In 1998, a mid-priced hotel chain launched an ad campaign that featured a memorable, oft-repeated, catchphrase.
I knew that if I ever stayed in one of their rooms, that I would be comedically obligated to use the catch phrase in a professional situation.
It’s my nature.
A decade later, my company booked a room for me in that hotel chain (the one with the memorable catchphrase). The hotel was a short drive from The US Military Academy at West Point, where I would lead software-training sessions over the following two days.
Cadet Chapel at West Point
I ached to use the line, but didn’t know if West Point was the appropriate venue.
I wasn’t worried about decorum as much as the fact that the hotel was so close to the campus. SOMEBODY, maybe a 100 people, probably had already tried that line before.
At the last nanosecond, I decided to deploy the catch phrase. I could deal with the groans, the side-eye glances, or even an order to do pushups.
After I was introduced, I looked around the room–at the captains, lieutenant colonels, and civilians seated at conference tables arranged in a giant “U” shape.
I took a deep breath and I began my session:
“I don’t know anything about SharePoint, but I DID stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night.”
I was surprised about how well the line was received. Apparently nobody had used that line in the presence of these audience members.
This was one of the most-formal settings in which I’d ever presented, yet I had never felt more at ease.
At my ad agencyjobs in Chicago, we were reimbursed for taxi fare if we worked past 7 pm.I worked late pretty often, so I was frequently in the back of somebody’s cab.
Most of the rides were uneventful. However, as with riding in any vehicle on a residential street, or highway, there are moments that cause you to clench the Jesus handles (aka , the “Oh shit” handles) in your fist because there is a momentary lapse of focus by the cabbie, or another driver.
“Oh Shit!” Handle
Sometimes it wasjust an unforeseen event, like a pothole that wasn’t on there the day before.
Then there are the rides when you seriously think your life is in jeopardy. Here, drivers jet in and out of traffic, cross multiple lanes to make an exit, come to abrupt, squealing stops at red lights, or come seriously close to crushing a pedestrian who is crossing the street.
The first time this happened,I thought it was an anomaly. Then it happened again.
Sometimes many months later, sometimes only a few days would pass.
At one point I realized that I was under no obligation to stand for such bullshit.
I remember the first time that I protested my driver’s habits. I had a morning appointment and I needed to get to the office quickly afterward for a meeting. Thus, I took a cab to work.
The ride was easy enough until the driver entered Lake Shore Drive (“LSD”)and immediately put the pedal to metal and then repeatedly got frighteningly close to rear bumpers, before darting into another lane…where he got frighteningly close to other drivers’ front bumpers.
In the rear-view mirror, I could see his face as it transitioned from a smirk into something that seemed just short of a sadistic leer.
I’d had enough.
I said, without raising my voice “You’re not impressing me. Your chances of getting paid are substantially better if I get to work without having to stop at the emergency room first.”
He replied, ina Russian accent, “What is your problem?Are you jealous to be in the presence of an expert?”
Huh? I have the problem?
We argued-briefly, but of course, I raised my voice. Though he eventually calmed a bit, reducing his speed and proceeding with some caution. He let me out and I paid.
I felt like I needed to admonish him a bit further, but refrained, because I suspected that he’d just respond by peeling out into traffic or endanger pedestrians crossing at the light.
From that point on, if a driver was taking unnecessary chances during a lane change,or going way too fast, I always brought it up.
More often than not, they adjusted their driving. I doubt if I had a lifetime impact on their habits. It was probably more a case that they felt their tip was going to be impacted if they didn’t shape up.
In some cases, they didn’t adjust, and I asked (demanded)to get out. Which meant I had to hail another cab, or walk. I preferred to be inconvenienced rather than enable the habits of a dangerous driver.
Though I had one particularly horrificcab ride, and I took the “Stop the car!” directive to an unprecedented level and I did my talking with my fists.
That was preceded by a bad day at work.
“Don’t Close This Door!”
My bad “day” really didn’t start until the evening. It was common for my staff to work late. On this day, most of them had been in the office for about 10 hours when we were “asked” (told) to stay even later to create materials for new-business pitch, of which we had no prior warning.
My initial reaction, was “I ain’t got time for this shit.” After some expected, and justifiable, grumbling by my staff we got to work.
Waaaay past midnight, we finally got everything done.I asked for two volunteers (Steve and Jim)to help carry the materials downstairs.
Normally, we would take our office elevator to the building’s administrative floor and cart the materials to the adjacent parking lot. I’m not sure why, but this night we were to take the materials to the building’s loading dock which we could only access through a freight elevator.
In theory, it wasn’t complicated, except that our office didn’t have a key to that elevator. Thus, we hadto call for the building security team to help us.That complicated things.
I had never been inside the small hallway where the freight elevator was, but I knew well of the self-locking door and that we had no key to the door.
We called security on the intercom. It seemed like eons before anybody picked up and Steve said to me, “Man, I ain’t got time for this shit.”
Eventually a guard answered and we told him that we needed somebody to unlock the freight elevator. Steve repeatedly told the guard“We need a a key to the freight elevator. We’re onthe 27th floor….”
Apparently, the guard only heard part of that request.
We brought our materials from our office into the small adjacent hallway. Steve, warned, “Don’t close this door! Because we’ll be locked in and I ain’t got time for that shit.”
The guard arrived andwe learned he didn’t have a key to the elevator, then inexplicably, closed the door behind him.
He tried every key on his ring, before meekly saying, “I don’t have a key to this door, either. ” There was a chorus of “Fuck!”
The guard tried, in vain, to contact his colleagues with his walkie-talkie.
I had been in the office about 17 hours at that point, and was bone-tired. At the time, I felt too weary to think about being angry.
Over the next many, agonizing minutes, the guard tried to locate somebody with a key to the elevator “And to the door!Keys to the the damn door and the damn elevator!”Steve reminded him.
The small hallway, was not well ventilated (did I mention the door was locked shut?). With four men trapped inside, the temperature seemed to be approaching 98.6 F. I found the energy to be angry, but withheld my comments.
After what felt like an eternity, another man with a green blazer, showed up with a walkie-talkie and a key ring. Keys! He had the keys!
Finally liberated, we loaded our materials into a van that a junior account executive was to drive to the Chicago suburbs for the meeting (which, at this point,only in a few hours away).
“Stop The Car!”
I finally got outside the building at about 3:00 am.I was still pissed off after my “detention”in the tiny elevator bank, though it was incredibly soothing to be outside in the cool, breezy air.
I walked, zombie-like, to Michigan Avenue to hail a cab. There wasn’t a lot of cab traffic at that time of night (morning, actually). Though I was the only human that I could see. Thus, the competition for rides wasn’t fierce. I hailed a ride in just a few minutes.
In no time we were speeding away–on LSD–where I repeatedly nodded off and jerked awake.
The LSD exit at Irving Park Roadis two lanes. The cab driver got in the left lane, and I noticed his turn swung way wide, violating the sacred traffic line. I don’tthink the cabbie noticed how close he was to the carin the adjacentlane.
I held my breath for a few moments thinking there might be a collision. The cab missed contact by what seemed like a few centimeters. I saw the driver in the other car jerking his head back and forth while his lips moved rapidly, I couldn’t hear him, but I could sense his R-rated language.
At the next light, the other car pulled up really damn close to the cab and the other driver honked his horn. With his scowling face up close to the glass, he directed a middle-finger salute at the cabbie for the duration of the red light.
I thought “Now they’re even, get me home. ”
They took off from the light, like drag-racers. The cabbie matched the other driver’s speed and then tried to side-swipe the other car!
I was gobsmacked. I yelled “What the fuck are your doing?!?”
I got no answer.
Moments later, the other driver returned the favor, and closed in on the cabbie, again brandishing his middle finger. I braced for a collision. I was surprised that they avoided one.
“I ain’t got time for this shit!” I said, mostly to myself. I realized that I needed to get out of this situation and loudly told the driver to pull over. He didn’t respond.
I slapped the front seat with a fair amount of force, and screamed “Stop the car!” The driver, didn’t even consider withdrawing from the smash-up derby and seemed genuinely puzzled by my order.
“But, we’re almost there,” he said.
That was absolutely the wrong answer. This time, I cranked upmy voice, “I ain’t got time for this shit!”
I lifted my right arm with intentto smack the seat again, and put everything I had into it, this time with a clenched right fist. It was a pretty satisfying THUNK! and it startled the driver.
Without much thought, I pounded the seat again, this time with my left fist. I surprised myself with how much force I’d generated with my weak hand.
For the first time in my life, I felt ambidextrous!
Instead of a bloody-loud directive, I dropped my volume several decibels, and offered this conditional statement, “If you don’t stop the car, the next one will be across your skull!”
He muttered something, I didn’t understand, but it felt like “I ain’t got time for this shit.”
“PULL OVER NOW!” I growled, in what would now probably seem like Batman’s voice.
He did pull over. His opponent had gone around the cab, and “parked” in the middle of street in an attempt to prevent the cab driver from leaving.
As I got out of the car, I said to the cabbie. “Don’t you dare ask me for money!” He didn’t.
I slammed the door shut.
As I angled towardthe sidewalk, I saw the other man was leaning on the fender of his illegally parked car and he said “Your friend’s in some deep shit.”
Trying to restrain myself, I said “Don’t you ever call him my friend!” though I think it came across as a shout.
Then, I walked away, like I was in a movie scene where the protagonist walks from a large explosion but does not look back:
(George Clooney, in “Syrania”)
They immediately started yelling at each other, which I suspected.I didn’t expect that they would lower their voices as quickly as they did. I expected that there were going to be threats, a brawl, more threats, more brawling.
They seemed to settle things pretty quickly. Soon there was no further shouting. No squealing tires, crunching metal, shattering glass, or gunfire.
I walked home–about a mile and half. Not a long distance, but it was late and dark, and I was exhausted. The day–the new business pitch, “detention” in the elevator bay, the cabbie and other having a demolition derby – weighed heavily on me.
My pulse was elevated for several minutes. I was trembling, probably from equal parts fatigue, rage and hunger.
When I got to my apartment building, I climbed the stairs and collapsed on my living room couch and dozed off. I woke up a few moments later and got something to eat, then proceeded with a compressed-timeline bedtime routine.
As I brushed my teeth, I thought of how bizarre that the two men trying to ram each other didn’t come to blows in the middle of Irving Park Drive. They were clearly amped up enough to injure each other while they were in their cars. I don’t know what kept them them from escalating their fracas even further.
Did there interaction end with one of them saying “Oh, I’m terribly sorry. I thought you were someone else?”
Perhaps that, as the clock approached 4 am. they realized that they didn’t have time for that shit.
More that twenty years have passed since that night. A year later, I left Chicago for a much-smaller town, on the opposite side of Lake Michigan. I’ve been in comparatively few cabs. I’ve not had any additional instances of backseat road rage (or any other kind of road rage).
I’ve done some reflection about my actions that night. Normally, I’d back off of my impulses if I might put myself in danger. But hell, I was already in plenty of danger. My actions only put me in different danger.
I don’t remember, ever being as enraged as I was in the back of that cab way back when. Yes, there were some aggravating circumstances, an unexpectedly long work day, being trapped in small, hot, room and on the brink of exhaustion.
There was NO justification for the behavior of the cabbie, or the other driver, who never thought twice about my safety, or that of other drivers or pedestrians. Or the thousands of coyotes that roam Chicago at night, for that matter.
I hope that both drivers are making better choices.
I recommend that they both listen to this song, it is remarkably calming:
When my son was little, we once discussed superhero-origin stories and of they all seemed to fit into a surprisingly few buckets.
Years later (ie, a few weeks ago), I thought about this taxonomy again and came up with some additional examples and have included them all in this post.
As time goes on, I’ll add examples of the heroes from each category to this post and I’m sure that I’ll learn of other types of origin stories.
Content strategists, librarians, taxonomists, fellow recovering comic book geeks anybody else, what have I missed?
If you are a superhero, which of the following are true?
You are member of an alien race.
You are a descendantof Amazonions or Atlantians.
Your filthy rich parents left you their company and you built crazy-good tactical gear.
You studied magic or witchcraft.
You were subjected to a secret experiment in the military or a prison (you were wrongly convicted, of course).
You got a snoot full of radiation (from direct exposure or you were bitten by an irradiated spider).
You are a Norse, Greek or Roman god.
Your powers are derived from a magical potion, or secret-formula pill.
You have been granted superpowers by a wizard.
You were given an emerald energy ring by a mortally wounded alien.
You were in an industrial accident (which of course was triggered by a lightning strike).
You are good at math, and for some reason a mathematical formula gave you super-speed.
One or more of the above is true for one, or both, of your parents.
You were assembled from Vibranium parts.
You inhaled hard water vapor after you spilled chemicals in your lab while you were distracted….because you were smoking a cigarette.
Your doctor father treated your cobra bite with a blood transfusion from a….mongoose.
You are a descendant ofNorse, Greek, or Roman god.
You teamed up with on the hereos from category Number 3.
You are the offspring of a demonic being.
You are a time traveler with common tech from YOUR era.
You are a sentient computer.
You are the clone of a super being.
You have mutant genes because you have a parent with superpowers, or one of your genes mutated on its own…..because DNA.
Example 16 was provided by taxonomist, beer expert, archeologist, etc., Lisa Grimm. Examples 17-23 were provided by my Dot-Com Era colleague Todd Hill.
(I’m still researching true origin story of Arm Fall Off Boy though my current theory is that it begins with members of the creative team saying, “I’m so tired of working weekends. I really hate this job and I’m going to submit this POS concept just to beat my deadline.” )
It seems that everybodyelse has pushed out theiropinion about schools, learning loss, and the (post-pandemic) way forward.
Thus, I’ll provide mine: the best thing that governments, schools, parents, communities…can do for children is to quit fixatingabout kids “falling behind” in reading, writing….geometry, etc.
Instead, we should obsess about how we can help them recapture lost joy and recover bits of their stolen youth.
Academic learning loss is a real (though often overblown) thing, but it is subordinate to joy loss.
Yes, remediation needs to part of schools’ planning. Though much of the buzz is about mandatory summer school and longer school days, that I think will prove to be counter-productive.
With all that students have been through in the past year, should we really be focused on multiplication tables, vocabulary words, or whether they can explain the role of Adenosine Triphosphate?
In order to better serve children, now and in the future,I think, that, to paraphrase Chief Brody in Jaws, we’re going need a bigger acronym.
STEM to STEAM
The term STEM, representing education in science, technology, engineering and mathematicshas been around for quite some time.
Ten, or so years ago, I first noticed extension of the STEM education acronym, to STEAM, to include emphasis on education in the arts (I’m all for that). Though many proponents of STEM, or STEAM refer to “education” or “teaching” rather than “learning.”
About the same time, my son was inkindergarten, and I was surprised by how few recreational opportunities there where for the students. This was during the early years of the No Child Left Behind threats and it seemed that even at age 5, kids were being prepped for standardized tests.
That same year, I read several articles about the importance of recess, and that it should be considered as part of the part of the curriculum, and an opportunity to learn rather than a brief respite from the curriculum.
Thus, almost as soon as I started reading about STEAM, I began using the term STREAM.
Admittedly, I don’t know that what the rules are for extending an acronym that has already been extended. Do I need to get approval from an international standards organization?
STREAMing Out of the Gate
I think that with all students have gone through in the past year, it’s even more important to add recreation to schools’ curricula. We (parents, teachers, elected leaders, taxpayers)need to adjust our focus to STREAM education, where recreation is an integral part of the curriculum.
While I have many (many) thoughts on this topic, I’ll limit myself to a few things here, focusing on things that can be applied universally.
First, I think that every school that reduced, or eliminated recess, due to the threatof No Child Left Behind-type punishments, should restore recess to pre-NCLB levels.
The next step: make recess periods longer and/or more frequent.
If your (or your community’s) high school or middle school never had recess, fix that. My high school didn’t have recess per se (because, you know that’s for kids, right?), but had a 1-hour lunch period.
There was more than enough time to eat, play frisbee, or chatter in the hallways. When I compare my experience to my 11th grade son’s 20-minute lunch break, it seems like I’m reminiscing about “the good old days.” In that respect, they truly were better.
We need to rethink gym class (again).Does everybody in the class NEED to be participatingin the same activity, every single class period, to achieve physical education goals?
In real life, not everybody is going to enjoy team sports as much as the gym teacher does.People enjoy coerced team sports even less.
If some of the students want to walk the track and listen to music, and giggle away the class period, or if a student wants to participate in something like the 100-pushup challenge, or train for a road race, let them.
Students will find a way to learn. We should allow for autonomy so that students can find ways to incorporate recreation into their other subjects, and vice-versa.
Some examplesfrom personal experience:
In grade school, I VOLUNTARILY learned decimals, percentages, etc. earlier than most ofmy classmates for one reason:because I wanted to calculate baseball statistics.
I knew I was learning math then, though I didn’trealize that I learned a lot about physicsplaying Little League.The outfield was quite a lab to learn about trajectory, spin, and velocity. In retrospect,it would have great thing to have some guided instruction in science to go with my practical experience.
One possible option is a semi-structured course in “Recreational Learning.” Or even better: an opportunity to incorporate recreation into learning across the entire curriculum.
Admittedly, there would becosts associated with transition to a STREAM framework.More, longer, recess, more-frequent gym class, etc.. would result in a reduction of time allocated to other areas.
It’s a good time to discuss whether some of the sacred cows that persist in K-12 education are really all that necessary. An example is algebra.
When my son was in 7th grade, we sat in the waiting room of the doctor’s office while he griped about the uselessness of the subject. I suggested, that he ask the doctor about how she used algebra in her work.
Our doctor and a medical resident glanced at each other with puzzled looks. His doctor replied, “Uh, I can’t think of any examples where I use algebra, can you?” She turned to the resident who had her palms up in the air to signify “I got nothing.”
The fact is they do use algebra, or they use software that uses algebra for things like dosage calculations. There are probably several other examples that I don’t know of.
Manypeople use algebra more than they realize. You likely used algebra when you planted seven bushes in your front yard’s plant bed to ensure they were spaced equally apart. You just didn’t call it algebra.
Even if algebra has some practical applications for most people, does that warranthaving students attend 540 days of lectures for (pre-algebra, Algebra I and Algebra II)?
There are a few examples of subjects, topics that are taught way past the point of diminishing returns, that come to my mind. You probably have a few of your own.
Regardless of whether, or not there is a consensus over which subjects on which we may be spending too much time, I think we can agree that we haven’t spend enough time on restoring joy.