His First Joke

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10557699_10152354800583860_4772943340586971653_o

For the first time in his life he has come up with something funny. Months later he still calls back to it. And it is funny. He’s had funny moments before. He’s pulled some physical gags and laughed at himself and then asked if it was silly. But this is his first joke.

Sometime late summer the subject of a sweet dessert came up. He was asking for it and I didn’t know what it was. He wasn’t saying it right. His pronunciation was off. It didn’t make sense. It was something he got somewhere and I didn’t know what it was. At four he’s too young to have things in his life I’m not aware of. We both laughed (hysterically) as I made it into a game of twenty questions. He caught on to the bit and riffed with me.

He was asking for something that sounded to me like “Fruit Myer”.

“Is it cold?”

“Yes!” He said laughing implying that of course it is served cold.

“Is it in the refrigerator or the freezer?”

“It’s in the freezer silly!”

“What color is it?” I asked.

“Green.”

“And what is it called again?”

“I told you. Fruit Myer!”

“I have no idea what this is! Maybe next time we are in the store you can point it out to me.”

“They don’t have Fruit Myer in the store, Silly! You are so crazy.”

"Also, Dude. Fruit Myer is not the preferred nomenclature." I added.

I have no idea what this stuff is.

My clues so far.

It’s green. It’s served cold. You eat it with a spoon. It makes a mess if you spill it. You get sick if you eat too much of it. Asking if it is bigger than a breadbox makes no sense to him. They don’t sell it at the store. You’d be crazy to think they did.

I’m guessing it’s some kind of green ice cream that my Mother-in-Law bought him.

She was also the source behind another mystery. One that I was able to solve.

That one was easier to piece together.

He asked for a popsicle from the freezer and when it was lemon instead of chocolate he demanded I put it under running water. “It will turn to chocolate!”

“No it won’t.” I said.

“Under the water! It will turn to chocolate! I don’t want lemon! I want chocolate!”

“That doesn't make any sense! That is impossible!” I yelled back matching his volume for affect. “Running water will not turn frozen lemonade into chocolate! It will turn it into more lemonade!”

I proved this and subsequently disappointed him in the name of science. His expression when I gave him a plastic stick that once held a popsicle was actual comedy.

“See!" I waved it. Again, for affect. "No chocolate!”

I may have over done it. He sulked. Tough audience.

My hypothesis. His Grammy makes him frozen popsicles with chocolate milk. She also makes him some from lemonade. My guess is to help extricate them from their plastic mold she runs them under water to loosen them up. Perhaps the lemonade variety doesn't need loosening? He must think we have a Willy Wonka sink that can turn anything into a chocolate popsicle?

But. To the current mystery. And joke.

Months later he will call back to the Fruit Myer bit and laugh knowing it’s funny.

It may begin with him chuckling, “Remember the Fruit Myer?”

I will laugh and start the round of the twenty questions again.

Even better is when I catch him laughing to himself and then when I ask him what’s funny he says snickering, “Fruit Myer.”

It’s a joke we share. A joke him and I wrote and one that I think he finds as funny as I do.

Maybe I don't want to ever know what Fruit Myer is?

My Son. My Chronological Yardstick

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spacegrowththinEvery memorable event in my life that happened before the spring of 2010 is filed away in my brain with a five year buffer. My mental calendar from the era before I had a child is ordered in half decade increments. When did I graduate college?

“I was done wearing flannel shirts by that time... mid to late 90's?”

Since my son was born he has become a yardstick on which I measure time. Instead of just inches marked off on the door frame I see months and the corresponding historical events. I look at his growth notches on the wall like a geologist sees the colors of a canyon.

My brother was married the month our son’s adoption was official. June 2010.

February 2011 he started scooting around the coffee table on his way to becoming bipedal.

In addition to tagging my memory with his chronology, I’ve watched the evolution of mankind as he’s inched his way up my leg. His descent from the crib akin to early man deciding that a tree wasn’t such a great place to raise a family. Soon after conquering land he began grunting and sketching crude drawings on the walls. This led to the use of simple tools and more complete sentences and an attempt to overthrow the established rules of the house. He assumed he was smarter than his elders but didn’t yet realize that we control the food and the bath toys.

It’s just a matter of time before I catch him sitting around a plastic round table with his playmates playing Rock Paper Scissors to decide who gets to be Braveheart this time.

“They will never take away our Freedom!”

I can’t wait for him to catch up with the 1960’s human and enter the space race in the backyard. Am I allowed to impart my wisdom onto him or do I have to let him fail in order to achieve global dominance? Does he need to lose a few model Estes rockets because my interference will disrupt the space time continuum? I’d hate to walk back inside after properly staging his rocket engines when he’s not looking to find my image fading in the few physical photos we have on the wall.

And when he actually becomes smarter than his elders I’ll be certain to hide the growth chart from him so he can’t rewrite history. It will be saved for posterity so I can remind him where he came from if his power becomes too great for him to handle.

“Right there. That is when you first inched up to my waistline.”

Hopefully he will still look up to me as he did then.

If not, I'll just take away his bath toys.

What I Did Not Do During My Summer Vacation

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14696482734_412e6fcbf3_o

I was on vacation during the month of July. I ceased all work related activities.

I also didn't...

  • Read a USATODAY
  • Eat airport food
  • Shave
  • Tell a passenger their flight cancelled... just for the fun of it
  • Turn my back and walk away from the TSA while they attempted to explain the rules
  • Make small talk with a new hire pilot about what they flew before this
  • Set an clock alarm with a pencil so as to not touch the buttons with my fingers
  • What CNN Airport News Network
  • Wear a tie
  • Watch sailboats from the cockpit of jet wishing I was down there
  • Iron anything
  • Get excited about finding a People, US Magazine and OK! in the same seat back pocket
  • Ride in a hotel van telling horror stories about flying with my crew while one non-airline person cries silently to themselves in the back
  • Send my phone through an X-ray machine with the "Get me out of this bag!" ringtone set to fire in T minus 10 seconds
  • Drink an emergency shot of airplane coffee
  • Wear a five point harness (almost though. Considered racing a go-cart)
  • Use outlook for email
  • Touch a thrust lever
  • Do a checklist (making a list now. Close)

It was a blissful month away from the airport. I return to the cockpit tomorrow. I just hope they didn't move any of the buttons around.

How Hollywood Gets Airline Life Wrong

catch-me-if-you-can-leonardo-dicaprio
catch-me-if-you-can-leonardo-dicaprio

In many ways… Hollywood’s depiction of airline life is completely wrong. In some ways it’s spot on and I claim those scenes as just another day at the office. My ownership to what scene I sell as truth depends on the audience I’m with. If I’m sitting with guys and it’s a pilot surrounded by beautiful ladies at a bar listening intently to him tell stories I’ll say, “Yep, they nailed it!”

If I’m with my mom who gets anxious about my flying and a scene is on where the pilot calmly cheats death by flying inverted through a storm because the elevator has lost effectiveness I’ll say, “Yep, they nailed it.”

Most of the time though flying movies make me laugh. I’m sure all industries are critical of the movie studios depiction of their profession but films with airplanes on the poster can be so comical about it. I can’t imagine a bunch of pipe fitters laughing at plumbing movies as much as pilots do about cockpit scenes. But imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so I guess we should all be flattered when they mock us with their outlandish stories.

Those Hats

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catchmeifyoucan04

As much as they’d like for you to believe it we don’t wear the hats all the time. I guess it’s an easy way to remind the movie goers that the person in the scene is a pilot. The swagger, the smooth way with the ladies and sunglasses aren’t enough. I love the shots of these clowns sitting at breakfast far from an airport wearing their hat or walking around out in public donning their “look at me” headgear. My airline requires us to wear the lid in the winter so that’s a given… but only in the airport! The other time I wear my hat is on bad hair days and at the end of my haircut cycle when I’m trying to squeeze a few more weeks out of the current length. To be honest… my barometer for when it’s time to get a haircut is when I can’t tuck it all up under there anymore.

Four Hands on the Wheel

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2wheels

Yes, there are two of us up front but we both don’t have our hands on the wheel at the same time… all the time. These scenes remind me of drivers ed when the instructor is guiding you through a three point turn. It doesn’t take four hands to steer the ship. Most of the time there are no hands on the wheel. Often most of the work is done with just one finger. If someone tells you they’re an airline pilot ask to see their fingers. If one has a callus on the tip they’re a pilot. That’s the autopilot finger.

Lighting and Rain and Turbulence Oh My

twighlight zone
twighlight zone

It’s dark out and the cabin is getting thrown around and the lightning is flashing at terrifying intervals. You can hear the thunder and the rain is hitting the windows in buckets as if the plane weren’t even moving at all. This doesn’t happen.  We avoid the storms. Storms mean bumps and bumps mean spilt coffee. Our coffee. Now, the lightning is possible. Water carries light farther than air does and often we are in the clouds near storms so those flashes do travel some distance. But, rarely are we in the middle of the storm. Unless we’re bored. Often those flashes you see are the strobes out there on the wings telling other planes to not hit us. Again, it’s dark and if we’re in thick water filled clouds those flashes can be pretty terrifying. You want to see terrifying? Come up front when the cockpit windows are filled up with St. Elmo’s Fire. Put that in a movie and I may set my popcorn down for a second.

An Anthropomorphic Autopilot

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airplane

They nailed it in just about every scene in Airplane. While we don’t have an inflatable autopilot our autopilot does have a name. His name is George. Best I’ve heard is that we call him George after an early tinkerer in automated flight named George Debeeson. At least once a trip one of us will refer to the autopilot as George. We never give him thanks or praise him on a job well done. Typically, we yell at him for doing something stupid. Which always is because we told him to do something stupid. “Oh come on George! What are you doing now?”

Beautiful Flight Attendants

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View-From-Top-Paltrow_l

Now, this one is true. They always nail it here. We have beautiful people in the cabin from all over the world. Unlike most professions where you’re all from the same area with same stories who probably know the same people… our job is full of people from all over. And they are beautiful and their stories make them more so. This is one of the great things about airline life. We all have this one thing in common. We don’t want to be cooped up behind a desk. We want to travel and experience new things. There are long days and rude passengers but in the end there is a beautiful optimism about the adventure that awaits tomorrow and it shows on the faces of the flight attendants. Now the cockpit crew. That’s for another story.

We’re a miserable lot.

Captain Dad - I Called Maintenance Control for a Toy Helicopter

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hesscloseup

My work life and home life collided yesterday when my son complained that his toy Hess helicopter wasn't working as it was supposed to.

“My helicopter won’t fly anymore!”

It never flew. The blades spun. It lit up. It made lots noises. But it never flew.

In his world it did though. And now it did not. The batteries were dead. Naturally, they died while we were in the car. Away from fresh batteries.

I suggested maybe we should take it to the helicopter doctor. In hindsight… this wasn’t the best approach. Although I liked the sound of helicopter doctor and it sounded pretty damned cute when he said it, it got pretty old when he refused to do anything but go to the helicopter doctor.

“I think maybe the doctor is not in today.” I said.

“I want to go to the helicopter doctor.”

“Actually, they are not accepting new patients at the moment. I called last week for mommy’s helicopter.”

“I want to go to the helicopter doctor now!”

“There is no such thing as a helicopter doctor! I made it up… just like I made up that story about the aquarium being closed. Are you kidding? You fell for that! Sharks not coming out during the rain? I just didn't want to go run through the rain when you’d probably be bored as soon as we go there!“

This is what I wanted to say.

I made this bed. I had to sleep in it. Or work on another lie.

I tried explaining that I felt pretty certain I could fix the helicopter by putting new batteries in it. But I lost him when I started complaining about how much I hate the toys that don’t have an auto off feature because the batteries run out and that the manufacturers were in bed with the battery company.

"Doesn't it bother you when the train is running incessantly under the couch clicking and clicking and clicking with nowhere to go?"

“Can we go to the helicopter doctor now. Please?”

I told him I’d call the doctor and see if they had any advice since I didn’t have money for the copay anyways.

“Okay. Call the helicopter doctor.”

In the cockpit both on the ground and in the air there are times when we call the airplane doctor for advice. This happens pretty often actually. Most things are fixed by rebooting the airplane. This can only be performed on the ground… for obvious reason.

For the problems that Ctrl - Alt - Del can’t fix the mechanics over the phone sometimes can run through a procedure with us.

“Jiggle this or smack that with an open palm. Not a fist… and open palm.”

When this doesn’t stop the smoke from billowing out of the engine they send out the big guns with tools to the rescue.

I was hoping to nip this one in the bud with a phone call.

Luckily my son is used to seeing me with a headset for phone calls. If he was expecting a two way speakerphone call the jig would be up.

“Hello, helicopter doctor? My son is having trouble with his helicopter.”

-Pause-

“What is the problem?” I yelled to the back seat.

“It doesn’t fly anymore.”

“Yeah, he says it doesn’t fly anymore.”

-Pause-

“What color is it?”

“Green, and white.”

“It’s green and white.”

“And red and black and grey and yellow and it doesn't make noises anymore.”

“It’s a lot of colors. He says to jiggle it a little and smack it with the palm of your hand.”

He started beating it. Violently. Hey, doctors orders.

“Okay, the doctor thinks that maybe it needs a new battery. He says that when we get home I should put a new battery in it and if that doesn’t work to call him back.”

"Okay, let’s put a new battery in it."

"He also says that you need to take a nap and eat your green beans.”

"The helicopter doctor is nice."

"Yes he is." I replied. Relieved.

Crisis created. Crisis averted.

And peace was restored.

The Things You Find in Hotel Beds

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dirty

Do not read this if you are in a hotel bed.

If you are in a hotel bed please tell me you removed the bedspread.

Please tell me you didn’t eat something with your bare hands after touching the remote control, alarm clock or light switch.

You aren’t walking around barefoot are you!

You’re using the coffee pot?!

I spend half the year in hotel beds. I’m not an escort. I get paid less.

Having spent half the year in hotel beds for a decade and a half I’ve witnessed some things. You could say, “I’ve been around the block.”

Again, not an escort.

Some things will change you forever. Some just add to the growing list of phobias and fears that grow exponentially with time. Like cuneiform bacteria in the hotel sink.

One of my worst hotel nights was the evening I watched a Dateline special on hotel cleanliness while laying in a hotel bed. As they shined the black light around the room illuminating bodily fluids on every exposed surface it wasn’t hard to imagine it was my room they were investigating.

There was the time I was so sick that against my better judgement I took a bath in the hotel tub. As the tub filled the funk and debris from the bottom rose and floated in the water like the flotsam from a shipwreck.

But the worst time. The one that I go to bed thinking about was the time I found something in the bed with me.

I was laying in the dark attempting to force myself to sleep in between cycles of the air conditioner that was in automode even though I clearly had it set to on. Trying to sleep I felt something at the foot of the bed under the covers with my bare toes. Half asleep, half awake I was rolling it around with my toes like I was making an origami swan assuming it was the tag to the sheets or maybe even the mattress. And then I realized it wasn’t connected to anything.

I was juggling it with my toes and it was free to move in any direction my piggies sent it.

Panicked, I ripped the cover off and hit the light on the bedside table. I was so hurried I didn’t even use the wet nap I typically use to touch switches.

I hesitated to look near my feet.

“Please don’t be. Please don’t be. Please don’t be.”

It was.

I had been noodling with my toes a bloody band aid. It was more like a bandage. A very large and very used bloody bandage.

I reminded myself it was probably washed with the linens and remained during the dressing of the bed that day but it didn’t make it any easier.

I tried to pretend that it wasn’t used on an open sore. It was possibly used by someone attempting to hide an ankle tattoo. That didn’t explain the blood stain.

All I could do was suck it up and add it to the list of things I’ll never do again.

Sleep barefoot in a hotel bed.

bandaid
bandaid

On Father's Day

Taken from my vantage point
Taken from my vantage point

I used to give lip service on Fathers Day. Cards were sent and thanks was given and the love was spread around as abundantly and efficiently as I could spread it. But I’m not sure I really meant it.

And then I became a Dad and realized that my life was no longer about me anymore and I began to appreciate the sacrifices my Father and Step Father accepted to raise me. They shaped the man and father that I am today.

My buddy offered a simple line of advice before I became a dad. He, having already tread into this new world said, “It’s no longer about us anymore.”

And it’s not.

The time I give to myself or my wife is the time between all the times when my son is my first priority. I remember that line on those rushed days when I look down to the smiling boy holding my hand and see that he’s well fed and bathed and smells good and is comfortable and relaxed and I’ve not eaten, rested or had my own visit to the ‘potty’ since he woke up.

Taken from my vantage point again. Luckily they sat down.
Taken from my vantage point again. Luckily they sat down.

I never realized what these men (along with the corresponding moms in the equation) gave up for me until I started counting the things I have given up for him. And my child is only 4!

I never realized what they gave me until I started seeing myself in my son. More importantly, I never realized what they gave me until I started seeing them in me.

And as parent, this happens more often now than ever before. The way I discipline, counsel and praise all have roots in my own childhood. When I’m complimented on how I interact with my son I think to my own childhood and give a silent thanks to my fathers. When I look at myself in the mirror after a long day of child raising I wonder how they handled it. Good music and a pop top beer?

I also look at myself though and wonder how old my son will be when he sees pictures of me from this era and questions my hairstyle or choice of glasses. Hopefully he'll say fondly, "Yep, that's my dad."

Yep, those are my dads. Happy Fathers Day.

Eat, Sleep, Fly

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10539832165_58b906f29e_bSometimes people ask me what it's like to be a pilot. "Wow, that must be so cool! I bet you're really smart. You must have been good at math in school. Are all pilots as handsome as you?" I've never gotten that last one. I made that up.

When asked about how thrilling it must be I agree that it is both fun and exciting. I like to perpetuate the myth. That's what we do. Spin yarn. Tell tall tales. Back in the day it was called "hangar flying" or something like that.

But the truth is it's never as adventurous as it sounds.

Below is a sample day. Actually, this isn't just a sample. This is every day. EVERY DAY.

The job is standardized and consistent for safety. Every flight begins and ends with the gear going up and then back down again. In that order. Very important. Take note.

On today's sample day I'm on day two of a four day trip. I fly out early and if all goes as planned I will be done by 4:00 pm in Florida. Very important… if all goes as planned. There are lots of in’s and out’s.

We start in a midwest town known for their Vikings and a guy called Prince and are to end in a town down South with lots of wealthy retirees. When we arrive there the jetway will be filled with empty wheelchairs awaiting the flock of snow birds. It will look like the start line of a go-cart track.

My phone alarm goes off exactly 8 hours after I turned the lights out and precisely 45 minutes before I am to catch the hotel van to the airport. Roughly 60 seconds after my phone sounds the hotel alarm clock fires the built in buzzer. I never use the 'wake to radio' setting. I courteously leave it on the station I found it on for the housekeepers. The timing between the two alarms unfortunately is at an imperfect interval since hotel clocks are not set to an atomic standard. Often the two alarms ring seconds from each other. These are the good days. An instant crescendo of alarms. Especially when it’s 4:00 am. As it was this morning.

SONY DSCAnd don’t get me started on the Aloft hotel chain and their hipster analog clocks. Since the plastic clock face doesn't have built in magnifying glass bubbles like they have on Sea Monkey tanks you never know what time the alarm is set for. I set those alarms by scheduling a 5 minute buffer on either side of the designated alarm time. Undoubtedly, this window expires and the alarm sounds every time I am midshower.

After the orchestra of alarms I have 45 minutes to put my game face on. If you know me, you can imagine it doesn't take much to make this happen (pointing to my face and hair.) I've perfected this morning routine by more than a decade of living out of a suitcase... only the essentials are left unpacked before bed. I'm typically up and on my way with time to enjoy some bad hotel coffee. Sometimes I prep the coffee pot the night before by stuffing the single serving coffee bag into the E. coli tray and filling the brewer with water so all I had to do in the morning was hit go. Saves me 30 seconds and the brew takes on a special flavor if the water gets the chance to sit and saute all night in the bacteria reservoir.

Today's alarms rang at 4:00 am. The crew and I had a 4:45 am van to the airport. We are to be at the airplane 30 minutes before departure so today's flight left at 5:30 am. Yes. You read that correctly. At that time of day the hotel breakfast isn't available so it's gnarly coffee on an empty stomach until we land in a few hours.

Most hotels we stay at have a breakfast offering of some sort. I rank hotels based on their breakfast.

And their shower pressure.

And the speed of their internet.

Some hotels have no free breakfast. These are the expensive hotels. That's the trade off. You get a nice, allegedly clean room with fancy soaps meant either for the face or the body but you don't get a big fluffy burnt lobby waffle that's been cooked in a never cleaned, overused waffle iron - for free. Instead you have to pay for overpriced yogurt. (Pro-Tip. I walk to the nearest cheap hotel and blend in with the unwashed and eat for free. I know, it's cheap of me but it's also a cheap thrill. It makes me feel alive.)

Some hotels have a table of cold round bread items and a toaster. They may have iced down cups of yogurt. They may have packs of oatmeal and some warm water. I called a $25/night hotel a crashpad for a year that had a loaf of bread and a communal tub of butter and jar of jelly for the guests. Butter in the jelly and toast crumbs in both. I gave it a ‘charming’ on TripAdviser. These are the level B breakfast nooks.

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The level C hotels have a few mysterious hot items. Omelette shaped yellow patties that we freeloaders eat up like prisoners fresh out of the hole. To build excitement, these treats are served in a catering tray with a rollback top. I choose not to peak in when others are dishing out their gruel. I like to be surprised. Same reason I don't read the yogurt cups. I like to be wowed by the fruit on the bottom. There normally is a 'meat' to go along with the 'eggs'. My personal favorite is the chewy bacon. Imagine a hot, sweaty, bacon flavored fruit roll-up. Delish. To satisfy the sugar and starch food groups of the hotel breakfast pyramid, level C hotel breakfast bazaars offer a selection of knock-off cereal (Apple Loops, Cheery Holes, Crispy Rice) in individual rocketship shaped dispensers. The food chute is so caked with cereal lint that vigorous shaking is required to get the flakes, loops or crisps through the water wheel.

Level D is the same as level C but with fruit and named brand cereals.

Now we get to the level E. These are hard to come by. A restaurant with a full menu that serves breakfast to airline crews... for free. This hotel doesn't exist.

But today… no breakfast. Too early for that. Maybe there will be an old lady on the flight who will offer us some hard candy because we look weak. Maybe.

IMG_20140330_124812And then we fly.. blah blah blah. And deviate around life ending storms... blah blah blah. And deliver loved ones to their loved ones... blah blah blah. And maybe deliver a baby - or perform a wedding enroute.

And then we eat!

This is the hardest decision of the day. What to eat. When to eat. How much to eat.

You see friends. Each airport has it's own special offerings. This one may offer fried stuff drizzled with cheese and that one may have baked stuff drizzled with cheese. This one may offer lots of rib sticking carbs that surely will keep you full all day for a high price while that one may not. It may not seem like a tough call but this is the flight crew dilemma. If I don't eat now while the getting is good I may end up in a food desert later with no options but airline snacks and a hotel cookie for dinner.

So… we debate lunch. There is no checklist for this one. No right answer. This truly is the only time of day where were are allowed to think outside the box (literally). So we stew and hem and haw and fear making the wrong decision.

Little known fact… it’s in our manual that we are not to eat the same food from the same place within thirty minutes. Don’t want us both getting sick up there at the same time now do we?

Two empty plates in the cockpit with a fish skeleton on each and a lemon slice. Not good.

After lunch we fly… blah blah blah. And run checklists… blah blah blah. And maybe adeptly handle a life ending mechanical disaster with ease, calm and professionalism… blah blah blah.

And then we get the hotel! And eat!

And if there is a circus in town we do that and maybe go sight seeing and sample local cuisine.

Or more likely… none of that. I go to the hotel and watch bad TV and then set the alarm for forty five minutes before the van ride and turn the lights out 8 hours before that.

And if the hotel is a level A hotel with no free breakfast offerings, I scope out the area for hotels that may for the morning.

 

 

 

 

The Beat Poets Taught Me How to Talk to a Four Year Old

jack_kerouac___on_the_road_3_by_nicadom
jack_kerouac___on_the_road_3_by_nicadom

Many days during my college decade were spent studying the Beat Poets and experimenting with stream of consciousness prose. We turned words cut from the newspapers into dialog and had nonsense talks over wine. We verbally riffed and let our talks ebb and flow on a course of their own often ending where they began... with a twist.

Talking to a four year old takes me back to that time. Those late night jams wired my brain to help me navigate most of my dialogs now. At least the ones I have with him. The child.

With him, I know where our conversations start and how I want them to end... my job is to orchestrate the words to reach that desired crescendo. I take his words... cut them up and use them against him. All the while letting him think he has a say in things. He's just providing the tempo.

For me, it's lots of verbal bait and switch. Subtle misdirection.

Our breakfast conversation may start with him telling me how much he "Doesn't like bagels! I will never eat them again!" With my conductors baton in hand the talk will end with him devouring a bagel telling me "This is my favorite food ever!"

But between those two points... is magic.

"I don't like bagels! I will never eat them again!" He says pushing his plate away.

"I know you don't like them. The cream cheese is horrible anyways." I add.

"I don't like cream cheese!"

"Cream cheese... string fleas... pink bees... crinkly knees." I rhyme.

"Trees! Trees rhymes with bees!" He sings.

"Sneeze and breeze and flying trapeze. Let's not forget the peas." I say.

"I like peas." He says smiling.

"I like peas too. And bagels." I strike.

"You don't like bagels. I like bagels. I love bagels. This is my favorite food!" He says as he pulls his plate closer.

Magic.

He Already Thinks He's Smarter Than Me

What else
What else

He's only four and he already thinks he's smarter than I am. He's learned how to give the look that says, “Seriously? I wasn't born yesterday you know?”

I give him the look back that says, “In the grand scheme of things... close enough.”

He's given me that looks twice in his life and they both happened last week. The first time he may have misinterpreted my amazed facial expression as defeat. I wasn't as much impressed with his problem solving skills as I was in shock that at such an early age he already thinks I'm full of shit.

The second time he gave me the look I was prepared and let him think he outsmarted me. I'm playing the long game. No need to sprint.

“Well played son.” Is what my face said. But my mouth added, “Listen little man. From your very first day of life when I turned powdered formula into food through a science you can't comprehend I've been smarter than you.”

The first debate that arose this week revolved around the construction of a Thomas the Tank Engine track. I've been building these tracks for literally more than half his life. He can mock my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches but I'll be damned if I'll let him question me on my track construction.

The tracks on all these train sets are a one way affair. One side of the track only fits into the opposite side of a connecting track. We own a few switches that allow the tracks to branch off into extra segments but naturally you need another switch to connect that offshoot back to the main railway. Obviously, You Can't Have an Odd Number of Switches! Train tracks can't end in a dead end! Unless you have a roundhouse or a rail yard. Both of which we do not. We're not the Rockefeller's.

He was insisting on having 3 switches even while complaining that the line wasn't connecting. I tried explaining and rationalizing and drawing a diagram on paper and even ran off into a little bit of tangent with a premature birds and the bees talk when I demonstrated the “female” vs “male” ends of the tracks. “It won't work this way!” I yelled.

He added a fourth switch connecting the lines and said, “See daddy. It's easy.”

And that's when I gave him the face that said, “This is precisely what I've been trying to tell you. This isn't your idea you know?”

And he gave me the face that said, “What else don't you know?”

Now the second confrontation.

It's bed time and he wanted to read an E-book on a Leappad tablet. The battery was nearly dead (“like the goldfish Daddy?”) the night before and we finished the book just in the nick of time before I had to explain to him the difference between the alkaline batteries in his tablet vs the lithium ion batteries in daddy's cell phone. This is how conversations end these days. They start with, “Why daddy?”

Before we turned the tablet on I planted the seed that would flower in the garden of his disappointment. “We may need to come up with a plan b here man. I think the battery is dead and before you get all fired up let's come up with a solution.”

“Dead like the goldfish?” He asked.

“Yes.”

“It's not dead.” He said as the tablet booted up.

“I know... but it may run out of power soon so just start thinking about what real book we will read when that happens.”

The tablet started up and we got to our E-book and the bedtime routine began. We were making good progress as I gave him the cliff notes version of some of the pages while I watched the battery indicator blink red. Time is of the... it turned off.

“Okay, the battery died. Let's find a real book to read.”

He tried to explain to me it wasn't dead and I fought back saying it was and he said it just needed to rest like the cats do and we went round and round until he demanded it wasn't dead and that all we had to do was turn it back on again.

Which he did. And it powered up. And he said, “See daddy. It's easy.” And he gave me that look again. For the second time this week.

Naturally it powered down soon there after but I calmly took it away before he saw that so he'd go to bed thinking he was right.

I did tell him though that he didn't need to use the stylus to push the power button because it is mechanical and not touch sensitive like the capacitive screen.

“So there.” It was my face said.

And we both won that one.