Sunday, April 30, 2017

Excuse me, is that a lizard in your nose?

I know I'm not the only person who has had this happen because I have witnessed the dilemma from both sides of the table.
The other day I spent a few minutes chatting with a buddy  after church. Nothing odd or embarrassing about that – well, wait for it.
The conversation was not the problem. The problem was I had a booger hanging from my nose that was just slightly smaller than a Smart Car.
I had no idea this Green Monster of Ick was crawling its way out of my nose ready to destroy the world like a Canadian version of The Blob.
However, as soon as I ran into the Missus, she kindly pointed out I had this thing sticking out. The only thing that kept it from escaping completely was my abundant nostril hair.
Now, the question is: was the Booger of Doom hanging out the entire time I was talking to my buddy, or did it get loose after the conversation?
He never said anything about it, so maybe it wasn’t there. But if I were on the other side of the situation would I mention it?
“Hi, Brian, how are ya? Good to see you. By the way, you have a giant snot slinky slithering out of your nose. So, how are the wife and kids?”
It is not something you can casually slip into a conversation without the recipient of the news feeling at least somewhat embarrassed. And once the protruding bit of nose phlegm is pointed out, what then?
Does the bearer of the booger just go macho and wipe it away with his hand? If he does, will you shake his hand at the end of the conversation?
I thought not.
He could excuse himself, head to the nearest box of tissues and rein in the offending piece of matter, which is probably the most sanitary and least disgusting thing to do.
Of course, the conversation is over at that point. "Sorry, pal, I’ll be right back I just have to shake this booger loose.”
Not many conversations get restarted after such an interruption, unless the conversation is about boogers hanging from your nose.
If so, you have the perfect conversation starter at hand, or rather, in nose, or should it be partway out of the nose? I don’t know; booger etiquette has never been my strong suit.
When you are a kid, having a greenie hanging out is a topic of laughter from the boys and, usually, an ‘Ewwww, gross’ from the girls. Why boys find gross things funny is a topic for another column. But the younger the kid, the less they care about nasal discharge.
Every parent has seen their kids come home with glassy sleeves. To a kid, sleeves were invented to be portable tissues. What other purpose do they serve than to slide across your nose? To a kid, none. Being a snot collector is about all they do.
And children use the full length of the forearm – from elbow to wrist – without so much as a second thought.
Hey, I can remember being far too busy playing to go find a tissue and wipe my honker every few minutes. Besides, I had these cool sleeve things that were the perfect built-in tissue.
The sleeve device was always with me, I had two of them should one lose its absorbency and I did not even have to stop playing to take care of the situation.
Of course, as an adult I now know how truly revolting walking around with a sleeve or two covered in nose goo is, which is a strong argument for washing the children’s clothes separately from the civilized people in the house.
Like death and taxes, boogers are a part of life. I just hope to avoid all three for as long as possible.

Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Eeeeek, the bugs are back

Spring is, without question, my favourite season.
The snow is gone; the sun is out; the trees start to bloom and, over all, it is just a wonderful time to be alive.
There is, however, one small drawback to spring: the return of bugs.
The winter months, while cold, are a bug-free environment, devoid of the nasty, little critters that go into stasis until it is time to re-awaken and scare the snot out of me once again.
During the winter, I forget what it is like to have a creepy, buzzing, insect fly into my hair (what little of it I have) and twist around to get free.
This instantly and without fail causes me to thrash wildly as I try to get the vermin off my head lest I do something in my trousers I have not done since I was a small child.
In case you haven't guessed, I don't like bugs.
When I was a young lad, bugs did not bother me a bit. I used to catch them, hold them in my hands and, in general, I was at one with the insect. But the older I got, the less I liked them.
My first bug encounter of this year involved some sort of flying beast.
It was a cross between an ant and a pterodactyl, only bigger and scarier.
It landed on the back of my neck and threatened to work its way down the back of my shirt.
Without thinking, my ninja-like reflexes grabbed the winged horror. It squirmed between my finger and thumb and I almost – almost – screamed like a small, frightened girl.
As soon as I clamped down on the unholy abomination, my mind started to race.
First, I was amazed at how big this thing was. Shouldn't it just be a tiny little insect at this time of year?
This monstrosity was a full grown bug.
And whenever there is an encounter with a bug of any kind, the question looms: what kind of bug is it?
If you ask entomologists, they will say there are millions of types of bugs out there. I am not a bug expert, but I can tell you that there are only two types of bugs in the this world – ones that will hurt you and ones that won't.
I did not know what type of bug this was.
Was it the kind with a giant stinger, or pincers, or a knife — or a gun? Who knows?
Or was it one of those friendly, Disney type bugs that instead of hurting you becomes your adorable little friend?
I did not know and as I felt the beast try to get free from my grasp I waited for the pain. The searing, instant pain that only an evil bug can deliver.
All these thoughts tore through my semi-panicked mind in a nano-second. Time slows down when you are in great peril and holding some form of nasty bug between my fingers was great peril indeed.
As I pulled my hand away from my neck I looked at the critter and saw this brownish-red head with huge eyes looking at me.
However, there was no pain, so either I had it in such a hold it could not unleash its insect fury or it was one of those friendly bugs.
With reflexes that would make Chuck Norris look like a sloth on Valium, I threw the offending beast to the ground only to watch it spread it massive wings and soar away, blocking the sun as it passed.
I still don't know what kind of bug it was, and to tell you the truth I don't really care.
I survived my first up-close-and-personal contact of 2017 with an insect.
But if this is a sign of things to come, it's going to be a long summer.

Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh

Friday, April 14, 2017

We don't need no stinking seatbelts

Every year, my parents would go on a two-week vacation that typically involved a marathon road trip somewhere in the United States.

We would all pile into the station wagon with the fake wood grain finish and head out on the open road while towing a tent trailer that would be our home for the next 14 days or so.

My parents would, of course, sit in the front, my two sisters in the back seat and my brother and I would lie down in the back with some pillows.

Seatbelts? We don’t need no stinking seatbelts.

We would wave at police as they went by and sometimes the police would wave back. No one gave it a second thought that we did not have any seatbelts and the only thing keeping us back there was gravity.

We were kids; we never thought of the possible dangers. What did we care if in the event of an accident we would rocket through the air like little, pink missiles. We had the back of the family wagon to ourselves and it was sweet.

It was a different world back then. We would drive at 60 miles an hour for hours on end and the only safety device my brother and I had were the pillows that would hopefully pile up at the windshield before we did, thus cushioning the blow as our young selves hurled around the interior of the car.

Other kids would be sitting in the back of their cars waving at us. It was like a rolling convoy of kiddie carnage just waiting to be unleashed.

When dad had to slam on the brakes, we would go sliding up against the back seat, books would be flying around, pens, pencils and what ever else we had back there with us would projectile to the front of the car.

A sharp corner had a similar effect only in a lateral manner rather than back to front.

It was kind of like a home-made rollercoaster, except there were no seatbelts.

We never thought of the possible hazards, nor did our parents, the police, the government or anyone else.

Now days, everyone has to wear a seatbelt, which is a good thing. You are also supposed to wear a helmet when riding a bike – another good thing.

As a young lad, I learned to ride a bike with no protective gear whatsoever.

Helmets? Those were for motorcycles. No one needed them on a pedal bike.

These days, when most parents send their kids out their bikes they have:
  • helmets
  • knee pads
  • elbow pads
  • a full suit of armour
  • home-made airbags on the handlebars
An still, some over-protective parent will run beside their child with a large pillow to throw beneath them should they have an unplanned dismount from their metal steed.

Of course, no child should be sent out without being completely encased in bubble wrap. That way, when junior crashes, all there will be is a multitude of popping noises as the child bounces down the street.

Crash – pop, pop, pop – bounce – pop, pop, pop.
“I’m OK.”

The kid will look like the Michelin Man, but the new mantra is safety first, so there can be no such thing as too much gear.

One area where safety has not penetrated is the world of skateboarders. You will see the occasional helmet, but, in general, the only thing between a skater’s melon and the cold, hard concrete is a hat or some goofy hair.

I guess it’s not ‘cool’ to be wear a helmet, but one good whack on the bean and you are eating Jello and playing with crayons for the rest of your life.

I am sure eventually the skater safety attitude will change and soon everyone on a skateboard will be covered in a titanium suit that could stop a speeding freight train.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world will already be several steps ahead in safety and all cars will come with dozens of airbags, all occupants must wear complete hockey gear – football gear would be an acceptable substitute for our American cousins – and, of course, the car, the driver and the passengers will be completely encased in bubble wrap.

Remember kids, safety first.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

When did riding a bike become so hard?

OK, something is wrong here.
Over the winter, I took up snowshoeing and encountered a worrisome situation: it seems Earth's gravitational pull is increasing.
How else can you explain how hard it was snowshoeing up a hill?
For some reason, trudging through the woodland realm in the middle of winter was challenging and the only thing I can think of is an increase in gravitational pull.
Has no one else noticed this?
It can't be me, because I am a in shape — the shape happens to be round, but it is still a shape.
I do exercise on a regular basis. No. Really. I do.
I go on my treadmill at least six days a week for up to an hour per session.
I used to do martial arts until Father Time slapped me around too much and I could no longer keep up with the young whippersnappers.
I also don't heal as fast as I used to, so it was time to hang up the gloves, but I still keep active.
That is why I couldn't believe how hard it was to go for a mountain bike ride.
I bought a new bike a few days ago and couldn't wait to go for a nice, long ride.
The bike is decent, not a high-end $10,000 bike, but a decent two-wheeled roller ideal for an old-ish guy like me.
Besides, if I had 10-grand to spend on a bike, it would come with a motor.
The last bike I bought was 22 years ago. It was fairly high-end and thanks to a buddy who ran the bike shop, I got a pretty darn good deal.
I put a lot of hours on that bike both on the street and cross-country trails.
I was doing martial arts back then as well, so I was in decent shape.
It has been a few years since I have used pedal power as a form of exercise, but it was always something I enjoyed, so I decided to dig out my old bike, which, after being used by friends of my teenage son, had seen better days.
I didn't mind as I figured I was due for a new bike anyway — buying a new steed every two decades is acceptable. I bought a new, shiny, black bike and as soon as I got home, I grabbed my shiny, new, black helmet and took off for what I knew would be an epic ride.
And it was, for the first few blocks. The epic transitioned into exhausting, especially when I hit the first hill. Half way up, I did the stop-and-get-off-the-bike-and-look-at-the-gears-like-something-is-wrong-so-I-can-catch-my-breath routine.
I was stunned at how out of shape I was.
This can't be right. I do a run/walk/lean on the treadmill for at least an hour a day. every day, so why was this so hard?
I used to rip up hills on my mountain bike like I had a jet pack strapped to my butt. Sure, I have not been on a bike for a few years, but this can't right. It should not be this hard.
Could it be that my middle-aged, somewhat flabby physique was that bad?
I was once a mighty athlete. OK, I was once an athlete. OK, OK, I attempted to play sports when I was younger, but now I could barely ride up a little hill.
Was I getting that old and out of shape?
Then, it hit me. Memories of the snowy climb that left me gasping for air flooded my mind, the sweat, the sore muscles, the gasping for air (I know I mentioned that once already, but I feel it was important enough to list twice) and I knew what the truth was.
I knew why things were so much harder: Earth's gravitational pull had increased even more since the winter.

I knew there had to be a logical explanation.