Falling Down on the Job

An actual picture taken less than 30 minutes before…

It’s the 2nd day in my new job. The office is only 4 miles from my house so I decide to ride my bike. I’m not a great cyclist, in fact, I’m pretty average. My bike is no racing machine. It is painted a funky shade of pink and has an extra-wide seat to make it more comfortable on my delicate back-side. Really, all I’m missing are tassels dangling from the grips,  a little bell on the front, and a woven basket attached to the handlebars. But I should at least get points for trying, right?

As luck would have it, I pull up to the back door of the office just as two of my coworkers and the co-owner of the company get out of their cars. As I roll to a stop, I ask if it would be safe to lock my bike (a highly valued piece of equipment) to one of the guardrails posted around the parking lot. Before they can answer, I swing my leg over the seat of the bike to dismount. Unfortunately, I fail to account for the backpack strapped to the bike and my leg doesn’t make it over, which means neither do I.

In front of my new work team and my boss, I tumble over the bike, falling under the chain guard, and roll like a turtle into the parking lot.

As you can imagine, this is EXACTLY NOT the impression I was hoping to make after knowing these people an entire 8 hours.

So what do I do? How does one respond to this situation? What are my options? Well, Option one: I figure I can lay on the ground and pout about how unfair life is to me; how fate seems to have it in for me and how the world never cuts me a break. I could decide to never ride that stupid, pink bike again. I could decide to go home, turn in my resignation, end my employment with this new company because in their eyes (and certainly in mine) I look like a fool. I feel stupid and therefore, I must be stupid and they’ll never respect me again.

Option two: I could announce that I intended to do that prat fall as a practice move for my part-time job in the circus. On holidays and weekends I am, in fact, a member of a tumbling troupe of fellow clowns (Jocko and Bongo, my mentors, are old hands at this move and make it look so easy). My stage name is Splat-O.

Option three: I could get up, straighten the handlebars that are now at a 90-degree angle to my front tire, walk the bike over to a post, lock the bike and head upstairs for a day of work. After all, there are no bones broke. Nothing is hurt but my pride. There is work to do, processes to learn, training to complete.

My fall was only one of many that are sure to come in the days ahead. The bike tumble was a very visual representation of a minor misstep. But there will be others. It’s been true in every other job I’ve ever held. It’s been true of my family life. It’s certainly been true of my personal life.

The falls are going to come. It’s the way you respond that matters.

Learn from your mistakes and lean into the wisdom gained.

It was my leg that didn’t clear the bar. It was no one else’s fault.

I am not a clown. I am not stupid. I made an error in judgement related to the height of the bar and the extension of my leg. I own it. I pick myself up. I get back in the game.

THAT’s the impression I wanted to make after knowing these people an entire 8 hours…and every other day.

An Open Letter to Kroger

 

An open letter to the management of my local Kroger:

Dear Madams and Sirs,

This missive is a formal protest: On the afternoon of October 31, 2017, I walked into my local Kroger with the hopes of picking up some candy to hand out to eager children on Halloween. I noticed something odd as I walked in the door: the pumpkins that had festooned the entryway since July 4 were no longer present. There were no plastic cat skeletons or scary tombstones. That should have been my first warning.

Continue reading “An Open Letter to Kroger”

Almost Twins

My brother and I at my nephew’s wedding (2012). Photo courtesy of Kelly Kanedy Schwindt (https://www.facebook.com/kelly.k.schwindt)

For 10 days of every year, my brother and I are the same age. I say we are twins during this short window in time. My daughter tells me that I don’t understand the meaning of the word “twin”.

However, I disagree. I mean, obviously, we look freakishly alike. We share the same humor (twisted). We enjoy similar taste in books, music and have actually found that we do similar things at the same time, without talking to one another about it.

For instance, a few years ago I started riding a stationary bike and reading some of the classic books that I never read in school, despite the assignments (sorry Mrs. Washler). The next time we were together, my brother mentioned that he’d started riding a stationary bike and reading the classics that he actually DID read in school. He wanted to re-read them because they were so great the first time (teacher’s pet).  We both were reading the same books, in almost the same order, at almost the exact same time!

Freaky, right?  But the similarities don’t end there:

  1. We were both born on presidents’ birthdays: Todd was born on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday and I was born on George Washington’s.
  2. Todd plays the guitar and sings. I play the radio and hum along.
  3. Todd skydives. I look up at planes that pass overhead.
  4. People like Todd. People I know tell me that they also like Todd.
  5. Todd is artistic. I visit museums.
  6. Todd used to own a pickup truck. I want to own a pickup truck.

We couldn’t be any more alike if we tried.  Like I said, and despite my daughter’s protests, we are almost twins!

One Too Many

It might be correct to say that I point the camera into too many faces and take too many snapshots.  In fact, some have mocked my shutterbug fascination.  My neighbor wonders why I keep taking pictures of my backyard, close ups of my flowers, “artsy-fartsy” photographs of my tomatoes and lettuce.

My first digital photograph, 2004.

No one understands that moving art takes work.  Great pictures require time, patience, a well-trained eye, and an artistic flare.  And I stuck to my guns through every heckle, jeer and taunt.

Until last year, when I realized I might have a problem. To enter the 21st century, I decided to start using the “Cloud.”  While no one knows what the “Cloud” is, it seems to be all the rage.  Never one to be left out of new technological fad, I decided to move my file folders full of photos to the “Cloud” and free up some space on my hard drive.

A windy walk. Yellowstone National Park, 2009

Before I give you the shocking details, I just want to outline a few of the facts:

1)  I started taking pictures with my Olympus 35mm in 1991.

2) Before that, it was a 110 mm camera or disposables from the drug store.

3)  These photos were expensive to develop and print and there were many years when we would have a drawer full of film rolls awaiting a significant financial investment and a brave trip to the photo department at CVS.

4) The anticipated cost never stopped me from TAKING the pictures.

5)  I took LOTS of pictures.

6) We didn’t see the results until a decade or two later.

And sometimes, you need to capture photographic evidence.

We welcomed our first digital camera to our family in 2004, and it revolutionized the way we (I) took pictures.  Gone were the days of 36-frame rolls that could vanish with one accidental opening of the back of the camera.  Gone were the outrageously priced processing fees.  I could point and click for hours.  The only limitation was the size of my memory card and the battery life of the device.

A few years ago, my wife bought me an electronic Olympus that utilizes my original lenses with a 32 Gb flash drive and a 24-hour battery life (and I have three batteries charged and ready at all times). This camera didn’t allow for auto-focus, and which limited my picture-taking ability as I slowly turned the focus rim to ensure I’d captured the right shot.

However, I’ve recently upgraded once again. Now I have a Nikon D3400 with auto-focus, a super-fast shutter speed, and high-definition capabilities.

Add to this the increasing quality and ease of using a phone with a camera and, of course Instagram. There is no end to the picture excitement I can create.

 

How does one say goodbye to this masterpiece from 2013?

And this is my problem.  Between shutter-finger reflexes, my digital camera and my ability to scan into our system every print picture I’ve ever taken, I have amassed quite a bit of digital data and enough photography to bring Kodak back from bankruptcy.  When it came time to move my beautiful works of art over to the “Cloud,” I discovered that I had a collection of photographs that exceeded 48,000 images. (This is not an exaggeration for the benefit of this story.)

 

I’ve crashed my Google Drive multiple times trying to move this mass of Kodachrome over to my space.

And here’s the problem:  What picture do I delete?  Sure, there is an occasional random shot of my shoe or a bad picture of someone with their finger up their nose but even taking those goofy moments into account, how can I delete my babies?  And where do I start?

Achieving excellence in pictures demands that the artist snap a lot of average photos.  I just never dreamed that great art would require these kinds of hard choices.

A grand view of the Grand Canyon, 2015.

A Missed Opportunity

She was beautiful.  With perfectly feathered hair, a long, goddess-like neck, and her newly-formed bosom, which may or may not have received assistance from a box of tissues, Trudy was everything an 8th-grade boy could want in a girlfriend; she was a girl. That alone qualified her as an object of desire for this thin, pimply-faced 8th-grade boy.

Our young love affair began when third-parties delivered handwritten notes on lined school paper. We passed them in the hallway after lunch each day. It started with simple flirting messages about the day’s lunch or the color of her sweater; however, they quickly escalated to the ultimate bold and daring query of a junior higher, “Will you go with me?  Yes or No?” To my great joy, relief, and surprise, my note returned via the delivery system with the word “Yes” circled in pencil.  We were now officially a couple, and I felt obliged to provide a token of my adolescent affection.  I offered my John Wesley medallion, purchased the previous summer at the junior high Methodist Church Camp.  For the rest of the week, the symbol of my love dangled on a long, gold chain around her graceful neck and against her perfect, Kleenex-padded breasts.  The founder of Methodism never looked so good.

Over the next week, more hand-scrawled messages passed in a desperate effort to take our relationship to the next level. I handed my notes to Doug, who passed them on to Paige, who handed them off to Trudy.  Finally, a scrap of paper asked Trudy if she would sit beside me at the next Friday’s basketball game.  The reply, via Paige to Doug to me, once again had a fantastic penciled circle around the word “Yes.”

After the game, the two middle school newbies strolled to Trudy’s sister’s car.  We walked side-by-side across the snow-covered parking lot, holding gloved hands, bundled in our warmest winter coats, trying to gather the courage necessary to initiate the physical contact we both desired and dreaded.  Older, wiser, and more experienced, Trudy’s sister offered advice as only an older sibling can, “Hurry up and get it over with.” She then climbed into the car, started the engine, and waited for the rookies to experience their first kiss.

Knowing time was short, I turned to Trudy, closed my eyes, and leaned forward, raising my arms over her shoulders.  With her eyes closed, Trudy did not see this romantic gesture and raised her own arms.  We clashed mid-air. Undeterred, I lowered my arms to wrap around her waist.  Trudy did the same, only to clash again.  Up and down our arms flailed in the cold winter night until, after several attempts, we finally found a satisfying configuration and drew one another as close as our puffy down-filled winter coats would allow.  With my head tilted and my eyes closed, I licked my chapped lips in preparation for the sublime encounter…and then it happened.  With all the passion and enthusiasm I could muster, I planted the wettest, sloppiest kiss – squarely and firmly on the tip of her chin.

In hindsight, it is apparent that I failed to account for our height difference. Trudy was a couple of inches taller than my diminutive frame. With an additional two inches of 70’s platform snow boots added to her towering elevation, I was only grateful that I wasn’t kissing my Wesley medallion. However, having gotten this close, I was not about to give up.  I kept my slobbery mouth pressed firmly against her perfect chin and started sliding up to find her lips. Unfortunately, at the same time, Trudy decided to help the situation by tilting her face down.  Before I realized what had happened, I was sucking on her left eyebrow, a stream of spittle leaving a wet trail of failure up the side of her face.  In the cold, night air, with the car running beside us, we groped and wrestled until our lips finally met in a moment that was at once disgraceful and oddly satisfying.

The following Monday, to no one’s surprise, Paige handed a note to Doug who passed it on to me. It contained my now tarnished Wesley necklace and the word, “No” circled in pencil.  I’d like to think it was a mutual parting of ways, based on hours of discussion and a realization that our interests were diverging as we aged those short two weeks.  But we both knew the awful, heart-breaking, and embarrassing truth.