I confess to getting hung up on a fairly minor point.
When the Boston Marathon bombings happened, I think my reaction was probably similar to most people’s. I was horrified. I’ve been at finish lines as both a runner and a spectator. They have an unbelievably positive vibe. Just about everybody there is personally invested and the people who aren’t are volunteering to help others and are usually very energetic about it. It seemed particularly vicious to wipe all that out with what seemed to be random violence.
Adding to my horror was a little exercise I did. In an attempt to properly empathize with the people affected, I pictured my last finish when I was able to find my wife, my brother, my mom and my sister cheering in the crowd as I crossed. That image is very positive and burned into my brain (I hope) forever. Superimposing the films from the bombings over that image in my brain was too effective, too emotional, because I assumed some poor soul didn’t have to imagine it. Some poor soul probably lived through it.
When I pulled back from that terrible image, I thought of all the ways people would be affected. I eventually realized I didn’t really hear anybody mention the runners who didn’t finish. That’s probably appropriate. They probably consider themselves lucky. I’d imagine most of them felt a little disappointment, but focused their energy on finding their loved ones and getting back home safe. Still, I felt bad for them. Read more »
I confess to being very relieved this weekend when I found out my brother would get to keep his guide dog after it was retired from its work duties. He’s had this guide dog for the past eight years, but when he first received the dog the organization who trains and finds home for these dogs said they typically go to a new home after they retire. The reasoning behind this is the retiring guide dogs are often reluctant to hand over their duties to a new dog.
Guide dogs give up a lot of what we think of as “being a dog” to do their work, and to respond to that sacrifice by taking them away from their home for their final years seems almost too sad to bear. Actually, knowing my brother and his family, it would have been too sad to bear and that’s why they’re keeping him. It appears the organization he uses to get his guide dog has relaxed their policy somewhat, and if the owner can care for the dog in its retirement years, it is up to the owner whether they keep the dog or not.
Unfortunately, many people who need a guide dog are alone and/or on a fixed income and cannot care for a second dog. There was one such woman at the guide dog facility when my brother trained there eight years ago. He said she was openly weeping at her loss. I can’t help but wonder how the level of trauma compares for the dog being taken away from its owner.
I’m very happy for my brother and his dog, though. His dog is as wonderful as you’d imagine these dogs to be and has grown at least as protective of my brother’s family as he is of my brother. Now he gets to live out his “retirement” with the family he’s known his entire life and will get to enjoy life as a “normal dog”. For example, when he visits my house in retirement, he’ll be able to play with my black lab mix with abandon. This is a treat he was often unable to resist even when he was supposed to be working.
I confess I may not be as social a person as I like to imagine.
There is a local bar I go to a lot. Most of the time when I go there, it’s to place a takeout order and have a beer while I wait. The other day, I walked in and the bar appeared to be full to capacity. The only empty stools have drinks in front of them or jackets on the back of the seat.
So I planned to just stand as I waited. But a woman sitting at the bar noticed me waiting and said I could sit in the seat next to her, as there was nobody sitting there. I asked if she was sure, because there was a half full glass of wine and a jacket on the chair. The jacket was hers. the wine was her friends. It was fine if I sat down. When she explained why she had been reserving it, she trailed off and part of the reason for her trailing off may have been that she spilled her friend’s wine as she was moving it.
This situation was ripe for discomfort from my perspective. First, she had apparently not wanted somebody sitting next to her but after seeing me, had changed her mind. Potentially flattering, but not a situation I’m particularly keen on being involved in. Secondly, the spilled wine was to the right of her and I was on her left. I kind of felt like I should help with the cleanup, but a) she had it under control and b) it was pretty intimate quarters for two people to be doing the job. Therefore, I awkwardly sat in my chair trying to look appreciative for her having opened up the seat for me. Finally, when somebody spills wine all over the bar, there is a natural assumption that they are drunk. One of the least appealing conversations to have is with somebody who’s drunk when you’re sober. Read more »
I confess for a list of reasons I won’t go into, I had said I would never visit the casino that was built in Toledo. I confess that Saturday my wife and I were sitting at a pizza joint eating lunch, and she said she wanted to drive up to Detroit to hit one of the casinos. I’m not crazy about essentially throwing $100 or more away, but such excursions can lead to other fun discoveries so I was game.
As time approached to leave the restaurant, she theorized that it didn’t make sense to drive an hour to Detroit in case we dropped whatever we were willing to gamble quickly. We should just go to the casino that was five minutes away and literally on the way home. Whatevs.
It was immediately clear that Ohio’s enforcing its non-smoking laws in the casino was a humongous advantage over the casinos in Michigan (which are exempt from Michigan’s non-smoking laws). Once you’re over that refreshing novelty, though, it’s just another casino.
So, like we always do when we hit a casino, we searched out the video poker and each plugged in a twenty. My credits were gone in literally less than five minutes. My wife didn’t fare much better. So we each threw in another twenty. We may as well have lit those on fire as well. On the third twenty (which hit our allotted gambling amount for the day) my wife, who was playing “Deuces Wild”, hit four deuces for 1,000 credits ($250). Look at that! Gambling IS fun!
My luck had remained unchanged, though, so with my budget blown I was just sitting and watching her try to hit another big hand. Now flush with cash, she announced her “cash out” point (the point at which she would cash out rather than go below this point) and gave me the last twenty we had brought. Not far in, I was dealt two aces and two fives.
Typically, I would hold both pairs and hope for the full house but this particular game’s odds paid very well for hitting four aces. Not only that, but having a pair of aces paid the same as two pair. Knowing this, I used my dabbling in game theory and probability to surmise I should hold just the aces. When I was dealt three fresh cards, two of them were aces. Four aces for 800 credits ($200). I swear to God I was more excited that my playing the odds properly paid off than I was about the money. The money was nice, though.
Now, here’s the reason I dragged you through that boring “I hit at the casino” story. The joy of hitting was incredibly fleeting. We hadn’t even cashed out and my wife pointed out a small list of things we needed or wanted that would absorb these winnings. This was a little deflating, but not as much as the realization that this list could easily grow to include any winnings we could reasonably expect. If we each hit for three or four more four of a kinds or whatever, home repairs, cars, student loans….all could rise up and make themselves known as the responsible way to spend our winnings.
I’m glad we hit for monetary reasons, but I’m also glad we hit because it had the paradoxical effect of showing me the pointlessness of gambling – even aside from the odds being so heavily against winning. Even when you do hit enough to walk away with more money, it’s always just money. There’s always places it needs to go and having unexpected amounts just highlights those obligations. If you ignore them, it’s just a new source of guilt. It’s possible I would’ve paid the amount we had budgeted for the day just to avoid the realization of what feels like a neverending queue of collectors making demands for our gains.
Not only does the house always win, but the house is everywhere.
I confess I had a moment of weakness yesterday. My friend and I showed up at our yoga class a few minutes early, and it was just in time to see a class of about fifteen people walk up the stairs that lead only to our yoga classroom. My friend and I looked at each other like, “Why are they going to our classroom?” Knowing this group would be turned away by our teacher, we stayed at the bottom of the stairs so they would be able to come back down. This is exactly what happened, but as the disappointed and perplexed people walked back down the stairs they were all complaining about the kooky yoga instructor who was preparing for her weird class.
As this rejected group congregated in the common area, they milled about wondering what space they were going to use to do whatever it was they planned. I couldn’t hear their discussions but I noticed them mockingly going through different yoga poses as they no doubt explained the injustice of this situation. My friend, always a bit of an antagonist, pointed out to some of this group that our yoga class always meets at this time on this day so we weren’t sure where their confusion was coming from.
With the stairs now cleared, we made our way up to the classroom only to find the instructor of the disappointed group speaking to our yoga instructor. He was speaking in a very confrontational manner that raised the hackles of both my friend and I. To her credit, our yoga instructor refused to escalate the situation to meet his posture and tone. She calmly explained that she had the space reserved just as she had for the prior six months. She told him to go check with the owner. Read more »
I confess today I’m going to jump around a bit in my confessions, as I don’t really have one worthy of an entire post.
I confess I took my first yoga class on Wednesday. It’s intended for triathletes and I like to tell myself that was why it was grueling enough that I had to break down and rest in the middle of a couple of the poses. Despite the quivering muscles and sweaty brow, I loved it. I was especially a fan of the corpse pose at the end. I confess, however, in the middle of it I could not help but remember Josh K-sky recommending meditation after this post. I confess I don’t know if yoga can really be considered meditation, but it seemed to do the trick.
I confess I started up a baseball blog after taking the better part of a year off from baseball writing. Why is this a confession? Because as much as I hate to admit it, there is no topic I can write about as easily and with more knowledge than baseball. Seriously. That includes my profession that pays the bills. Anyway, I’m not overly proud of it and at the risk of sounding corny on a The Natural level, returning to baseball writing kind of feels like coming back home. Now if only I could monetize that! (Kidding. Sort of.)
I confess that I often find myself defending the Detroit and Toledo regions (my past and present homes) as not being as miserable and grim as I feel they are generally perceived by the….well, the rest of the world, really. But at this time of year when it’s still cold but there’s no snow on the ground and it seems like everything is either brown or gray, even I must admit that yes, it’s pretty grim.
I confess to having been cheered up in the past by seeing people – usually kids – add whimsical flourishes to mundane tasks. As a result of this discovery, I sometimes add a little pizzazz to tasks – like taking out the garbage or shoveling the sidewalk – just on the off chance that somebody sees them and is similarly cheered by my joie de vivre.
I now turn the confessional over to you, good reader. That is, if you can summon the will to complete the ritual despite the apathy that surely washes over you as the result of a voluntary papal vacancy.
I once received a text from a number unknown to both my phone and me that said simply, “Dis Shelia”. I had no idea who this person was. I had no idea if her name was actually Sheila, as I’m not even sure how I’d pronounce Shelia. It didn’t matter, though, because I’ve never known anybody named Sheila or Shelia, so this was a wrong number text. I confess the first idea that popped into my head upon reading that text was to reply, “Dis not who you think it is”.
No sooner had the thought popped into my head, my brain started processing questions about it? Is that offensive? Is that poking fun at the text or the texter? Is there a difference? Is it racist for me to assume this is a black woman or is it just my brain doing probabilities? Wait, was that last question racist? The panicked questions of myself didn’t stop there.
I tried to think of whether there was some way I could tweak the text so it would have less chance to be offensive, but still make the same joke. You see, I get texts and emails intended for other people quite often. When it happens, I like to let them know they’re not reaching the person they intended but I also like to throw in a joke or playful wording so they know I’m not replying out of annoyance. Read more »
Twice in less than a day I’ve heard conversations about marriage proposals. This led me to this week’s confession, which is that I confess I have maybe the worst marriage proposal story of all time. Well, that’s not true. She said yes, so it’s clearly not the worst marriage proposal story. Worst successful marriage proposal, maybe?
My wife and I were sitting around our apartment chatting, and I asked if she ever wondered why neither of us ever mentioned marriage. She said that both of our parents were divorced and it’s probably a little scary. I conceded that was probably right, but then went on to say that it had always struck me as odd when couples say they’ve talked about marriage but remained un-engaged.
My point was that if both people were open to the idea of getting married and considered their current partner a possible spouse, how did that conversation stop short of an engagement? In my mind, it seemed like discussing the possibility of marriage with a person who you might marry was essentially an engagement. Whether it was official or not.
She agreed that kind of made sense, and that was when I asked if she’d like to get married. I feel this is a good time to point out that this was not me painting myself into a corner. This was my kind of convoluted way of timidly breaching a topic my wife had never really given her thoughts on (though I was pretty sure she’d say yes).
Bringing this back to present day, when marriage proposals come up in conversation (the two conversations I’ve heard in the last day being no exception), it’s almost always about how the man proposed. The stories are usually about whether he did it traditionally or made it into a game or how he surprised her. Each person involved gives their own version and if and when the conversation comes to me, I share some version of the story above and point out that I hadn’t even purchased a ring yet when I asked.
Multiple times, people have said they can’t believe my wife was okay with a proposal like that. The same people tend to express (perhaps feign?) envy that we invited just twenty people to our wedding and didn’t stress at all over music or flowers or a photographer or a church because our ceremony didn’t have any of those things. The more I have conversations like this, the more I think these rituals and ceremonies (even the private ones) are more about meeting expectations than actually doing things the way we want.
I confess to being a little too lazy to be what I would consider properly informed. The reason I say this is I’ll come home from work, greet and tend to my two dogs and two cats and turn my attention to what I want to do with the rest of my evening.
After I’ve eaten a snack and successfully procrastinated on exercising, I look over my choices. Sitting on my coffee table, there’s the latest Economist and New Yorker. Sitting next to them, there’s my book club’s current choice for reading. I tell myself that I really should read one of the three. After all, the next book club meeting is approaching and the two magazines were Christmas gifts and I feel guilty when the week passes and I haven’t even touched that week’s edition. Seriously. It’s been too many times where I’ve opened the mailbox and winced when I see a new issue of one of those magazines. “Already? Damn, I keep meaning to read last week’s edition!”
But really, it’s often the case that I just don’t want to come home from work only to read about how China’s workforce is shrinking. I just don’t always feel like reading about how much Sasha Frere-Jones loves some band who when I hear them later I will just feel dumb for not “getting”.
So, telling myself I’ll get to an article later, I remember that funny post I put on Facebook and I check to see if anybody has “liked” or commented. Oh, there was also that article about Justin Verlander I had meant to check out yesterday. I’m going to read that, too. Oh, look, the dogs are bummed that I’m just sitting hear reading my phone. I’d better play with them for a while. Whoops, my wife is home. I’d better think of dinner so I can have some input to what we have. What’s that? The DVR is nearly full? Well, we’d better watch Bob’s Burgers and maybe a Justified if we’re not too tired. Oh, look at that, The Departed is on. I always watch that when it’s on. Woo, I’m sleepy. Let’s go to bed.
As I turn out the lights, I notice the magazines and the Kindle sitting lonely on the coffee table. Maybe I’ll take them with me to work to read at lunch tomorrow. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. I confess that even as I make that deal with myself, I know it’s not very likely. Not every day goes like this. But it happens more often than I’d care to admit were this not the day for my confessional.
How about you, good reader? Did you lie to yourself about what you’d accomplish this week? Do tell.
I confess that while I’ll likely continue to call this series the Friday Afternoon Confessional – there’s tags at stake here – I’m dumping Friday afternoons. From other blog endeavors, I know Friday afternoons are not exactly prime for blog traffic and at this particular point in time, I like to delude myself into thinking a more optimal posting time will increase traffic in these parts. Programming notes aside, on to proper confessions.
Elaine: I’ll be ostracized from the community.
Jerry: What community? There’s a community?
Elaine: Of course there’s a community.
Jerry: All these years I’m living in a community. I had no idea.
Seinfeld, Season 3, Episode 11, “The Alternate Side”
I saw this episode the other day and it made me realize something I can confess. I’ve never really been part of a community. Unlike Jerry, I’ve often felt like I was part of a community but as I review people I stay in touch with and where I met them, there aren’t too many common threads. If I’ve been in communities, they haven’t stuck.
As a city planner, I’m constantly talking about communities and a lot of my decisions (both at home and at work) are made in an effort to help “the community”. So this realization was a little bit alarming. In an attempt to find something I could consider a community I was a part of, I cycled through the possible sources.
My neighborhood? I don’t know a single person in my neighborhood whose property is not adjacent to mine. Even among that very limited group, I don’t know the name of the woman from across the street who I talk to from time to time. I also don’t have kids, so there’s no opportunity to meet other families from my neighborhood through school. Obviously, I have whiffed on any opportunities to nurture a sense of local community in the past eight years.
Work? It’s true I’ve done a decent job of building good working relationships with nearly everybody I work with. I’m friendly and polite at work. I’m a negotiator in my union. But community? That’s a stretch. I’ve never hung out with a single person from my work outside of work or work functions. When I’ve thrown parties at my house, my invitations extended to co-workers were (I think) understood by all to be exercises in manners. Nobody was coming and I didn’t expect them to.
Other opportunities to be part of a community? I suppose there’s where I grew up, but going to Catholic school and living in a neighborhood where only three of the kids I used to hang out with didn’t end up doing time in jail limited that opportunity. I haven’t spoken, except on Facebook, to a single person from the school where I did my undergraduate work since I left. I met one of my best friends in grad school, but two good buddies does not a community make.
I’ve always thought it would be cool to have a restaurant or bar where workers and patrons knew who you were. I’ve just never been enamored enough with the idea to actually put any effort toward it. The closest we came was waitresses at Buffalo Wild Wings recognizing us and when we realized that was happening, we took it as a sign we were spending too much time there. We’ve stopped, for the most part.
Add it all up and my wife and I have our families and a fairly small network of friends who were plucked from various facets of our respective histories. It works. We’re happy. But there’s nothing there that could really be called a community. If this friend gets a job promotion and leaves town and that friend has a baby, it could leave us fairly isolated.
Part of me is curious as to how my wife and I would react. Would we become closer friends with couples we only occasionally see now? Or maybe we’d take it as an opportunity to try harder to move somewhere else in the country? Either way, I’m beginning to wonder if our chance to ever belong to a community has passed. I know my wife doesn’t care too much about that possibility. I’m starting to realize that my choices and actions through the years are pretty much proof I don’t either.
How about you good reader? Can you claim a stake in a community that doesn’t involve sitting in front of a monitor and thinking of pithy comments? I think the natural course of this conversation is to consider modern society’s impact on building communities, but does every conversation have to go down that road? If so, far be it from me to go against the wishes of the community. I don’t want to be ostracized.