Five Songs I’ve Heard From Other Cars While Waiting for My Kids

For the last few months I have been given the freedom to pick up my toddlers from school. It’s one of those daily mundanities that keeps me from being a total slob and walking out of my house in flip-flops, basketball shorts and no deodorant on weekdays.

I tend to arrive about fifteen to twenty minutes before the kids get out. Generally, I try to read, listen to NPR, or thumb through various social media feeds on my phone. But every once in a while, my efforts to entertain myself are interrupted by the loud sounds pounding from other parents/guardians vehicles.

Now I can’t say for certain whether or not I might have done something like this in my younger days, but for the sake of this post, let’s assume I had the good manners and consideration for others and never engaged in such rude behavior.

Show the World – Lil Boosie feat. Webbie and Kiara – I didn’t turn around to see who was playing this song. Since Boosie’s release from prison, the radio seems to be doing its best to make sure this song pops. Personally, I hate this song, and my hatred extended to the driver of the car who was playing it.

Don’t Say Goodnight – The Isley Brothers A late model Jeep pulled into the parking lot one day with all four windows down blasting this song. It was actually kind of nice considering the sun was high in the sky, the breeze was blowing and everything else kind of matched the mood of the song, other than we were all about to pick up grade school children.

Wood Wheel – Underground Kingz A Camaro a couple of parking spaces over from the minivan played this loud enough so that the even with the windows up, I could hear the lyrics to this syrupy classic. Sure kindergartners were only separated by glass and a brick wall, but how else were they going to learn the song for the end of the year recital.

Love And Happiness – Al Green Some dude in one of those semi-fixed up pickup trucks came into the parking lot blasting this. When I heard it, I knew whoever was playing was mainly a blues guy. I mean, I don’t really know if he was mainly a blues guy, but it made sense when I thought it.

Licking Stick – James Brown This lady drives a beat up Ford Explorer, and for about a week she came up to the school windows down playing all manner of James Brown. She let this song finish one day while she sang along head bobbing with the somebody farted face. The only other artist I’ve heard her play was Zapp, so all things considered, she’s okay in my book.

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Oak Tree

Hi, i’m having the big live oak at the front right of your house cut down on mon morning starting around 9. Am worried it could hurt the foundation.

That was the text my landlord sent me about the oak tree that stood less than four feet from our front door. The live oak grew up and away from the house and shaded everything from the front step to the street corner. As far as I knew the foundation got destroyed when we had that drought two years ago. Almost every door in house couldn’t close when the ground dried out and hardened that summer. The oak stood strong though, and the front door closed like it always did.

Now, there are no limbs to duck under when you walk down the sidewalk, or any shade to stand in when the sun hangs high in the afternoon. The house stands taller now in the tree’s absence, but it does not carry itself with casual coolness of the live oak that once stood there. The wood shavings and mulch are scattered where the tree was, and the sun comes to my door unobstructed in the morning, like a neighbor bearing gifts for the new arrivals.

On Diet Coke

There was a point in my life when I would have placed people who drank Diet Coke into one of two categories; one would have been incompetent calorie counters and the other would have been old people. It was the concept of Diet Coke that offended me, its selling point was great taste AND fewer calories, and at that point in time the saccharine sweetness was beyond my understanding. As far as the fewer calories were concerned, I didn’t see how that mattered when everyone I knew who drank Diet Coke consumed it in liter quantities daily.

However, I’ve grown to appreciate things I used to ridicule as a child; things like, quiet evenings, jazz music, foreign film, a nice salad, light beer, and Diet Cokes.

Without any pretense, Sold Out flashed when I pushed the button for Coke on the vending machine. The machine belched out my consolation prize, a watered down version of The Real Thing masquerading as something more in a silver can. But the taste didn’t offend me like it used to, something like a fully carbonated flat soda, Diet Coke was speaking a language my more mature, greying palate understood. Not really sure what was being said, but I liked it.

My Right Thumb

My right thumb smells like poop, which is odd because I took a shower less than 45 minutes earlier and I haven’t changed a diaper since the shower. I only noticed it while sitting at a red light, I bit my thumb (yes, the right one) out of the anxiety that comes with morning traffic and noticed a familiar scent of stale poop.

I was a confused a bit, because how does one complete a shower with their hands still smelling like poop? Don’t your hands automatically become clean through direct contact with the soap? If you use shower gel, (which I do btw, Dove for Men holla at me for some sponsorship) doesn’t the lather from the loofah clean your hands by proxy? Even still, I’m pretty certain I wash my hands in the shower. Matters not that I can’t recall specifically doing so this morning, I’d like to give myself the benefit of the doubt in this instance.

Personal hygiene aside, I recalled a possible source for the poop smell on my fingers. Before I walked out of the door this morning, I gathered up the latest batch of dirty diapers yet to be thrown out, and threw them in the garbage can outside. Questions possibly running through your mind right now: How old are the triplets right now? Shouldn’t they be potty trained by now? What is your current system of disposing of dirty diapers? All valid questions, and I’ll address only two of them just to spare you the dirty details of diaper disposal in my house.

Right now, the triplets are three years old, and yes they should be potty trained by now. I could say that we’ve actively begun potty training them, but that would only apply if we expanded the definition of potty training to mean putting them in diapers and changing them business as usual. As one half of the parenting unit, I will defer from blaming the other half (which is a useful and favorite tactic of mine) and shoulder the blame for their lack of development in this crucial milestone.

It’s a slight source of shame for me, as I can not tell anyone that my children were potty trained at a young age. Those of you who have kids, or are familiar with the milestone checklist game parents like to play, know that bragging on how early your kids can crawl, walk, talk, feed themselves, run a boston in spades is all a part of making the other parent and their poor child they’ve birthed, wear the proper amount of inferiority when addressing you. I have no status in this arena, my youngest set of children are not yet potty trained.

One of my lovely aunts recently visited our house to drop off some items for Easter. We chatted a bit, discussed several different things, and then she asked whether or not the triplets were potty trained yet. I said no, and made efforts to indicate that poor parenting prevented the kids from this milestone as opposed to the lack of understanding by the trips. This served both as an admission and a move to disarm the possible lecture on why I wasn’t doing more to make the triplets handle their business on the toilet. We laughed about it, and she offered some helpful suggestions: try one at a time, show them potty training videos, some other stuff that I’m sure was great advice but have since forgotten.

Still, spring is here, and the babies were born in August, this ‘just turned three’ business wasn’t a good excuse when it was true. Now, it’s just an unfortunate manifestation of the unique kind of laziness the wife and I have developed over the years, a sorry excuse for a sorry excuse if you can figure out what that means. If this post were a poorly executed metaphor, it would be an emo teenaged suicide attempt, complete with excessive eyeliner and The Cure playing in the background. A cry for help if you will; one of those if you know me (or my wife), and you see me in the streets, ask me how the potty training is going. They say it takes a village…plus, this shit, has got to stop.

Place Holder

I’m only posting this to make sure my blog has at least one post for the month of March. It’s cheating, but whatever; this is another snippet of the essay I wrote in a workshop. Maybe next month.

It was in the literal haze of one cool crisp morning that I found myself touching down at some archipelago of soccer fields right before dawn one Saturday. My oldest daughter and I, were the first ones from our soccer team to arrive. The fluorescent flood lights gave the morning fog a pleasant, but eery effect. There’s something about driving almost an hour to some hick suburb, at the crack of dawn, to watch your daughter play soccer all day with people who were nice enough, but I can barely tolerate, had me questioning all of my life choices.

Laundry Losers

During the course of the day, the goings on of the morning had been reduced to a dulled irritation that had almost been forgotten. The wife and I were on the way to pick up our oldest daughter from basketball practice that evening; and like we always do, we talked about whatever we think is interesting about our day. My contribution to this conversation is a standard “nothing”, which if expanded, would mean that my day was filled with the standard amount of bullshit and stupidity that accompanies a man in my position. My wife, is a bit more forthcoming about the specifics of her day, so my job is just to respond in affirmatively, ask the occasional follow up question and to take her side on any perceived wrong doing that may have been done to her.

So, she’s talking about something or another like she always does, and then asks me “Were you able to dry Raven’s pants this morning?”. It’s an odd question, and out of context, needs a little bit of explanation.

The mornings in our house stay in various states of disarray, confusion, and anxiety; common sense approaches to getting out of the house in the morning in a timely manner are shunned. Taking baths/showers at night, picking out/ironing your clothes, fixing lunches the night before etc., none of that gets done in my house. These offenses are minor, and could be overcome by waking up early enough to get all of these things done in the morning, but again, none of that is happening. As for me personally, I’d like to think that without the hinderance of a wife, and six too many kids, I would be the most punctual person in the world. But that’s neither here nor there.

That morning, as we made our daily scramble to dress ourselves and our children for school, we discovered, with little surprise and yet much vexation, that none of our daughters uniform pants were clean. This is not uncommon in our house, and can be easily resolved with a quick wash/dry before we head out the door. However, our dryer has unofficially quit on us; and by unofficially I mean that it turns on, but does not actually turn up. (the heat) It takes forever to dry a load of clothes, and due to several critical areas lacking, (money, time, will) we have yet to replace the thing. My wife, decided to wash the pants anyway, and give our dryer try anyway, an endeavor I suggested against and was ignored.

My suggestion, was to spot clean the least dirtiest/funny smelling uniform pants (don’t judge me) so we could find so we could keep it moving. The morning schedule is too tight to try and have our geriatric dryer try to handle a quick dry on a pair khaki’s. It was almost 7:00, and the pants weren’t dry yet, but we had to leave to ensure jobs still deposited checks. The wife, in her infinite brilliance, told me to look for some random laundromat, and dry the pants there before I take the daughter to school, an idea I dismiss as pure idiocy. I was immediately irritated, my spot cleaning idea was already better than this.

We leave the house late; and I would be lying if I said that the idea of flying that wet pair of khaki’s out the back window of the minivan like some odd, domesticated freak flag didn’t cross my mind. Instead we drop off the wife, and head towards my daughter’s school. My daughter cons me into getting her breakfast before dropping her off, I consent feeling somewhat responsible for sending her to school in wet pants.

While in the drive thru of Jack in the Box, (a more than adequate breakfast menu btw) I notice a cleaners right next to it. The back door was open, a few employees milling about, and sitting there, in plain view is a shiny looking dryer. I’ll blame it on caffeine deprivation to explain why I thought it was a good idea to walk in there and ask them to throw this semi-wet pair of khaki’s into their dryer for ten minutes. Both the lady picking up her laundry, and the lady behind the counter looked at me like I was crazy when they heard what I was asking.

I’ll admit that my request might have been a little out of the ordinary; but they had a dryer that wasn’t being used at the moment, and considering I was willing to pay up to ten dollars to get this done, I didn’t see the problem. I won’t get into the politics involved of me not having a haircut since October 2012, or that I might have been wearing a stained t-shirt, sweatpants, with flip-flops and socks, because that’s not the point. The point is, I am a man, with a wet pair of khaki’s in one hand, and ten dollars in the other, asking his fellow man (woman in this case) to help dry his daughter’s pants in a time of need, and the best you can do is tell me “We don’t do that heah”.

I was getting angry, and before I gave them the special kind of crazy that only my wife knows, I stepped back and asked the lady if she knew where the nearest laundromat was. There was one down the street she said, before you hit the freeway she said. It was five minutes away, three if we made all of the lights. We made it there in no time, wasn’t crowded at all. The place looked closed, but the hours posted on the door said that they opened at 7:00 a.m. and it was almost 8:00 a.m. There was a number on the door, I called it, just in case they were on the way or something. The phone rang endlessly, they weren’t on the way. Probably still counting all the quarters they ripped off from poor saps like me from the day before. My daughter’s fate was sealed, to school with wet pants she would go. I suggested she ask one of the coaches if they had a dryer on the couch that she could use to dry her clothes. Seemed reasonable, but I later found out the coaches weren’t trying to help me either.

I got angry all over again. Because not only was I not down with this goofy ass plan, but I was gifted the impossible task of completing it. “Hell naw I didn’t get to dry Raven’s pants this morning!”, I say. “Those stupid #@#$%^&**!! at the dry cleaners wouldn’t help me at all! And then I go to the laundromat and they were closed! Matter of fact….” I pulled out my phone and went to retrieve the number of the laundromat I called earlier that day. My wife looks at me with a bit of bewilderment while I hit re-dial on the laundromat’s number. “Who are you calling?” she asks, I hold up my hand while waiting for the phone to be picked up. It rings a few times, and they finally answer.

I hadn’t planned this far ahead, so I just kind of blurted out “What time do you guys open in the morning?” I didn’t wait for them to answer before I told them what their hours said on the door. “The door says you’re open at 7:00 am! Me and three other people were waiting to go in and spend some money this morning! Why wasn’t anyone there?”

The lady proceeds to tell me that they normally open at 9:00 am and that the hours are incorrect. “Well you need to update your hours immediately, because there’s no reason that you should have posted hours and not honor them!”. They didn’t care what I had to say, I was too angry to put together coherent complaints, and not angry enough to curse them out like I felt like they deserved. When it was over, my wife was laughing at the rambling, incoherent, idiot I was, which made me laugh too. What I just did was too ridiculous for words, and even though I know the person on the receiving end of that call gave less than two shits about what I just told them, I felt better having said it, and that was all that mattered.

Untitled. (I Didn’t Feel Like Thinking of One)

After years of waiting, no one came – Thom Yorke

Way back when, when the best years of my life were still thought to be in the not so distant future, anything seemed possible. The Rolling Stones were some old jokers even back then, and hearing them sing about how time was on their side, I thought time was going to be a friend to me too, well, at least be on my side or something. Little Orphan Annie was in on the time is your friend thing too. She sang about tomorrow, with all of this expectation and energy, and how she loved it, and it was only a day away. Things seemed possible, never mind the fact that I didn’t have any solid plan or any hint of one. Great songs do that, communicate an idea so effectively that you almost forget that, that beautiful and sunny tomorrow that Annie so deeply loved, will most likely be as shitty as today.

Today, tomorrow, the next day, they start to look and feel the same after a while. I wasn’t unlike most people who thought they could grab the world by the tail and do what I wanted. I did things my own way and I did them at my own pace. My pace, despite a relatively consistent punctuality, could be characterized, as one job performance review put it, lacking urgency. Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans right? The plans, ideas, and dreams that I once held so closely, and thought so much about, sat in Father Time’s waiting room, hoping to get cleared to participate in the big dance.