Day Twenty-Two: Random Quotes From My Kids

I often use my kids’ lines as a status update.  It’s safe.  It’s tame.  I’m not going to get too many people unfriending me like I would with a political rant.  It’s more than that, though.  I oftentimes find what they say to be profound, bizarre or deep in ways that I never could have expected.

Facebook Update #1

I type out, ‘”Dirt clods are the only thing that disappears when you throw it,” Micah says.  Makes me want to go throw dirt clods.’

Nothing.  Not a thumbs up or anything.  And maybe that’s okay.  Maybe I got a little too over-excited about an observation that no one really cares too much about.

In-Person Update #1

“So, just to update you on my status, Micah told me that dirt clods are the only thing that disappears when you throw it.”

“I guess that’s true,” he says.

“Kind of makes me want to go out and throw dirt clods,” I say.

“I agree,” he says.

“Why don’t we?” I ask.

“Like, now?”

“Sometime we should get together and throw dirt clods.”

“Maybe.  But I wonder if that’s one of those things that would be more fun in your head than in real life.”

“Yeah, like maybe it’s best not to spoil the idea of it.”

“Exactly.”

Facebook Update #2

I type out, “Joel corrected the neighbor kid who was singing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle little star.’   He said, ‘That’s not how the star song goes.  It goes, ‘Star, star, teach me how to shine, shine, teach me so I know what’s going on in your mind, cuz I don’t understand these people.”‘

This begins an impromptu conversation on The Frames and whether or not Glen Hansard sounds better on his solo album.  It becomes a specialized, isolated conversation that depends upon enough trendy hipster knowledge for people to participate.  We pretty much ignore Micah and end up debating the nuances in our shared taste in music.

In-Person Update #2

I call another friend and say, “Joel corrected the neighbor kid who was singing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle little star.’   He said, ‘That’s not how the star song goes.  It goes, ‘Star, star, teach me how to shine, shine, teach me so I know what’s going on in your mind, cuz I don’t understand these people.”‘

“Beautiful.  It shows he hasn’t been indoctrinated too badly yet.”

“I know.  I was proud of him.”

“So, tell me the whole story . . . ”

And so I do.  And it strikes me that one of the biggest differences between social media and social interaction is the existence of narrative.  It’s not that we can’t tell stories.  It’s just that Facebook is more like a series of sticky notes when face-to-face feels like a novel.

Facebook Update #3

I type out, “Micah got excited because he thought the dryer was an ice cream truck. Curse you peppy sounding non-buzzers.”

Nothing.  Not too surprised.  Nobody is particularly excited about the sounds that a drier makes.

In-Person Update #3

“So Micah thought that the drier was an ice cream truck.”

“Tell me the whole story,” Javi the Hippie implores.

“Well, we’re sitting there eating rice and vegetables and it’s like a beacon of hope to him.  It’s this loud bugle declaring war on the new food plate deal.  He literally claps his hands and jumps up.  So, I have to explain to him that it’s the drier.  At first he doesn’t believe me.  I guess he thinks I’m lying to him.  Then it dawns on him that . . . ”

I realize that Javi has already told me that he has a call on the other line.  When he returns, he tells me the story of his day.  We continue swapping stories until we land on the death of a former co-worker.  We talk about stress and mortality and whether or not we’re headed that way.  It’s the kind of conversation that’s hard to have on Facebook.

Facebook Update #4

I type out, “Joel wants to know why the tv is called Sharp when it’s smooth.”

It’s a bad pun, really, but the response is eight thumbs-ups and a conversation about the random product names and how children find those inconsistencies.  I feel affirmed here, because I’ve somehow managed to make it into the Daddy Club with that one.  It’s the type of mainstream stories that parents are supposed to tell.

Facebook Update #4

I call another former colleague and explain,  “So, Joel wants to know why the television is called Sharp when it’s smooth.”

“Was he being earnest or was it the start of a pun?”

“I think he was earnest,” I say.

“I hate puns.  It’s why I hate so many little kid jokes,” he says.

“Me, too.”

“I can’t way for my boy to get a cynical sense of humor.  You know how most parents dread those adolescent years.  I think I’ll be like, ‘Man, I finally have someone who gets my humor.’  That’s what I’m hoping for.”

“But he’ll hate you at that age,” I explain.

“At least he’ll think I’m funny.”

Day Eleven: Let Me Tell You Where I Am All Day

Glossy-eyed and heavy-shouldered, I stumble into the Starbucks.  A washed-up seventies soft rocker bellows out a tune, unable to recognize that it’s early.  He doesn’t have to compete with the muffled sound of a blender.  Right now, I get Seventies Soft Rocker Man.  I want to feel relevant.

“What’s your update?” the barista (or is it baristo if it’s a guy?) asks.

“I’m at the Starbucks on Peoria Avenue,” I tell him.

“Okay.”

“Can I be mayor of this place?”

He pauses for a moment and says, “I think there might be a real mayor badge on Four Square.  How about Deputy Chancelor?”

“Of all Starbuckses?”

“No, just this one.”

“Okay.”

*     *      *

I call a casual acquaintance, but when his sexy-voiced answering machine asks me if I would please leave a message, I get intimidated. So instead I start calling Javi the Hippie to let him know that I’m in my classroom and I’m in the staff lounge and if I could just find a way to move around a bit more, I might be declared mayor of this school.

At 11:50, I call him up again. “Hey Javi, just calling to say that I’m going to QT. I forgot my lunch.”

“Are you going to be doing this all day?”  he asks me.

“Yeah.  I asked the guy at Starbucks this morning if I could be mayor.  He told me I could be Deputy Chancelor, which sounds very European.”

“He probably spit in your coffee.”

“Why?”

“The last thing he needs is a new boss.”

“Wow, he was pretty nice to me.  That would be pretty passive-agressive.”

“Most people are passive agressive.  Unless you’re Republican.  Then you’re just agressive.”

I choose the geekiest-looking guy at the QT, figuring that if I’m taking a shot at in-person Four Square, I might as well hedge my bets.

“I’m at QT,” I tell him.

“That’s right,” he says.

“Can I be mayor of this place?” I watch his pained expression and so I admit the gimmick.  “I’m doing an in-person version of Facebook.  This is my version of Four Square.”

“Oh,” he says.

“So, can I be mayor?” I ask.

“How about a figurehead president?”

“How about figurehead dictator of QT’s shadow government?”

“Okay,” he says.

As I walk away, the lady behind me shakes her head in disapproval of our inefficient interaction. I get it.  Just let me pay for my goddam sandwich wrap and Diet Coke.

*      *      *

“Nobody returned my calls when I left messages,” Christy explains.

“So they ignored you.  It sounds just like real Four Square, where people send updates that nobody reads.”

“True.”

“I’m thinking about the whole Four Square concept.  You know, I think it meets a need that we don’t reach in our urban, fragmented society.  I listened to this seventies pop star trying to sound important.  You know, he wants to be relevant.  He wants to matter.  He wants to have a place.  And that’s me sometimes.  I want community.  I want to be known.  I want fame, even, as dangerous as it might be. I wonder if Four Square meets these deep human needs on a real superficial level.”

“I wouldn’t use that term ‘superficial.’  It’s more limited, more online and it comes with a little extra space.  But I don’t think it’s superficial.”