Archive for March, 2020

A surprise package

Hello, homepeople of the internet, and I hope everyone is still hanging in there. I know what you’re wondering, and yes, my beard game is still going strong. Thanks for checking in and showing you care. I did need to ask for my friends’ opinions on one aspect of my…Quaranbeard? (Nope, hate that but leaving it there anyway.) I wanted to know if I could trim my mustache so it wasn’t overtaking my top lip too much, and they agreed that I could do that and still be within the spirit of the self-imposted beard decree. How’s that for a fascinating update?

My story today is from a couple of years ago, but back then I was in the middle of a solid streak of ignoring this blog. It was July of 2018, and someone came by my desk with a small brown box that had arrived in the mail for me. I don’t often get packages there, so I commented on it aloud and wondered what it could be. We have a very open floor plan at work (if memory serves), so I had about twenty eyes on me when I went to open it. The return address didn’t list a company name or look familiar, and my colleagues were as intrigued as I was.

Let me take a step back here. Some of you might think I’m exaggerating when I say other people were “as intrigued as I was” about something I got in the mail, but I’m not. You see, a year before, I got a padded envelope from an address I didn’t recognize. I opened it and was completely surprised and confused (surfused?) to find a sew-on patch that said “Virginia State Police.” I had literally no idea where that could’ve come from, and my colleagues were similarly baffled and enjoying my bafflement. After asking literally everyone in the office if they knew what it was about, we finally pieced something together that involved a test purchase on eBay from someone illegally selling our products there, and that was the least expensive thing on the person’s page. And for some reason, the credit card they used had my name on it, so the patch came to my attention. I kept it and have it taped to the wall still, in case you were wondering.

Another time, I opened a box I wasn’t expecting and found the brown metal head and glowing red eyes of a rabbit that used to be part of a lamp. That’s a long story that I’ve most likely catalogued here before, but my parents and I have been hiding that rabbit head in each other’s houses for years and years, and they stepped it up by mailing it to me at work from a friend’s address. Needless to say, my colleagues were surfused and required an explanation.

So this time, when I said I wasn’t expecting anything and wondered aloud what it could be, they were right there, ready to watch and see what it would be this time. I cut the tape on the box and opened it to find a small burlap sack with something in it. The level of intrigue multiplied as I pulled the sack out of the box and maybe uttered a few “what the fucks” in the process. I peered into the opening of the bag (I just can’t keep saying “sack” over and over), and saw a very strange thing in there. So I reached in and pulled out…a potato. Not just any potato though, a potato that someone had written on in marker, “Haters gonna hate. Taters gonna tate.” I quickly looked back in the box to see if I missed a note or anything, and there was one thing: a business card from AnonymousPotato.com. And that website is exactly what you think it is.

Needless to say, I loved it and wanted to thank whoever was behind it. I asked the people around me, but they didn’t have a clue. I asked some others, but nothing. I reached out to an employee in Utah, and he said, “No, but someone sent me a pillow with sequins, and when you rub the sequins in the opposite direction, it’s a picture of Nicolas Cage, so maybe it’s the same person.” I rightfully had several follow up questions for him, but ultimately decided this was a separate incident. (I did buy some of those pillows later and put them in the main lobby at work without telling anyone. Big hit.)

Everyone was curious and found it mighty hilarious that someone sent it to me, except our former head of HR. He immediately took a concerned tone. “And you have no idea who sent this to you?” he asked. He’s a super nice guy who learned English as an adult after moving here from the Dominican Republic, so imagine that accent if you can when he very seriously asked me, “And what does ‘tate’ mean?” I did my best to explain that it means nothing and why it still worked and was funny (since explaining afterwards is the secret of comedy). He looked at the potato and then back to me and said, “So you are not concerned that some disgruntled person sent this maliciously then?” I told him I was not, but I appreciated that he had my back.

I asked around more. I posted something on our internal chat program asking who the amazing responsible party was so that I could thank him or her publicly. Nothing. And then, a couple of weeks later, I got my answer. I was at a work happy hour chatting with a few people. One, our lawyer who I’ll call Kay, had just gotten back from Iceland and we were talking about her trip. She asked how things had been at the office while she was out, and we said everything was pretty normal. “I heard you got something interesting in the mail,” she said to me with a smile a little too big for the question. “Was that you?!” I asked. She beamed and nodded for several seconds, clearly – and rightfully – proud of the ruse. She said she had forgotten it was my birthday until she saw how my team decorated my desk, and she quickly went online to find something for me. She saw the AnonymousPotato.com thing somehow and knew it would be perfect for me…especially if it arrived while she was out of town.

She was right of course, and she skyrocketed on my list of favorite coworkers. I mean, how could she not? I kept the potato on my desk for a while, but ultimately had to throw it away when time’s winged chariot drew near. I’ll never forget that moment though: opening a box, not knowing what to expect, and finding a mystery potato threatening me that I might get tated. If you are on the Instagram and search for #anonymouspotato, you’ll find a picture of me holding the famous tater. And if you look closely, you’ll see a certain patch for the Virginia State Police on the whiteboard in the background. I have to imagine that patch is rather lonely right now. Maybe I should send it a potato to cheer it up.

Got any good stories about randomly receiving something in the mail? Post away! Otherwise, take care, and I’ll see you back here sometime soon.

A safe distance

Good morning. Still reporting live from the P-Dawg family compound and I still have “sanity” as a key performance metric I’m striving to hit. Quick recap on the 3 goals I set out last time: First, I haven’t been much more creative yet (not counting this post, though I guess it counts). Second, I’ve been exercising the same or more – added pushups to the routine and ran around the island for 2 miles this morning. And third, the beard game is going strong. It’s getting more scraggly but I don’t think it’s noticeably different yet.

So I saw a news snippet yesterday that Canada won’t be sending any athletes to the Olympics in Tokyo and that they’re urging for the games to be postponed a year. At this point in time, I can’t imagine the Olympics happening this summer and have to think it’s only a matter of days before it’s officially postponed to a later date. But since that hasn’t happened yet, it affords me the opportunity to imagine what it would look like to have the first (and only) Social Distancing Olympics.

I’m going to break this down into 3 tiers: Totally Possible, Possibly Possible, and Not Possible But Funny to Picture. I’m going off this list of Summer Olympic events, in case anyone is interested: https://www.olympic.org/sports

Totally Possible

  • Archery: I can’t see why people can’t stand 6 feet apart and judges keep a safe distance from the contestants and each other.
  • Canoe Slalom/Canoe Sprint: I’m just guessing that this is like the ski slalom events and it’s either one person at a time or maybe two on tracks plenty of distance from each other.
  • Diving: They’ve got a lot of space around them, and even the synchronized ones don’t have them too near each other.
  • Equestrian stuff: Still guessing that these are solo events (not counting the horse, of course), so I don’t think this would be too different.
  • Rhythmic Gymnastics: Full of consonants, but not full of overlapping contestants, so I think we’re a go for that one too. Maybe the Social Distancing Olympics wouldn’t be that bad after all!
  • Other Gymnastics: I’d miss the fake hugs and high-pitched cheers from teammates during the individual events, but they can go up one at a time and do their things just fine.
  • Sailing: Some of these events are individual, so those could work.
  • Shooting: Wow, there are a lot of events under that heading. I actually think it’s a good thing for people to be separated for this one.
  • Skateboarding: No problem there.
  • Sport Climbing: Seems fine.
  • Surfing: Check. Plenty of room in the ocean for safe distances.
  • Trampoline: Should be good.
  • Weightlifting: I can’t picture there being spotters for these events, so I think that’s fine too.

Possibly Possible

  • Golf: Either no caddies or the caddy has to be in a separate cart and lay the club down before walking back to a safe distance. This might belong in the Totally Possible category, but I just feel like this would make golf take even longer than it already does, and that’s a painful proposition.
  • Swimming: They’d have to have many more heats to accommodate fewer athletes at a time (with a couple of empty lanes between each swimmer), but the individual events could happen.
  • Tennis, Table Tennis, Badminton: I’m not sure if we could institute a “no charging the net” rule that would potentially put people within 6 feet of each other, so I’ll just leave these in this category and move on.
  • Track: Similar to swimming, where the heats could still happen. The individual events would be fine (javelin, shot put, long jump, etc.) so I think there’s plenty here to keep Track alive.

Not Possible But Funny to Picture

  • Baseball/Softball: So…no catcher for sure. And if there are infielders, they can’t hold anyone on base or be within 6 feet of the basepath if someone’s running by. And no tagging people out or even force outs with a runner nearby. Gonna keep this firmly in the Not Possible group.
  • Basketball: Only if they change it to dunk and 3-point shooting contests.
  • Beach Volleyball: Almost lumped this in with tennis, but since they’re not playing solo and they have the net thing to worry about, I’m saying it’s a no. But I’d truly love to see them try. And regular Volleyball is a no too.
  • Boxing: This might be my favorite (along with other similar ones coming up). Unless it becomes the Shadow Boxing Championship, I’m pretty sure the athletes need to get within 6 feet of each other to be effective.
  • Fencing: Very similar to boxing, but I’d like to add a wrinkle: SEVEN FOOT EPEES. Make it happen.
  • Soccer (“Football”): Only way this could work is if it were all about penalty kicks. Might be riveting, but that’s not what soccer fans are tuning in for.
  • Handball: I love watching this sport every four years, but since it’s basically like soccer with your hands on a basketball court, there’s no way it can work.
  • Hockey: No, eh.
  • Judo/Karate: No in Japanese.
  • Taekwondo: No in Korean.
  • Rugby: No in Australian.
  • Wrestling: No in Greek/Roman.
  • Water Polo: You mean Aquatic Handball? Don’t think so.

I probably missed some important ones that were grouped into bigger categories, but I think I’ve explored this enough at this point. My verdict is that the Social Distancing Olympics would be possible as a pared down, less interesting event that’s missing many crowd favorites, so postponing it is really the only option.

I don’t know if this was interesting or not for people, but if you need me I’ll be still stuck at home, but this time picturing judo from 6 feet apart and caddies laying down golf clubs and scurrying back to their private carts. Take care, everyone.

Something to read here?

Why hello there. It’s been quite a while since I wrote anything here, but as my grandma always said, when in self-quarantine, do as the self-quarantiners do.

It’s safe to say that we’re in a strange time right now with many things out of our control, so I’m doing what I can to take ownership of a few things.

First, I can be more creative. That’s been my only real lament over the past few years, but an acceptable loss at the same time. By that, I mean there’s a finite number of hours in the day, and I acknowledge that I won’t be able to do everything I’d like to. I get up at 4:30am on weekdays so that I have some time to drink coffee, listen to podcasts, play some games on my phone, and exercise before showering and getting the kids up. (Some work stuff starts happening at 5am, so it’s not completely “me time,” but I really do try to make the most of it.) After that, it’s pretty scheduled with preparing the kids for school, work, after school activities, dinner, catching up with my lovely wife, and then falling asleep on the couch before stumbling upstairs.

So I’ve rationalized the lack of creative activity in my life by asking the simple question, “When would I do that? Get up earlier? Stay up later? Give up the morning routine a couple of days a week?” This whole virus thing has presented me with a new option. We’re letting the kids sleep in a little later, so if I still get up at the normal time, I magically have an extra chunk o’ time to do something. There are podcasts, tv shows, and movies I can easily use to fill that time, but I’m proclaiming at least some of it as Peter’s Allotted Creative Time – or PACT – because it’s a pact I’m making with myself. It won’t all be putting my random thoughts on this page. I have other projects in mind that have remained untouched for a long time, so I’ll figure out how to dispense this precious PACT and keep using my full brain as much as possible.

Second, I can exercise more. I know I mentioned that I exercise in the morning, but for those of you who don’t know me, my current regimen is a little atypical. I like to run around the island. Now from that sentence, you may have a picture of me stumbling out of a little hut, taking in a deep breath of salt air, stretching my legs a little, and then jogging on the beach past the outdoor seating areas of closed restaurants and occasionally nodding to people sweeping palm fronds off the roads or an errant rooster here and there. Alas, that’s not exactly how it plays out. By “island,” I’m referring to my kitchen island. Yes, I run laps around my kitchen island. But before it sounds too crazy, I’d like to try to explain. Would it be completely batshit crazy if I ran in place for the equivalent of a mile or two to get some cardio work in, release endorphins, etc.? No, right? Right? I’ll assume you’re still with me. If that’s not crazy, why would propelling myself forward a bit be different? I actually find it much less jarring on my body to be moving forward instead of just running in place. So I basically run in place…around my kitchen island…dozens of times until I reach my “distance” goal. Maybe it still sounds as ridiculous to you after I tried explaining it, but it’s what I do.

Anyway, I don’t want to give that up (unless I get the elliptical machine we have working again and change back to that or start running – gasp! – outside), but I can add to the routine. Nothing crazy, but I don’t think I’ll be joining my weekly Pilates class for a while, so I need something else. I plan on using this time to add other elements of exercise – might be an increasing number of pushups and sit-ups, might be some planking or something – I’m not sure yet. But I have this opportunity, and when we come out of this, it would be a big win if I can point to some creative output and a healthier body.

And then there’s the third thing I can be in control of during this time: my beard. I’ve had a beard for over a decade now, and I keep it pretty short (save the one time I grew it out and shaved all but a handlebar mustache for a costume). I trim it about once a week, and I rarely let it go more than that because the white hairs at my jawline are much more visible when they’re longer. But screw it, I’m not going to trim it for as long as I can to see what happens. Whether I end up looking more like David Letterman or a rabbi remains to be seen, but why not make the most of this time and do something different? I’m only on Day 3 of working from home, and it’s already at a longer length than normal, so this could get interesting. For me at least. (Smart man’s caveat: if my loving wife hates it and strongly suggests that I bring it back to normal lengths, that might take precedence over my face experiment. Faceperiment? Yes, faceperiment.)

So that’s what I’ve got for today. Not sure how often I’ll be jotting things down here, but it’s good to be thinking and typing stupid stuff again instead of just work. If you have ideas or want to toss out your own social distancing goals, fire away. Take care, homepeople, and stay healthy.