Tuesday, April 30, 2013

‘Pretending you did’ is best way to tell if you got good car service

I know a lot about cars, so it’s always fun dropping my car off for service. Here is a dramatic reenactment of me doing just that.

Me: Here is my car. Please change the oil and inspect it or whatever. I’m having some trouble with the thing that makes the car drive, not sure what it’s called, but please fix it. Unless it’s a lot of money, then definitely do not fix it. A lot of money to me is like $100.

Car person: Oh no problem, boss man. Actually, if you want to pop the hood I’ll give it a quick peek and see if it’s anything we can figure now, on the spot.

Me: Oh, uh, sure. Go in car, pop gas tank.

Car person:

Me: Turn on windshield wipers.

Car person: You know what, chief? No biggie, I’ll check it out later.

Then I go home and wait for the phone call about what is wrong with my car and how it’s not covered by my warranty.

Car person: Hey there big fella. Just calling back about your vehicle. Got a question for ya’—when was the last time you had the transmission fluid changed?

Me: Umm, I don’t know. I brought the car somewhere else last time and they did some stuff to it, so … maybe then?

Car person: Okay, okay. Well, uh, besides that, looks like the cabin filter something something blah blah (I have stopped listening) …

Me: Okay how much will that cost?

Scenario No. 1:

Car person: Says amount in my general price range.

Me: Okay that’s fine. Please do those things that you said.

Scenario No. 2:

Car person: Says price that is just stupid and ridiculous.

Me: Please don’t even pick up a wrench—I am coming there now to get my car.

So that’s pretty much how things go down, and I am okay with that. The problem is, it’s difficult for me to ever determine whether or not I have received good service. Because I have no idea what’s going on.

I have a strong feeling I experienced excellent service recently, and I just wish I could know for sure. I brought my car to the dealership. (I usually don’t go to the dealership, but sometimes I do because I genuinely feel like they’re wondering where I am, as if everyone who works there remembers my original purchase and is hoping me and the car are okay.) The guy who helped me could not have been nicer or more accommodating, and he was able to fix my major problem at no cost since, by some miracle, it actually fell under warranty.

Of course, my brake pads were worn down. It couldn’t possibly be the case that I’d emerge from this financially unscathed. This is how he broke the news:

Him: Only thing is, the rear brakes are between a three and four.

Me: What does that mean? Did I win something?

Him: Well, it’s not technically an emergency, but once they get down to two, they need to be replaced immediately.

Me: I don’t really understand this numbers-based formula, but two sounds bad. How much? (Another question I asked: “When you say ‘brakes’ do you mean ‘brake pads’ or the brakes themselves?” I felt good asking this question because eight years ago I needed my brake pads replaced, so I kind of know what they are, in that I know they exist. The tone of his response, “Brake pads,” made me feel like an idiot. Oh well, I tried.)

"How much" ended up being exactly how much I had set aside. I still don’t know if this was good or bad. It didn’t exceed my budget, but used all of it. It’s almost as if he knew

Anyway, he killed me with kindness, and now I don’t know if I got awesome service or swindled for brake pads. I feel satisfied in my ignorance, however, so let’s go with the former. I know a lot about cars.

Note: This column appears in the 5/2 issue of The Glendale Star and the 5/3 issue of the Peoria Times.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Spam email of the week

Subject: tee shirts order

I'm not sure if you're looking for t-shirts or shirts with pictures of golf tees on them. Either way, we have it all here at T-/TEE SHIRT EMPORIUM the weekly newspaper.

I want to know whether you can have blank tee shirts for sale?

When you're looking for blank t-shirts, there are two ways to go about it:

1) Email sporadically until you find someone who sells blank t-shirts. "You're never going to find out if you don't ask." - Tee "Shirt" Johnson, inventor of the t-shirt

2) Go to a t-shirt store or visit a website likely to sell t-shirts.

The first way is better. BUT, we don't sell blank t-shirts here at this particular newspaper. :( Only graphic t-shirts with witty phrases like "Newspapers: it's what's for breakfast," and "Hey Internet, virus much?"

am looking for blank tee shirts with no screen printing.

You should repeat yourself again because I didn't understand what you said the first or second time. Are saying you want blank t-shirts or t-shirts with lots of stuff on them or pants?

Below is what am looking for.


Break down is the colors am looking for.


Brand ::Gildan

Maybe since you know the brand of t-shirts you want you should contact that company directly? No? You'd rather email someone at a weekly newspaper instead? Okay, either way should prove productive.

Size     ::Adult Small
Color    ::500 Light Blue and 500 Maroon
             ::50/50 % Cotton/Polyester
Qtys     ::1000

Wtf re: this t-shirt order? It is so specific and weird. Hello, newspaper? Yes, I'd like to order 1,000 blank t-shirts, half the color light blue and the other half maroon, polyester blend, for a large group of tiny adult non-professionals who will be competing against each other in a team-building obstacle course. I don't have any t-shirts but put me down for $50 on the maroon team.

Let me know the total cost without shipping.

Who picks up his own large blank t-shirt order? What is this, 1993? I'M INCLUDING SHIPPING.

Thank you
Gary Powell
Call # 210 399 6***

I blacked out the other numbers for Gary's sake. But I did call the actual number. After like seven rings the line picked up, and 10 seconds after that I hear in the distance, "Hello? ... Hello?" Then I hung up. I was going to yell "I GOT YOUR T-SHIRTS FOOL!" before I hung up, but I got scared. Darn, I should have done that. I am at work, by the way.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Back to square one with girl number two

What’s interesting about having another kiddo around is this: I had just, really just reached the point where I felt totally comfortable bringing our daughter pretty much anywhere by myself.

Case in point, Easter weekend. My wife became ill that Friday, the same day we had a follow-up doctor’s appointment for our daughter. When it was determined she couldn’t go, I just assumed we’d reschedule because I sure as heck wasn’t going by myself. Well, apparently we had waited like six months for this appointment, so I was told I would be bringing her. Our daughter sees so many developmental specialists, I wasn’t even 100 percent sure what kind of doctor this was, or his name. Hello, Doctor … person. I am the father. Here is the girl. I assume you have a file or something? Here is my phone if you need to call my wife. It’s under “wifey” in contacts. She might not answer because she is terribly ill I mean her ringer is on low so keep calling. I’ll be in the waiting room.

Everything ended up going well at the doc, and I felt like a good dad. It dawned on me that I was more concerned about my interaction with the doctor than with bringing our daughter, which made me happy. It used to be that I’d become a big ball of stress when bringing her somewhere on my own because I never knew how she’d react, and how I’d react to that, or where the bathroom was, or what to do if she yells “Stranger!” at someone. Not that I’m a bumbling doofus, but my wife’s mere presence has a calming influence over me because I know most of the time she just has to glare menacingly at our daughter and everything will be okay.

My wife was still feeling sick Easter morning, which meant the girl and I would be going to church on our own. I wouldn’t have even entertained the thought a year ago. I would have just gone on my own, or missed it and asked for forgiveness. Dear God, I’m sorry I missed church this week, but the wife was sick and well … You know. Amen. But, armed with the confidence of having brought her on my own to church a few weeks back (in Sun City! In the second row!) I was like, “I got this.”

We went, dressed in our Easter best and amidst the chaos of the bustling crowd. The only thing her nonexistent attention span radar caught the entire Mass was the phrase “Jesus died,” and she responded by turning to me in the middle of Mass, with horror in her loud voice, saying “Jesus DIED?” A year ago I would have rushed out of church in a blur of embarrassment, but I calmly whispered to her a 30-second reeanctment of the entire New Testament and somehow soothed her fears enough for her to continue coloring a picture of Winnie of the Pooh. I felt like an awesome dad and Catholic and gave Jesus an invisible high-five.

The following weekend my wife had to get her hair done, which takes like 12 hours I guess? Anyway, I took our daughter to the pool, park, out to lunch, gave her a bath and got her down for a nap all by myself, AND had a great time doing it. I was in the zone. Nothing could stop me.

Another girl has stopped me. I don’t even want to leave the house anymore. She is at that exact age of unpredictable public behavior that gives me the sweats, and her presence has reignited my original fears about the first girl. And the thing is, she’s well-behaved. But I can’t risk it. We go as a family or we don’t go at all. That’s the motto. Amen.

Note: This column appears in the 4/25 issue of The Glendale Star and the 4/26 issue of the Peoria Times.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Spam email of the week

Subject: I'm Syrian little girl 15 yrs old a war victim.

Guys, this is serious. Usually I like to joke around about the weird spam emails I get, but there's no joking around about a 15-year-old Syrian girl who is a war victim but who also uses email. What is your name, "little girl" who is 15?

From: test [test@blanch.org.uk]

Just to recap, you are a 15-year-old Syrian girl named Test who is a war victim and also your email address is test@blanch.org.uk. I don't want to give a history lesson here, but when Great Britain occupied Syria during the War That Never Happened, all the email addresses were transferred over.

I'm Syrian little girl 15 yrs old a war victim.

The one thing about 15-year-old Syrian girls who are war victims is that they're kind of redundant. It's like, we get it, you're a war victim. Get over yourself lolz j/k.

I need your help after my parents and little brother was killed.

Oh my that is terrible. Hopefully I can help since I am publications manager at a weekly newspaper in Arizona. Maybe you would like a comped six-month subscription? Would that make you feel better? Actually, I can do three months.

I've discovered documents that my parents has deposited 18.5 Million Pounds for investment in Europe.

Your parents: We have 18.5 million pounds that we'd like to invest in Europe.

Financial adviser: Europe is a continent and not a commodity.

Your parents: Please take this money and spread it all over Europe and see what happens.

Financial adviser: What will happen is that it will get lost, and wet, and other people will take it immediately.

Your parents: Have already left building.

This fund can give me new hope to survive.I need you to assist me receive the funds so that I will come over to your country and live.

Syrian girls can be so naive sometimes! I can't just receive funds like that; it doesn't make any sense. You're going to need my routing number, duh.

My condition is ugly and dont know how to explain it, it's traumatic !

I think you've explained it pretty well. Family killed, money transfer ... I have a grasp.

please help !

Chillax, I will! I mean I won't!

Email me back through this email: sarina1@asia.com

@ASIA?? What are you doing in Asia, Test? And why isn't your name Test anymore? And that email address is ridonk. Email me through this email: person@earth.com. Here is a list of the countries/continents associated with this email:

Syria (war)
Great Britain (where Test lives)
Europe (investment)
Asia (where Sarina lives)
America ("your country")

Yours Sincerely,
Ms. Sarina

This has been quite insincere and that's not even your name. But I have received the funds and you can live at our house in America when you're ready and then I will give you the funds and everything will be cool. Oops my bad, turns out my wife is not okay about a 15-year-old Syrian girl with two weird names staying with us so we spent the money at Sam's Club. Sorry :(

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hopefully-soon-to-be, one more time

There’s an old Bill Cosby bit about how you’re not really a parent until you have two kids. I’m not sure I believe that—one child has been enough to make me lose my freakin’ mind—but it appears as though we’re going to at least test the theory.

My wife and I are, God-willing, adopting again.

It will be a very different situation than what transpired with our first little one, who we had in our care at three months old. This little girl—another girl; it’s just me and the dog at this point—is already 2 ½ years old. With personality by the truckload.

We were chosen to be this girl’s adoptive family because her case manager came across our file in the system and apparently saw something she liked. I’ve not been made aware of exactly what that was, but it probably had something do with my expertise in writing drawn-out exposes about spam emails and my frustration with the DVR. Surely he can impart that wisdom on this impressionable little girl! That, or the fact my wife is a child therapist and actually knows what she’s doing.

So many things have been different about this time. For starters, the way we’ve informed the rest of our family. We thought it would be nice to set up Face Time and have our daughter tell our parents/siblings/etc. that she’s going to be a big sister. Cute, right? It turned out like this:

Us: Go ahead, what do you have to tell Mum-mum and Pop?

Her: Blank stare.

Us: Go AHEAD, what do you have to say?

Her: Inaudible whisper. I’m gonna be a sister.

Us: Speak UP please! They can’t HEAR you.

Her: My foot hurts.

Me: Forget it. To parents: Mom, she’s going to be a sister. We’re adopting again. To daughter: Next time mommy and daddy will just call on our own, okay?


Parents: I’m sorry, Mike, you’re breaking up. We didn’t get any of that.

I can’t wait to add another child factor to scenarios like that. Also interesting was everyone’s reaction to the news—they all immediately knew we were referring to adoption and not pregnancy. I guess the entire family knows my sperm doesn’t work. (I trust that last sentence was a thought of mine and I didn’t actually write it down. If I did, please burn this paper after reading.)

Anyway, the point is, we’re doing this! The little one is in our care now as a foster child as we prepare to adopt in, hopefully, a six-to-eight-month time frame. This should be a time of joy and optimism but we will probably turn into a time of stress and fretting as we wait for things to become official. Nevertheless!

Oh, she is a darling. Sweet and hilarious and full of energy. If our first could pass for my wife’s biological daughter, our hopefully-soon-to-be daughter could easily be my true Irish offspring. When we first met her and she discovered my name was Mike, she began calling me Mike the Knight, which is her favorite show on Nick, Jr. So I guess I’m already a hero in her naïve little eyes, albeit an adolescent cartoon one.

We are thrilled beyond words, and we love her already. Please wish us luck as we embark on this journey to find out if Bill Cosby was right.

Note: This column appears in the 4/18 issue of The Glendale Star and the 4/19 issue of the Peoria Times.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Spam email of the week

Subject: Custom Components Manufacture

Sexy AND relevant to my life.

 (Friendly note:If you are not the right ones, pls kindly reply simple words like”NO”,thanks.)

We've seen this before. Such a great sentence. My favorite sentence. In fact, this email is again from famed Chinaman, Jack Davis. Preach on, Jack.

Dear Sir

This is shorthand for Dear Sir Random Box, who is the knighted Earl of Worthington and who also needs custom components for all his stupid things. I am not he, but this misunderstanding could prove advantageous.

Have a good day!

Is this the end of the email? This seems like the end of the email, but there are more words? I'm confused. Also, thanks! You too.

We are TTi company come from China.

Well that's all well and good and grammatically correct, but: what do you specialize in?

We specialize in plastic injection moulding and machining field over ten years.

I couldn't have less a sense of what you are even talking about. But 10 years is a decade, so please continue.

With advanced CNC Milling machine, Electric Discharge Machining, wire-cutting machine, drilling machine, injection machine and skilled engineers.

Stop. You had me at Electric Discharge Machining.

If you don't need now ,marking or saving us for your future need will be very appreciated, thanks.

I definitely foresee a future need for a wire-cutting machine, so I have bookmarked this email in the "delete" folder because what I just said was a joke about a wire-cutting machine.

Happy life and good work with you.

That is a normal sentiment.


Jack Davis  (China)

I almost forgot you were from China for a second there, JACK DAVIS. Please pass along my regards to your fellow Chinaman and co-woker, BILLY JOE MARKOWITZ. Also, I almost forgot: any pictures that could sway my decision?

Oh I definitely know what that is and could easily operate it without killing myself. Send me three. Got any orange things?


Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Music lessons: On using pop to parent

Our daughter is very much into music. Sure, there are the “Annie” songs, but she also loves the pop music she hears on the radio. As parents, we try to use every opportunity to impart life lessons, and no one ever said pop music can’t be an aid in this endeavor.

Case in point, our daughter’s former favorite song, Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger.” This song is important because it teaches us that, in order to lure members of the opposite sex, we should gyrate in their direction like the 69-year-old lead singer of The Rolling Stones. Okay, so maybe that’s not the best lesson. In fact, our daughter used to just sing the chorus and dance all silly. Now I catch her singing it around the house, almost under her breath, lyrics like “I swear I’ll behave,” which, understanding the context of the song, makes me shudder. Also, the album version of this song, which is on the playlist I created for her, contains a curse word, and I have to turn the volume all the way down when it comes up as I’m driving. Other than those things, this is a great song for kids.

(As a side note, I listened to a lot of terribly profane rap as a teenager, but never in the car with my mom or dad. But I had some friends who would put on whatever they wanted while their parents were driving. I remember I was once in the back seat while my friend Mike put on the first Wu Tang Clan album while his mom was driving us to a basketball game. She just kept driving … no reaction whatsoever. I was like, “What is even happening right now? I cannot enjoy this! I am embarrassed to be here.” If my daughter ever pulls that, I have failed.)

And yes, she has a playlist. A Spotify playlist of her favorite songs that I put together for her and that we listen to on the way to school Friday mornings. We blast it really loud. When she asks me why I turn it down at red lights, I have to explain to her how important it is that nobody sees me belting out the chorus to Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Getting Back Together.” This is yet another pop song that essentially does the parenting for me. It teaches her the important lesson of not waiting around in vain while some indecisive boy attempts to waste her time. I am confident that if the day ever arises when some teenager tells her that he just needs some space, she can harken back to our Friday morning drives to school and remember what Taylor Swift told her. Now I just have to be careful that she never understands the difference between Taylor Swift the singer and Taylor Swift the real-life serial dater.

So it’s obvious I am doing my part as a parent. My wife doesn’t rock the playlist, but she also exercises her parenting duties via her favorite old school R&B radio station.

As a result, I am fairly confident our daughter is the only 3-year-old in the past 20 years whose unquestioned favorite song is Lisa Stansfield’s “All Around the World.” (“Been around the world and I, I, I/I can’t find my baby …”) She is mildly obsessed with the fact that the woman in this song lied to a boy and now can’t find him. I am not kidding that we have used this song as a parenting device for when she’s caught in a lie. Do you remember what happened to Lisa Stansfield when she lied to that boy? Do you want to be unable to find us one day to the point where you have to travel around the world? You don’t even have a passport. Now clean up your toys for real this time.

Indeed, as parents, we believe we should use everything at our disposal to shape and mold our children into the future leaders of this country, even random songs from the early 90s. But not Wu Tang Clan.

Never Wu Tang Clan.

You know what? Maybe don't listen her, actually. Ever again.

Note: This column appears in the 4/11 issue of The Glendale Star and the 4/12 issue of the Peoria Times.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Spam email of the week

Subject: How are you?.

You know what? It's about time somebody asked me that question WITH SINCERITY today. Considering this is the subject header, I imagine the brunt of this email is merely a more involved exploration as to how I am feeling. I wish I received more emails like this -- no requests, demands, pointless questions about "work." Just a genuine inquisition as to my current state of mind -- with a completely unnecessary period at the end -- sent directly to my email address and my email address alone.

To: Recipients

Or to like a billion email addresses. Whatevs.

I have what will bring mutual benefits for your family and my family.

Can I answer the subject header first? THANK YOU. I am fine. A little tired, but fine. Now, about this anonymous thing you have that will bring mutual benefits for my family and yours ... I am interested. I don't know you whatsoever and you are super weird and I have no idea what is going on, but one of my goals in life is to do something that not only benefits my own family, but ONE other family as well. Also, and this may sound odd, but I had always hoped this family would be associated in some way with the Lebanese government.

From: Ahmed al-Hassan [al-Hassan@lebanongovernment.org]

One of my favorite things about the Lebanese government -- there are many -- is that their email tagline is @lebanongovernment.org. They probably figured that @lebanongovernment.gov was redundant, and I agree. According to Wikipedia, Lebanon is a parliamentary democratic republic within the overall framework of confessionalism, a form of consociationalism and blah blah blah I don't know what any of that means. I would, however, like to add to Wikipedia, when I find the time, that members of the Lebanese government are renowned for sending emails to random Americans just to say, "How are you?." Lebanon's government is super nice! Although their use of what I imagine to be tax-funded resources is questionable at best. Anyway, where were we?

I will like to meet with you in person.

Oh yes, you would like to meet with me in person. That is a very typical request, a societal norm. Let us find a coffee shop halfway in between Lebanon and Arizona and discuss the thing you have that will mutually benefit our families. This sounds like the premise to a Nicolas Cage movie or something.

Ahmed al-Hassan

"Honey, I'm going out for a few days to meet Ahmed al-Hassan from Lebanon's government because he has something that will be good for our respective families. I'll call you when I get there. To Lebanon. He couldn't meet halfway."

"Okay, bring us home something beneficial! And have fun!"

She's the best, isn't she?

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Wardrobe function: my attempt to class it up a notch

For the past few weeks, I’ve been making a conscious effort to change my wardrobe. I realize that is a sentence not usually written by a man, but here we are.

It suddenly dawned on me that I often dress like a 22-year-old, jobless person living in an apartment. In my leisure time, I only really feel comfortable in t-shirts, and much of my t-shirt collection included a) ripped t-shirts, b) t-shirts with dumb phrases on like them like “Who stole me lucky charms?” and c) t-shirts that don’t fit me well. I tried to avoid the latter, which meant I had a rotation of like four t-shirts, all of which have embarrassed my wife. Last month I walked into our bathroom wearing my Napoleon Dynamite-themed “Liger” shirt and she immediately told me to change. Without stopping I just turned around and went right back to my dresser, and got the plain ripped one instead.

This IS that shirt, and I'm glad to see someone else on the Internet owns it.

Even my work clothes weren’t doing it for me. I felt like many of my pants and shirts weren’t fitting the way I wanted. This is my fault, by the way. Whenever we go shopping, I immediately go for the sales or clearance rack and end up talking myself into something that doesn’t fit. The neck is too wide, the pants look like bellbottoms, the collared shirt looks like it has shoulder pads … but it’s on sale! After three or four times of wearing that item I realize, “This doesn’t fit, I look terrible,” donate it to Goodwill, and go buy something else that doesn’t fit.

You see, I am a slim individual, a blessing and a curse. It’s been difficult for me to find clothing items that fit well, although I’ve admittedly avoided just that my entire life. However, slim fit is currently in style, I am told, and clothing manufacturers are actually starting to make clothes that fit a person of my body type. I mean, do you know what I look like in pleated dress pants? I look like MC Hammer, is the answer to that question. Finally I can buy non-pleated pants that fit, and dress shirts that don’t make me look like a freshman going to his first day of Catholic high school. Also, who invented pleated pants? He should be shot. Just kidding, that is harsh. Maybe just in the leg or something.

As if I weren’t already beginning to swing in the direction of dressing nicer, I then watched Justin Timberlake host SNL. Man, that guy can dress. Sure, someone dresses him, and I doubt that person shops at Kohl’s. Also, I’m pretty sure he wears a tuxedo everywhere these days. Still. He reinforced in me the idea that I should dress nicer. It’s possible I have a man-crush.

When I was a kid and wearing baggy pants and hats sideways like a complete idiot, I always thought to myself, “No way I’m going to be some khaki-wearing dork when I get older; I’m going to maintain this cool right here.” This juvenile thought had pervaded my consciousness for all these years. But now I’ve accepted the fact I’m a 34-year-old skinny white man with a job, and that job is not inside a hip-hop recording studio.

I’m getting there. I’ve already bought some t-shirts—nicer t-shirts—and pants that fit. It has cost me more money, sure, but fewer things are going to Goodwill, so I must be doing something right.


Note: This column appears in the 4/4 issue of The Glendale Star and the 4/5 issue of the Peoria Times.