Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Half Empty: Bad Luck

They say that when you hit your 40s, your life is half over. We prefer to think of it as HALF EMPTY. Our age has finally caught up with our outlook on life. Remember, it is possible to turn that frown upside down...but you might pull a muscle.

By Rick Kaempfer & Dave Stern

Dave has twin 2-year old daughters and a five year old daughter. His wife travels quite a bit for work, so he actually watches them most of the time. During the rare moments when he gets to run errands on days his wife is at home, he has run into an incredible streak of bad luck. The simplest errands turn into lengthy debacles.

1. Picking up the Pizza: One hour
Yes, it's silly to pay for delivery when you live that close to the pizza place. No, he didn't get flipped off by old ladies because he was driving sooooooo slow. He just had bad luck.

2. Grocery Shopping: Two hours
Yes, the grocery store is only a few miles away. No, he didn't listen to the traffic report to see what was the most horrible route, take that route, and then read the labels of every can of beans in the store after he got there. He just had bad luck.

3. Doctor's Appointment: Three hours
Yes, the doctor's office was crowded, and you just never know how long it will take sometimes. No, he didn't sit in the waiting room for hours after his appointment ended reading any pamphlet he could get his hands on, including one about yeast infections and another about spider veins. He just had bad luck.

4. Driver's License Renewal: Four hours
Yes, the DMV is a nightmare, and this is by no means a record. No, he didn't get it renewed at lunchtime at the busiest location two years before it needed to be renewed. He just had bad luck.

5. Trip to Post Office: Five hours
Yes, the week before Christmas is a crazy time at the Post Office. No, he didn't go stand in the line with everyone sending packages to buy one stamp. He just had bad luck.

If you didn't know Dave better, you'd think he was intentionally picking errands that take a long time, and then making them take even longer just so he could get out of the house.

Not Dave.

On the other hand, if you get a flat tire on a day he happens to be out running one of these errands, you can count on that good Samaritan stopping his car to help you change that tire.

That's just the kind of guy he is.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Suburban Man: Halloween isn't for Everyone

By Rick Kaempfer

Halloween was always one of my favorite holidays when I was kid. Getting dressed up in a costume, ringing doorbells, getting free candy…what’s not to love?

When my oldest son Tommy got to the trick-or-treating age, I was looking forward to reliving the excitement with him. I figured he was going to love it as much as I did.

He didn’t.

In fact, he couldn’t stand any of it. He particularly hated dressing up in a costume. When he was five, he grudgingly agreed to wear the Woody costume because he loved Toy Story, but only if we promised he could take off the cowboy hat the second after I took the obligatory Halloween picture. We came to the same agreement when he was six, and seven, and eight.

By third grade, when he didn’t fit into the Woody costume anymore, he was ready to quit the Halloween tradition once and for all.

I figured his lack of enthusiasm had to be my fault somehow. My enthusiasm for Halloween must not have been translating properly. Maybe if I tried a little harder to get into that little braniac head of his, tried to think of the kind of costume he would like, maybe that would win him over.

So I told him we would brainstorm ideas.

“Tommy, you don’t have to pick one of these costumes in the store, or try to be like one of the other kids, you know. You can be anything you want to be for Halloween.”

Tommy wasn’t the greatest at brainstorming. “I want to be Tommy,” he said.

“You know what Albert Einstein used to say?”

That piqued his interest. Einstein is his hero.

“He said God’s greatest gift to mankind is imagination, because with imagination, there are no limits to what you can achieve.”

He thought about that for a moment. “Einstein said that?”

“Yes, he did. Now use that imagination of yours, Tommy, and I promise you that we will create a costume for whatever you come up with—no limits. Anything at all.”


“Yes, anything.”

“OK,” he said, “I want to be an accountant.”

He was the only accountant in the 3rd grade that year. He dressed up in a suit and tie, and carried a calculator. The next year he dressed up as an artist. He wore a smock and a beret (until the second after I took the picture). In 5th grade he was a scientist. He wore a white lab coat.

Now he’s in middle school and the kids don’t have to dress up anymore. When he found that out, he broke into the biggest grin I’d seen on his face in years.

This year he’s finally wearing the costume he wants to wear for the first time.

He’s going as Tommy.

This article first appeared on the blog of "NWI Parent," a publication of the Northwest Indiana Times. I'm now a regular columnist/blogger for them, writing a weekly column called "Father Knows Nothing"