Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Break

Tomorrow is Christmas, so I'm gonna take some time off from the blog. I won't be posting anything new until 2011. But I wanted to say thanks to everyone for reading along in 2010 and in previous years. Come back for new stuff starting January 1st. Merry Christmas everyone!

Question of the Week: The Perfect Christmas

What, in your mind, would constitute the perfect Christmas?

For me, the ideal Christmas would probably involve a serious personality change for me. My attitude of late has been one of solitude, and when I picture a "perfect" Christmas, it isn't one spent alone. I'm not sure I would describe my ideal as being like a Norman Rockwell painting, but it may be close. Being surrounded by family and friends. No awkward tension and no hurt feelings over stupid little things that may have happened in the past. There would be genuine joy and real smiles on people's faces. It wouldn't be the fake we-have-to-pretend-to-like-these-people-because-they're-family-and-it's-Christmas kind of thing. It wouldn't be about who got the kids what for Christmas and it wouldn't be about who could outspend the others. Also, there would be no egg nog. I've never understood why that stuff is so popular this time of year. I think it's gross. But there would be lots of food. And pie. Like I said, that would require an enormous personality and attitude adjustment for me.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Out of Practice

In high school I took a number of art classes. Back then, drawing was something I really loved to do. I never really thought I was all that good at it, but over time, with enough practice, I improved. Those classes do tend to pay off. These days, I don't practice too much. I'll draw the occasional dry erase advertisement on a white board at work, but outside of that, there isn't much going on as far as the visual arts are concerned.

But Christmas has arrived and I'm short on funds, as is typically the case. Instead of buying really crappy, cheap gifts for the kids in my life, I've decided to get creative. Problem is, my creativity has been stagnant for a pretty long time.

I still have a lot of the same art supplies that I've owned for years. The pencils, the ink pens, the paints, they've all sat in a drawer, unused. Now that I have need for them, I find myself becoming frustrated. Mostly, it's because I'm so out of practice with the drawing and the painting. There's a part of me that thought it would just be like riding a bicycle. Hoped is probably the more correct word.

Turns out it's a little harder than I thought it would be. I haven't been on a bike in a while either. I'm starting to wonder how that would turn out.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Princess Bride

I've loved this movie since I was old enough to understand what it's like to actually love a movie. It's got it all: action, adventure, romance, pirates, giant rodents, sword fights, memorable lines worth quoting even 25 years later. And I knew it had originated as a book. I just never took the time to read it. Until now.

Most of the time, I'll write about the books I've read and I'll tell you that the book is better than the movie. I won't do that this time.

Maybe it's because the movie is such a classic in my mind, and it's been so permanently etched into my brain that nothing could replace it, even if the novel came first. But I'll be honest, the novel is confusing.

For the most part, The Princess Bride is just like the movie. Buttercup and Westley fall in love. He goes to seek his fortune and supposedly dies. She, being the most beautiful girl in the land, is basically forced to marry Prince Humperdinck. She's kidnapped by Vizzini, Inigo, and Fezzik. The Dread Pirate Roberts (Westley) comes to the rescue. Hilarity ensues and they all live happily ever after.

But you still have to contend with William Goldman's take on the whole thing. First of all, he insists throughout the book that Florin (the setting of the story) is a real place in Europe, as is Guilder. He maintains that S. Morgenstern is the original author of The Princess Bride and that he (Goldman) is just the guy that's abridging the original masterpiece. According to Goldman, Morgenstern's work was over 1,000 pages long and full of a lot of boring details that weren't important to the plot. Goldman also throws in some asides throughout the book. These sections are in italics, usually describing how he felt as a kid when his father read the original version to him.

The asides I don't mind so much. Those are kind of like the movie, where Fred Savage would interrupt Peter Falk's reading to complain about the kissing. But if I accept the asides, I may as well accept the rest of the ridiculous nature of the book. Goldman goes so far as to create a fictionalized history for himself. The wife and kid that he claims to have in the book don't actually exist. By the way, neither do Florin or Guilder.

I really don't have anything against Goldman or the book itself. But I honestly didn't get anything out of this version of The Princess Bride that I haven't gotten out of the movie.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Legends of the Bank Teller - Episode XCIII

It's time for the annual reviews again. Hard to believe I've been in this job long enough to have gone through three of these things. This time around, my manager asked us all to write down our comments and basically grade ourselves on the same evaluation form that he's required to fill out for all of us.

Now, he assumed that this part would be easy for me, since I like to write and all. He assumed wrong. Writing my own evaluation is not something I find to be an easy thing. Several weeks ago he handed me the blank copy. I went through it and scored myself. That part was easy. Numbers are completely objective. I do a good job with maintaining a balance in my drawer. I do a good job with my customer service scores. My referral numbers pretty much suck. These things are easy to calculate.

The comments are a different story. The form gives the "teammate" one line to input comments. For one thing, I really don't think that's a lot of room. For another thing, what am I really supposed to say, even if I had room for more than one line? But I came up with some basic things. Mostly, I just wrote down facts about myself in each section. And then I turned it in. And then it was handed back to me. I guess what I wrote wasn't good enough.

This process continued several times over the next few weeks. Eventually, I stopped trying and the manager stopped asking. So my self-evaluation was set to the side and forgotten. Yesterday, it was once again brought up. The manager asked what had happened to all those comments he had asked for weeks ago. I gladly spoke up, reminding him that I had tried to turn mine in five different times, only to have them given right back to me.

He thought for sure that I would have a much easier time writing comments about my evaluation, simply because I keep this blog and generally have plenty to say about my job. He explained that this was my opportunity to allow my voice to be heard. But there's a big difference in complaining on a blog and making comments on my own evaluation. Here I can maintain some sense of anonymity. Yes, my name is out there for anyone to see, but I never specify the bank I work for. My comments on the year-end review will be seen by not only my boss, but by his boss as well. Honestly there's a good chance she'll never take the time to look at them. But the possibility exists.

That being said, I can't just write out my frustrations and displeasure at this job on an official document that could be seen by the powers that be. All you have to do is check out the other 92 Legends of the Bank Teller to see that I have plenty to say about this job. But the vast majority of it isn't positive. And I know my superiors wouldn't really like to see any of those negative comments.

On a side note, I had a customer come through earlier who was wearing a whole lot of eye make-up. And all I could think about was Charlie Sheen's small role in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. He's there talking to Jennifer Grey and telling her she wears too much eye make-up. And he says his sister wears too much eye make-up. Then he tells her what people think of his sister. I got a good laugh out of it when I just thought about it. If you know the line I'm talking about, maybe you got a laugh out of it too.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cool Enough

I've needed a new pair of shoes for months. Really, for over a year.

See, about a year ago, I looked at my sneakers and decided that they were pretty nasty looking. It was getting to the point that I was almost embarrassed to wear them in public. They still got the job done though. They covered my feet. They made it so I could walk on gravel without cringing. I mean, they weren't magic shoes, but they've been good enough.

But they were falling apart. And so I made a trip to the shoe department inside my local Super Target and bought a cheap pair of off-brand running shoes. Not that I run. But they were comfortable, and again, they got the job done. Until about a week later when the sole ripped off the right shoe. I tried gluing it back on, but the comfort was gone. When I would put that right shoe on, I constantly felt as if something was poking into my heel. In my opinion, that is not getting the job done. Bad shoes!

I knew I couldn't just go back to the cheap shoes at the Super Target. Don't get me wrong, I like Target just fine. But when you buy cheap sneakers, you get what you pay for. However, being on the tight budget that I constantly find myself on, I couldn't really afford to just waltz into a real shoe store and get the latest pair of Nikes on the market.

So I waited. When it comes to buying clothes and shoes, I have a real easy time in talking myself out of making a purchase. I hate spending money on things other than food and books. I just, most of the time, don't see the point. I have a closet full of clothes that I hate wearing, and some clothes I don't think I've worn since I moved to North Carolina. (I know, I should really give them to Goodwill or something)

I waited some more. Mostly because after all these months, I still couldn't talk myself into buying the much needed new pair of sneakers. The "new" sneakers with the uncomfortable sole sat on my bedroom floor, completely unused. The old sneakers that looked ratty but still felt okay, well, I went back to wearing those whenever the occasion called for it.

And then, one week, I had a really good week delivering pizza. Tips were very generous, as they occasionally are. Thus, I found myself with an extra $50 that I hadn't planned on having. I figured that a $50 pair of shoes from Kohl's would be a lot better than a $15 pair from the Target. Maybe I could find a pair that wouldn't fall apart after three wearings.

I walked into the store with a general idea of what I wanted. Now, bear in mind that I am not a shoe person. For one thing, I'm not a girl, and if I've learned anything from commercials for Sex and the City, it's that all women are obsessed with shoes. For another, I really don't care what the shoes look like. I mean, I care a little. But, pretty much, I just want shoes that are comfortable that don't look like clown shoes. After that, I'm pretty happy with whatever I can find for what I want to pay.

The shoe section had a large variety of shoes that I found interesting: Reeboks, Nikes, Adidases. And then I saw the Converse display. See, a few months ago, my friend The Charlatan mentioned the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars. He kind of built them up in my mind as the coolest shoes in existence. And I remembered some of the kids in school having them when I was younger, but I never did. And do you know what helped the argument for "coolest shoes ever"? The fact that Chuck, on the TV show Chuck, wears Chucks.

Needless to say, I wanted them. And they were only $45, which was within my expected spending limit. But as I tried them on, I began to doubt myself. I felt the need to ask others if I was actually cool enough to wear these shoes in public. But I got no response while I was in the store. So I counted my self-doubt as a part of my lack of cool. And I started looking for a different pair of shoes. I found a pair of Reeboks that were ten dollars cheaper. In this case, my wallet won the argument.

When I left the store, I got return texts from The Charlatan and The Most Awesome Person I Know telling me that I could, in fact, pull off the Chucks. But it was already too late. I had already bought the Reebok sneakers and they are getting the job done. I'm pretty sure that next time I have an extra $45, I'll be going back to get those black low-tops.

What do you think? Am I cool enough to wear the Chucks?

Sunday, December 19, 2010


There are plenty of months that make for good names for girls. Off the top of my head, there's April, May, and June. They're all grouped right together. You'd think that would make them easier to find. But no, my parents decided to name me December. December Drake. It's like they wanted me to grow up to be a stripper.

Guess I showed them. I strayed away from the adult entertainment career path and ended up with a medical degree. I'm sure if I were still speaking to either of my parents, they'd be proud. I cut ties once I was old enough to escape the broken home.

I know what you're thinking. Why didn't she change her name once she hit eighteen? Hello, do you know how much it costs to get your name legally changed? Okay, in the grand scheme of things, it may not be all that much. But when I was 18, I was trying to get away from my divorced parents. I was trying to put myself through school. I didn't have time to go to court to change my name. Plus, going to the DMV to get a new license is a nightmare alone. So I'm December Drake for life. And, hey, that's Doctor December Drake to you.

But that's not what this is about. I could spend days complaining about my parents (they fought on an hourly basis, giving me a wonderful view of how relationships work). I could go on and on about how awful my childhood was ("Here comes December! I thought it was getting cold in here!" Yeah, that's real funny coming from a kid whose last name is McNutt. Want me to make fun of your name for a while?). I'm doing it again... My therapist is gonna have a field day if she sees this.

No, this is about my current annoyance. It's snowing. A lot. I'm kind of trapped in my cabin. That's right, I have a cabin. I've done well enough in my medical career over the past eight years that I've managed to buy a cabin in the middle of nowhere. Okay, it's not really the middle of nowhere, but it's far enough away from the city that I'm generally not bothered by people. Which is great. Unless there's a blizzard that keeps me snowed in for a week.

So I'm overdressed for the frigid temperatures. I'm sitting on an area rug in my living room attempting to strap on a pair of snowshoes. All of this because I feel some irrational need to have human contact for the first time since the beginning of... well... December. I haven't even gotten any mail since last week. So much for the postal service creed. It feels like I've been waiting for Inception to come from Netflix forever. If the mail won't come to me, then I'm gonna go to it.

My post office is about five miles down the road. It's inside a sort of country strip mall with an antique store and a diner. I'm not sure if anyone will actually be there, but I've got to take a chance. Cabin fever's not so much fun. I'm sure it would be worse if I didn't live alone. I don't exactly have the kind of personality that meshes well with others over prolonged periods of time. But something's gotta give here. I'd really like to see another face and have a conversation with another person.

This is causing me to really rethink my whole solitary way of life. Maybe that's a new leaf I'll turn over once January hits.

Today's writing prompt is brought to you by Sunday Scribblings.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Trailers

These are three movies that I take the time to watch each Christmas. If the people who made the trailers did their jobs right, then after watching these you'll want to see them too...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Question of the Week: Fantasy

Do you have a favorite sexual fantasy? Would you like to have it fulfilled?

Are we too conservative a group to answer this question? Can we be this candid with one another? Well, I'll start. While I've never had the sex, I can safely say that I do have a favorite fantasy. It involves a feather boa and the theme from A Summer Place. You know what? Nevermind, I can't get into it.

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

And the Winner Is...

Well, I had eight participants in my first annual 5th anniversary giveaway spectacular. Each of those eight commenters was assigned a number based on the order in which they left their comments. Those numbers, 1 through 8, have been plugged into the random number generator that you see below.
Congratulations to Rowena! You will soon have in your possession a $25 gift card to I'd say don't spend it all in one place, but I think that's kind of the point of a gift card.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to play along. Thanks for reading my random ramblings on a daily basis. Hopefully I'll be able to do another one of these giveaways in the near future. 'Til then, stay tuned for the Question of the Week.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Single Guy and the Frozen Road

The Single Guy had heard a lot of panicky descriptions of a coming snow and ice weather system that would cause the Raleigh area to grind to a halt. This is fairly typical for eastern North Carolina. Whenever winter weather happens to appear inside a meteorologist's crystal ball, the locals tend to go crazy. Without a cloud in the sky and only the mere mention of a snow possibility, schools were delayed and grocery stores had a run on milk and bread. When these reports come out, the Single Guy tends to laugh in disbelief. Mostly he doesn't want to get his hopes up. He's one of those rare people in North Carolina who actually enjoys the winter.

Unexpectedly, the meterologists got one right. During the early, frozen hours of the morning, the snow began to fall. It wasn't a lot, but it was enough to make school closing decisions good ones. The snow became sleet. The sleet became freezing rain. And the Single Guy was still expected to arrive at work on time. Challenge accepted.

The Single Guy spent a lot of time in Bluefield, Virginia. Bluefield is the type of place that generally experiences two seasons each year: Winter and August. Sure, he walked away from his college experience with two bachelor's degrees. But, more importantly, he came away with the skill and ability to maneuver an automobile in the most treacherous of winter precipitation. Snow? Piece of cake. Sleet? Bring it on. Ice? Okay, that makes him a little nervous, but it's really not a big deal. The Single Guy takes to these conditions like an ice road trucker.

He left his apartment early, giving himself some extra time to drive on the dangerous icy roads. Common sense told him that he would need to drive slowly. That same common sense told him that there would be a lot of stupid people on the road with him, people who would not have the common sense to slow down, people who would be the cause of countless fender benders and stalled cars.

On the way to the bank, he came across a line of cars that were stopped for no apparent reason. As it turns out, this line of cars was led by a driver that had no confidence in his ability to drive up a subtle incline. Eventually, that driver got himself turned around and left the difficult hill. When the Single Guy arrived at the hill, he knew it would be no problem. Sure it was slick. Yes, it was covered in ice. But he knew he could build up speed at the bottom and use that momentum to carry him all the way to the top. Problems would only arise if he were to slow down or even tap the brake. The Single Guy knows never to do these things when driving up an icy hill.

And so, the Single Guy arrived at work on time and in one piece. It's a good thing, too. It's really important to open up the bank for all the people who won't brave the snow and ice to come make their deposits.

A Final Reminder

This probably won't be my real post for today. I mean, technically, it's a real post. But I'll try to come up with something better later on. For now I just wanted to put up one more reminder about the $25 gift card to that you could possibly win. All you have to do is follow this blog and leave a comment on my 5th anniversary post. The deadline for entering is midnight tonight. I'll announce the winner tomorrow. It's the first time I've ever done a giveaway. I'm kind of excited about it. You can tell by my lack of exclamation points. You know what, it's 6:45am. This is as excited as I get before I've had caffeine.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Laundry Day

Hey! Don't forget to enter to win the $25 gift card in my 5th anniversary giveaway!

Monday I was sick. I'll spare you the details. But let's just say that I wasn't just a little sick. It was bad enough to keep me from going to work. And I say it like that because I don't have any more sick leave until the new year. If I had sick leave left over, I'm sure I'd find a hangnail reason enough to not go to work. But, as it was, I was sick, I missed work, and I couldn't get paid for it.

Anyway, being sick kind of destroyed my plans. I was at that point in my clothing cycle where the majority of my clothes were in the hamper. Therefore, I did as I normally do when laundry time comes around. I called the Most Awesome Person I Know to see if I could come hang out and use her laundry facilities. Initially, this was supposed to happen Sunday evening. But she was coming back into town with the kids and things were kind of crazy, so Sunday didn't happen. She suggested Monday night.

And then illness struck. It struck hard. I was up all night Sunday and made the decision to skip work early Monday morning. Believe me, I was doing everyone a favor by staying home. So this kind of ruined my option of doing laundry Monday night. This wouldn't have been so awful if I wasn't scheduled to work the next three evenings delivering pizza. So this left no more time to do the laundry that was so desperately needed.

The Most Awesome Person I Know then insisted that I allow her to pick up my dirty clothes and do my laundry herself. I was touched. But understand my position. No one but myself has done my laundry since I was a freshman in high school. It's been 15 years since even my own mother touched my dirty clothes. At first I told her she didn't need to do the laundry. I said that, later in the day if I was feeling better, I would drive to the laundromat to do it myself. My reasoning was that I didn't want to risk being contagious and passing something on to a home with five kids.

Still, she insisted. Finally, I relented. She kind of made it sound like it would hurt her feelings if I didn't let her do my laundry. Well, I certainly didn't want to offend anyone. So she dropped by, sent up one of the kids to grab my oversized hamper, and then left to do the work. A few hours later, the same kid knocked on my door and delivered my freshly laundered clothing, smelling clean and nicely folded.

Not a bad deal if you ask me. The laundry gets sent out and comes back clean later that day. I like it. So I once again find myself thanking the Most Awesome Person I Know for going above and beyond the call of typical friendship. I mean, I really can't think of anyone else who'd be willing to do my laundry just because I was too ill to do it myself.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Hey! Don't forget to enter to win the $25 gift card in my 5th anniversary giveaway!

This morning I asked for suggestions for something to write about on the blog today. That's something I may start doing more often. For one thing, it's hard to always come up with something to write about each day when I tend to do a lot of the same things day in and day out. On the other hand, getting a writing prompt from one of my 500 closest Facebook friends is a good way to keep my brain from stagnating.

My cousin in Colorado responded with, "Your take on the hope, joy, peace, and love aspects of advent."

To be completely honest, I don't know much about Advent. It's been a long time since I've been to a church that participated in the traditional Advent traditions. Growing up, Villa Heights Baptist always had its Advent weeks leading up to Christmas. Most of what I remember about this time involved the lighting of candles each week. For each of these weeks, a different family was chosen or volunteered to light a candle, read scripture, and explain the meaning of that week's candle.

Like I said, I don't remember much about it. I do remember feeling like it was pretty awesome the two or three times my family lit a candle. And the year that I got to hold the lighter, well, I kinda felt like a rock star. But I was just a kid and really had no idea that there was a meaning to any of it. They were just different candles that counted down the weeks until Christmas.

As an adult, I can't honestly say that I understand it any more than I did as a child. When my family left Villa Heights, our new church didn't follow along with the same sort of ceremony that our old church had, at least not that I recall. I think the candles were present and lit for the Christmas Eve service, and may have been there during the previous Sundays. But in college, and then in my church life beyond college, I really haven't experienced much mention of Advent.

So I'm doing a little research. I'll warn you, some of these facts may come from Wikipedia, so bear with me.

The word Advent comes from the latin adventus, which means coming. The Advent season, for Christians, serves as a reminder of the Hebrews' anticipation of Messiah's prophesied coming. It also serves to remind us of the Christian anticipation of Christ's return, or the Second Coming. Each of the four candles that make up the Advent Wreath holds its own meaning and symbolism.

First is the Candle of Hope. This is one of the purple candles and God's promise and His faithfulness. This reminds us that humanity's hope can only truly come from God.

The second candle, also purple, is the Candle of Preparation. Lighting this candle serves to remind us to be ready to welcome Christ into our lives. Christ already arrived once, and God sent prophets to prepare the way for Him. And just as God wanted His people to be ready for the Messiah's arrival, He also wants us to be ready for His return. Jesus promised that He'd come back someday and said that no one would know when. So candle number two is a reminder to always be ready.

Candle three, which is pink or rose, is the Candle of Joy. It represents the joy that the angelic chorus sang of when Jesus was born. Kind of obvious there. I mean, the Savior of the world is born. Pretty good cause for celebration.

And then there's the last purple candle, the Candle of Love. It's a reminder of why Christ was born in the first place. He came into the world because God loves us.

On Christmas Eve or Christmas day, there is a fifth candle that is lit, the Christ Candle, which represents His incarnation. Incarnation is just one of those big words that means "embodied in flesh." One of those foundational beliefs in Christianity is that Jesus is God, and therefore existed along with the Father and the Holy Spirit long before He took the form of a man. So when He was born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, that's when God became incarnate. Too deep for a Tuesday? Tough.

Yeah, that was pretty deep for a Tuesday. But I think it was a learning experience. Even if you didn't get much out of it, I did. Being away from churches that follow those old traditions can be good and bad at the same time. Personally (and this is just me talking), I think it can be dangerous to simply follow tradition for tradition's sake. Not that tradition is bad. The danger lies in believing what you believe simply because it's what you were told to believe, or because it's what your parents believed. The danger comes when we don't take the time to find out for ourselves what God's Word says. At the same time, some of those traditions (like Advent), can serve as little reminders of God's love and direction for our lives. I guess in those cases it's good to have both. If you find yourself questioning the real meaning of the traditions and ceremonies in your churches, don't be afraid to ask questions. My view is, if you don't understand what it is you say you believe, then is your faith really your faith? Or is it someone else's that just got passed on to you?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Three Wishes

Hey! Don't forget to enter to win the $25 gift card in my 5th anniversary giveaway!

I make it a habit to text The Most Awesome Person I Know when I'm leaving work in the evenings. My thinking here is that there's at least one person in the world who knows that I've taken my life into my own hands by traveling on the road in Raleigh, side by side with some of the most dangerous drivers on the planet: those licensed by the North Carolina DMV. Typically I'll just send a message saying I'm heading home or heading to the second job.

Thursday was a typical evening and I was leaving the bank, on my way to deliver some pizza for a little while. The Most Awesome Person I Know proceeded to reply to my typical text by asking if I had been home yet. This I found to be a little confusing. On nights that I deliver the pizza I never have time to stop at home first. Especially not within fifteen minutes of closing the bank. Reminder: it takes me a good 45 minutes to get home from work, even under the best of circumstances. So I took the question and responded with a no, and a reminder that I always go to job two directly from job one.

I worked and then I headed home. When I got to my apartment I found a few surprises on my decorated door. Remember how I said my door would be interactive, giving people a chance to share their Christmas wishes? Well, the Most Awesome Person I Know and her three sons had stopped by at some point during that day and left their wishes on the door. Seeing that kind of made my week.

One of the boys wished that I would get a puppy. One wished that I would find true love. One wished that I would come and hang out more often. The puppy I can't do right now. I'd be arrested for neglect or something, knowing how long I'm away from my apartment during the day. As far as true love goes, well, the jury's still out on whether I even believe such a creature exists. Hanging out more often? I think I can do that.

I've been getting more hours lately on the second job. I can't complain about that, I need the money. But it has cut into my hanging out/TV viewing time with these friends. Part of my reasoning, subconsciously, could also be the fact that the Hamilton Hideaway isn't quite as close as the Greene House was. I know that last part is a lousy excuse, subconscious or not. So to the Most Awesome Person I Know and her kids, I promise I'll do better.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Hey! Don't forget to enter to win the $25 gift card in my 5th anniversary giveaway!

He knew he had broken the rules, but he didn't care. He knew that he was being led to a jail cell in shackles because of the choices that he had made. He understood that execution was the consequence for being outside the Quarantine Zone. As miserable as his life had been inside the Zone, he felt the risk of death was worth the attempt of sneaking outside those boundaries.

Carson was born in the Zone. His parents had been born in the Zone. His whole life, no one ever questioned why they were there or why they were constantly guarded by armed men in protective suits. He knew that questions led to punishment. At least, that's what he had always been told. He'd never witnessed any sort of punishment. The fear of it seemed to be enough to keep his family and neighbors in line. But in his mind, Carson questioned a lot of things.

Why were they under quarantine in the Zone? Had they all been infected with some sort of disease? If that was the case, it couldn't be that bad. He never remembered experiencing any symptoms. He never remembered hearing about anyone else with strange symptoms either. So if there was no disease, what was the real reason that these people were all confined to the Zone?

Carson had just turned seventeen when he decided to step outside the limits of the Zone. It took him a while to figure out where and how he would escape, but he knew he couldn't just sit by and let unseen powers continue to dictate how he would live. He couldn't allow himself to be contained with no explanation. The kids he had grown up with may have been content to repeat their parents' lives, but Carson just couldn't do it anymore.

The night Carson dug under the fence was just like every other night in the Zone. It was quiet. He had gone off to his bedroom, allowing his parents to believe that he had drifted to sleep peacefully. Once he knew everyone in the Zone was unconscious, he left his home. He had spent weeks learning the soldiers' patterns and routines. They were nothing if not predictable. The night guard followed the same patrol routes as the day shift, so Carson knew where he could go to avoid detection.

Digging under the security fence wasn't too difficult either. He just needed to use his mother's garden spade to make a space just large enough for him to slide under the chain-link that barely extended under the surface of the ground. He knew that eventually the hole under the fence would be found. He knew that at some point the soldiers would begin searching for whoever breached security. He just didn't know they would begin looking so soon.

Carson had maybe a half day's head start on the guards. Around sunrise, one of the soldiers noticed the mound of dirt by the part of the fence where Carson had escaped. From there, they tracked Carson like hunters searching for a wounded animal. He wasn't too hard to find.

As he sat in his cell, chained to a wall, he wondered what would become of him. He didn't get any answers to his questions in his short time outside the Zone. He never encountered another human being. He simply ran and then was caught. Carson had never known of anyone actually being punished for breaking rules in the Zone, but now he would experience the truth of it first hand.

He wondered if others would look at him and begin questioning the Zone themselves? Or would the just see him as a cautionary tale? Would he become a true story of what happens when you test the limits of the Zone?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Late Night Rerun

Hey! Don't forget to enter to win the $25 gift card in my 5th anniversary giveaway!

Okay, it's been kind of a long day. Not that a whole lot happened until tonight. But I'll get into that another time. I'm pushing midnight and I neglected to post anything today. So you're stuck with a video. It's last year's Garmin holiday commercial. The one with the giant nutcracker that comes to life and the really creepy clown. It's like they filmed my nightmare and posted it on YouTube. I think I posted it last year. But it's late and I'm low on creativity at the moment. You'll have something better tomorrow.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Half a Decade of Being Awesome

On December 10, 2004, I decided that I'd start writing a blog. Back then, Carp Dime was simply known as The Single Guy. The blog wasn't anything special in those days. I didn't strive to write something every day. In fact, I didn't put much thought into writing on the blog at all. I would post something once every few weeks at best. Eventually I stopped posting all together. For a while, I even forgot my password and let the blog fall away into oblivion.

And then, after a few serious life changes, I put forth some effort into this thing, remembered my password, and you haven't been able to get rid of me since. And now, here I am, five years later, still writing blogs. Now, initially I wanted this post to be a little more than just me writing a bunch of lines that you may or may not be interested in reading. I wanted to finally post my first ever video blog. However, due to technical difficulties, that just isn't happening. Something about my camera not being compatible with the video editing software that I have. It's annoying, really. But I digress.

I doubt there's anyone out there who's been reading this thing since the beginning. Some of you are apparently gluttons for punishment and have gone back to the beginning and read all my posts over the last five years. I appreciate the devotion that takes, but am I really that interesting?

All that is to say, today is the fifth anniversary of this here blog. There have been a lot of ups and downs since its humble origins. There have been good times and bad times. There have been funny posts and not so funny posts. Through it all, there have been plenty of readers out there who still seem to be interested in the random things that pop into my brain.

And so, to show my appreciation, I'm going to steal an idea from my fellow blogger, Shannon, over at The Shanner of Attention. Not too long ago, she celebrated her first full year of blogging with a giveaway. I thought that was a really cool idea, so I'm stealing it. You, my loyal readers, have a chance to win a $25 gift card to Isn't that exciting? Please, try to control yourselves. If you're at work, people could be watching you.

Now, here's how this little contest is going to run. The first thing you need to do is look over on the left side of my page. Click the follow button. You have no idea how excited I get when I see that my number of followers has risen. Next, leave a comment at the bottom of this post. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. It can be a compliment or a complaint or a suggestion of something you'd like to see here in the future. Please note that multiple comments from the same person does not mean multiple entries. We have to keep it fair.

I'll accept commenters' names until midnight next Thursday, December 16. At that point, I'll take all the names and the lucky winner will be chosen at random. And then I'll mail you your priceless prize, as long as it's inside the US.

So good luck to all the contestants. And, seriously, thank you for showing up here as often as you do.

Question of the Week: Painful Opinions

A close friend asks--and genuinely wants--your opinion about something, but your opinion is one that he is likely to find quite painful. For example, your friend is an artist and asks your honest estimate of his chances of being successful. You think he is an atrocious artist who hasn't the slightest chance of success. What would you do?

If I were on the other side of this, I think I'd want my friend to be honest with me. If I suck at something, I'd rather a friend let me know about it than put myself out there and have everyone else in the world tell me I suck at it. So if it were me with the hurtful opinion, and that person asked for it, I'd give it. I'd find a way to be as nice about it as I could. Like, with the painter friend, I'd try to make it clear that even though he may not be able to figure out how to make green out of yellow and blue paint, I'd still support him any way that I could. You know, I'd still show up at art shows and what not. And honest opinions risk some feelings of resentment, but if the friendship is real, they'll get over it eventually. If they don't get over it, there's a good chance the relationship was shallow and wouldn't have lasted too long anyway.

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

Thursday, December 09, 2010


Every now and then a movie or TV show comes along that compels me to watch repeatedly. As a kid, my repeat movie was Back to the Future. In college, my friends and I would watch Friends over and over again. When the first season of How I Met Your Mother hit DVD, I bought it and watched it again and again.

These days, that show for me is Community. I can't put my finger on exactly what it is about that show that makes me laugh so much. It's one of those shows that's able to make fun of itself and manages to pull in enough pop culture references to fill an encyclopedia. It's possible that I'm exaggerating. But I can't be exaggerating too much.

This week I've been getting the discs from season 1 through Netflix. And, having watched the first two discs, I'm trying to scrape together the money to actually buy the DVDs. Because I kind of want to watch it all again. Even though I haven't been through the last half of the season yet.

And on a side note (which may actually play into my reasoning for liking the show as much as I do), I've developed something of a crush on Alison Brie, who plays Annie Edison on Community. Not that I truly believe anything will ever happen between the two of us, but I'm informing everyone now that everything else is currently on the back burner. That is, until we somehow manage to convince Ms. Brie to fall in love with me or, at the very least, come to know of my existence. Who's with me in this noble quest?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Legends of the Bank Teller - Episode XCII

Yesterday was an interesting day at the bank. I'm going to tell you the story of a business owner who occasionally banks in my branch. He's the kind of guy that likes certain tellers who are comfortable bending certain rules. These certain tellers aren't necessarily doing anything wrong, but they have a certain level of trust with certain customers and don't mind bending those rules.

Look, I'm not going to use names. There's an incredibly vindictive part of me that really wants to use real names, but I'm trying to be the bigger person here. The rude customer in question is the owner of a small painting business. The business is named after him. The only reason I would want to use his name would be to convince any of my readers in the Raleigh area to not use him or his painting services. But, as I said, I just can't lower myself to that level. So I'll just refer to him as The Painter.

The Painter came into the branch at around 9:30 or 9:45. We hadn't been open long, so I was still in that comfort zone where I was slightly optimistic about my day. Things don't usually get bad for me until after lunch. So at the time, things were good. The Painter was in the lobby and there were only two of us on the teller line. My co-worker was helping someone else and I had no one at the drive through, so I crossed to the counter and greeted The Painter.

The Painter informed me that he wanted to deposit a check into his account and then immediately withdraw $500 from said account. Now, he had no choice but to deposit the check into his business account. Rules are rules. When a check is made out to a business, it must be deposited into an account carrying that business' name. So I made the deposit for him and looked up the status of the account. In order for him to withdraw $500, as he wanted, there would have needed to be at least $500 available in the account. There was only 20 and some change. That's just not gonna cut it.

The check he deposited was for a little more than $700. You may be asking, if he deposited a check for that much, why couldn't he just make the withdrawal? Well, checks drawn off other banks need to go through processing before the cash is made available. Typically, this happens within 24 hours. But he wanted his money now. And since it was made out to the business, he couldn't just take it to the bank it was drawn on to cash it out. I gave him the bad news, even after checking with Barney Stinson to see if it was something that could be done by someone with a little more authority. I wasn't willing to sign off on it, and neither was he.

When I delivered the bad news, The Painter threw a fit right there in the bank. "I'm sure Judge [Name Deleted]'s check is perfectly okay!" I explained that if the check were drawn on our bank, it would be no problem to make sure the check was okay. As it was, I had done all I could. He stormed out. I missed the part where he said "[Expletive Deleted] you!" as he walked out the door, but Barney Stinson heard it and was happy to share that information.

If it had been later in the day, I probably would have been pretty angry about the whole situation. But since it was still early, I found it to be pretty hilarious. I started to wonder if that was what it was like for everyone else to watch me get ticked off over little things. And you'd think the story would end with being cussed out by The Painter. You'd be wrong though.

Not long after this, The Painter returned. I hid in the back. I really didn't feel like dealing with him a second time. One "[Expletive Deleted] you!" is enough for me in a day. He got the manager to reverse the deposit that I ran for him and took the check back. From there I deduced that he waited until 10am, went to the branch that opened his account, and asked them to do the withdrawal. Stinson called over to that branch and was told that one of the tellers told The Painter to come back to us, get the check, and they'd take care of him. Stinson told them the whole story, that he used profanity with one of our tellers, and that, under no circumstances were they to give him cash back on this check that is drawn on another bank. We check the system a few minutes later. The deposit showed up. He was denied his cash back. I like to think of that as justice.

Take that, The Painter!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Complying With Da Rulez

The other day I posted a description of what I've done to my door to participate in my building's contest. I was told in the comments that I needed to post a picture. So here's the picture.

I've even had a couple of participants. When I got home from work last night there were two more wishes taped to the door. And here I thought no one would want to play along.

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Lost Hero

Remember earlier this year when I sort of devoured the Percy Jackson series of books? Well, now, author Rick Riordan has come up with a sequel series called the Heroes of Olympus. And the first book of the series is The Lost Hero.

This time around we're focused on a new set of demigods. Yes, there are a lot of throwbacks to remind us that we're still in the same world of Percy Jackson and the kids at Camp Half Blood. In fact, our new heroes visit Camp Half Blood before being sent off on their very own quest. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

At the start, we're introduced to the trio of Jason, Piper, and Leo. Having read the previous series of books, the subtle clues that Riordan gives makes it fairly easy to identify these kids as demigods. And in Jason and Leo's cases, it's fairly easy to tell who their Olympian parents are. In their first battle together, Jason manages to take control of the wind, suggesting that he's a son of Zeus. Leo is constantly working with his hands, tinkering with small tools and putting things together, suggesting the offspring of Hephaestus. Piper is a little tougher to figure out.

Jason, as it turns out, is a bit more of a mystery than just being a son of Zeus. He has no memory of who he really is. Leo and Piper have all these memories of being friends with him, but it's determined that their memories have been modified by magic. Another wrinkle is that Jason keeps referring to the Olympian gods by their Roman names. He doesn't call himself a son of Zeus. He's a son of Jupiter. He fights with a sword that is traditionally a Roman weapon. And when he arrives at the Greek's Camp Half Blood, he has this strange feeling that he's really in the wrong place.

But this is a mystery that will have to wait. Things are going very badly after the end of the Titan's War the previous summer. Zeus has closed Olympus, so the gods are not communicating with their heroes. Hera has been captured by an unknown force. Percy Jackson is missing. And now this Roman hero shows up in a place that he knows he doesn't belong.

Jason, Leo, and Piper (who turns out to be a daughter of Aphrodite) are sent on a quest to save Hera from the clutches of the Giant king, Porphyrion. They have their share of battles as they make their way across the country meeting mythical figures like Medea and Midas along the way. During their time on the road and in the air, they learn more about each other and about Jason's hidden past.

The Lost Hero acts as a good opening for what should be an interesting series of books. It sets up Gaia as the ultimate bad guy in the overall series. In this installment, she's asleep, but beginning to stir, and is threatening to use her Giants to tear down Olympus.

So if the Percy Jackson series entertained you, there's a good chance you'll like the sequel series. And I think the Roman aspects of everything adds an interesting element. All in all, a pretty decent read.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

'Tis the Season

One night last week I arrived home from work to find a note taped to my door. My building's management occasionally leaves notes on residents' doors to let them know about forthcoming property inspections or maintenance issues that may have arisen or are expected to arise. This week's notice was more festive in nature.

The announcement was made to let us all know that there would be a door decorating contest in the month of December. The doors will be judged by the residents, which means that I'll probably find a ballot of some kind taped to my door in the next week or so. The motivation for decorating the door? The prize.

There's nothing in the notice stating exactly what the prize will be. It only ends by saying that there WILL be a prize for the winner. And then it adds on some exclamation points. I'll save you from all that excitement. I'm trying to keep the blog low key today. I think I'm coming down with a cold or something. I really don't want to overdo it.

So I spent a great deal of time yesterday decorating my door. It isn't anything really elaborate. The decorations aren't incredibly fancy. Putting it together was a little time-consuming, but I was working on a very small budget. I went out and bought some fairly inexpensive wrapping paper and covered the door with it. For a long time, this was all I did to the door yesterday. But that's because I had to come into the apartment to work on the rest of the things that would go on the door.

Here's the creative part. I got a bunch of construction paper and I cut out a bunch of gift boxes out of the paper. One color paper for the box, another color for the ribbon. I glued them together and they look pretty good. I dare any preschooler to do a better job during their arts and crafts time.

Next, I cut out letters from the green construction paper. I figured that would look good on the cheap, red wrapping paper. The letters spell out "Share your Christmas wish" or possibly "Harshy horsecar swimsuit." Memo to self: make sure I put the letters in the right order after finishing this post.

Anyway, the idea is to make my decorative door interactive. I attached a Sharpie and some Scotch tape to the door along with the construction paper presents. And now, anyone who comes by my door and is moved by the Ghost of Christmas Present can leave a note saying what the want for Christmas. I tried to prime the pump by leaving my own wish on the door. A new job.

To add a little extra flair I taped up some snowflake ornaments that I found at Target. Four for a dollar wasn't too shabby. And I found a string of lights in my storage closet that I'm surprised still work. They don't stretch all the way around the door, but hit a good 75% of it. Okay, it looks a little ghetto, but who am I trying to impress? Thus far, mine is the only door I've seen that's decorated. Though, to be honest, I haven't walked the halls on the third or first floor, and really I only pass the doors that lead to my apartment anyway. So maybe someone on the other half of the second floor has done something.

But if I don't win, it isn't a big deal. I mean, the prize could be anything. I don't think it'll be a new car or an iPod. It'll probably be a gift card. Or a really big stick. Either way, I'm interested to see if any of my neighbors will be interactive with the door. Somehow I doubt it, but we'll see. So if you're feeling that Christmas spirit, come on by 215 and write something on my door.

Saturday, December 04, 2010


I recently acquired a used camera from the Most Awesome Person I Know. It's an older film camera that she, apparently, had no use for anymore. So she gave it to me.

Now, I myself have been using a digital camera for the last three years or so. I was one of those hold outs that just didn't want to give up using the manual film camera that I'd been using since I was a junior in high school. The Ricoh and I, we have history. It's the camera I bought when I started taking photography classes. With that camera I learned what f-stops and aperture were. Please don't ask me to explain those things now. That was 12 years ago, and it's not like I went pro.

But I always loved being photography guy in college. I worked on the yearbook for 4 out of the 5 years I spent in Bluefield. And in working on that yearbook, I got to use the school's awesome camera. Most of the pictures that made the final cut in the yearbooks were taken by me. I had that camera with me wherever I went. Sometimes I would even take my own camera, even thought it was a little more low-tech than the school's fancy Nikon.

As it stands, I haven't actually developed a roll of film in years. So having this new-to-me camera, I decided to dig through the box that contains my old camera to see if I had any unused film. Not only do I have an insane amount of unused film (why I stocked up, I don't know), but I had two rolls that were used but undeveloped. So I took a trip to Walgreen's to have them developed.

Since I made the switch to digital, it should go without saying that I haven't used the old Ricoh for about three years. So that made these two rolls of film at least that old. One of those rolls contained pictures of a wedding I attended four years ago. Another roll contained pictures of my cousin when she was about a year old. She's five now.

I'm not sure how often I'll use this new camera. I do have a lot of film to use, but it costs money to get it developed. If I had a darkroom and supplies, I could develop it myself, but even that costs money. With my digital camera, I take the pictures and then they're ready to be viewed. I don't have any photo albums, other than the ones on Facebook. So I kind of have to ask, what's the point of having all that film? Maybe I'll decide I like using the real camera again. I do think there is more of a connection with film. Maybe because it's something tangible.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Question of the Week: Spittin' and Pickin'

Do you ever spit or pick your nose in public? What about cleaning your teeth with a toothpick?

Um, of course I do. In fact, I'll pick my nose defiantly in public. If someone's staring at me while I'm doing it, internally judging me for my behavior, I'll just stare them down until I'm done. Yeah, that's how I roll. And I don't use toothpicks. I just run my tongue along my teeth to see if I've missed anything. And if I have, I just make that really obnoxious sucking sound to try to dislodge whatever piece of food is there.

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

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Legends of the Bank Teller - Episode XCI

Well it finally happened. Someone of authority finally recognized me for the awesomeness that I so obviously exude.

Yesterday, while I wasn't here, my manager's manager made a surprise visit. She was here Tuesday as well, so coming a second day in a row really was something of an unpleasant surprise. In my absense, she apparently went on and on about what a great job I was doing on the teller line. And my manager went on to say that she continued singing my praises at a social function last night.

What's funny about this is that I am a mediocre bank teller at best. And really, I view myself as the most worthless teller that our bank has. Just looking at my numbers, it's a little ridiculous for the manager's manager to think that I'm doing a great job.

More and more often I keep coming back to Office Space and The Office to reference my experiences at work. If you've seen Office Space, you may know where I'm going with this. The main character, Peter, is probably the biggest slacker the office has. He shows up for his meeting with the consultants who were brought in to streamline things, and he dazzles them by being honest about everything. He doesn't do any of the work he's supposed to do, but they love him. "He's just got upper-level management written all over him." Is this what's happening with my manager's manager?

If I had another job lined up, I'd be real tempted to shoot her an e-mail. Something along the lines of...

I heard about the nice things you said about me and I wanted to let you know I appreciate those sentiments. But I really have to question your judgment and, to be honest, your ability to perform your job as an area manger. On a regular basis, I radiate in waves just how much I hate being here. The fact that you didn't pick that up in the hour you were here the other day tells me you aren't very observant. Just because you saw me do one good thing pertaining to my job does not make me all that awesome. You're just not very good at picking up on my subtext. Good luck with that in the future.

Cordially, blah blah blah... On the other hand, I could just start believing these wonderful things that have been said about me. I told the manager and Barney Stinson that if they ever found themselves in a sticky situation they should stop and ask themselves, "What would Aaron do?" The answer, more often than not, would probably be to kick something in frustration.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Back to Normal

There's a big part of me that's gonna miss November. And it's mostly because I had a readily available blogging topic for each day last month thanks to that very helpful 30 Day Blog Journal. By the way, thanks again to Amy over at Ha Ha. Wait. What? for the idea. Not that I asked permission to use said idea. But it's out there now and I can't take it back.

So now it's December. I am a big fan of December. Winter officially begins later this month. I know that North Carolina isn't likely to have a great deal of snow, but at least winter brings a slight possibility of it. And it's so much cooler. Summers around here are crazy hot and humid. Not a selling point when trying to get someone like me to stay in this area.

December also means Christmas. I have a lot of people asking me what I'll be doing this year for the holidays. Realistically, there's a good chance I'll be staying here instead of traveling back to Roanoke to have Christmas with the family. Money's tight and gas prices are still on the inevitable rise. A Christmas miracle could happen and money could come rolling in, but I really don't think I'll hold my breath. Whatever happens, I'll make the most of the situation. Optimism might just be the new thing I'm trying these days.

Sadly, I'm back to day-to-day blog writing. Not that I'm sad to be writing something on the blog every day. I just mean that I'm back to trying to come up with something to write about on a daily basis. And that's why I'll miss November. I just had my posts ready and waiting each day. Today I woke up and had nothing prepared. It's my day off from the bank and I had to actually use my brain. It just doesn't seem fair. Also, I woke up at 7am against my will. Stupid internal clock.

So welcome to December. Have some fun with it.