Phone rings. “Hello! This is Todd from Xfinity. I see your introductory 12-month contract on your internet is nearly up.”
His story checks out, we moved into our place a year ago. “Yeah, I’ve been meaning to look into that.”
“I just have one question for you: What’s your favorite thing on the internet?”
Wow, tough question. A loaded one to be sure. Is Todd looking at my internet browsing history right now? I think for a few moments and say, “Well, if I had to pick one thing, I guess I’d say the free exchange of ideas. I mean, look at everything that’s happened, socially justice-wise in the last decade from marriage equality to the collapse of dictatorships. I don’t think any of that could have happened without the rise of the internet.”
“Okay,” Todd said. “Based on your response (pause) I suggest you stick with the 75mb with BOOST internet plan!”
“Ah, now I see where you were going with that question Todd.”
I was walking Otis the other day past the Langham, a hotel across from Trump on the Chicago River. Strolling down the sidewalk my mind somewhere else I heard a guy yell, "Is that a goldendoodle or a labradoodle?" It's a question I get 10 times a week. People ask about my dog, most of the time as a vehicle to talk about their dog. It's fine. I'm content to pass a few minutes exchanging pleasantries with fellow dog people.
(The only time it went wrong was on St. Patrick's Day. People in line for the bars when I took Otis out at 7:30am were nice. But by 3pm I couldn't walk 50 feet without someone yelling "Can I pet your dog!" I tried to pretend I didn't hear them, but that didn't work, so instead I'd look at them and smile and say something like, "So sorry! In a rush to get to a party!" One guy got me good. His friend asked, "Is his name fluffy?" I smiled but didn't say anything. His friend said as I was walking away, "Is his name asshole?")
Anyway, this guy outside the Langham in his leather jacket and newsboy hat was talking to me while smoking his pipe, and a lady with a mane of silver hair walked over in a long silver and black fur coat smoking a cigarette. They were together and told me about their golden doodles. After a few minutes I said something like, "Have fun in Chicago, got to get going." And while walking away I was thinking about the first thing I noticed about them. The smoking and the lady's long fur coat, and I wondered what people's first takeaway is when they see me walking. Our first takeaway is based more on personal prejudice, I would argue, and my noticing something like a huge fur coat says more about me than them. I pondered what someone's first takeaway of me would be. Probably my beard, and if they added a second (and it was towards the end of the day) it'd be "the guy with the beard who smelled like beer."
Just then a woman trotted up to me on the sidewalk and stopped to talk to me. Short of breath and with wide eyes she said, "What did Paula Deen just say to you?"
We had a problem with our neighbors: smoking. It's a non-smoking building, so we had the right to complain. I've never lived in a building like this, but when the person downstairs from us fired up a cigarette, it was not a subtle smell. With no exaggeration, I can tell you that it smelled as if the person was sitting next to me on my couch smoking a cigarette. My bedroom smelled like a 90's bar. We complained (to them personally several times, then managment) and they stopped smoking. There was a bit of a language barrier so it took a week or so, but they stopped in the end. But now they've taken to cooking at 2am. It's the oddest thing. My bedroom smells like a Chinese restaurant. I doubt they're doing it intentionally to get back at me, but if they are, well played. It's not like I can complain about someone's cooking late at night.
I moved to Chicago about three weeks ago. A lot has changed. One of them — people understand me better. I used to pop into Starbucks at 7th Ave and Grove street a couple times a week to pick up a large iced coffee on my way to work. I always order a "Venti iced coffee" (I speak their silly coffee language when I have to), and then I wait until they say "sweetened or unsweetened." I drink my hot coffee without sugar, but I like the milkshake quality of sweetened iced coffee. But, since I'm a Midwesterner at my core, I'm compelled to fill every vacant moment in my speech with "Uhhhhh." So when they ask, in spite of myself, I always say, "Uhhhh, sweetened." I never once got a sweetened coffee in New York. All they ever heard was "Uhhhhnsweetened." But here, it hasn't been an issue.
There are a lot of great things about having kids, I'm sure, but the one I'm enjoying most right now is that I can wear my old shirts that have stains. That one button-down with the grease stain on the side from carrying a box of pizza like a football? It's back in the mix. Any shirt I put on will end up with drool and strange spit-up on it. There's no point in fighting it. Embrace the stains. Another great thing about having a kid? If I stay out too late at the bar and look like I've been run over by taxi the next day I have a built in excuse: "The kid had a rough night." Sure, they think I'm telling them that my child didn't sleep well the night before, but that kid always sleeps great; I'm referring to my fantasy football team "The Kid" losing their asses in the late game while I stay up and watch.
I saw a band at the Jersey Shore on a recent holiday weekend at a bar that was described to me as "where the locals hangout." I don't remember their name, but I remember that below their name on their banner it said, "Rock and Roll with Fiber." They were okay. I didn't refuse to sign the email list their drummer handed me, but I did give him my Yahoo address. Their guitar player was very good, but unfortunately for him, our friend Jen turned out to be a much better air guitar player. She received a lot of attention from men with backwards, upside-down visors on their heads during her solo. I was happy for her, though I had to wonder what they guitar player, who was standing only a couple feet away from her, thought about all the attention she was getting.