“Doing the right thing” or “How to get burned”

I'm telling you, I was here first!


I didn’t kill anyone. This is what I’m choosing to focus on at the moment. I’ve come to realize that life is all about perspective. So I’m committed to having a positive one on my most recent mishap.

I had my bi-annual melanoma check-up this week. (Btw, in case you’re a grammarian, I am consciously choosing to keep the “m” word in lower case in order to illustrate it’s powerlessness and insignificance.) Good news though. I’m eight years free of the despicable disease that claimed my father’s life 11 years ago. Feeling relieved and almost invincible, I carefully pulled my tank out of its tight parking spot while being ever so careful not to hit the tree on the rear passenger side. I almost succeeded until I inadvertently clipped a poor unsuspecting Acura on the front driver’s side and dislodged its bumper completely.

I have to admit, I wanted to drive away and pretend the whole thing never happened. But alas, that’s never an option for an uber-responsible neurotic like myself. After scribbling out four versions of an apology note, I finally settled on one and placed it on the crippled car’s windshield.

A few hours later I received a call from the owner, we’ll call him John. He sounded worried and distraught. “This isn’t a tragedy,” I told him. “It’s just an inconvenience. I’m really sorry. But we’ll make it right.”

In the time between leaving the note and talking to John, I’d received a barrage of feedback from friends and family:

“Why did you admit guilt in writing? You should never do that.”
“Did you take photos? I hope you took photos.”
“You really should have called the police. What were you thinking?”
“You’re in big trouble. This guy’s gonna take you to the cleaners.”
“Did you forget all about the Brett MIchael’s affair?”

I should probably explain that last one. About a year and a half ago I was in a minor fender bender with the Rocker’s now wife. There was no damage but in attempting to do the right thing, I insisted she take my name and information. A few hours later, all kinds of vehicle issues emerged that required several thousand dollars worth of repairs. It was a nightmare. And one that I brought upon myself by trying to do the “right” thing. I suddenly shuddered thinking I’d done it all over again.

But after speaking with,John, I realized that he had likely received similar admonitions about trusting an anonymous stranger who was promising to make things right. We were both navigating in unsafe waters. Welcome to America, where doing the right thing is terrifying because it turns you into a potential target for every scammer, swindler and con artist out to ease their own economic woes by taking advantage of yours. It’s really pathetic.

I remembered how my dad used to make business deals with handshakes. Most of the time they went well. The few times they didn’t weren’t enough to sour my dad on the human race. He kept believing in people and trusting what they said.

I guess that’s kind of where I net out on all this. Sure, I could get screwed. The guy could claim everything from a busted carburetor to a bruised hip bone (which would really be incredible since he wasn’t even in the car.) Weirder things than this have actually plagued us these last few years.

But John seems like an honest guy. So I’m gonna trust him and try to repair the damage I inadvertently did. You can’t walk around protecting yourself from everything. Sure, you might get burned once in a while. But I’d rather spend my energy believing in the goodness of the human spirit, even if you have to shake off a few charred ashes now and again.

Finding my way

You are here.










“I seem to get lost everywhere, even when I know where I’m going.” I said to my friend yesterday while hopelessly searching for 3rd avenue and Alamedia in downtown Phoenix. As the words spilled out of my mouth, I realized the depth and significance of that statement. I’m not necessarily one of those people who find meaning in every traffic light, rainstorm and fender bender. I used to be. I used to believe that the “universe” stopped me at a red light to make me 5 minutes late for an important appointment in order to protect me from some impending car crash that awaited me just a few feet beyond the intersection. I never balked at flight cancellations. Surely it was the “supreme being’s” way of saving me and a host of other passengers from an in-flight disaster. When I did back up into a parking lot pole, the message was clear; I needed to move forward in my life while always keeping my eye on the past so as not to encounter some unseen impediment from bygone years.

This philosophy managed to keep me from lamenting my tardiness. It bolstered me when disaster struck. It even made me almost laid back, which I assure you is no easy task. Believing that everything happens for a reason creates an inner, contemplative life in which self-reflection rules above all else. When one can find meaning in every popped button and split seam, no event, no matter how outwardly insignificant, occurs without at least a limited amount of thoughtfulness and attention.

But we mature. We “grow up.” We have children. And we run out of time; time for inner contemplation, time for “what ifs,” time for attention to the little things in life. We deem introspection to be self indulgent. We run through the weeks not knowing how Monday morning morphed into Friday afternoon in what seemed like a nano-second. We stop wasting time looking for life’s deeper meanings and neglect to excavate the profound beneath the trivial that inhabits our lives. And that’s a shame.

I do get lost a lot. As my son likes to say, “I couldn’t navigate myself out of a paper bag.” And I think that’s significant. My lack of directional sense frustrates me. But perhaps it’s there for a reason, and until I acknowledge and pay attention to it, I am destined to continue my cycle of navigational chaos.

A lot of times I get lost because I don’t trust myself. I question my ability to find my way when, in reality, I know where I’m headed. Back in January, my son was in a play out in Chandler and I had to drive him to rehearsals several times a week. I mindlessly followed my GPS time and time again. There was no mindfulness in my driving. I was too busy multi-tasking to pay attention to where we were going. One night, my son, who was tired of listening to the same robotic voice commands over and over, challenged me to turn off the GPS and try to get to rehearsal myself. “I bet you can’t do it,” he snipped. I was irritated by his tone and blatant disdain. “Oh yeah?” I said. “Well, here goes.” We got there without incident. There were several occasions when I scanned the horizon and recognized nothing. But I kept my doubts to myself and continued driving.

I think it all boils down to what you believe. Like they teach in my youngest’s Karate class; “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” So maybe I get lost because I stop believing I know where I am. Hmmm…now there’s something to ponder.

Warning on a Halloween Batman costume: 
”This cape does not give the wearer the ability to fly.”

Has the whole world gone mad?

Parents today have reached a new low. I’m not kidding. This is utterly psychotic. My youngest, Eli, has been begging me forever to be on a flag football team. So I signed him up with a league in the neighborhood. I’ve heard great things about the organization that runs the league. It was close by. Sure it was adding an extra burden to our already jam-packed after-school schedule. But he seemed so intent on playing that I couldn’t say no.

The first slightly annoying incident occurred when I signed him up. “What day will the practices be on?” I inquired. “That’ll depend on which team he’s on and coach availability,” the impatient voice on the other end of the phone responded. “You’ll find out after the first game. “But what about all of his other activities?” I asked. “I mean, he’s not free every afternoon.” This clearly was an idiotic point to even bring up and i quickly surmised that if you want your kid on a team, you’d better be prepared to make some serious sacrifices. After all, what could be more important than flag football? I mean, come on.

Then about a week before the opening game, I got an email telling me to bring my son’s birth certificate to the first game. I thought it was an odd request and promptly deleted the email and forgot about it. But a few days ago I got another email reminding me that no child will be allowed to play without a valid birth certificate on file. This seemed rather draconian to me. But, since we live in a post “SB1070” world, I figured they needed proof of citizenship in order to be thoroughly legal. But I have come to learn that neither legality nor citizenship figure into this picture. The actual rationale for collecting my six year old son’s birth certificate is that apparently parents lie and try to surreptitiously slip their older children into younger leagues so that they will have some kind of height/weight/talent advantage. Really? What kind of parent would do that?

The fact is that some parent somewhere must have actually tried to sneak their kid into a younger league, right? I mean, just like the ridiculous warnings on baby strollers to “remove child before folding,” or the printed caveat on irons to “never press clothing while being worn,” or the label on my cardboard car sun shield, to “not drive with sun shield in place,” someone somewhere must have committed these inane acts. And there must have been more than a few parents who did this, right? Which brings me back to my initial hypothesis; Parents today have reached a new low.