Friday, July 30, 2010

Question of the Week: Partners

How many different sexual partners have you had in your life? Would you prefer to have had more or fewer?

It's so rare to get a response on the question of the week. I really don't expect one on this one. But I'll answer. It's not like I've ever had anything to hide on this blog anyway. So if I've done the math right... carried the 2... uh... that would be zero. Yeah. Since the Single Guy's been single his entire life, and because he always felt that sex would be a married kind of activity, the number is a big ol' goose egg. And you know what, he's okay with that. How did I slip into talking about myself in the third person.

As for the preference of having more or fewer, I'm pretty sure you can't do fewer than zero. So you can fill in the blanks of what I would prefer if you'd like.

*Question of the Week comes from The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Student Loans

I'm pretty sure I always figured I would go to college. Even when I was a kid, I just thought it would be the next step after high school. So when the guidance counselors in high school would start talking about choosing a college, I thought it was pretty much a no-brainer. Since I already planned to continue my education after the public school system was done with me, I didn't really pay much attention when they started quoting statistics about how much more a college grad would make in his or her lifetime than someone who just stopped after high school. But I remember it being a significant amount of money. It was significant enough to convince some of the kids in my class to go ahead and give it the old college try. I think I'm still waiting for that significant difference in income to kick in.

I really couldn't afford college. So I went the same route that so many young people go in this great country of ours. I applied for student loans. And I received a generous amount of money that I would eventually need to pay back. For a period of time, back when I was working a decently paying job and living in Roanoke, I was, in fact, making regular payments on those student loans. And then I decided to go to seminary. The magic word there was deferment. Deferment is a wonderful thing that says you don't have to make those payments because you're still a student.

I'm not a student anymore. And yesterday I discovered that my good friends, the Lenders, are expecting me to pay back those loans. I discovered this by chance, because I happened to go back into a currently unused e-mail account and happened to see that they had sent a notice letting me know that my payment is due. Not only that, they've been sending notices for about two months. So, do the math. That means I'm two months behind on making payments that I can't afford in the first place.

I did go to the website and, first of all, changed my e-mail address. Now their notices will come to the e-mail address that I actually look at on a regular basis. Next, I took a look at how much I owe in total. That total would be a shock to the system had I not over-estimated what I owed several years ago. Still, $41,000 is a significant amount of money. If you're keeping up with my personal and professional life, that's more money than I'll make in the next 2 years. Before taxes.

So I found another magic word on their website: forbearance. I applied for this forbearance. There's no guarantee that forbearance will be granted, but I think I have a pretty good chance of getting it. See, I still work two jobs and just barely make ends meet. So adding a regular $250 payment each month to my already tight budget will be an impossible thing.

I won't hear back about the forbearance for a few days. In the meantime, I'm thinking of my options, just in case they decide I'm not worthy of this forbearance...

I could rob a bank. I work for a bank. I think I'm pretty decent when it comes to strategy. Maybe it's a feasible option.

I could start selling drugs. I hear that dealers can make a killing in that career path. Though they could also get killed in the process.

I could fake my death and collect the insurance money. Though, if I faked my death, I guess I would really need that money, 'cause the lenders wouldn't be coming after me anymore. I'd be "dead."

I'm looking at these and thinking that forbearance is my best option for the time being. You know, other than finding a new job that pays more than what I make now. Maybe some place that likes to at least pretend that having a bachelor's degree counts for something.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Another Innocuous Super Power

Not long ago I brought you the story of ParkMan, the man with the uncanny ability to always find a great parking space. Today I bring you the story of the guy that can always make the perfect mix of music for any given situation.

He called himself Mix Tape Man. He knew that, these days, that kind of name was extremely out of date. After all, who used tape for anything in the 21st century? Everything was on discs or flash drives or iPods. But it was a name that he had held onto since the early 1980s and he wasn't about to change it now. Mix Tape Man was never invited to join the Justice League, but he was okay with that. JLA members had to face down monsters and alien invasions. Mix Tape Man was much more comfortable sitting in front of his stereo at home and making lists of songs that he thought would be great for his fellow heroes.

He remembers how it all started, back in the day. He would listen to the radio, waiting for a certain song to play so he could hit record on the tape deck just in time. Mix Tape Man was always a little peeved when the on-duty DJ would start talking before the end of the song or sloppily segue into the next tune. There were times when he thought he would go right over to the radio studio to give a particular DJ a piece of his mind, but no. He had to use his powers for good, not for evil. And he knew that his abilities really wouldn't help him if it came down to a fist fight. In fact, when it came to violence, Mix Tape Man was kind of a wimp.

Then came the day when he got a brand new stereo with a dual tape deck. The days of waiting for songs on the radio were over. But soon enough, the compact disc would weasel its way into popular culture and the mix tape itself would fall by the wayside. But people still needed their mixes for road trips and parties. The CD was just a new way of playing those songs.

But now, Mix Tape Man finds himself all but obsolete. He's an analog man living in a digital age. All the other super-heroes have iPods that they hide in their capes or utility belts. Everyone uses iTunes to come up with their own playlists. And if they're too lazy to combine their own songs, they can just click on the iTunes Genius button, and the computer does it for them. Poor Mix Tape Man.

A few months ago, he made a mix CD for Superman, including songs like Donovan's "Sunshine Superman" and 3 Doors Down's "Kryptonite." The Man of Steel had said a quick thank you, but the look on his face let Mix Tape Man know that he felt awkward about receiving the CD. Superman would later confide in Lois Lane that he would probably never even listen to the disc, and that it would end up in the junk room at the Fortress of Solitude, along with his old Legion flight ring that quit working 20 years ago and that novelty piece of gold kryptonite that Batman had given him as a gag gift. Yeah, some funny joke, Batman!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Legends of the Bank Teller - Episode LXXXII

I work at a bank. A bank is one of those places where one expects to find certain things. People come in and they expect to be able to make deposits and withdrawals. They expect to be able to cash checks. They expect to be charged crazy fees for little ridiculous items that are seemingly pointless. Obviously, these fees have a point. That's why there are highly paid executives that sit around in their 18th story offices in their expensive taylored suits. They're just sitting up there, lighting imported cigars with 50-dollar bills, and they're thinking of new ways to charge fees. It's what they do.

Something else customers should expect is to be able to get the change that they want. I mean, if someone brings in a 100-dollar bill that isn't counterfeit, they have ever reason to expect that they can trade it in for five 20s or twenty 5s. But I love it when customers ask if they can break a 20, like it's a huge inconvenience for me.

I'll be honest. There are a vast majority of days where I feel like just being here and breathing the same air as some of these customers is a huge inconvenience for me. But during those rare occasions where I'm not having a bad day, simply asking for a 10 and two 5s is not going to break me. Those types of customers are appreciated, simply because they're polite enough to be polite.

Even though breaking down that money is just about the simplest thing I do in my day, it would still be fun to make them think that it's something I just can't do. "I'm sorry, but can I get one of these 20s broken down?"

I would just make a pained expression on my face and suck in some air through my teeth, as if I had just touched a hot stove and gotten burned. "I don't know if I can... hang on... let me check..." I know that kind of thing may not seem funny to you, the reader, but when I picture doing that in my head it makes me laugh. It's not about being mean to someone. It's just about having a little fun with them. That's all. Don't get so upset!

Monday, July 26, 2010


I think I'm gonna have to see that again. First impression: This movie was awesome.

As I said last week, the Charlottan had already placed Inception into his top 3 movies of all time after seeing it only once. He's got pretty good taste in movies, so I was ready to see it and enjoy. I finally got the chance when I hit the theater yesterday afternoon.

While I was excited to see the movie, I was a little apprehensive too. I went into it with this notion that it was going to be complicated (it was). I couldn't help thinking back to the first time I watched The Matrix. I had waited for that one to come out on video, which was a good thing. 20 minutes into it, I had to stop, rewind, and rewatch what I had just seen before I began to grasp what was really happening. I was a little fearful that Inception would have that same kind of effect on me, only I wouldn't be able to stop and rewind in a theater full of people.

Luckily, while the movie was complex, I was able to follow things pretty well. Throughout the movie, the audience is faced with the question "Is this a dream or is this reality?" There are several times where it's pretty difficult to make the distinction. As we view these unreal worlds through the eyes of the characters, it's easy to be pulled into the reality of it all. After all, a dream feels real while we're still dreaming. Leonardo DiCaprio's character explains that it's only after we wake that we realize something was strange.

DiCaprio plays Cobb, a man who is an expert extractor. An extractor is someone who is hired to enter someone's subconscious in order to steal secrets, generally used in situations of industrial espionage. He is hired by Saito (Ken Watanabe) to go into a competitors mind not for extraction, but for inception, planting an idea. Cobb's right hand man, Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), doesn't believe it's possible, but Cobb knows different. From here, things become more and more complex as the dream team construct dreams within dreams, going deeper and deeper into their target's subconscious in order to achieve their objective.

This is just a most basic description of the plot. To go into any further detail would not only cause me to spend the rest of the day typing away like a mad man, but would cheapen the experience for any of my readers who still want to see the movie. I won't do that. A: Because I'm too lazy to stand here typing all day, and B: You must go see this movie if you haven't seen it yet. Must. Don't wait for the DVD. I know that the price of admission at the local cinema is pretty high these days, but this film is worth it. Find a matinee next Saturday afternoon. Prepare yourself for two and a half hours of having your mind blown.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire


I had not even picked up this book to begin reading it since it was first published ten years ago. Sure, there have been times when I've said that I was going to go back and re-read the entire series, usually in preparation for the release of the next book or the new film adaptation. I would do pretty good getting through the first three books, but then I'd look at the enormous size of book 4 and I'd get lazy. I would just decide that I could watch the movie and I'd be fine. An epic fail on my part.

Things always get left out whenever Hollywood translates a book to film. It's inevitable. Anyone who has enjoyed a book knows to lower their expectations, despite the excitement of seeing a book they love make it to the big screen. But I had completely forgotten just how much was omitted when Goblet of Fire was made into a movie.

You know the opening scenes where Harry joins the Weasleys at the Quidditch World Cup? In the movie, that takes about 20 minutes, right? And then they're on the train to Hogwarts. Bam! Let's get right into the school year. Well, the book spends the first ten chapters dealing with the details that lead up to the World Cup, the details at the World Cup, the details in the tragic aftermath of the World Cup. Ten chapters! 157 pages! And it was all pared down to a 20 minute segment for the movie.

Those little details that get left out of the movie so help to enrich the grander story that's being told. And there's always an added bit of mystery when you're not able to see the faces of the hidden characters that you're not supposed to know yet, as opposed to a movie, where even the mystery characters have recognizable faces. Anyway, it's a great book that I've taken for granted for a long time, thanks to ABC Family's need to replay the movie a few times every month.

For the first time in the series, the novel opens not from Harry Potter's perspective, but from the perspective of a Muggle named Frank Bryce. He's really no one special. Just an old man who takes care of the grounds around the old, abandoned Riddle mansion. He's not well liked by folks in the nearby town, so he mostly keeps to himself, but he takes his job quite seriously, especially when he believes that kids from the town are sneaking into the old house to pull off some vandalism. Frank investigates when he sees that a fire has been lit in one of the upstairs rooms. Instead of meeting up with trouble-making youths, he comes face to face with a weakened, shriveled Lord Voldemort. Despite his weakened state, Voldemort has enough power to cast a killing curse on Frank Bryce, who never even knew what hit him.

Thus begins a long road to recovery for Harry Potter's darkest adversary. That murder, seen in a dream by Harry, starts a chain of events that leads to Harry's unwilling role in Voldemort's regaining of full strength. Of course, we get to experience the thrill of the Quidditch World Cup along with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. We deal with the kids' excitement and speculation as they arrive at school to discover that Hogwarts will be hosting the Tri-Wizard Tournament, which hasn't been held in over a century. And we follow Harry Potter, step by step, as his name impossibly flies out of the Goblet of Fire, entering him into the Tournament, forcing him to face some very deadly challenges.

As I said, there were many details omitted from the film, and there were even several plot lines and significant characters that didn't make the cut. So if you have the choice, go for the book over the movie. I'd probably say that with just about any book though. And as for re-reading the Harry Potter series this time, I'm more than halfway there. Only three to go, and then I'll be ready to be disappointed by the 2-part Deathly Hallows films. Though, admittedly, the trailer looks pretty freakin' awesome...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Question of the Week: Of the Past

Given the ability to project yourself into the past but not return, would you do so? Where would you go and what would you try to accomplish if you knew you might change the course of history?

The idea of time travel seems really neat to think about. But if it were an option, I don't think it's one I'd pick, unless I could travel back and forth at will. Going back in time and being stuck there doesn't seem like my idea of a swell time. Imagine anyone who was used to the modern conveniences of the 21st Century traveling back to Ye Olden Times. No internet, no GPS, no cellular phones, no microwaves... it would be beyond a culture shock. I guess you'd get used to it eventually. More often than not, people have the uncanny ability to adapt to their surroundings. But then you'd have to be careful what you say around the natives of the era in which you were stuck. You don't want them thinking you're insane simply because you mentioned something harmless like a horseless carriage. And as for changing the course of history, have we learned nothing from watching Lost? Most people would probably say yes, we've learned nothing from watching Lost. But I say we learned, better than Back to the Future could have ever taught us, that whatever happened happened. The past cannot be changed. Even before Lost came along, I was of the belief that if one were to go back in time to try to change something, they would actually (probably) do more to bring about the event that really occurred rather than affect its change. I'm sure that there are many theories about that somewhere on the internet. But if you go back in time, you won't be able to look. So enjoy that modern convenience while you still can, those of you thinking about visiting the Days of Yore.

*Question of the Week comes from The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The New Pharisees

Are you ready for a fairly serious subject matter? If you came to Carp Dime today looking for a light-hearted post about something trivial or came looking for a good laugh while I poke fun at something I've experienced in my day, you might want to click your browser on over to something from the past. Today is not when you'll find much in the way of funny. Though I am pretty sarcastic, so you never know how things could turn out by the time I'm done with this particular rant. Are you ready? You've been warned.

I've been around long enough to experience life in more than a few churches. I've experienced good times. I've experienced bad times. I've experienced very bad times when people have nearly come to blows over seemingly unimportant issues, like whether we should have pews or chairs in the sanctuary. I've experienced churches that become so engrossed in finding new members and growing their numbers that they forget the flock that they already have, leaving them to fend for themselves as they're left behind in the church's search for growth. I've even been one of the ones that has been forgotten and felt unimportant. I've watched as church leaders preach about the importance of personal growth and change for the better in one's walk with Christ, while these leaders, themselves, remain hard hearted and unchanging. I've watched as leaders are placed on pedestals by their congregations until their egos grow to reach a self-important status and they start believing that they can do no wrong and are, in fact, God's only mouthpiece.

I have no doubt that I've mentioned on this blog, somewhere in the past, that the Church is made up of people. People are inevitably imperfect. Yet time and again, congregations elevate their pastors into sainthood and, often, truly believe that their leaders can do no wrong. I'm here to tell you that this simply isn't the case. Our leaders need to be held accountable for their words and their actions. Our leaders need to be reminded that they're just as flawed as the rest of us and that Christ's sacrifice on the cross was just as much for them as it is for us. Somewhere along the way, a lot of pastors seem to forget this. Oh, they still work it into their sermons on a regular basis, but are they living lives that show that they're humbled by that fact?

This is not directed at every pastor that's out there. It's my hope that the majority of our church leaders are genuinely humble. I hope that most pastors really do seek to do the will of God and not only reach new people for Christ, but help those who are already believers to grow in their faith. But experience tells me that the odds of this are not good.

I've seen it happen too many times. Leaders allow their pride to take over and their congregations just allow it to happen, going on believing that these leaders can do no wrong. And then it happens that one or two members will see just how wrong it is for their pastor to have such a high view of themselves. They make the mistake of speaking out and attempting to hold their pastor accountable and end up being ostricized by their church family. I'd be willing to bet it happens more often than anyone cares to admit. Think about it... Have you ever been part of a situation where someone who was once very active in ministry has suddenly vanished from your church? Did you ever wonder what happened to that person? Did you attempt to reach out to them in the love of Christ? Or did you choose to listen to the gossip and hearsay that others in the church were spreading, only to write that person off as someone who simply fell away from God?

In Matthew 23:27-28, Jesus says, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness."

Andrew Peterson used this idea in a song called "Come Lord Jesus." Click the link for the complete lyrics. I mean it, get the lyrics. If you can find the song itself, listen to it. The words are pretty powerful and very convicting. It's important to note that Peterson doesn't limit his accusation of hypocrisy to just our leaders. It's something that every member of the Church is guilty of. We need to stop worrying about how others are going to view us on the outside. We need to stop giving off an air of perfection while we rot away from the inside. We need to start focusing on what's truly right and what God would have for us and start helping others to see that true light, not the dim light that we think we can shine by living false lives.

Remember that these are just the ramblings of a seminary drop out and should be taken with a grain of salt.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Today was my day off work. And as a reward for my lazy day, I decided that it would be a good idea to treat myself to a matinee kind of movie. The other night I was talking to the Charlottan, who said he had already placed Inception into his top 3 movies of all time. That, on top of the good reviews that the movie has received, made me excited to see it. But the Most Awesome Person I Know also wanted to see it, but was unable to go along today. So I said I'd wait.

But I still wanted to see something. I thought the previews for The Sorcerer's Apprentice looked pretty good, so that was my runner-up choice. Not that being second choice means that I didn't want to see it. I just assumed it would be the kind of thing I would wait to watch on DVD. Instead I paid the money for the matinee and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

As a kid, I never really got into Fantasia as a whole. But I did like it when the Disney Channel would show the Sorcerer's Apprentice segment. Could have been because it starred Mickey Mouse. That part with the dancing mushrooms and the hippo ballerinas just seemed weird to me. But the stuff with the sorcerer's hat and the anthropomorphic brooms is just classic. It makes sense to expand the story, modernize it, and turn it into a big-budget special effects powerhouse.

And that's sort of what happened. The story of Balthazar and his apprentice, Dave, was an impressively complex one. Dave starts off as a 10-year-old kid who, as it turns out, is destined to become Merlin's replacement as the world's greatest sorcerer and the only thing standing between humanity and its total destruction at the hands of Morgana Le Fey, Merlin's ancient, evil arch-nemesis. But things get in the way. Balthazar isn't able to teach Dave all that magic stuff right away because their first lesson is interrupted by Horvath, our film's main antagonist. Balthazar and Horvath are trapped in a large urn for 10 years.

Ten years later, Dave finds himself played by Jay Baruchel and is just your typical physics nerd at NYU. He's tried to put all that sorcery stuff behind him, because to him, it was just this really weird, socially damaging thing that happened to him while he was on a 4th grade field trip. But, as luck would have it, it's time for Balthazar (Nicholas Cage) and Horvath (Alfred Molina) to escape from their decade long prison. Just as Dave meets the love of his life, Becky (Teresa Palmer), the girl he hasn't seen since the 4th grade.

I can't say there were any real surprises in the plot. The good guys win and manage to get the girls. Yeah, Balthazar had a girl to save too, but she was more age appropriate, as they were both once apprentices of Merlin. Oh, and they leave it wide open for a sequel too. Not sure if the sequel will happen, but there's definitely an opening for one.

I sort of have a problem with that, though. Not the fact that they give themselves an open door for the part two. Where will the main character's internal struggle be? Jay Baruchel is almost being type cast these days. He's the lovable geek that has little to no self-esteem. He battles his way through the entire movie, lands a girl that's out of his league, and figures out that everyone else believes that he's capable of a great deal, he just needs to believe it himself. So at the end of the movie, he's triumphant and he believes in himself. If he gets to the sequel and doesn't believe in himself again, it's kind of a step backwards.

And how does the geek keep getting these gorgeous women? I mean, I'm a geek, but I've never made time with a hot girl. Maybe it's because he's tall and gangley and his nerdiness gives off a sense of shy vulnerability. Whereas my brand of geek is more akin to a Jonah Hill type of character. The body hair and the extra 20 pounds gives off the aura of the creepy guy that lives in his parents' basement. Kinda removes the "lovable" part from the "lovable loser."

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Single Guy and the Shelter

The Single Guy made a last ditch effort to gain the attention of the Girl in the White SUV. He sent an arrangement of daisies along with another letter expressing his feelings toward her and his desire to take her to dinner sometime. Several days passed and the Single Guy received no response.

He thought that hearing nothing from the Girl in the White SUV would hurt more than it did. In fact, he was surprised to find that not hearing from her didn't hurt at all. He felt no heartache. He wasn't thrilled at the fact that he had spent close to $50 on flowers for a girl that wouldn't even bother contacting him, but he wasn't distraught over the loss of money either.

For years the Single Guy had been, well, single. He hadn't even attempted to put himself out there to see what possibilities the dating world had to offer. At some point he just decided that there was no point. He thought, Why should I make myself vulnerable just to get hurt in the end? Because that was all he had experienced. He had never experienced the joy and happiness that can come from being apart of a healthy relationship. He had only known the sadness and depression that comes with having one's heart broken.

He thought for sure that this time, after remaining sheltered for so long, that this small act of sending flowers would cause him to be vulnerable in a way that he hadn't experienced in nearly a decade. As it turns out, all that time away from the world of dating had the opposite effect. It should really come as no surprise that the Single Guy has become even more cynical than he was before.

So the fat lady can take the stage. She can sing her happy little heart out. The Girl in the White SUV is of the past and the Single Guy has washed his hands clean. And for some reason, he just can't seem to care. He's content with the fact that he tried to get this girl's attention. And it's not as if she was just any girl. She was pretty far out of his league. And for a while, he did get her attention. And he acknowledges the fact that he may not have struck while the iron was hot. But that's okay too. He refuses to spend any time second guessing himself or his decisions.

And now the Single Guy is thinking of getting himself out there a little more. His Assistant Branch Manager is a whiz when it comes to the social network. There are times when the Single Guy thinks of the Assistant Manager as a real life Barney Stinson. He's really not as Barney Stinson as Barney Stinson is, but he's pretty close. But the Single Guy has thought about inviting himself along sometime when the Barney Stinson hits the bars. And then he thought about it a little more.

For the vast majority of his 30 years, the Single Guy has lived a fairly sheltered life. That's not to say he hasn't experienced life at all. He's just been very careful about the decisions that he's made. So if Barney were to take him out and set him up with a woman that he knows, there's a good chance she would eat the Single Guy alive. Still, the idea is intriguing.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Life Story: Chapter Forty Eight

Before I move on to the amazing excitement that was my sophomore year at Patrick Henry High, I'd like to give something of a shout out to a few people that touched me in ways that probably never knew during that freshman year. I doubt that any of them read this blog, and though I'm Facebook friends with 2 of them, it's the kind of thing where we really aren't in contact. They're just kind of there on my friends list. Just like a lot of people I've lost touch with over the years.

Anyway, the first I want to mention is a girl from my class named Megan. While I was in the hospital, she wrote me a letter. It wasn't anything deep or incredibly meaningful. It was just a simple letter shooting the breeze. I think she was just explaining how her week had been. It was nice to hear about how a normal week had gone outside of those walls that had, sadly, become my temporary home. I know I had received another letter from my entire class, which was nice. But as far as I can remember, she's the only one who individually sent me anything. It meant a lot.

Next was a girl named Debra. During my first semester in 9th grade, I took a Drawing class during 1st period. That meant that every other day at 7:30am, I sat in a dimly lit room sketching things like bowls of fruit and silverware. I think I once had to draw my shoes while they were still on my feet. Debra and Eric were seniors who sat at the same table as I did. Therefore, they were way cooler than I ever was. At least while I was in high school. Anyway, they both made me feel like a real person, as opposed to most of the upper-classmen who treated freshmen like they were second class citizens. But late in the school year, long after the hospital ordeal, Debra came up to me at lunch. I was sitting alone (which wasn't necessarily the norm) in the cafeteria and she sat across from me for a few minutes one day. She wasn't sure if I would remember her. Of course I remembered her. She was a beautiful senior girl who spoke to me on the first day of school. The real shock was that she remembered me, a kid that disappeared from class for two months. I don't remember our conversation, but it mostly revolved around how she had been worried about me and was glad to see I was feeling better. She didn't have to leave the senior section that day to tell me those things, but she did.

Finally there was Scott. I can't say that I was ever really friends with Scott. At least, not good friends. It isn't that we didn't get along. We just ran in different circles. However, we were in a lot of the same classes. Scott was just one of those genuinely nice guys. Well, he was nice to me. And, like I said about Debra, he didn't have to be. I wasn't one of those popular kids that people are nice to just so they can get attention from them. But I saw Scott as one of the popular kids. And really, he was one of the popular kids. Pretty sure he was in the upper echelon of student government by the time we were seniors. But he wasn't one of the popular ones that was snobby about it. But he came up to me one day when I was sitting outside and just wanted to talk about how things were going. I know it doesn't seem like much, but to a kid that, at the time, didn't feel like he didn't have a real circle of friends, it meant a lot.

I know there are more examples of people reaching out to me that freshman year, they just escape my memory these days. So I guess this is my way of saying thank you to those who did. And if there are any high school aged kids reading this post, keep a look out for kids that might be hurting or may just have some self-esteem issues. Reach out to them. You never know just how much good you might be doing in their lives just be saying hello and sharing a piece of your day with them.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Memo to Motorists

Specifically, this is a memo to motorists who insist upon driving in front of me while I'm delivering pizza.

1. Please do not drive 15 miles under the speed limit.
I realize that this is North Carolina. I realize that there is a good chance that you reached into a box of Cracker Jacks one day and just happened to pull out your driver's license. Maybe it was given to you in exchange for serving dinner at a soup kitchen once. Whatever the case, I get that you may not have actually received any real training on what driving is supposed to be like or how to understand those funny signs over on the right side of the road. See, periodically you'll come across these posted numbers that have the words "Speed Limit" printed above them. Sometimes the numbers say 25, sometimes 35. On those big, main roads, however, they'll often read 45 or 55. Now, I know, that's when things can get a little out of hand for you, and you'll be tempted to maintain that 30 miles an hour that you're so comfortable with. Maybe you're afraid that a police officer is just sitting on the shoulder up ahead and you don't want to get caught speeding. But if you're doing that posted number, there's a good chance they're not going to come after you. I'd be willing to bet, they've got bigger fish to fry. Like the guy that doesn't have his headlights on when it's pouring down rain.

2. Turn your headlights on when it's pouring down rain.
That's not so much for the people driving in front of me as it is for the people coming from the opposite direction while I'm trying to make a left turn across a heavily trafficked roadway. It's just common courtesy, people.

3. If you're making a right turn and you have a green light, it's okay to go.
Example: I was sitting at an intersection waiting to make a left turn. On the other side of the road, two cars were waiting to make right hand turns. I did not have an arrow giving me the right of way. Therefore, I yielded to the cars who just kept sitting there. Eventually they realized that they had the right of way, but by then my light was turning yellow. Yes, I went on through, and yes, I know that I could have technically received a ticket for that. But I was fueled with a slight case of road rage at that moment and I desperately wanted to floor it so I could get past these people who had no idea what they were doing back at the intersection. I did pass them. Because it was a 55mph zone and they were doing roughly 35. Refer to number 1 above.

4. If you're gonna turn on red, wait until the way is clear, not until you "think you can make it."
I know that when you see my gaudy pizza delivery light sticking to the top of my car, you automatically believe that I no self-respect and therefore deserve none of your respect as a fellow driver on this road of life. But I'm here to tell you, that's not what that sign means. It's really just an advertisement. I'm delivering pizza and the guys that pay me to do that also pay me to get their name and phone number out there so that more people will think, "Hey, I want a pizza too!" So when you see me driving toward the intersection, knowing that I have the green light and knowing that I am absolutely going the speed limit (perhaps even 5 over), it is not an invitation for you to pull out in front of me because you think you can make it. As much fun as it may be for some people to slam on their brakes, it isn't the sort of activity that I like to brag about. Oh, and testing my seat belt, just to make sure it would secure me in case of a crash, also not my idea of a good time. It's also, how should I put this, impolite, to pull in front of someone and then drive 10 under the speed limit. So when I was riding your bumper for roughly the half mile you were in front of me, it was because I was angry. I'll admit, it confused me quite a bit when you honked your horn at me as we went our separate ways. Maybe you were mad at me for crawling up your tailpipe. But I was mad at you for cutting me off when I was clearly in the right. I'm pretty sure we're even.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Memo to Grocery Shoppers

1. Make a list!
You know, it's a lot easier to go shopping when you know what you're shopping for. I'm not aware of a major chain store that doesn't have a website these days. And I'm pretty sure they have a fairly exhaustive list of all the products they offer, especially if those products are on sale. When you go into a store and you aren't sure what you're there to get, it really annoys other shoppers to have to try to weave their way around you while you stand in the middle of the aisle staring at a wall of different kinds of bread. Pick one and move on!

2. If at all possible, leave the kids at home.
I like kids all right. They're fun. They make life interesting. They ask awesome questions and are surprisingly literal in the way they see the world. But the grocery store is not the place for them. And it really doesn't matter how old they are. I think your one or two-year-olds are okay just sitting in their basket seat. They can't dart around corners or pull things off the shelves while mom's back is turned. But the ones that can walk, whether they're 5, 15, or the sad 35-year-old bachelor that lives in his parents' basement, they just get in the way. They slow you down. They cause you to block an entire aisle because they will, inevitably, spread out. Yet they will somehow manage to clump together while spread out, making it impossible for other shoppers to walk either around or through them.

3. Try not to look exactly like your spouse.
I wish I had the camera in my phone ready as soon as I noticed this phenomenon. I've heard of it happening, but never experienced it as strongly as I did today. A man and a woman were holding hands in Target. They looked to be in their late 50s. They had the same slouched sort of walk. They were the same height (though they were slouched, so that may not be accurate). They had identical haircuts. The only noticeable differences were that she wore earrings and he had a slight gut. Yes, they were dressed alike too. To me it's just weird when spouses start looking alike. It's weirder when people start looking like their pets. I've seen that happen too, just not in the store.

Memo to self: Stop going grocery shopping on Saturdays!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Question of the Week: Expectancy

Would you be willing to reduce your life expectancy by five years to become extremely attractive?

Um... I don't think I really need to. I mean, come on...

*Question of the Week comes from The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Single Guy Tells the Fat Lady to Shove It

After three weeks of not seeing the Girl in the White SUV, the Single Guy was getting understandably discouraged. So he put out the call for advice from his loyal readers. The majority of the comments received suggested that he go ahead and try to at least try something, because he had nothing to lose.

He thought back to a question that was asked some time ago revolving around having the courage to jump into a lake on a hot day, even if the water is shockingly cold. A friend responded that she would jump, and that life is always more interesting when you jump.

So the Single Guy has decided to jump.

For a while it was looking as if there was no point in continuing to pursue the Girl in the White SUV. But the Single Guy hasn't heard the fat lady sing. She might be warming up, but she can keep hanging out backstage.

For now, the Girl in the White SUV can expect to receive a last ditch effort involving flowers and a short, but specific letter. He signed the letter with his contact information and is willing to wait. He has no real expectations, just a little hope.

The Single Guy is comfortable with the idea that this is his last attempt at gaining the attention of the Girl in the White SUV. If he never hears from her, at least he'll know he tried. So now he waits. Again.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Stand, Part I

Have you ever read The Stand? It's a massive Stephen King novel that was originally published in 1978, but was then republished in 1990 under the guise of being "complete & uncut." I guess the latter version is something of a director's cut. That's the version I'm reading. It comes in at a total of 1,141 pages in length. So when I say massive, I mean it's pretty dang big.

I may have mentioned on here, somewhere in the past, that I'm interested in reading through the complete works of Stephen King. The order in which I read his books is the order in which they were published. I started with Carrie, followed up with 'Salem's Lot, The Shining, and finally Night Shift. That last one was a collection of short stories that was published in 1978. This leads me to The Stand. One could make a good argument that I should be reading the original version of the book and not the 1990 "uncut" version. But I'm doing it this way. Deal with it.

I'm also not reading it all straight through either. The novel itself is divided into three parts. Book I: Captain Trips makes up the first 382 pages, very easily a novel on its own. But this first section really acts as more of an introduction than anything else. Yes, a lot happens. And when I say a lot, that's an incredible understatement. If you've read anything by King, you know that he has this amazing ability to express detail in even the smallest of things. I have no doubt that the man would be able to describe, exhaustively, the make up of a water molecule that would make calling it H2O look stupid.

If you haven't read the book or never saw the mini-series back in the 90s, you'll probably want to stop reading this. Unless you like spoilers. In which case, keep on going.

The world kind of ends. Not really, but civilization as we know it pretty much crumbles. And it's all thanks to one little virus. Some places in the book call it the superflu, some call it "tube neck," while others call it Captain Trips (giving book I its title). See, this Captain Trips disease is a tricky virus that has pretty much no weaknesses. So when it gets out, it gets way out. And then it gets out of control. And no one can stop it. And it kills just about everyone.

Inexplicably, there are a handful of people left on the planet who seem to be immune. For some reason, they sit back and watch as this disease destroys all the people around them, while they remain completely healthy. These are the people that the novel is built around. These are the people that this introduction introduces us to. By the time we reach page 382, we have most of their life stories told.

Maybe it isn't fair to call this first part an introduction. As I said, it could be a novel all on its own. It's the story of a terrible disease running rampant across the world. A global pandemic is definitely the kind of thing that haunts people who fear getting sick. We see what happens to the United States when some guys in a government-run lab slip up and let their little experiment get loose. We see how the chain of command can begin to crumble as they try (unsuccessfully) to put a lid back on Pandora's box. We see how the dominoes fall down one by one.

And then we're left with the chosen few. Stu's a guy from east Texas who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was one of the first to be exposed to the disease, but he never caught it, which really gave the brass at the CDC a difficult time. Fran's a girl from a little town in Maine who just discovered she was pregnant out of wedlock. She briefly dealt with the fallout of informing her family when the disease abruptly snatched her family away from her, leaving her alone in town with her friend's annoying little brother, Harold, who was also immune. Larry's a guy who's on the cusp of rock and roll stardom. He partied a little too much out on the coast, so he decided to move back to his mom's in New York until things blew over. When the superflu hit, things blew over, but so did his career. Lloyd was a small time crook who was always in one mess or another until he met Poke. The two of them went on a tri-state kill spree. Poke was killed in a shoot-out. Lloyd was locked up. And he stayed locked up for a long time, even after Captain Trips had killed all the guards and other prisoners. Nick was another kid in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was a drifter. He was deaf. He was mute. So he got the crap beat out of him in a small town in Arkansas. While the sheriff tried to help him get some justice, everyone around him died of the disease, leaving him alone in a world of silence.

It's a really good story and I'm eager to pick up where I've left off. I watched the televised movie years ago, so I sort of know what happens next, but my memory of it is fuzzy. Also, it's hard to tell just how much could have been changed to condense such a huge book into a few hours for TV. But for now, that's all I've got.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fan Fiction

Google the term and you'll come up with 22.9 million different possible websites. Fan fiction is the phenomenon in which any and every average fan of a book or movie or TV show can take their beloved characters and write original stories for them. Sometimes these stories come about as ways that the fans would have rather had things end. Sometimes these stories are created to continue the drama that ended when a show was prematurely cancelled. Whatever the case may be, fan fiction is a pretty popular thing on the internet, considering just how many websites come up in a simple search of the term.

Fan fiction isn't something that began with the inception of the internet. It's been around for thousands of years. There's evidence that people took the works of Homer and spun their own tales. Several of the Arabian Nights are in fact parodies of other stories found within the same work. The internet simply gave fans a hugely open forum for which their ideas and stories could be shared with other fans.

But I got to thinking about what professional authors think of fan fiction. As someone who aspires to be a published writer, I think I'd find it pretty flattering for someone to take a piece of my original work and try to continue or change the story in some way. At the very least, it would mean something I wrote made people think. Now, I guess when it comes to copyright issues, professionals wouldn't want someone else making money on their property. But that involves legal issues that I have no clue about.

What about professional writers that are fans of other writers' works? I've read several articles that have said Stephen King was a fan of the Harry Potter series. I wonder if it's safe to assume that J.K. Rowling is a fan of King's novels? Do the pros ever write their own fan fiction? I suppose it could be argued that Gregory Maguire's Wicked is a form of fan fiction.

But what would be Stephen King's take on the world of Harry Potter? How do you think he would spin a tale set within the walls of Hogwarts? I'm sure it would be a lot darker than even Rowling's darkest installments in the series. But what about J.K. Rowling? Let's say she's a fan of Lord of the Rings. How do you think she would write an adventure in Middle Earth? How do you think Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson and the Olympians) would handle the Twilight world that Stephenie Meyer created?

So many questions. So much speculation. I'm sure there aren't any professional authors reading this blog, but if you're out there, I'm curious. How would you do it different?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Life in the Big House

My adoptive family has once again set off for a grand vacation and left me behind to hold down the fort. Unlike a couple years ago when they headed to the Happiest Place on Earth, this time I'm watching the house and pets while they spend a week in the sand, surf, and sun at the beach.

And so, for the next week, I will be growing accustomed to life alone in a 4 or 5 bedroom house (depends on how you're counting) without whom there is anyone to carry on an intelligent conversation.

The alone part I'm used to. I spend all kinds of time alone in my own apartment. But it's quite a bit smaller than this house. I assume I could attempt to have conversations with any of the two cats or two dogs, but if they start talking back, I may have to have myself declared insane.

And then there's the part where this place is usually full of noise. The sounds of electronic devises or any one of the five children that constantly run through the halls. At the moment, I sit in utter silence. The only sounds I hear are the ones coming from the keyboard as my fingers type away. There are times when the quiet can be nice, but a full week of it could be kind of maddening. Good thing there's a TV with cable at the ready.

So for now, it's just me and the animals. But Wednesday night, big party. You bring the pizza, I'll supply the tap water.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Life Story: Chapter Forty Seven

Once I got back to school after my time in the hospital, things were a little different. My attitude, for one thing, had changed quite a bit.

Growing up, I was always something of a perfectionist. I worked very hard to get good grades. It wasn't because my parents pushed me to get good grades, it was because I pushed myself. Deep down, I believe my motivation for that was that I didn't want to disappoint anyone, especially my parents.

In the hospital, somewhere along the way, I picked through the psycho-babble that was thrown at me for seven weeks and figured out that I didn't necessarily have to be perfect. Let me stress, I never thought I was perfect, far from it. But I pushed myself very hard to do the best I could.

So I learned that I didn't necessarily have to do my best and that my folks would still love me anyway. I also discovered that I didn't have to study so hard to get by in school. Sure, I could put forth the effort and get As, or I could do the bare minimum and pass with Cs while hardly paying attention at all.

This came into play during Earth Science. Ms. Brown was also the girls' soccer coach, and would entice students to attend games by offering extra credit to anyone who came. I was still doing pretty well in that class, and all my classes really, so I didn't really need the extra credit, but I went to every one of those soccer games.

Was it because I'm such a huge soccer fan? No. Don't get me wrong, I like soccer well enough. But there was a girl on the team that I kind of had a crush on. It was nice to be able to go to all the games while using the excuse of needing a few extra points on the next week's quiz.

I never had a chance to go out with that girl, nor did I think I would ever even get the time of day from her. But my presence at the soccer games was at least noticed. She would strike up conversations with me and ask if I would be at the next game. Not a big deal, I know, but to a shy kid that was afraid to even talk to her, it felt like a big deal.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Question of the Week: Trip

If you could take a one-month trip anywhere in the world and money were not a consideration, where would you go and what would you do?

Well this begs the question, am I going alone or with friends? I mean, if money is no object, then I think I should allowed to bring along the people I'd want to hang out with for a month. Either way, I'm having a hard time coming up with one place where I'd want to spend an entire month. I have a feeling I'd get bored with it, no matter what I was doing. If I'm able to go with friends, I'm gonna go with a beach somewhere. Maybe an island somewhere. The kind of place where you have enough to keep you occupied for a full month without feeling like you keep doing the same thing all the time. By myself, I'm not sure it'd be worth it really. All those amazing sites all over the world that people talk about wanting to see before they die, yeah, I want to see them too. But do I want to spend a month in a hotel room in Paris overlooking the Eiffel Tower? Do I want to spend an entire month touring Rome? Okay, Rome might be pretty cool for a month, but really, what American wants to spend a month in France? They hate us all. In fact, a lot of people in the world hate Americans. Maybe I should just keep my month domestic. Go hang out in Orlando. Ride Space Mountain a few hundred times. Sounds good.

*Question of the Week comes from The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Life Story: Chapter Forty Six

Wow, it's been over 2 months since the last time I pulled out the autobiography. Last time I got into the Life Story I had just been evicted from St. Alban's Psychiatric Hospital. The doctors thought that I was still very sick and believed that there was nothing more they could do for me. They pretty much sent me home to die.

It was fun going back there a year later and letting them know that I didn't die. It's always fun letting someone know that they were wrong, especially when their ego refuses to let them believe that they could ever be wrong about anything.

So I was back at home living the dream. I was slowly readjusting to life as a normal freshman in high school. Due to my unfortunate incarceration, I was given a free pass on all my first semester exams. I didn't have to retake any classes, I was just allowed to continue on as if I hadn't missed anything. Of course, I had been keeping up with a lot of my coursework while in the hospital, but there was definitely a lot I had missed. Apparently it didn't matter.

The rest of the school year was kind of a blur. As I've said before, I never got too involved in things in high school. The most activity I ever saw probably came from my involvement in the Center for Humanities. I'm pretty sure that's what it was called. I'm probably leaving something out. But you know, I don't care. It was 15 years ago, you're probably lucky I remember freshman year at all.

With my Center classes, which involved only English and World Geography, I got to go on a couple fairly awesome field trips that spring. One was to Lexington to visit the Lime Kiln Theater. Honestly, I can't exactly remember the point of this trip. It may have been something that carried over from our fall trip to the Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN. Most of my memories of that day involve hanging out with fellow Center students in downtown Lexington, eating ice cream, and petting a random cat that I'm pretty sure lived inside a bookstore.

Another trip, that was a little more epic, was the one that took us to Washington, D.C. I love going to D.C. I love the history. I love the architecture. I've never been sure that it's the kind of place I'd want to live or work, but it's always great to visit. That particular visit was so we could take part in something called the JASON Project, which still exists today. Again, I don't remember much about that part of the trip, but it was still a lot of fun.

And I look back on what I've just written and realize that trying to remember my 9th grade year is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I thought that looking through my yearbook from freshman year would help jog my memory, but it really doesn't. I know there are a few of you that I went to high school with that read this blog every now and then. Anyone care to share their thoughts and memories of the 9th grade at good ol' PHHS?

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The Single Guy and the Misplaced Hope

He was starting to lose hope. Actually, the Single Guy was starting to wonder if he should have ever held out hope in the first place.

It had been over a week since he had seen the Girl in the White SUV. And that last visit from her was nothing special. Just a typical transaction with no memorable dialogue. In fact, he had received no encouragement from her since she thanked him for the card he had sent so many months ago. She never returned his phone call regarding an appointment for a hair cut. She never responded to the note he passed her on the back of his business card.

And so, as pathetic as it may be, he decided to put out a call for advice from the readers of his blog. He's thought about sending another letter as a last ditch effort. Then again, he's thought about giving up all together. After all, he is hoping for an out of town move in the near future. So the question remains: persevere or move on?

What do you think, America? This is your chance to shape the Single Guy's romantic future... or lack thereof.

Legends of the Bank Teller - Episode LXXXI

I have no doubt that I've mentioned the ridiculous conversations that some customers feel the need to have whenever they come into the bank. And it's because it's such an obvious problem in America.

See, there are a lot of people out there who have this incredible urge to fill a silent moment with mindless chatter about any little thing that could possibly enter their brain. But most of those people have a really hard time coming up with something interesting to say.

Myself, I have plenty interesting things to say. Not all of them would be polite or even deemed appropriate for social situations. But I'm also not one of those people that feels that silence between two complete strangers is a terrible thing.

For the ones that have to talk and can't come up with anything original, it's a pretty good thing that the weather changes every so often. If it clouds up one day, and looks as if it may rain, well that gives a couple dozen people a great conversation starter. If it's clear and cool, well those same people feel the need to point that out too.

But these days, it's hot. For long stretches of several days (that feel like several weeks) the weather persists with the heat and the humidity. And roughly a hundred people, on each of those days, feel that it's their place to let us, the bank employees, know just how hot it is outside. And what's great is that, many of those people make the bank run on a daily basis. So they'll tell us tomorrow just how hot it is too.

Now, that logical and reserved part of me that knows that, even though I hate my job, it wouldn't be good to get fired for being sarcastic with one of my customers. But I so badly want to pull out the sarcasm when someone tells me it's hot outside.

"What? It's hot outside? Hey! Everybody! Captain Obvious, here, wants us all to know that it's hot outside. We should all thank him for his meteorological insights." Then I'd start clapping. Then my face would turn into one of utter revulsion. Then I'd call him a moron.

But I'm pretty sure that kind of thing could get me fired. Don't wanna do that at this juncture. If I'm gonna fired from my job, it's not gonna be because I mouthed off to some random person that I'll probably never see again.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Frog and the Damselfly

So I'm watching Life on the Animal Planet and noticed something really interesting. It's something that I never noticed before, I guess because I never watched these things in slow motion.

To set things up, let's talk about the Damselfly. It's an insect that looks a lot like a dragonfly, but its wings are different. Their wings move independently, as opposed to being fixed together like most other insects. Yeah, that was an interesting fact that I didn't know before. Actually, I wasn't even sure what a damselfly was before watching this. Sure, I'd heard of it, but didn't know what it looked like.

Anyway, I'm getting off my train of thought. The show was following the day in the short life of a female damselfly, in which she had to mate and lay her eggs before sundown. Apparently these bugs are on a fairly tight schedule with only a three week life span. So she finds a male, they get it on, then she goes to lay the eggs. The female has to lay the eggs inside a plant stem under water. To do that, she has to get past the frogs that are waiting at the surface of the pond to pick off the damselflies one at a time.

It was funny watching the frog go after the flies. When you watch these amphibians go after insects filmed in regular speed, you pretty much see the tongue shoot out and snatch something out of the air. I never noticed that they like to use their hands to help shove the bug into their mouths as well. It looks like it's an instinctual motion. The shows editors were showing off that the damselfly we were "following" got away from the frogs. The frog that missed reached out and tried to shove what it didn't catch into its mouth.

I was just waiting for Oprah to narrate, in the voice of the frog, "Crap! Now I look stupid in high definition!"

Friday, July 02, 2010

Question of the Week: All the Trimmings

If you were at a friend's house for Thanksgiving dinner and you found a dead cockroach in your salad, what would you do?*

Well, first, I think the most important thing to do would be to call the health department. I think it's fairly obvious that this is not the kind of place that my friends should be living and dining on a regular basis. No, really, I'd probably jump backwards out of my chair, possibly scream like a girl, and then flip my salad plate over, throwing pieces of lettuce and onions all over the nice table. Salad dressing would splash all over the old lady next to me. I'd tip over the wine glass, staining that beautifully embroidered tablecloth that had been passed down for 7 generations. It would be pandemonium. Once everything had calmed down, I would make some kind of quip, like, "At least it wasn't a live cockroach!" Everyone would laugh and we would carve the turkey. And it would be a story that would be passed down through the ages. I think it would surpass that tired old tale of the Pilgrims and that big boat the sailed over on.

*Question of the Week comes from The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Single Guy and the Yellow Jacket

It was the Single Guy's day off work, so he decided that he needed to be at least semi-productive around the old home place. See, when he just sits around and does nothing on his off days, it makes him feel kind of like a lazy slob. To avoid that unpleasant feeling, he got up, got dressed, and headed outside with some empty grocery bags and a container of Clorox disinfectant wipes. It was time to clean out the car.

The Single Guy tended to let things accumulate over time: fast food receipts, pizza delivery records, baseball caps, dust, pennies, empty water and soda bottles, dirty laundry, discarded Death Star plans, etc. And so, he figured, it was time to say good bye to all those little things that had made his car, Jade, such an unwelcome place for passengers to go for a ride.

Of course, these days, he would never subject anyone to the torture of riding around in Jade anyway. Even if she was spotless inside and out, she still did not have a functioning air conditioner.

He went out to the parking lot and unlocked the car. Opening the driver's door, the Single Guy tossed the grocery bag and Clorox wipes into the seat and proceeded to roll down the window. His plan was to roll down all the windows, front and back, to help a nice breeze to blow through. Surprisingly, the day wasn't nearly as warm as the previous days had been.

As he bent to crank the window down, he looked into the car and was eyeball to compound eyeball with one of the largest bee-like creatures he had ever encountered. Its coloring was like that of a common yellow-jacket, but it was much bigger than any yellow-jacket the Single Guy had ever seen. It was just hovering there, directly over the driver's seat, as if it were inspecting the empty bags and disinfectant wipes.

This was the first time the car had been opened, either windows or doors, since the previous evening when the Single Guy got home from work. The Super Bee must have found its way inside at some point on the drive home, and had been lying in wait for the Single Guy to return to the car all night. The Super Bee was obviously a crafty individual and would make for an interesting foe.

Now, the Single Guy was not allergic to bees. At least, not that he was aware of. He never put himself in the position to be stung if he could ever help it. But the fact that he was immune to the severe reaction that some people experience with stings did not stop him from being skittish around this particular insect. He continued to roll down each window, careful not to disturb the bug or give it a reason to attack.

With all windows rolled down, he assumed it would be only a matter of time before the Super Bee discovered that there was freedom to be found in the outside world. If only it had flown toward one of the open windows, it could have found a flower to pollinate or a hive to protect. Instead, the stupid Super Bee flew to the dashboard and insisted upon trying to find the weaknesses in the windshield.

The Single Guy is not a patient man. He grabbed a baseball cap from the back seat of the car and began swatting at the Super Bee, hoping to scare it toward the open window on the opposite side of the car. This only helped to agitate the bee, making it buzz its way back into the windshield, again and again. Finally, the Single Guy waited for the Super Bee to come closer to where he was. This time he swatted with the intent of injuring or even killing the invading insect.

With one final blow, the Super Bee fell from the dashboard to the floor of the car. Its legs twitched helplessly as it lay on its back. The Single Guy then stomped on it using his flip-flop clad right foot. There was nothing left of the Super Bee but a yellow-brown stain, easily cleaned up with a Clorox wipe.