Monday, August 17, 2009

When Moron and Golf Collide

Golf is a game of absurd precision. The rules of the game require a player to knock a tiny ball (about 1.7 inches in diameter) into a very small hole (only 4 inches in diameter) over 400 yards away using only a tool that resembles a garden hoe. In a game like this, success depends less on physical prowess but more on mental composure. You must sustain focus for long periods of time, you need the patience to think through elaborate problems, and you must stay cool under pressure. I lack all of these skills.

I prefer sports that reward explosions of brute strength or unthinking reaction. I like games that move fast, where the flow of the game doesn't require a thoughtful examination of the lawn or packing up luggage. Therefore, the only aspect of golf I can stand is the driving range. There is something so pleasurable in whacking the hell out of a tiny ball and seeing how far it can go. I love that sharp, slightly metallic, slightly hallow "ping" when you hit it just right. And I enjoy that I can do this over and over again with as little transaction time as it would take me to bend down and replenish a ball on my tee.

Many years ago, when I was home from college, I went to the driving range in my hometown. The driving range was divided into individual stalls by white wooden partitions not taller than 2 feet tall. Because it was a warm summer night, all the stalls were filled, and I could see the people on both sides of me diligently drilling their swings. In contrast, I spent my time, in my usual fashion, whacking at the golf balls one after the other with a great deal of energy but very little thought or consistency.

I was terrible, but I didn't much care. Balls flew to left and right, but as long as they went far I was pleased. After about half an hour, I made the worst golf drive of my life. I hit the ball with my club at such an odd angle, that the ball did not move forward out of the stall, but flew directly left towards the partition separating me from the next stall. I had hit the ball so hard that, instead of coming to a stop, the ball ramped up the partition, launching straight up into the air. The ball shot up eight feet from the ground. As the ball started to come back down, I covered my head with my hands and braced myself for the hit. Of course, something worse happened.

I realized, with horror, that the ball was falling on a leftward trajectory, towards my neighbor in the next stall. I looked at him and saw him standing, holding his club behind him, ready to swing at his golf ball -- his eyes were completely focused on the tee, and the crown of his head was totally exposed. I choked out a weak "Fore!" then winced as my golf ball struck the center of his head and bounced to the ground.

Judging by the way he crumpled slightly at the knees and rubbed his head with his hands, I think he felt a not insignificant amount of pain. He looked around for the culprit. It took less than a second for him to lock his gaze -- a face full of shock tinged with anger -- on me, still bent over in my wincing posture with my hands over my head. "I am so sorry," I squeaked. I started to sputter and gesture what happened then withered into shamed silence under his glare. He took five seconds, I think, to fantasize punching me or dragging me by the ear to the office. Then, wordlessly, he turned back to his swinging, and I was spared.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Moron Tax Credit

Once in a while it happens -- you do something stupid, you brace for the consequences, but the moron tax doesn't come. There was the time when I accidentally knocked a cleaver off the kitchen counter, watched it tumble downward to my bare foot, and exhaled a gasp of relief when it landed less than a quarter inch from my right pinky toe.

Once in a long while, your moronic act actually improves your condition. In such cases, you come away with moron tax credit instead of moron tax. My parents have an uncanny knack for converting moron tax into moron tax credit.

Many years ago my father and I went, on a whim, to a Florida water park. We changed to our swimsuits and headed to the large wave pool in the center of the park. For most of the time, the wave pool was simply a pool where adults floated on plastic rafts and kids played Marco Polo. But every hour, on the hour, a siren would sound and you'd hear a big crash as the gears of the wave machine began to churn. Waves would begin rolling through the pool. They would start small but grow heavy enough to throw most adults off their feet.

My father and I poised ourselves at the edge of the pool as the waves began. We laughed as larger and larger waves splashed against us. Then, an enormous wave crashed over our shoulders, knocking both of us down and sucking us backwards into the pool. When I finally emerged, sputtering, from the water, I saw my father at a distance as he was also pulling himself from the water. As I walked over to him, I noticed something strange about his swimsuit.
"Dad," I asked, pointing at his shorts, "When did you change your swimsuit?"

My father looked down at himself and replied with an amazed look on his face. "The wave must have pulled it off."

Now even more puzzled, I asked, "Then, what are you wearing?"

He looked down again. "I'm wearing my underwear."

"Well, why are you wearing your underwear when you were wearing a swimsuit?"

"I forgot to take my underwear off."

I started laughing. "How could you forget to take off your underwear when you put on your swimsuit?"

With triumph on his face, he replied, "Good thing I did forget, eh?"

Friday, August 7, 2009

Backing into Disaster

There is an espresso machine like this one (pictured above*) at my workplace. I see it several times a day -- whenever I go to the restroom, whenever I wash my coffee cup, and whenever I grab some drinking water. I always know it's there, and I know exactly where it is.

And yet...

A few months ago I was washing my coffee cup at the sink, less than foot away from the espresso machine. A co-worker came up to me and politely asked if I could step aside so that he could tip his coffee into the sink. I smiled and took a step back, towards the espresso machine. In so doing, I pressed my upper arm into the "steam wand" of the espresso machine.

For those of you unfamiliar with espresso machines, the steam wand is the pointed, stainless steel valve that releases a gush of hot steam to create the milky froth required for cappuccinos and cafe lattes. It can heat a cup of milk to 150 degrees in less than 10 seconds. It gave me a sizzling second degree burn in less than 1 second of contact. The skin on my arm first became red, then bubbled up into a hot blister of the same shape as the steam wand.

According to the medical advice available on the internet, I discovered that one should go immediately to a hospital emergency room for treatment of any second degree burn larger than 3 inches in length. Looking at my arm, I estimated that it was closer to 2 inches, so I slapped on a band-aid and went back to my desk. The burn eventually healed, but I still have the scar.

* Picture courtesy of Wikipedia Commons. See:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

When You Can't Take Enough Showers

This picture (above) captures the Dermacentor Variabilis, also known as the American Dog Tick. A couple of minutes ago, I pulled this one from my scalp. This is particularly disturbing because I had pulled another one from my scalp about four hours earlier. Who knows how many more of these insects might be crawling around in my hair right now. I am planning to spend the next hour in my shower.

Since I don't know how these ticks got onto my head or what I did to attract them, I admit this may not qualify as moron tax. This incident is so disgusting, however, I figure it is still worth mentioning.

You can see how lightening quick these buggers move in the video (embedded below).