Exit 176. Go do something else with your attitude, like crush a child’s dream.

I was always that kid who liked to build things out of common household items accessible to a kid.  Growing up, my room was always full of simple pinball machines made of cardboard, duct tape, and marbles.

As an adult, I still occasionally take on do-it-yourself projects that remind me a lot of the kind of things I would build as a kid, the kind of projects that I imagine someone like MacGyver would take on.  A while back, I used two long sticks and a tape measure to unclog the dryer vent.  When I posted a picture on Facebook of the huge pile of damp lint that had been clogging the vent, I said that I would like to thank Angus MacGyver for teaching my preteen self that there is always a solution using common household objects.

Which brings me to last week.  One of my current projects requires large amounts of scrap cardboard.  I thought of the perfect place to acquire this cardboard: Costco.  For those of you who do not have Costco in your area, this is a bulk wholesale store that sells large quantities of groceries and other common items.  Many of them are sitting on wooden pallets, with sheets of cardboard separating boxes that are stacked on top of each other.  So I walked around the store, grabbing as many of the sheets of cardboard that I could without making a huge mess of the stacked items.  I even checked with an employee if it was okay, and he said sure, we usually just throw them away anyway.  That’s what I assumed.

A few people asked me what the cardboard was for, and I just told them it was for a project I was working on.  I thought about what I was going to say if anyone asked me what the project was.  I didn’t want to be one of those snobs who gets all uppity when a stranger tries to make conversation, telling the other person that they have no right to talk to me.  But explaining exactly what I was doing didn’t feel right.  At one point, I considered telling the truth: “I’m sorry, but I’m feeling really anxious and self-conscious right now, because whenever I do a project like this, people always respond by telling me it’s stupid and it’s not going to work.”

For example, a few years ago, I got another clever idea, this time an electronics-computer-type MacGyver project.  I was telling some people about my idea, and one guy just sneered and told me why my idea was dumb.  Now this guy is just an asshole all around, and not just because of this.  We still cross paths occasionally, and I try not to say more than hi to him.  But it still hurt.  And I never did finish this project.

So… back to Costco.  No one asked me what the project was.  Four people asked me on what aisle they could find things; apparently they assumed that someone pushing a cart full of scraps of cardboard around the store must be an employee.  I hadn’t even foreseen that happening.  Apparently they didn’t see my case of toilet paper, bucket of laundry detergent, or four pound bag of chocolate chips in the bucket under all the cardboard.

When I finally got to the front of the line, I checked again to make sure it was okay for me to take the cardboard.  I said I wasn’t using it to hide anything I might be trying to steal.  And while attempting to make small talk with the cashier, I told her what the cardboard was for.

And she promptly told me why my idea might not work.


You’re not helping.  Just shut up.  Go do something else with your attitude, like crush a child’s dream or something.  But leave me alone.  I don’t need your advice.

Meanwhile, nothing about that experience has helped the way I feel about this.  Notice that I haven’t even explained here what the cardboard is for… and I’m not going to.  I guess I’m just better off keeping my bright ideas to myself.  Maybe that’s ok.

And it remains to be seen whether or not my idea will work.

Exit 46. Baby, don’t treat me bad.

Fans of the so-called hair bands that were popular in my childhood will recognize the title of this article as a quote from a two-hit wonder called Firehouse (one hit, two hits).  I don’t really know a whole lot about this band other than those two songs and what I’ve read in their Wikipedia article, but I discovered something interesting in there: Firehouse won “Favorite Hard Rock New Artist” at the 19th American Music Awards, held in early 1992.  Firehouse didn’t really leave much of a legacy in the quarter-century since they first approached stardom.  Firehouse isn’t really very well remembered these days, other than people in their 30s commenting “Hey, I remember that song! I haven’t heard it in years!” whenever one of their friends shares it on Facebook.  You never see kids who weren’t born yet when Firehouse was popular wearing Firehouse T-shirts, for example.

What’s interesting about all this, though, is one of the bands that lost to Firehouse in that year’s Favorite Hard Rock New Artist category, a trio that perhaps you’ve heard of called Nirvana (one hit, two hits, three hits, four hits, five hits, six hits, seven hits, and probably more if not for the lead singer joining the 27 Club in 1994).  So did Firehouse deserve the award over Nirvana?  That’s a bit of a subjective matter.  While researching this post, I discovered that Firehouse actually did have a third song to crack the top 20, one I don’t personally remember, and the seven big hits from Nirvana that I remember most didn’t all perform as well on the charts as I’d have thought considering how often I heard them back then.  (Both Nevermind and In Utero were #1 albums, though.)  But I don’t think anyone would doubt that Nirvana had a much greater influence on the history of rock music than Firehouse did.  To me, it seems like whoever was in charge of selecting the Favorite Hard Rock New Artist at the American Music Awards was more comfortable with a band that sounded like all the other biggest hard rock bands of the last decade rather than a band that signaled a fundamental shift in popular music.  They wanted to stick to the old ways, even though the world was changing.

That last sentence, that is my problem right now.

This is not the same world that rejected me and bullied me in 1985, this is not the same world in which I finally learned to have friends in 1993, and this is not the same world that taught me about Jesus and how to form romantic relationships God’s way in 1997.  While some core principles and beliefs should never change, I can’t apply those the same way that I did, or that I wanted to, in the past.

This causes a lot of tension because I don’t like the way the world has changed.  In order to socialize, I have to go to bars and blow a ton of money on bad-tasting judgment-impairing drinks only to have a hard time hearing anyone because it’s so loud in there.  In order to pursue a relationship with a woman, I have to ask her out right as soon as I meet her, follow all these rules about how long to wait before I call her back, and go to bed with her after a couple weeks, which will usher in a period of awkward tension in which we aren’t sure if we’re a couple or not.  Those things don’t make sense to me.  I’d rather find somewhere to talk to people where you can actually listen to each other, but if I talk to strangers anywhere else it’s creepy.  I’d rather get to know a woman on a platonic level, slowly, and spend time together with our clothes on before establishing clearly if we are in a serious relationship.  But getting to know a woman on a platonic level sends the message that I’m not interested.  I feel like I don’t fit in at church.  I can keep looking for a church that has a group like the one I was in when I was in college, where the room is full of people in the same place in life as me, and after the singing and the Bible lesson, we socialize and hang out together.  But the honest truth is that I’m not going to find a group like that.  Adults don’t do that.  They go home and go to bed early, because they have jobs and children to worry about.

I can’t change the ways of the world, unfortunately.  I can change myself, and I can change my attitude, and I’m going to have to do a bit of both.  Maybe I’ll have to stop clinging to some of the old ways.  Maybe I’ll have to get a smartphone.  Maybe I’ll have to let go of the wistful hope that I’ll ever experience the kind of unrestrained puppy love that teenage couples experience, with the all night last minute road trips and bonfires and stargazing.  But I’ll also have to figure out which core values not to change.  A woman who expects to sleep with a guy before even establishing if we’re a couple or not obviously isn’t the one.  If I stay true to myself, but keep a positive attitude and stay open to new things, then hopefully I’ll be able to find my place in this world without having to sell out.  I’m not going to fit in everywhere, and not everyone is going to like me, and life isn’t going to look like what I wanted my ideal life at age 22 to look like.  But it’s okay to be a little different.  It’s okay to be me and have a lot of different interests and connections that don’t usually go together.

After all, all three artists I linked to in this post are in my music collection, and they represent very different styles of music.

(And by the way, I didn’t post anything for Pi Day because I was attending the birthday party of my cousin’s little guys.  Family is important.  All the kids at school asking me if Pi Day was going to be the most amazing day of my life… well, it’s fun to point that out, but it’s really not that big of a deal in the long run.)