Sunday, February 26, 2012

Big Ideas - #GBE2

It’s just after bedtime at the Best Dad Evar household. Best Dad is in the family garage seizing a few moments of quiet. The remnants of a massive shoving-aside project are evident all around him, with boxes, books and piles of stuff stacked to eye level on every available flat surface on either side of the borrowed electric car and its charging station. The clearance on either side of the vehicle suggests that Best Dad will have to back the car out of the garage and into the driveway before loading anyone else into the car. Best Dad is also squeezed into place next to the car, which is far nicer than any of the stuff that surrounds it. He’s checking tonight’s charge-up.
“So, you’re analyzing how much this power-up is costing you, right?” the Narrator voice ends the silence.
Best Dad’s face displays its ever-present slight tinge of annoyance, “I always think about how much things are costing me.”

“So, how much?” the Narrator asks the next logical question.
“Huh?” Best Dad plays dumb, or was he just not paying enough attention?
“How much is this costing?” the Narrator shows the ultimate in patience.
“Well,” there is a long pause, “I haven’t quite figured that out yet.”
“So what are you really doing out here?” the Narrator asks pointedly.
Best Dad Evar chuckles softly, “Honestly?”
“Mm hm?”

“I’m thinking.” Best Dad says, as if that answers the question.
“About?” the Narrator is now curious.
“Sometimes I have philosophical thoughts.”
“Really?” the Narrator is genuinely surprised. “Like what?”
“You know, like ‘What are we here on this Earth for?’ and ‘What does it all mean?’”
“And staring at this car and its charging station help you figure those things out?” the Narrator asks, with a bite of sarcasm.

Best Dad laughs, but not bitterly. “No, not really.” He sighs deeply. “Sometimes the ‘meaning of life’ questions are too deep and I end up thinking about random stuff.”
“Like, if this car could talk, what do you think it would say?”
There’s a long pause, which Best Dad could interpret as the Narrator taking a moment to carefully consider his response. “Well,” the Narrator starts, pausing for effect, “You know there are certain benefits to being an all-knowing, all-seeing Narrator.”
“What, you mean you can talk to cars?” Best Dad is incredulous, but clearly he’s going to press the issue further.
“If the car could talk, I know what it would say.” the Narrator says cryptically.

“Well, can it?” now it’s Best Dad’s turn at patience with the Narrator’s coyness. Best Dad’s not big on patience, in general.
“No, not hypothetically, actually!” Best Dad is annoyed now. Perturbed even.
“Well, I didn’t say I would tell you if it could talk.”
“You are a fucking tease!” Best Dad is shouting now. “Just tell me what it would say!”

“Continuous Power,” the Narrator says simply.
Best Dad’s mouth curls up into a puzzled smirk. “What does that mean? The car wants to rule the world?” Disbelief and disdain are evident on his face now.
“Think about it.” the Narrator leads.
“Not political power.”
“No.” the Narrator’s voice suggests he should go on.
“Power, as in electricity.”
“It is an electric car,” the Narrator now indicates that he’s caught on.
“It would want a continuous power source.”
“If it could talk.”
“Right. But that’s-”
The Narrator quickly cuts in, “Don’t say ‘That’s impossible’!”

“No, I wasn’t going to say that.” Best Dad has now caught the thread, his hand rests on his chin, rubbing it in the classic manner of a thinker. “I was thinking that’s not what this car was designed for.”
“Nonetheless…” the Narrator is going to let him puzzle this through.
“Huh.” Best Dad continues to think this over, he’s clearly interested in this line of thought. “How would you bring continuous power to a car like this one?”
“I know a lot, but I can’t see the future, Best Dad Evar.”
“Good to know,” he says, but clearly this conversation is going further.

“Okay, but you said you could speak hypothetically.” Best Dad picks up the thread again.
“No can do.” the Narrator replies. “It seems like a pretty simple problem to solve, though.”
“Simplicity isn’t my strong suit. I’m more of a big idea kind of guy.”
“Yes, you are, aren’t you. You’re long on big ideas but short on the nuts and bolts.”
“That’s me.”

“Well, maybe continuous power is another big idea that you’ll think about for a moment but leave to someone else to figure out how to solve the problem of actually doing it.” the Narrator says sadly.
“Maybe so, but you said it’s simple.” For once, Best Dad is going to play the bulldog and not give up on this one.
“It seems simple. An electric car that’s surrounded by appliances and devices that are continuously powered.”
“The seemingly simple solution would be to somehow connect the electric car to the same grid that powers that other stuff.” Best Dad is on a roll!
“That’s what I was thinking.”
“But the obvious problem is that the car is moving.”
“Aha! Yes, that’s the rub, isn’t it.”

“And that’s where I usually give up.” Best Dad says sadly but not dejectedly.
“You sure?” the Narrator nudges.
“Well,” there’s a pause as Best Dad convinces himself to take the next logical step. “There could be an electrified track that the car could connect to.
“Not an unprecedented solution.” The Narrator points out helpfully. “The buses in San Francisco still use a system like that.” There’s a pause. “Or?” The Narrator nudges again.
“Or, well, we have a wireless charger for that portable tablet thingy.” Best Dad holds up a finger as if to forestall the end of the discussion. “Maybe the technology will someday advance to a point where that kind of system will deliver enough power to keep a car moving.”
“Now you’re talking.” the Narrator sounds impressed.

“Yeah, but all of this is just idle chit-chat.” Best Dad throws in the towel.
“Why?” the Narrator sounds crestfallen by this turn of Best Dad’s mojo for the worse.
“Because I’ll never have the money or the position to even experiment with the possible solutions to these technical problems.”
“No, you probably never will. But every big advance starts with an idea, right?”
“So?” Best Dad clearly doesn’t see the point any more.
“So, maybe just having the idea is enough.” this smacks a bit of desperation.
“Not if no one ever hears of it.” Best Dad heaves himself away from the box labeled ‘Extension cords’, but which might actually contain Christmas dishes or ten year-old papers still left unfiled, and turns toward the door that will take him back into the maelstrom, er, the house.
“True, so how could we make sure at least a few people hear about continuous power, Best Dad Evar?” the Narrator shouts after him as he walks away.
Best Dad Evar throws up his hands but doesn’t turn around. “I have no idea.”

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Perils of the Road #GBE2

Today, Best Dad Evar is doing errands around town in the aforementioned electric car. His two children are strapped into their car seats behind him, noisily announcing to no one in particular (certainly not to each other, god forbid) that they exist and they have interests and ideas and, you know, stuff going on in their heads. All the while, Best Dad is gritting his teeth, trying not to rear end today’s slow poke, a white minivan with bumper stickers he can’t help but read.
“Oh, what the hell is this moron doing?!” He yells suddenly.
“Who are you talking to, Best Dad Evar?” the narrator softly asks.
“Just this b-” he stops himself from saying the expletive out loud; too nasty for little ears, but he gestures at the minivan in front of him, which has now come to a complete stop in the middle of the block for no apparent reason.

In fact, the door of the minivan has abruptly swung open forcefully and the driver has jumped out of the vehicle.
“Oh, you’ve got to be frigging kidding me!” Best Dad slumps in his seat. “Some of us have to get where we’re going!” he yells, but not so loud that the woman could possibly hear him through the window seals and metal frame of his little Northern California dream car. It looks like she’s got something else on her mind anyway and wouldn’t have responded if she did hear. She takes off running toward a gravel walking path that meanders away from the avenue they’ve both been driving on.
“Where the hell is she going?!” Best Dad says, not even yelling any more. This is more of a helpless lament than an angry blast.
“Dad, don’t you know her?” Oldest child says from the back.
“Who?” He asks dumbly.
“That woman.” His daughter says, now pointing so he can’t possibly misunderstand who she is referring to. The woman is about to disappear up the path, but he now realizes…

“Oh, shit, yeah. That’s Jane.” He rolls his eyes. Better not to say aloud the description of Jane that first comes to his mind.
“Don’t say it.” The narrator whispers in his year, this time a beat behind Best Dad.
“I know.” Best Dad says disdainfully. “But I better help her, I think she may have finally completely lost her mind.” He begins to pull the car over to the shoulder and park it safely out of the flow of traffic.
“No, it looks like-” the narrator starts, but is interrupted by younger child.
“Daddy, she jumped into the creek.” She says in the matter-of-fact voice only a four-year-old can manage with a straight face.

“She what?” Best Dad asks.
“Do you have wax in your ears, Best Dad?” The narrator asks bitingly.
Best Dad sighs heavily. “Come on, girls, we have to help her.”
“Your enthusiasm for this rescue could be a little higher, Best Dad.” The narrator chides him. But whether he has any enthusiasm or not, the process of getting both girls unstrapped from their car seats (he can’t very well leave them there, can he?) ensures that he will be, at best, the fourth or fifth responder to what he still believes to be a mental health emergency.

As they run up the creek-side path, the father and daughter come upon a scene that’s quite different from what Best Dad had imagined. “What the-?” he says lamely. A handful of people are shouting from the bank as Jane holds onto a very large branch along the opposite side of the creek. She is struggling with something under the water with her other arm. She heaves that something out of the water, it’s… a boy! He surfaces with a giant gasp as if he’s been under a long time.
The crowd cheers as they believe the boy has been saved, but then they gasp again as the boy is pulled back down under the surface. There’s something down there, pulling him down with a force equal to heroic Jane’s efforts. Best Dad Evar’s facial expression is a mixture of surprised appreciation and sheepishness. So much for the crazy b- he’d berated for slowing them all down!

No, that crazy b- is gathering herself. Jane’s face contorts with effort and she gives all her strength to her next heave to try to pull the boy out for good. In the next moment, the culprit makes its appearance, it’s the boy’s bicycle and it surges up out of the water. Unfortunately, Jane doesn’t know her own strength and the bike whips around, the rear wheel catching her square in the face. The gathered crowd groans with dismay and sympathy. A great gash of dark red appears on Jane’s face, but if she’s disoriented or in pain it doesn’t show. Instead she continues to fight to keep the boy above water.
“Aren’t you going to do anything to help, Best Dad Evar?” the narrator quietly pushes
“Well, my girls are here. I can’t leave them…” he trails off, realizing the weakness of his excuse.

There’s a splash as a young man, a teenager perhaps, jumps in to help. He latches on to the same branch and after a couple of failed attempts, manages to get hold of the handlebar of the bike with his free hand. With this second pair of hands helping, the bicyclist also manages to grab the branch and seems able to hold himself just far enough out of the water to be out of mortal danger. He does, however, gasp in horror as he looks over at Jane and spies the gash on her face, which is oozing blood. She still seems oblivious to her own injury and continues to work to free the boy’s clothes, which have clearly gotten caught in the bicycle’s chain. There’s another splash as a third rescuer jumps in. This man is large, he could be a fireman or lumberjack. With some quick work, he frees the boy’s pantleg from the chain and the foursome begin to head for shore.

Best Dad Evar’s daughters begin to cheer for the heroes. The gathered crowd, at least those that aren’t trying to pull the wet four out of the water, also clap and shout. Best Dad simply stares. He finally remembers himself and says, “Come on kids.” He and the girls approach Jane.
Best Dad removes his shirt and offers it to Jane. She looks at the garment as if she has never seen anything like it before, and her eyes flash at Best Dad as if she wonders what kind of pedophilenut would take off his shirt when he sees a young boy rescued.
“For your face.” He says, recognizing her confused expression. She still seems not to understand what he means, though it seems she has also recognized him, at least.
“You’re bleeding like crazy, Jane.” He says, pushing her softly back to reality.
“Uh, I am?” She takes the shirt but doesn’t lift it to her face. Best Dad gently raises the shirt to her face and presses it to the wound, which is definitely going to require stitches.

“Is the boy okay?” She asks, still in a shock-induced trance.
“Yes, he’s going to be fine.” One of the bystanders says.
“The boy’s not your son?!” Another asks incredulously.
“No, I just saw him fall from my car.” She says, now holding the shirt to her face independently. He sheepishly backs away again, holding his girls’ hands, realizing how harshly he’d judged her and doubting that he would have done the same had he seen the boy fall himself.

“Is that your car?” Another asks, pointing toward the street, where a tow truck is backing into position to move her minivan out of traffic.
Best Dad can only stand and watch as the two bystanders run back toward the street, flagging down the tow truck driver and the policeman who had called him to clear traffic. He watches long enough to satisfy himself that they’ve saved her van from the impound lot.

“I think we’d better get on home now.” He tells the girls quietly. They are smiling at him.
“Good job, Dad.” the older one says.
He looks at her with a puzzled expression. “For what?” he asks.
“You helped a hero.” He still looks at her, not quite believing that she thinks he actually helped in any way. “You gave her your shirt to stop all that blood.”
“I guess we all have to do our part, Best Dad.” The narrator softly says into his ear.
“A very small part.” Best Dad replies, still clearly a bit disgusted with himself.
“You prob’ly saved her life, Dad.” The little one says. She smiles her finest Daddy-is-the-best smile at him. He smiles back broadly. “I don’t know about that, but Jane certainly saved that boy’s life.”

This post is dedicated to Jane and her new scar.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Do-Over #GBE2

Tonight we catch up with Best Dad Evar in the kitchen. If he’s in the kitchen, it means either he’s washing the dishes (which he isn’t), or it’s one of his two nights in charge of dinner. It also means one of two types of dinners will be served: microwave-from-the-freezer or oven-baked-on-a-cookie-sheet (also from the freezer). He seems to be fretting a bit, his mind lost in thought.
A voice interrupts his train of thought, “You seem to have a lot on your mind, Best Dad Evar.”
Best Dad Evar sighs heavily. “Change… again.”
“Wow, again?” The narrator seems to know exactly what type of change he’s referring to.
“Yeah, again.”
“Wow, that’s five times in what… five years?”
Best Dad Evar counts out the job changes in his mind. “Yeah, you’ve got it.”

“Do you ever wish you could go back and change any of the decisions you’ve made?”
“A do over?” Best Dad Evar responds with what would best be described as amusement.
“Yes, if you prefer, a ‘do over’.”
“Well, my theory is that every decision you make and everything that happens in your life is on a continuous path that led to where you are now. Change one thing and the path is disrupted. Everything changes.”
“So?” the narrator responds expectantly.
“So, I wouldn’t wish for everything in my life to change. I don’t want to have different people in my life, like my wife and children. I don’t want to live in a different place or-”

The narrator interrupts, “But those things wouldn’t have to change.”
“No, not necessarily. But I prefer to think of it that way.”
“Huh, interesting.”
“What?” Best Dad responds, immediately his guard is up, knowing he’s being psychoanalyzed.
“It’s like you’re validating all of your decisions by saying your life would be radically different and almost surely worse if you hadn’t made them the way you did.”
“No, that’s an exaggeration. I’m not saying I made the right decisions. I’m just saying once they’re made, they put you on a path and there’s no looking back.”

“Do you ever look back?”
“Well, of course I do.”
“Do you ever think, ‘This isn’t where I want to be or where I should be’?”
“Yeah, especially with my career… or lack thereof.”
“So, couldn’t you envision going back and changing things that would place you on a different path career-wise, assuming everything else would stay the same?”
“That’s just it, though, everything else wouldn’t be the same. Even if I was with my wife, I’d have different children because they would have been conceived at different times or places-”
“I get it.” the narrator says, sounding irritated.

“Just let it go, I’m not playing the game.” As he says this, Best Dad Evar’s two girls appear in the kitchen, as if drawn to the spectacle of their father talking with his imaginary friend. He chooses to sit at the kitchen table with them, shuffling his aching feet to find a comfortable position.

“What about your children, Best Dad, would they want any do-overs?”
“Well, let’s ask them.” Best Dad says with a devilish grin.
“Older child,” he asks, “is there anything you’d want to do over?”
“Yes, I would like to do over the fight I had with younger child today.” The girl is unfazed by the use of the generic ‘older child’ and ‘younger child’ monikers. There’s a soft chuckle from the narrator as he notices this.
“Really?” Best Dad Evar seems genuinely surprised.
“I want to start from the beginning and pretend the fight never happened.”
“Why do you want to go back and change that?” Best Dad asks her.
“Because it wasn’t something I liked.”
“About yourself?” Best Dad asks hopefully.
“About both of us.”
“Well, you can’t change your sister, you can only change yourself. Right?” Best Dad is now in recognizable parent mode. The girl sees right through it.
“Right Dad,” she rolls her eyes as if she’s heard this one a hundred times before.
“But I can ask her to change.”

Best Dad Evar chuckles and shakes his head. “That’s my oldest child.” He says to the empty seat across the table where he imagines the narrator to be.
“Younger child, would you like to have any do-overs?”
“No, I’m a good girl,” the younger one says with an impish grin, but in a tone of voice that suggests she fully believes what she’s saying.
“Well, there you go.” He says to the space across from him. “One of them wants the do-over to change what the other one did, the other thinks everything’s honky dory and wouldn’t change a thing.”
“Well, she did say ‘about both of us’.” the narrator puts in helpfully.
“I guess so. But where is the specific? What does she want to change about herself?” At this point, Best Dad Evar seems to notice that the girl is still sitting there, looking at him with an expression that is a mixture of anger and exasperation.
“Daaaaaad! You’re talking about me again with…. NOBODY and I’m right heeeeeere!”

Best Dad Evar looks embarrassed for a split second. Then he quickly recovers himself, and growls at her, “Well, answer the question: What would you change about yourself or your behavior?”
She looks embarrassed herself, as if she’d made a mistake. Then she pushes the chair back roughly and runs off.
“See,” Best Dad Evar says, his mouth twisted into a smirk, “I never get a straight answer out of that kid.”
“Well, what do you expect, she’s seven.”
“Yeah she is!” He stands up and wanders over to needlessly check on the dinner that’s being cooked by his automatic appliances. “Luckily we won’t have to do seven over.” He smiles to himself, enjoying his little joke.