Friday, December 9, 2011

Nice talking to you, whoever you are...

One more than one occasion, I have had a conversation with someone and I have no idea who they are.
Having spent so many years working in the newspaper industry, you meet a lot of people and, I apologize for this, but to be honest I just don’t remember who they all are.
I may have been the only photographer/reporter they met that day, but they were one of the many people I met that day.
I wish I could remember all of their names, but I must admit only a handful stuck in my somewhat memory challenged cranium.
You see, that vast expanse of grey matter between my ears has never been good at remembering names. This makes for many awkward situations.
The problem is compounded by my wife who remembers every name of every person she has ever met in her entire time on this earth.
“Lisa, of course I remember you. You were assisting the doctor when I was born.”
That is, of course, a ridiculous exaggeration, but her ability to remember people is not that far off.
She will say, “Do you remember so and so from church?”
I will look at her with a blank stare.
“Her husband was Bill.”
Blank stare.
“Their kids were Tom and Lisa.”
Blank stare.
“He was tall, bald and drove a blue mini-van.”
“Oh, OK, Bill. Sure, I remember him know”
“Good, so you remember his wife, Connie”
Blank stare.
And that does not even include the people I met through work. I can be walking down the street and someone will stop me and start chatting me up.
This is where things get a little tricky.
When I meet someone on the street, I do not want to be rude and ask who they are as if they were not important enough for me to remember them.
It’s not that they are unimportant, it’s just that I just lack the ability to remember names.
So instead, I just chat right back. But the reverse chatter must be done carefully. It is a craft I have honed over many years.
For example, never ask how the wife and kids are. He may not have a wife or kids, or there may be multiple variations of that combination, so instead I throw out the nice and generic, “So, how is everyone?” Perfect, no specific references to trip up on and generally the person will assume I am talking about their lovely family.
They will then chatter away about the wife, kids, dog – whatever, while I desperately try to mine the deepest reaches of my brain for any sliver of information on where I met them and who they are.
Other generic questions can include: “So, what’s new” which is the broadest of all generic questions. “How are things?” “How was your summer/winter?” “How’s work going?”
You get the idea. The key is to ask nothing specific, but ask a question that will generate discussion.
I once had a 10-minute conversation with someone I ran into on the street.
When we parted ways, my wife asked, “Who was that?”
To which I replied, “Beats the hell out of me.”
She used to get upset that I would not introduce her to some of the people I was chatting with, but once my lack of recall prowess was established, she was fine with being left out of the conversation in exchange for not making me or the other person feel a little awkward.
I am sure glad I married, um, er, no wait, don’t tell me. I know this one. Her name is…

Friday, December 2, 2011

Snowball attack results in letter campaign

A very rare thing happened in the House of Handschuh a couple weeks ago: my daughter got in trouble at school.
I can’t recall the last time she was reprimanded at school. Her brothers rarely got in trouble as well. That, or they rarely got caught.
Sure, my son and his friends did get a police escort home one day because they were playing smash-up derby with a couple of shopping carts in the parking lot of a local mall, but there was never any serious interaction with law enforcement officials or school officials.
However, my angelic little daughter broke one of the most stringent rules to ever be put in place at an elementary school. A rule designed to keep children safe. To prevent them from experiencing severe and even maiming injury and my sweet little girl broke the rule.
Yes, she threw a snowball at another child.
Oh, the humanity.
She almost hit the other kid too, who was also throwing snowballs at her. But when an authority figure saw the anarchy taking place on the hallowed grounds of elementary education both were busted.
She then had to write “I will not throw snowballs” 234,967 times, or something like that.
There is also a rule prohibiting ‘unwanted’ face washes.
Is there such thing as a ‘wanted’ face wash?
“Excuse me, bigger kids. Hey, would you mind throwing me to ground and mashing a mitt full of snow into my face until my cheeks turn red from frostbite?”
I don’t think those words have ever been uttered on a playground in the history of playgrounds.
I must admit, I agree with the no snowballs, no face wash rule.
There is always some kid who takes things a step farther and turns his snowball into an iceball that he hurls at his victim with enough force to dent the fender of a ’72 Buick.
Will the iceball of doom hit the kid in the nice fluffy winter coat he is wearing? Nope, it has to hit the kid in the nose, or the eye or the mouth. The projectile, of course, has no option than to hit the victim square in the face causing redness, ouchiness and the occasional tear, so the no snowball rule is a good one.
And unlike soccer balls, snowballs can do some real damage on impact. I know my daughter cannot throw hard enough to really hurt anyone, but it is a blanket rule for everyone and one that makes good sense.
She had to confess to her crime against her classmate in a letter written to her mom and I that basically said, “Hey Mom and Dad, I threw a snowball at a kid.”
In the letter, she had to explain what she had done, and why it was wrong. She then had to show me and the Missus the letter. We then had to sign it, have it notarized and witnessed by at least seven people.
Her snowball-throwing counterpart also had to write a letter to his parents with a similar explanation of his dastardly deed.
If the child does not bring the letter back to the teacher with signatures from everyone including the Pope, then mom and dad get to have a personal conversation with the school principal about the anarchist lifestyle their child is pursuing by refusing to follow the rules.
I wonder how many of those letters are written after the first snowfall of the year. For some reason, kids simply cannot resist taking millions of soft, fluffy flakes of snow and compressing them into a weapon.
It has been that way since the first snowfall. I am sure little Neanderthal Junior lacked the intellectual capability to figure out what the white stuff was, but he sure learned in a hurry how to make and launch a snowball.
Did my daughter break the rules? Yup. But she admitted her wrong doing, did her time (aka writing the letter) and learned her lesson.
So much for a life of crime.