Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday, Target, and Idiots

On Thanksgiving morning, the paper was thick with "Black Friday" ads enticing recession-weary people to stores in hopes of grabbing a bargain for Christmas. For the Dunhams, that involves not just Christmas but planning for a trip to Disney World in March.

We need a new portable DVD player. Ethan has now gone through three or four in his brief four-plus years of life, and, despite admonishing him not to touch the "guts" of the DVD, he routinely does so. The last one lasted only a few months. So, I carefully went through every ad and considered the aggravation factor of heading out for 5:00 a.m. sales on Black Friday, a tradition that I consider idiotic at best. Yet, as a parent, I have succumbed to the idiocy by considering trekking out among the rabid crowds.

Not quite. At 7:15 this morning, I awoke and thought "What the hell. I'll head to Target for the $47.00 RCA product." I got there, found a parking space amid the madness, and walked in to find lines and lines and lines of people snaking up and down aisle after aisle just to get in line for checkout. I saw an acquaintance in line who sighed and said he'd been in line over an hour just to check out.

With visions of my son in my head, I thought I would suck it up, find my one product and stand in line. How bad could it really be? I had retrieved a basket in the parking lot on the off chance that I would find additional treasures to purchase, so I tried to maneuver the cart through the lines of shoppers. People much less visionary than I eyed my cart with envy at the empty cart stand, and I silently chuckled at their lack of foresight. As I slowly advanced through the melee, I discovered that deep in the store, there were actually rent-a-cops directing traffic...telling shoppers "you can proceed to that check out line."

My immediate reaction was "TSA rejects CAN find jobs" because these people, while annoyingly pleasant, seemed to enjoy the power of directing traffic in a store. As I tried to progress, the lines grew deeper along with my resentment. In addition, people oblivious to others, walked slowly, swerved in front of me, and generally pissed me off. "For the love of God! Have you no consideration? Have you no peripheral vision? Have you no decency?" I wanted to scream them all, but with a couple well placed "accidental" bumps of the cart and a mumbled "Sorry, excuse me" I finally made it to the electronic aisle which is conveniently nestled near the deodorant selection at Target.

I assume the proximity of hygiene products and electronics is designed to help people like me who tend to get heated by the indifference and stupidity of shoppers. As I bumped my way through shoppers who thought nothing of parking their shopping carts in the middle of the aisle barely leaving room for the potato-sack ass barely contained in their stained sweatpants gifted in a long ago festive Christmas season, I finally found my goal: Portable DVD's.

The $47.00 item was gone.

And so was my good humor and patience.

I left my cart in the aisle because, frankly, I didn't care about inconveniencing any of the people on whom I had just wished quick and uncomfortable bowel movements. Rather, I left in a hurry only to be blocked by one itinerant woman who seemed intent on swerving side-to-side like a 1965 Buick with a leaky tire on a two lane road. It took me what seemed like five minutes to pass her, and I found my friend had advanced five feet. After my half hour trek through the madness, I was at home intent on paying whatever premium price was required just so I didn't have to deal with "Black Friday" idiots.

Later, I ventured out to Fred Meyer, found my purchases at less than Target, and emerged from the store happy, content, and relieved to have completed half my shopping in less than 10 minutes which is every man's dream and as it should be.

Black Friday is evidently the description of a man's mood Christmas shopping.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Stating the Obvious

Is it wrong to ground a little boy for stating the obvious? Ethan is very excited about Christmas this year. Being a four year old (two months shy of five), he is getting into the decorating, the excitement, and, of course, the speculative toys as we read newspaper toy inserts over and over.

He will say, "Oh Daddy. I want that and that and that and that! Oh, and Daddy? I'm REAAALLYYY gonna get that for Christmas!"

His excitement has translated into decorating earlier than normal. As we pulled out boxes from under the stairs, he said seriously, "Daddy, we've never started this early before." He has so much experience....

As I sat on the living room floor last night unpacking Christmas decorating treasures, he stood over my shoulder exclaiming, "Daddy! I remember that one!"

However, one exclamation gave Daddy pause. Ethan, during a lull, rubbed the top of my head, and said, "Hey Daddy. I can see your skin."

In the spirit of the holidays, I will not ground him for stating the bald truth.....

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I was in Washington DC for three days attending meetings for the College of Western Idaho along with Guy Hurlbutt, a fellow trustee. Guy is the quintessential Southern gentleman, and he visited family in South Carolina prior to our meeting.

Guy asked me during the session in an apologetic way if he could use my laptop to access flight arrangements. Almost as an aside, he told me he needed to head back to South Carolina after our meeting because his older brother had died. It was bittersweet that Guy had the opportunity to visit his 85 year old brother and was there when he passed. But, nevertheless, Guy lost his brother.

My oldest brother arrives tomorrow for the first visit with the family in about 18 months. Our mom and step-dad arrive tonight on the bus for the visit. My brother turned 59 a few weeks ago, and I'm 48. Our brothers are 57 and 54 respectively. I couldn't help but think of my brothers when Guy delivered his tough news in his typically gracious manner.

I simply cannot conceive of losing my brothers. Though months may go by without seeing each other, I suppose the knowledge of their presence is comforting. Certainly, we have had and have differences of opinion. We are all different people. The years have set us on different paths after so many years working unusually close together.

But we are still brothers after all.

I got my computer up and running for Guy and quietly left my hotel room out of respect for his loss and his privacy. As I shut the door I glanced at him sitting before the computer and wondered how I would react (note, I avoided the word "will") to the news of losing a brother.

I will hug my brothers especially tight this weekend.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Holidays and Laboratories

The Dunhams had a very busy Halloween weekend. The adults attended a neighbor's annual Halloween party where Mark dressed as a vampire at the urging (i.e., insistence) of Ethan while Heather wore her grandmother's signature polyester fur trimmed orange 70's outfit.

The next day, Mark again donned his vampire attire (and, sigh, the full face make up and black hair spray) to join Ethan "Eddie Munster" Dunham for a packed day of parties and trick or treating. After spending time with his cousins at cousin Zoey's 1st birthday party where everyone -- including Disco Heather -- was required to be in full costume, we headed home to trick or treat with the neighbor kids. After a rush around the neighborhood it was home to answer the door which Ethan insisted on doing alone in his vampire regalia.

The next day as we put away the Halloween decorations, Ethan asked, "Daddy, today is Thanksgiving isn't it?"

I replied, "No. Thanksgiving is in a few weeks and then Christmas is a few weeks after that."

Incredulous, Ethan sternly corrected me with an added twist seemingly derived from watching too many Scooby Doo Halloween specials with mad scientists: "No Daddy! It was Halloween yesterday, today is Thanksgiving, tomorrow is Christmas, and we need to clean out the attic to build my laboratory."

Everyday is an experiment of some sort with Ethan.