Thursday, May 20, 2021

Have you ever had one of those days?

Have you ever had one of those days when the cops show up at the front door looking for you because four weeks ago, you began honking at a slow driver in front of you on a narrow one-way street? The same driver who claims that you also jumped out of the car when he stopped and began screaming at him? You don't remember doing any of this, but studies have proven that road rage can fog your recollection of events. 

It doesn't matter - you weren't even home, so they explained this all with a phone call, informing you politely that you now have to go down to the station next week to make an official statement. Then, on your way home, you decide to stop and fill up your toy Smart car with gas, after which you thought it would be a fun financial experiment to see if your card would be blocked if you tried entering a six-digit pin, even though German bank cards only accept four-digit numbers. After finding out that it does not block your card, you try it again, using the same six-digit number. 

At this point, the whole thing becomes more of a 'How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?' type of quagmire. The answer is 364, as was discovered by a group of engineering students from Purdue University, who designed a licking machine that was modeled after a human tongue. You decide to proceed with your equally intellectual quest to find out how many times you can enter an incorrect six-digit number for a 4-digit pin. After your third attempt, you stare at the screen puzzled, trying to comprehend the blinking message informing you that your card has been blocked. The clerk at the gas station tries to help.

'It means your card has been blocked.'

Remembering that the police had shown up at your door earlier that day on an unrelated anger management issue, you suppress your urge to respond and instead grit your teeth, harness the rage swelling up inside you, and redirect your fury on your hunk of a husband, who has ignored your nags for the last several years to order you a credit card, which would have come in quite handy when trying to pay for gas with a blocked bank card and no cash. Your incredibly intelligent husband provocatively suggests that you ask the clerk if you can simply come back later with cash. Thinking that this is a stupid idea, but knowing that he is right 99% of the time, you ask the kind lady behind the counter, who tells you this is no problem and writes down your license plate. 

In a move that would baffle most normal laymen, you then decide to go to a German bank after 4:00 in the PM and expect a human to be there to help you out. You only realize that the bank is closed after parking in the lot behind the bank. The same parking lot that has a gate arm that will open to let you out, provided that you slide your bank card into the slot. Not wanting to limit yourself to merely one financial adventure for the day, you decide to see what happens if you try entering a blocked card when trying to exit the bank's closed parking lot. You almost find it funny when the machine sucks up your card and says that you have to talk to the non-existent humans inside the closed bank, but you stop just short of a giggle. 

You park the car and spend the next five minutes deciding whether to ask your muscular ball of love for help or to spend the night in the car and try again in the morning. As luck would have it, a friend of yours comes walking out of the bank, sees you in the parked car mumbling obscenities at your steering wheel and offers that you follow him when he drives out. He then gets in his car and pulls up to the exit. It's at this point that you try and start the engine and remember a funny little quirk about your car that's not so funny at that particular moment. Smart car engines automatically lock after five minutes of sitting idle while contemplating life's choices, so the only way to get the car started is to remove the key, lock the car, unlock the car and stick the key back into the ignition. You realize that the car is not starting because of this non-humorous glitch and finally get your car started just as he drives though the gate, honks twice and disappears into traffic. You're parked in the first spot in front of the exit, but as luck would not have it, you cannot make it to the gate before the bar closes again.   

You curl up in a ball in the passenger seat, now ready and committed to weather the chilly night air until the bank opens when you remember that you need to pick up Tom from training. Your choice of a life mate was certainly wiser than your choice of a pin number or a car, so you call his wallet, which has both cash and an unblocked bank card, to the rescue. Not wanting to shock the love of your life by thanking him, you instead issue a clear and present statement. 

'I'm ready for wine.'

After making it home without any further monetary bumbles, you find that the chicken Caesar salad that your husband had planned to make was replaced with a pizza because, according to him, he got sidetracked rescuing a smart girl in a Dumb car. Or maybe it was the other way around. Doesn't matter, 'cause look - mama's medicine!

Have you ever had one of those days when you really, really wish that your husband did not have his own blog? 

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Making America Loud Again: Discovery

Today was all about discovering new things. Patrick, along with myself, was surprised to discover that Peter, like Gizmo, can become quite the ass when you put him in water. 

This was Peter's evil grin directly after he had given Patrick an unwanted chlorine eye-bath. The next gleefully wicked head-shot came shortly after he had thoroughly baptized David without his permission.

Normally the second-born child would simply delegate the love and vent his aggression on the third born. The problem with that sound logic is that the third born in this case has been training hard-core for three hours a day, six days a week, for the last five years. David never stood a chance. 

At one point, Evil P decided to take break from tormenting younger humans to use the bathroom. Along the way, he discovered that my parents had recently installed surveillance cameras that were digitally capturing his nefarious and tortuous escapades for all of eternity. Smile!

The next discovery came in the bathroom. Over the years, my dad has decorated the entire house in what one can only be described as eclectically-bizarre with a dash of bat-shit crazy. The toilet closet was no exception.

Take another look. This truly frightening sculpture of Van Gogh sporting a Russian medal is hung at exactly the eye-level of a grown human that is standing.

If this is not the best deterrent to standing and peeing ever, I don't know what is. I used the bathroom shortly after Peter and I certainly sat the hell down. 

Tom also made a discovery of his own. I call this one 'Don't-fall-asleep-if-your-brothers-are-total-asses-and-have-a-ball-point-pen'.

After lecturing Things One and Two on the dangers of ink poisoning their sibling, we rewarded the entire crew with frozen sticks of milk-chocolate, because, you know, that's what good parents do. Right?

Time flies when you're doping up delinquent young-ins and before we knew it, it was time to free up three beds at the Johnson ranch.

Knowing that my parents had just dealt with a week of loudness, we decided to give them a bit of quiet time. After saying goodbye to Christine, Patrick and Stephanie, we hit the road and invaded the northern side of Carolina.

For reasons only privy to Tom's arguably faulty brain, he decided to drive around a roadside market riding a tricycle that he had found in the corner collecting cobwebs.

After nearly getting kicked out of a rather nice and rustic roadside market, we ventured on to a beach close to where they claim the first plane was flown.

The boys had a blast. They're city kids, so drinking a gallon of sea water and inhaling sand particles was something new and strangely exciting for them. It did build up a mighty fierce hunger so we were all glad to come back to the ranch to find Pop-Pop manning the grill and flipping burgers.

After almost twenty years of living in Germany, I have discovered the root cause of why German burgers suck. NEWS FLASH - IT'S THE BUN. In the land of Deutsch, the buns are crap. Entschuldigung. They either turn mushy because the patty is too juicy or they crumble because the bread is too dry. The buns in America are probably not even made using real bread, but they are delicious so I don't care. I also prefer American peanut butter which looks and tastes nothing like the real peanut butter you can find at Aldi. And don't even get me started on mustard that is not yellow, the lack of which also prevents German burgers from even competing with what my dad brought to the table.

After the old man and the BBQ, Pop-Pop tucked the boys in bed and started to read 'The Old Man and the Sea'. 

It's not exactly the most riveting story and the boys had spent all day in the sun and had bellies full of burgers, so it was not a shocker when they conked out after the third page.
Ladder Talk: 
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: That we went to Kitty Hawk and had a good time. 
David: The beach. 
Tom: That we went to the Kitty Hawk beach. 

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: That Patrick and Stephanie had to go. 
David: The drive. 
Tom: That I got smacked by a couple of huge waves and water came in my nose and my neck and everywhere.  

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: Go to the mall. 
David: Go to the mall. 
Tom: Go to the mall. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Making America Loud Again: Landfall

Being the Johnsons, we did not trust ourselves to wake up in the middle of the morning in time to make it to the airport for our flight to the States. To shorten the drive and decrease the odds of inadvertently leaving any children behind, we stayed at Grams overnight. At 4:00 in the morning, my alarm went off. Our flight was scheduled to take off at 7:30 in the A.M. from Frankfurt, which is only about 25 minutes away at that God-awful hour.  I checked my phone, wishfully hoping for a flight delay. I then rubbed my eyes and checked again. WHOO-HOO!! Our flight was delayed until 11:00! Thank you, American Airlines!

I then reset my alarm and got three more hours of that beauty sleep that Angie keeps telling me I don't need. We also called Heidi and Klaus, who had graciously volunteered to let us park at their place and have them drive us to the airport. They live about five minutes from the airport, so this saves us some seriously ridiculous parking fees. Klaus was also loving the extra beauty sleep that Heidi keeps telling him he needs.

As I slept, I had a nightmare and flashed back to our last trip to the U.S, where Angie had impatiently thrown a stuffed teddy bear at a TSA agent while going through customs, causing a complete lock-down that ended with bomb-sniffing equipment being brought to the scene and us missing our connecting flight.

I woke up sweating, but tried shaking off the anxiety by telling myself that nothing similar could possibly happen again. Of course, I've also told myself the same thing about family members embarrassing me in public, so I'm obviously shit at paying attention to ominous foreshadowing.

A short side note, and I am not trying to assign blame at all, but... it was ANGIE who was in charge of packing the suitcases for the boys. The only mistake that she will never own up to is that she allowed each of them to pack their own carry-on.

Sensible Peter packed earphones, a pillow, a book, and a sweater in case it got cold on the flight. Not-so-sensible David packed a bag of potato chips, fifty individually wrapped Life Savers, a soda, and three decks of magic cards.

Tom was really the joker card. Was he going to lean more towards Peter or more towards David? In the end, Tom chose the by me-self path, and that one told his ten-year old brain that what airplane folk needed the most in their carry-on were water pistols. Two of them. And nothing else. 

This is Tom, quite tickled with himself that he had been chosen out of all the people going through security to be invited to a personal interview with a security agent that was not quite as tickled. Oddly, though, he didn't address Tom. No, no. I was slightly less than tickled to have that honor.

'Sir, you are not allowed to bring weapons of any kind on an aircraft!'

'Okay, but come on! They're brightly colored plastic water guns and obviously look nothing like a real weapon. Besides, they're not filled with any liquids.'

'Sir, you're gonna have to take a step back. I'm calling in the Federal Police, they can decide.'

I glanced over my shoulder to make sure that my lovely wife was not wielding any stuffed animals.

'No problem, Sir. I'll wait here patiently with my delinquent third-born.'

A few minutes later, two heavily armed police officers showed up. After a few brief explanatory exchanges, the officers lowered their weapons and had a peek into Tom's carry-on. One of them then stood up and glared at the security agent that had initially stopped us.

'Oh, come on! They're brightly colored plastic water guns and obviously look nothing like a real weapon. Besides, they're not filled with any liquids.'

I vaguely tried to avoid smirking and failed miserably. Instead, I avoided eye contact with the red-faced security agent, quickly collected Tom's arsenal of dangerous plastic weaponry and fled the scene with my fugitive family to our gate.

Despite Tom's lack of attention to detail when it came to what was allowed in your carry-on luggage, we actually made it to our flight twenty minutes before boarding. Being the wise and seasoned sailor that I am, I asked my merry bandit of seamen if anyone needed to hit the head before embarking on our voyage. When they didn't understand my jargon, I asked if anyone needed the bathroom. Tom and David signaled their interest.

When we got to the restroom, there was a cleaning lady standing by the sinks and repeatedly hitting a green button on the wall. I am witness to strange things on a daily basis so I simply ignored this and went on with my business. When I was done, I went to wash my hands. The lady looked a bit startled and quickly pushed her cart out of the bathroom. I washed my hands and then had a closer look at the buttons she had been frantically pushing. 

That's right. The buttons were to allow patrons to vote on just how satisfied they were with the cleanliness of that particular restroom. The green button was a smiley, which apparently worked well. It made me smile.

After visiting what was beyond a doubt the most satisfyingly clean bathroom ever, we boarded a shuttle to take us out to the plane.

We had a brief layover in North Carolina where we had to clear customs. One short hop later and we landed in Norfolk. While waiting for the bags, the boys began to wonder if the belt would be rotating clockwise or counterclockwise once it started. I don't remember which way was correct, but as is apparent with this picture, Mama was right. Again. 

After collecting our bags, David and Tom raced across the room and began attacking an elderly couple that looked a lot like Oma and Pop-Pop.

About a month ago, Christine and I were talking and we realized that her visit with my parents and our visit were going to overlap. Her kids go to a U.S. school and ours go to a German school, so we had always thought that there was never a possibility for the cousins to see each other during the summer break. We were wrong, though. There was a one-day overlap, and they made the most of it.

Holy shit! Zoom in and check out Tommy. I'm quite sure that this is the same glimpse that pterodactyl victims witnessed seconds before having their entrails presented to them.

The cousins had an absolute blast for several hours. The evening ended with the only respectable way I know of to feed ten humans - pizza.

After dinner, my dad brought out a homemade strawberry-Jell-O-sugar cake that highlighted his utter lack of wisdom when it comes to winding down hyperactive cousins. The only thing that saved the day was that our wild ones had not slept on the plane and were losing power quickly. Good night, and have a pleasant tomorrow! 
Ladder Talk: 
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: That we arrived and that we saw Patrick and Stephanie - that was a surprise. 
David: The surprise with Stephanie and Patrick and Christine and jumping in the pool again. 
Tom: That we came in and that Patrick and Stephanie were here. 

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: That we had to fly almost the whole day. 
David: Finding out that Patrick and Stephanie had to leave the next day. 
Tom: That the waiting in Germany for the flight was really long. 

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: Go in the pool. 
David: I want to have fun with the rest of the time with Patrick and Stephanie and go in the pool and, oh, yeah - eat a dill pickle. 
Tom: Go into the pool again with Patrick and Stephanie.