Monday, April 29, 2013

Whenever I have a rare moment of downtime, when I have nothing to do, understand, comprehend, analyze, or mentally pick apart, my mind tends to wander. And the randomness of the places it mysteriously travels to rarely fails to make me say, “Hmm, why am I even thinking about this?” Like I’ve said before, I have one of those brains that just doesn’t shut off. There is no energy saver mode in my gray or white matter. If I don’t have something I need or have to contemplate and my brain is left to its own devices, it comes up with some strange topics for me to ponder. It often happens after I lay down to go to sleep for the night. There are some evenings when my brain just won’t stop churning no matter how tired I am, and just when I think I’m starting to drift off, a thought pops up and sticks there for a while keeping me awake. A lot of times it even continues after I’ve fallen asleep. If I think to myself after my head hits the pillow, “I’m gonna have waffles for breakfast in the morning,” I guarantee waffles will show up somewhere in my dreams that night. Perhaps a giant Eggo is chasing me down the street squirting maple syrup at me. Or maybe I’m back in high school and instead of finding homework in my backpack, the bag is filled with waffles. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work when I try to force it. If I think to myself as I’m falling asleep, “I live in Cinderella’s Castle in Disney World” or “I just married St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott” with the sole purpose of turning those thoughts into dreams, it never happens.

Just for kicks, I thought I’d compile a list of these random thoughts that have been tossed around in my head over the past week or so. A sampling of the weirdness that is my mind and what it manages to conjure up, which is usually light on substance and heavy on sarcasm. So take, if you dare, this glimpse into the inner workings of an overworked brain:

1.) Public restrooms and proper etiquette. I’m sure just about everyone has been in this situation: you’re in a public restroom at a store, airport, restaurant, wherever. There’s hardly anyone inside and a long line of stalls from which to choose. You make your selection in the middle of the row and go about your bizz-nezz when you hear the bathroom door open and someone else comes in. No biggie, there’s lots of available stalls to choose from so you should still be able to maintain some modicum of privacy. And that’s when you hear the door to the stall directly next to yours open and shut with the lock latched behind it. Really? With 50,000 other perfectly acceptable options that person has to choose the stall right next to yours? It just seems weird to me. Like an avoidable invasion of what should be a larger than normal personal space bubble. These are usually the same people who talk on their cell phones while relieving themselves, their conversation about what size shoes to buy little Jimmy echoing off the restroom walls. Maybe they need constant human contact in order to function, or as close as they can get in order to perform their bodily functions. I don’t know. But it’s weird. Weird enough that I believe it warrants “buffer stalls” in every public restroom on the planet. Now, for whatever reason, this phenomenon only bothers me when it involves strangers. It doesn’t bother me to have a next door neighbor in the bathroom at work where I know everyone, or if the ladies I’m shopping with take up residence in the stalls on either side of mine in the Kohl’s bathroom. In fact, I much prefer it that way so as to avoid as much stranger danger as possible while hovering precariously over whatever germ-laden unholiness is lurking below my bum. I mean seriously, there’s enough weirdness that goes on in public restrooms. Let’s not add to it unnecessarily.

2.) Which brings me to the other gender side of the bathroom coin: urinals. I admit my experience with urinals is (thankfully) extremely limited, consisting mostly of accidental glances at them when I happen to pass by an open door to a men’s restroom. From what I’ve seen, these things are bizarre. It’s different for guys, I get that, but they are essentially pissing into a hole in the wall. Not to mention it’s a hole in the wall that’s out in the open for all the world to see, or at least the rest of the bathroom patrons. Who came up with this? Really, who came up with it? And why did they think it was a good idea? When I’m in a public restroom, I don’t even like to use a stall that has open gaps along the door wider than an eighth of an inch for fear that someone will peek in. To have to drop trou and pee into a very shallow basin in front of other people sounds absolutely mortifying to me. Any guy I’ve ever talked to doesn’t seem to realize the absurdity of this concept. I guess it’s what you’re used to, but still the thought of it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. And even when you take the modesty (or lack thereof) issue out of the equation, there are still some serious design flaws to take into account. Splashing, for instance. I’ve never used a urinal, so maybe I’m off the mark here, but isn’t there some splashing involved? Little urine particulates flying all over that hole-riddled wall? And the flushing issues are enough to make me wretch. A guy does what he’s there to do and all that’s involved with it, zips back up, and then reaches out to flush the urinal with his hand, which just seconds before was otherwise occupied in a less than sterile activity. His hand transfers that unpleasantness to the flush handle because there is no handwashing in between, as far as I’m aware. Then the next guy comes along and the process repeats itself. How many disgusting hands have been on that handle by the end of the day? And before anyone argues that women don’t wash their hands before flushing their toilets, need I remind you that women don’t have to hold anything with their hands while relieving themselves? Let’s also not forget about toilet paper, which women have access to in their stalls and men do not at their urinals. Gross. Just gross. Admittedly I’m not familiar with the mechanics of it all because I obviously have a different plumbing system, but I can’t imagine not using toilet paper after peeing and then walking around with pissy panties all day long. Ah, yes, this is one of those times I’m glad to be a girl.

3.) Eyebrows. They’re odd and often look like fuzzy caterpillars attached to someone’s forehead. But have you ever seen someone without eyebrows? They look like aliens. Everything else on their face could be entirely normal, but with no eyebrows they appear to be some other kind of carbon-based life form. It’s pretty amazing how much information is conveyed just through someone’s eyebrows. I mean, think about it: both eyebrows raised means curiosity or surprise. Just one eyebrow cocked higher onto the forehead than the other, coupled with a smirk, equates to skepticism or annoyance, as in “Are you lying to me?” or “I think you’re full of shit.” Some people have incredible eyebrow talent and can make theirs dance like Michael Jackson across their foreheads. I am quite lacking in eyebrow ability, as I only have one independent eyebrow – the left one. I can move it up and down on its own completely separate from the right; however, my right eyebrow is entirely dependent on the left and is too shy to make any daring movements on its own. If I’m going to raise one eyebrow in a show of disdain for someone or something, it’s going to be the left. It obviously is the dominant of the two, and as long as tweezers exist on this earth, my eyebrows will never, ever be a unified front working together to project my innermost thoughts on my face.

4.) Strange-sounding words. I use words a lot, whether I’m speaking or typing them, every day of my life. Every once in a while, a word will strike me as sounding completely weird, even if it’s a word I commonly use. “Purple,” for instance. Say it out loud: Purr-poll. It sounds weird, right? Or how about scissors? Or elbow? Who came up with these words? I know there’s a ton of information out there about word origins and language etiology, but I’m too lazy to delve very deeply into that. I’d rather ponder the sound of the words that happen to hit the oddball button in my brain. Really, who decided that thing protruding off someone’s face would be called a “nose?” Why not a zucchini? Why is a monkey not called a flibberdyjib? Who’s to say that’s not a perfectly acceptable classification of a primate? Some words just make sense, like “bathtub.” It’s a tub. You take a bath in it. Easy enough. But how about “squiggle?” That doesn’t even sound real. Not to mention all of the bizarre language I come across in the medical records I often dissect at work. Even the most basic terms, like “kidney,” can sound funny if you say them over and over. But how about “nodule,” “alveoli,” “duodenum,” “mucosa,” “thalamus,” or even “ankle?” Now that’s a mouthful of strangeness.

5.) Doing things to tell your grandkids about. This, apparently, has become a justifiable reason for people to act like morons. They want to tell their grandkids about the time they did something stupid, weird, or reckless, even though 99% of the people who say this are young and don’t have grandkids. “Hoooeeee, walking around the grocery store wearing panty hose over my head and my skirt tucked into my underpants sure is something I’ll tell my grandkids about!” Just the other day I saw a story on the news about a couple who got married at a White Castle after they entered a contest and “won” the glorious event as their prize. The bride was interviewed after the greasy nuptials took place, and what did she say when asked why in God’s name she wanted to get married in a White Castle? “Well, this is something to tell my grandkids about! *tee-hee!*” No. I’m sorry, but really, it isn’t. Shooting down a Japanese fighter pilot during a dogfight in World War II is something to tell your grandkids about. Rescuing someone from a house fire is something to tell your grandkids about. Finding $8 million in a box buried in the dessert is something to tell your grandkids about. Besides, what if these people never have grandkids? Maybe they’re infertile. Maybe they’ll have kids and their kids are infertile. Maybe their grandkids won’t speak to them because they don’t want to be associated with ridiculous nitwits. Then to whom are they going to tell all their idiocy-laced stories?

6.) Mattress and furniture sales on obscure holidays. Since when did President’s Day mean it was time to replace your mattress? And why does Arbor Day mean it’s time to go shopping for new furniture? (Now there’s a great idea, celebrate the grandeur and environmental benefits of trees by purchasing a solid wood curio cabinet.) It makes no sense to me, but it happens every Columbus Day, Labor Day, Veteran’s Day, MLK Day, Memorial Day, and 4th of July. Signs with “SALE! LOWEST PRICES OF THE SEASON!” are plastered on furniture stores across the nation. TV commercials with people jumping on beds and a shady-looking salesman talking about their 700-year interest-free financing blare out of every boob tube in the United States. When did this start? Don’t people need mattresses and furniture at other times of the year, too? Perhaps it’s because many Americans have a day off due to these holidays and many spend it wandering around shopping malls and megastores. But don’t at least some of these holidays have an actual, real meaning to them to be observed? I guess those who do choose to observe the holidays can at least do so comfortably from their newly purchased Tempurpedic.

7.) Jeans sizes. More specifically, the disparity of sizing systems between women’s and men’s jeans. Guys have it WAY too easy on this one. Seriously, to buy a pair of guys’ jeans, you have to know two things: your waist size and your inseam length. Done! Find the pair you like, look at the sticker showing the measurements, pick out the pair of 32x36es that you need, and your shopping trip is complete. Women don’t have it that easy. We have to deal with a completely arbitrary sizing system that really makes no sense. You have a 30-inch waist and 38-inch hips? Then you probably wear a size 8. Or it could be a size 10. And that’s only at Eddie Bauer. At Old Navy, you’re a size 16, at the Gap you’re a 12, and don’t even ask me about J.Crew’s sizing because I’m pretty sure it requires a calculator. Then you have to figure out if you’re tall or petite, regular or long, curvy or boxy, slightly curvy or maybe boxy with a hint of muffin top. And there’s the ever perplexing question of stretch or no stretch? Too much and the jeans cut off the circulation to your femoral artery. Too little or none at all and they leave you with baggy butt syndrome. It’s insane. And let me tell you, short people have it harder than just about everyone else. I know because I was blessed with short, stumpy legs for which apparently no retailer on earth makes jeans with the appropriate length. I usually end up walking off the ends of my jeans as they bag over my shoes because they’re four inches too long. And no matter what anyone tells me, I’ll never have my jeans hemmed. They just don’t look right when they’re hemmed. In a world where fairness and justice always prevail, women would have the same or a similar sizing system for jeans as men and we wouldn’t have to try on 47,000 pairs before we can find the ONE pair that actually fits.

8.) The word “really.” I couldn’t lump this one in with No. 4. The word “really” is so complex that it has to have its own entry. You wouldn’t think one little word could have so many different meanings, but it does. And it’s all based on the way it’s said. The location of inflection when saying the word “really” can completely change its definition. For example, saying “really” with your voice going up in pitch on the last syllable turns it into a statement of disbelief or confusion. “I just pulled a six-inch cockroach out of my ear canal,” someone might say to you. If you reply with “really” and put the emphasis and pitch increase on the last syllable, it means, “Are you serious?” or “I had no idea that was possible!” or “I want to get away from you as quickly as I can, but I’m trying soooooo hard to be polite right now.” Change the inflection and “really” takes on a whole new meaning. Someone says, “We’re going to get married and live happily ever after,” and you reply with a “really” that is flat across both syllables with a little bit of gruff emphasis on the “rea,” that means, “Yeah, right” or “You’re a liar.” The message comes across even more clearly if you add one raised eyebrow. When you put some force behind your “really” and say it quickly with a look of disgust on your face, it’s a sure sign that your “really” is an expression of annoyance or exasperation. Like when I stand in front of the copier at work as it eats and mangles the pages I’ve put into the feeder, and I say, “Really, copier? Really? You have to eat every single page and then get a paper jam in your nether regions that I now have to fish out with my bare hands? Really?” In this instance, “really” can also be used interchangeably with the word “seriously.” A furrowed brow and lip snarl can also be added for extra annoying situations. I never realized how often I say “really” until I started thinking about it the other day. I say it a lot. I think I’ve said it about 36 times in this blog. It’s a handy little word. Really.

So there you have it. A brief look at the inner workings of my sometimes exhausted brain. I hope I didn’t scare too many readers away. If I could only harness the energy I expend thinking about useless and random things, maybe I could…oh who am I kidding? I’d still think about useless and random things. That’s just the way it is up there in my head.