had borrowed his parents' Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser which we had dubbed, the "White Beast For Leprosy" since it was peeling paint rapidly. My parents had forbid me from going to the park with them since every parent in those days had horrible thoughts of their young teenage children being maimed in accidents, more importantly thrown from the back of a station wagon as depicted in old school crash test dummy commercials. If I didn't ride the bus, I couldn't go. What really sucked about that situation was that even though I could meet up with my friends once I was at the park, the busses left at 7:00 pm, nearly two hours before nightfall. I had a plan, though. Since the queue for the brand new coaster would undoubtedly be about an hour I could claim that I was in line for the ride and couldn't make it back to the bus.

It was a fool proof plan. We made plans for a cooler full of stuff the night before and I would synchronize my faux swatch with my buddies to meet them for our first ride at The Thunderbolt. Naturally, that was always the first ride. It was like going to a swimming pool on a hot day and just diving into the cold water as a shock to the system that got the adrenaline pumping. Everything was going like clockwork. I boarded the bus, I met up with friends, we rode our hearts out, ate our weight in food, and at 6:00 pm we got in line for the Phantom. As we boarded it was just past 7:00 pm and on our way up the first lift hill I could see the busses departing the parking lot. "Oops," I thought. We rode ourselves silly over the next two hours and made our way back to the wagon at nearly 9:30 pm. By now, the cooler was sloshing with very little ice and a lot of water after being in the back of the car for over eight hours. While we piled into the seats, all of our belongings were stowed in the back with the cooler up against the back door.

We made our way onto the highway and headed for home. Now, to say Pete was a horrible driver wasn't exactly a correct statement. He sucked at driving, but put behind the wheel of a less than optimal vehicle and his abilities degraded even further. Put simply, this was too much car for him. You almost needed naval experience to steer this boat. We attempted to merge onto a busy highway with numerous other park goers and nearly caused several accidents. Instantly, I had visions of those crash films that plagued my parents' nightmares while their children were out in the world where blood flows red on the highway. Soon, all of our knuckles were as white as the outside of the car. On the last on ramp we had to merge from, a passing truck caused Pete to freak and slam on the brakes. While we were smart and wore our seat belts, all of our belongings flung their way forward into the back of the bench seat. But, that wasn't the best part. The cooler full of ice which had been melting in the hot sun had been flew forward spilling a tidal wave of water up towards the front of the car drenching each one of us. Finding a safe spot to pull off to the side of the road we surveyed the damage. Coming around the back of the car we noticed water just spilling out from below the back door. The entire car was soaked on the inside except for a small spot that contained my backpack and a dry pair of jeans. I had packed them for just such an occasion, although I thought I would be drenched from a water ride inside the park. I changed into the jeans and we stopped at a local fast food chain and walked in asking for napkins and paper towels by the handful. There I was in the middle of May wearing jeans on a warm evening drenched from the waist up asking for paper towels.

By the time I got home it was now nearing 11:00 pm and I was in deep trouble. I came upstairs and could see the light on in my parents room and knew that she had been waiting up for me. I walked in and she asked what exactly had happened to me riding the bus home. Really, she knew exactly what had happened since all parents know what their kids do like it's some sort of extrasensory perception on their part. However, always looking for a good story, she allowed me to explain myself. I told her that I was in line for a ride and couldn't make it back to the busses in time and then went on to explain why I was so late. We both agreed that her early assesment of the scenario was in fact accurate because somehow she knew that a station wagon full of kids driving around the outskirts of Pittsburgh was a bad idea. Unfortunately, I did not have the benefit of her life experience, otherwise I would have shared her concern and avoided the upturned cooler incident. She spared me from a ground saying that I probably suffered enough for one night. I told her it wasn't that bad and that it was actually kind of funny. She understood but said that she wasn't speaking on my ordeal but to the fact that in my rush to get changed I forgot to pull up my zipper and had probably flashed my tighty whities to every single person in McDonald's earlier that night.

See, parents do have a sense of humor, even if they are grumpy.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Endless Summer Nights

Yes. You are not imagining it. That is the title of a cheesy 80's Richard Marx song. Sue me. I like it. It just got to me thinking about the waning days of Summer. Here it is August and it seems as if another Summer has flown by me. I tend not to notice as much as when I was a kid because there was no impending doom of a new school year just on the horizon. As an adult I'm a bit indifferent to the seasons, but I dread the falling of leaves as I have a huge canopy of trees over a majority of my yard. While I like the warmer weather, Pennsylvania Summers are anything but typical. Whether it be Global Warming or a cyclical meteorological shift it seems as if Summer comes later and stays longer than it used to. It's so wonky around here in the Fall and Spring, and for that matter even Winter is atypical. We have warmer weather way into October, snow in May, and all kinds of schizophrenic weather patterns throughout the year.

But when I was young, Summer was magical. Of course it was. I was out of school for three months with little responsibility other than being home when the street lights came on in the evening. We'd get up early, eat breakfast, and we'd be gone all day long. There was no online deathmatch play in Yars Revenge or Pitfall. Atari's didn't have games that would keep you glued to your television screens for hours on end, day after day. We had hide and seek, kick ball, baseball, and war games to keep us busy. And when we went on family vacations, oh joy, it was even more magical. Now, we could play outside on the beach or in the campgrounds. That's where I related the term "Endless Summer Nights." Ok, the song is more about a summer love story. Just stay with me. Eventually, adolescence arrived and the beach became a feast for the eyes with bikinis and tanning. As a teen you noticed everything. Well, looking back now I feel more like Pete Townsend, but you get the idea.

Now, that being said, did you ever have a Summer that you compared all Summers against? Was it one where you met someone and in that short week you felt so many butterflies in your stomach and the smile could hardly be wiped from your face? Was it like the opening to Grease? Did you keep in touch with them with letters and phone calls for as long as possible? Me, too. Unfortunately, with fast approaching middle age, I've begun to lose hold of all the memories that shaped my childhood Summers. But I do recall some. There was a short period of about two years where I went on vacation with a friend and his family to Myrtle Beach. It was like nothing I had even seen before. Long clean beaches, people everywhere, tons of things to do wherever you turned. At first the trip felt as if it was going to be a snooze fest. It was a Saturday and the transition between people leaving and people arriving was at its apogee. We were so bored. By Tuesday I was climbing the walls. We hadn't met any other kids to run around with when I sustained an injury playing basketball in the court at our condo. I sustained that injury because his nearly six foot tall, 160 pound frame stepped on my foot while I was going backwards causing me to hit the pavement from the sudden stop in momentum. Frustrated, I told my friend I needed to just take a walk and clear my head. Really, I was beginning to believe that he was holding me back and that I had a better chance of meeting up with girls on my own. I was an ass, I know. I walked the beach in front of our condo where I happened upon two girls sitting on the railing of some steps. I made the bold and unprecedented decision to just walk up and ask if I could join them. To my shock, they allowed me, and we struck up a conversation. Soon, we were laughing and joking and I was starting to feel a whole lot better.

A few minutes later, a ruckus erupted behind me as a small cavalcade of kids came clamoring out of the condo behind us. It was apparent that these two girls already knew the group which included a handsome young lad which gave me pause. There was no way I was going to be able to compete with this guy. He was too smooth. To my surprise, my lead footed friend numbered among the youths. We put our differences aside as we seemed to have the same idea and joined up with the group forming a posse of mischief makers. From then on, we were all inseparable. We were early to rise and late to bed. We spent hours in the water transitioning from the cool pool of the condo to the surf of the ocean. After dinner with our respective elders, we'd meet up again for more hijinks. Soon, I formed a bond with a girl in the group and I was awed that she didn't set her sights on the sleeker Casanova of our ranks. We talked and laughed and just enjoyed each other's company for the remaining two days of our stay. As we reached the end of our trip, we said our goodbyes and on the morning of our departure, my friend and I wandered the beach in search of signs of life. The girls had left, our friends had left, the beach was empty as the week long beach goers loaded up their wagons and hit the Interstates home. The was a calm quiet that fell over the shore. The surf seemed louder in the silence left by the exodus of tourists. We made our way back to the empty condo and loaded our things into the car for home. As we left our condo we could see the stream of new tourists arriving for their week of fun and sun. Kids exited the vehicles which had held them hostage for hours, stretching a bit before darting off towards the water. The changing of the guard had taken place. A new set of memories were about to be made. We suddenly felt as if we were as old as the sea watching with a far off twinkle in our eyes.

The trip home was filled with short naps in tune to the sounds of my Walkman. As a new side clicked into play I drifted off into the realm of sleep meant for recollection of memories. I played the week over in my head etching it into my brain. Clutched in one hand was the address of my new friend who I immediately kept in touch with upon arrival home and from then on for a few years. Somehow, the rest of the Summer seemed mundane and uneventful. It was if nothing could compare to that brief adventure at the beach. The only thing that excited me was a new letter and pictures from my friend. But as it always is, the frequency of letters began to diminish and new experiences replace those we held in so high regard. Those memories are relegated to a footnote in our minds or in a blog entry.

Now, I look back and I can barely remember names and faces from that time. I'm sure they've all gone on and had families by now. Perhaps as we watch our kids grow and make memories of their own during a vacation to the beach we remember some of that magic we once felt as kids. During some free time we may do a search on Facebook or Classmates trying to find that person but can't quite remember what city they lived in as a kid or how to spell their last name. Maybe we'll find some small clue that will reconnect us, as adults, to those "Endless Summer Nights."

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Hummus Alone

I forget things on a regular basis. Today, I forgot my keys. I walked out of the house at 7:00 this morning, locking the side door to my garage behind me. I reached into my pocket and said, "Shit!" I had a couple of choices, ring the doorbell or call the house phone from my cell, which would wake my sleeping wife and 13 month old daughter incurring their wrath or I could just reach into my wallet and pull the spare key for my car and be on my way. Guess which option I chose? That's right. I may be forgetful, but I'm not stupid. I'm usually pretty good about stuff like that. Every night I have the same ritual. I lay out my clothes for the next day and empty my pockets on the dresser so I can pick them up and put them into my slacks. It just so happens that I didn't have my keys on me, for whatever reason. Yeah, sometime last night, between changing from my work clothes into my regular attire and playing on the floor with my little girl, my keys never made it into my pocket.

The little things tend to get lost in the shuffle. My morning load of things to carry involves my laptop bag, my lunch, and sometimes a coffee mug. At that, I am pretty consistent in remembering to bring all of them. When I start to add items to the mix, like letters to be mailed, books, or other items, I tend to lose the ability to manage everything after item number five. In that case, I'm prone to leaving something behind. However, the more important the item, the more likely it is for me to remember it. Case in point, my daughter.

Recently, at Ben Gurion international airport in Tel Aviv, an Israeli family of seven boarded a plane for Paris with only six family members present. Their four year old daughter was left behind at the airport. Wow, this seems awfully familiar. For the life of me, I can't remember where I've seen it, though. Oddly, enough, both parents managed to plane four of their children and begin takeoff without noticing their fifth child was missing. Man, you know. It's on the tip of my tongue, but I still can't figure out why this seems familiar. The four year old girl was found sobbing and wandering around the airport by a policewoman. After obtaining an identity she attempted to stop the plane which had already left the airport. It wasn't until the plane was in the air that the parents realized their mistake. I got it. It was an episode of Eight is Enough! No, that's not it. The policewoman took the child on the next available flight to Paris and reunited the family. Needless to say, the parents will be questioned when they return. I know. It was the The Brady Bunch Goes Hawaiian episode. Cindy got left behind when Miss Kitty Karry-all got detained for a cavity search.

I already admitted that I'm sometimes forgetful, but how do you miss your kid not getting on the plane? Were they not all sitting together? Had the four old upgraded to first class and they couldn't see her behind that curtain that separates it from coach seating? According to the grandmother who took them to the airport, they are a really organized bunch, so perhaps they relied on each other to be the one watching the odd numbered child. I've done that. My wife and I will go to the store or to a ball game and we'll both think the other has the coupons or tickets. Again, that's something that fits in my pocket. We're talking about a kid that would barely fit in the overhead compartment of the plane. These people managed to remember 18 suitcases and their duty free purchases but forgot one kid. I don't know what the layout of their plane was, but you figure a standard airplane has six seats in a row, three on either side of the aisle. If we guess that one of those kids was old enough to take car of themselves than that would put him in another row, while Mom and Dad sit in seats "B" and "E" with a kid on either side.

Now, I haven't done that much traveling with my daughter and she's only 13 months, so she doesn't get around much without one of us for transport. At four, I'm sure she'll be running and keeping my heart rate up as I try to chase after her. She's already become a little Houdini slipping out of the barricades we set to keep her in the living room. It's not that we just plop her on the floor, put up the obstacle and go about our way. No, if that were the case, we'd sit her in her crib with a toy and accomplish whatever we needed to. No, this is for when we sit in the living room with her. The barricade, which consists of a storage tote spanning the distance between our recliner and her swing, prevents an upright escape, while her older, rear facing car seat wedged under the swing prevents her from going commando and crawling under the swing. Of course, it won't be long before she realizes that there is about an eight to ten inch clearance beneath the recliner where she could easily navigate her way to freedom. Hopefully, by the time she realizes it, she'll be too big to attempt it. In any case, we never let her out of our sight when she could get into mischief. Now, I can count on both hands how many times I've been on my own with her out and about, but I've never once forgot her.

Reports state that the parents' noticed their daughter missing after 40 minutes in the air. I wonder what was the trigger for these folks that they were missing one their kids?
"Ladies and Gentlemen, this is captain speaking. We'd like to thank you for flying with us. In a moment the flight attendants will be around with refreshments. Just a quick note, we are offering some snacks, namely Baby Ruth candy bars and Little Debbie snack cakes. Our in flight movie will be La Cité des enfants perdus."
Maybe there was some idle chatter around the cabin.

"Oh, what book are you reading there?"

"Little Girl Lost by Drew Barrymore. How about you?"

"Don't laugh, but it's the first book in the Left Behind series. I'm so behind on reading."

"Wow, I don't think I'd read that on a flight."
And according to the report, when the little girl asked the policewoman for help, she said, "Where are my parents? Where are my brothers?" Now, if you had five kids and were going to "accidentally" lose one of them, would it not be harder to misplace the only girl in the bunch? Wouldn't she at least stand out from the rest? Be assured that after all is said and done, this girl is getting a pony for her next birthday. She just wrote her own ticket for anything.

All kidding aside, I'm actually more in shock that this is the third occurrence in as many weeks at Ben Guiron International Airport. According to the report...

"An 8-year-old boy traveling alone boarded a flight to Brussels instead of Munich, and two weeks before that, a 10-year-old boy was left behind when the rest of his group flew to Copenhagen."
That's not very good odds. I think I'll skip that as a destination. Not that I'd be going through that airport with my family anytime soon, but it seems that there is something stranger than absentminded parents afoot. I think instead of a baggage claim they should have a carousel where all the lost kids slide down a chute and just kind of go around in a circle until their parents pick them up. Better yet, I've come up with an idea for a gadget that would help keep people from forgetting their kids. Last September there was a story about a mother left her two year old daughter in the car after having her scheduled shuffled around. She was supposed to have dropped her off at a babysitter, but instead went to work and forgot the child was sleeping in the backseat. She was an assistant principal, mind you. This is someone who deals with kids all the time. Leaving her child asleep in the backseat was not a reckless act but the act of someone who became forgetful. There is no excuse for what happened but what if she had a device that would have alerted her that she left her child in the car?

The device could be as simple as a key chain dangler which is a receiver and another device which would be the transmitter sending out the signal. The receiver could be fashioned after those personal alarms that people use to alert others when they are being attacked in a darkened parking lot. The transmitter could be built into a a clip that could mount on a shoe or the car seat or anywhere in the car. I'm sure you've seen the battery commercial where the Mother loses her kid at the park and uses a GPS locater to track the kid, who went off to get a balloon, no doubt from a strange sweaty man in a white van. But that is still something you have to activate. If you don't remember that you lost the kid, you won't know to push the button. No, in this instance you don't have to do a thing but remember to look in the backseat. It could even clip together like a car seat strap connecting the transmitter to the receiver when not in use. Granted, that's no guarantee that you will remember to detach the transmitter from the receiver and attach it to your child, but it's one step closer. Now, the Brickhouse Child Locator has a distance alert but it's a bit bulky and not everyone will remember to grab it. As I said before, once I get four or five items in my hands, one tends to be forgotten.

Just think, maybe if I attached the transmitter to myself and attempted to leave the house, my keys would alert me that I've forgotten them before I lock the door and go on my way. Of course with my luck, I'd still make it outside leaving my keys to wake up my family. I'd be in worse shape than the parents of that little girl when I got home.

Author's Note:

For those of you possibly offended by the title, lighten up. Don't be so sensitive. It was a cheap joke, I know. Still, if You Don't Mess With the Zohan, can make $126 million worldwide and not receive Da Vinci Code level criticism, I think I can be forgiven for a little joke like that.

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