Every year, for the last 8 years, I have been stopped at least once by an employee of the school wanting to know who I was, what my business at the school was, if I was a parent of a child at the school, yada yada yada.

The first time this occurred was way back at the end of 2001. And I didn’t mind. It was our first year to the school, and I felt good that there was concern for the safety of the children.

The second time it was a different person stopped me, but what bothered me the most about it was that she had followed me through the school and then waited in the hallway while I was talking about something with a teacher. She stopped me when I came out of the classroom and began her interrogation. I copped a little attitude because, c’mon…I was just in there speaking with a teacher for several minutes.

In succeeding years, I’ve displayed more attitude and indignation when asked because, Jesus, I am at the school at least 4 times a week. One particularly bad incident was when I was standing with my daughter looking at a map of the neighborhood on one of the walls. There was a Walk To School program going on, and everyone who typically walked to school had chosen a color to highlight their route on the map. Now, we don’t walk to school. We live too far away. But when I was a kid in the neighborhood, I would walk to school and I was showing my daughter the route that I would walk. Well…apparently someone interpreted this as me trying to get a little girl to show me where on the map she lived. The only information I gave this person was that yes, I was a parent of a child in the school and she just so happened to be the little girl standing right next to me.

When my oldest daughter was in 5th grade, I had taken her to school earlier than normal one day because she had some elective type class. My wife called me and asked me to wait at the school (instead of going to work right away) in order for me to help her carry some stuff from the van up to the second floor. So, I waited outside, leaning up against the school and playing games on my cell phone while I waited. Eventually, she called to let me know she had arrived but was parked on the other side of the school grounds on the opposite side of the building. I put my phone away and headed across the grounds to meet her, passing first through the area of the playground where the intermediate grade kids were, around the corner and then through the section where the primary kids played. Just then, I heard someone yelling, “Sir? Sir! What’s your business here, sir?” I turn to look around and it’s the playground monitor who followed me from the other side of the school. “Yes! You, sir. Don’t move!” Nearby was the primary grade playground monitor…a woman whom my wife and I are familiar with. I said, “Kim, will you handle her for me? L is waiting for me to help carry some stuff.” So I kept walking and I heard, “Sir! I told you not to move and if you don’t stop I’m calling the po…” I looked back to see Kim speaking with this woman explaining that I was not a threat.

So…I’m glad they are on the lookout for dangers to our school children, but after 8 years it gets annoying.

And then there was the time, in my own neighborhood, when I was walking my girls around selling Girl Scout Cookies. We started off going up the street with the girls leap-frogging each other while going house to house. They went to houses 1 and 2, then the girl who went to house 1 went up to 3, the girl who went to house 2 went to house 4, etc etc etc. Well, due to a combination of one girl getting a couple of sales while the other did not, they eventually ended up on opposite ends of the street. So I stood on the sidewalk halfway between each one so I could keep and eye on both. Next thing I know, I hear from behind me, “Can I help you with something buddy?” I turned around to see a guy who had come out of his house and was standing in his yard, his wife behind him in the doorway on the phone.

“Nope.” And I turned back around to keep and eye on my girls. At this point, I had NO IDEA what this guy was thinking.

“What do you mean, ‘nope?’?” He had an indignant tone in his voice. “What are you up to?”

“Just selling some Girl Scout Cookies.” Perfectly logical (and true) explanation.

“Girl Scout–?” I turned back around to face him and he started walking toward me with a scowl on his face and pointing his finger. “You better tell me what the hell you’re doing around here, bud!”

“I told you. Girl Scout Cookies. I’m walking my daughters around the neighborhood.” I indicated my one daughter down the street, and then my other daughter up the street.

That calmed him down. “Oh. Oh. It’s all good. I was just…Hey, honey?” He turned to his wife who was still on the phone in the doorway. “It’s OK, he’s just taking his kids around selling Girl Scout Cookies.” Then his wife said into the phone, “Oh! Oh, it’s ok. It’s just some people selling Girl Scout Cookies. Sorry about that. Thanks.” Then she hung up. The guy explained to me that he was just watching out for things in the neighborhood.

“Yeah, sure. I understand. Did you want to buy some Girl Scout Cookies?”

“Uh, no. No thanks. Have a good day.”

So I’m stunned. This dude tried to interrogate me, got a bit angry with me, had his wife on the phone with what I assume to be the police, and then doesn’t buy a box of cookies???? What a fucker.


Have you ever seen anyone overreact to the performance of a magician? I’m not talking about a typical response of “Wow! That was a really good trick!” or even a “Ok, THAT was cool!” I’m talking about the kind of reaction where someone maybe screams or runs away or starts crying.

I’ve always loved watching magicians. I much prefer the close-up kind of magic and sleight of hand stuff as opposed to the big spectacle of disappearing tigers or national monuments. My fascination with magicians was big enough at one point for my mom to take me to a magic store so that I could get the tricks and perform them myself. That was utter disaster. I quickly found out that being able to do the trick immeasurably paled to experiencing the trick. I didn’t want to KNOW how to do it. I wanted to watch it and be amazed, even though I know it’s not really “magic.”

So it amazes me when I see someone freak out over some magician making a coin disappear or “magically” know which card you picked out of a deck. A while back, there was this guy in the racquetball league at the YMCA. We’ll call him Walt. Seemed like a good guy. Funny, bright, easy to talk with. Well, one evening while hanging around in the hall waiting for our court times, one of the other league guys (Ed) brought up the fact that he knew a wizard. A wizard who he could call on the phone and who would be able to tell what someone what card they were thinking of. Of course, everyone demanded proof. So Ed asks Walt to say the name of a card. Walt picked one, let’s say the 6 of hearts. Ed borrowed a cell phone, put on the loudspeaker so we all could hear and called The Wizard. He made some small talk, saying where he was and asking if the Wizard had heard from some sort of mutual friend yada yada yada. Then he went ahead and told The Wizard that he had a guy there who was thinking of a card and no one believed that The Wizard could guess it. The Wizard said, “Well, I’ll prove it. 6 of hearts.”

That was pretty fucking awesome. Everyone registered the amount of shock and surprise you would expect them to show at how such a spontaneous and unplanned event played out. It was fun and of course there were the questions. “How’d you do that?” “Oh come on, really! What’s the trick?” and so forth. But Walt was stunned.

Now, it just so happened that Walt was the guy I was scheduled to play that night. Our time came and we went into the court. As soon as the door closed, Walt said, “How did he do that?” I was smiling (cuz it was a good trick) and told him I didn’t know. Well, because I was smiling, Walt didn’t believe me. He started getting angry. “Don’t tell me that! You know! Tell me, please!” I assured him that I didn’t know and that there was certainly some trick to it. That’s when Walt said, “Things like that are unnatural. Black forces like that can cause big problems.” He was visibly shaken.

So at this point I was thinking, “Cray-zee.” But I told him that there was obviously some kind of code in the small talk or something that Ed said to tip off “The Wizard.” Walt wanted to know what that code was, because he sure didn’t hear any code. So I explained, “That’s the whole point of HAVING a code. What fun would it be if the code was blatantly obvious?” Walt didn’t want to hear any of it.

It ended up with Walt quitting halfway through the fist of what was supposed to be 3 games. He said that he was dropping out of the league and would not rejoin if Ed was going to be in it. He didn’t want to risk being around that kind of stuff. And he never came back.

Now that’s something I just don’t get. I mean, really. In the 21st century, how can anyone honestly believe that mystical, dark forces were invoked and psychic abilities were called into play just to tell someone which card they were thinking of?

This one time (not at band camp) my daughter asked me to stay in the bathroom while she got her bath. When I asked her why, she said that she was afraid a Great White Shark was going to come up out of the drain and she just wanted someone there with her.


That got me thinking back to when I was a kid and the irrational fear I had about sharks. It was at the swimming pool. There were two diving boards: a low dive, which is what most pools have nowadays, and a high dive, which fewer and fewer pools seem to have. This high dive was about 12-15 feet high. Every time I stood on the edge of the diving board, I could clearly imagine the following scene: Just as I step off the diving board and commit myself to the freefall, a shark will emerge from the water directly beneath me and I will plummet straight into its mouth and eaten alive.

It didn’t matter that I KNEW that if there was a man eating shark in the pool, it would have been common knowledge and the pool would have been closed. It didn’t matter that I KNEW there was no way a shark could survive in a chlorine swimming pool. That’s the image that was in my head. I still jumped. But once I hit the water, I swam like the dickens to get to that ladder and out of the pool.

Then, strangely enough, that scene in my head kind of ended up really happening. When I was 10, my sister (who was in college) went on a trip with a big group of people to the Bahamas and she took me along. They had chartered a boat (named Sundancer). One day, everyone decided to go for a swim. Now, this was NOT a swimming pool. This is the actual ocean and there were actual sharks that lived in this ocean. Earlier in the trip, I had seen them. Needless to say, I didn’t want to go into the drink. I had my goggles on, but I didn’t want to go in. My sister was in the water telling me it was fine and that I could come on in, but I just stood on the deck of the boat in my goggles shaking my head no. So one of the guys grabbed me underneath the arms and threw me in. I screamed and held tightly onto my goggles, because I didn’t want them to fall of when hit the water and burn my eyes because of the salt. When I went under, I could see clearly because of the goggles. And I saw a shark. OK, so maybe it wasn’t a shark. Could’ve been a barracuda, might have been a dolphin, or it could have been a just a fish that was close, but at that moment, it was a goddamn shark. I swam back to the boat, scurried up the ladder and ran to my little cabin below deck. From then on, I wouldn’t go in the water.

To this day, whenever I go to a beach, I won’t wade out any farther than waist deep.

THAT was put to the test during sping break 2006 when we were given a trip to Hilton Head. One day, the dad of the other family we went with and I took all six kids for a walk down the beach. It was a fairly long walk…about 45 minutes down and about an hour or so back (cuz we were tired and walked slowly). On the way back, it seemed that the tide had come in and now there was…let’s just say…a river mouth where there wasn’t one before. We had to cross it in order to get back, no doubt about it. But this was really deep. The other dad went first with one of his kids and the water was up to mid-chest level on him, and he’s taller than me. But, I’m a dad and I’ve got my kids with me who need to get across. I don’t have the luxury of being uncomfortable in this situation so…I did what I had to do and took each kid across in turn, the water up to my chin, and all the while being nervous as hell because I’d read that places like that are a popular spot for things like sharks and what not. Definitely don’t want to do that again.

And yes, I sat on the bathroom floor with my book while she got her bath.