Friday, July 28, 2017

Naming a Boy

I am coming to the realization that our son will be born nameless. My wife and I have reached an impasse on what to call him. Objectively, we are both to blame. I have an unabashed penchant for homages to musicians and comic book characters and she taught public school for so long that each of the names we had previously agreed upon are now off the table because, “I had a such-and-such once and he stabbed a disabled-nun.”

My wife leans toward family-member tributes, but by the third child we had exhausted all of the reasonable ancestral names and were looking at the business-end of Flossy and Homer. One solution was to saddle them with a second-string family name, but indoctrinate them to answer to something completely unrelated. I realize that several people have successfully employed this strategy, but I could not bring myself to join the “we will name him Perforation Roscoe Thaddeus but call him Bill” camp.  

The select few desirable names that survived the previous-pupil gauntlet had been already appropriated by close friends or family members who would hopefully remain within our child’s social orbit throughout their lives. This left us no choice but to go to The Internet. I did not want to us to be Bandwagon-Christeners, so I went to the social security administration website and looked at the most popular names of the 80’s…. the 1880’s.

Having perused the list, my first impression was that there was a striking number of popular names from this time period later assigned to Sesame Street Muppets (Grover, Bert, Oscar, Ernie). My second impression was that people were determined to utilize the letter H no matter what the cost. Hubert, Hiram, Horace, Harvey, Harold, Homer, Harley, Herman and Harry all made the best-of list.  

Scrolling through the subsequent decades of our nation’s Social Security rolls, I was amazed that from 1880 until 1920 the top three boy names in America remained unchanged. John, William, James.* Then, in 1920, Robert staged a coup pushing John, James and William to second, third, and fourth respectively. Robert maintained its dominance until 1940 when James took the top spot. While the Big 4’s popularity has fluctuated some, we have not yet had a decade where at least one of them does not hold a spot in the top ten.

Somewhat desperate, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and see what my peers were choosing to name their offspring:

Come Hell or high water, my cohorts are going to insure that if we start your name with an “r” it will be immediately followed by a “y.” The list is peppered with Ryan, Ryker, Rylee, Ryder, Ryleigh, and Rylan. These are not statistical anomalies. The aforementioned names accounted for 136,625 citizens born between 2010-2016.

Barring an “ry” duo, we reserve the right to place a “y” wherever the rest of you chumps would drop a vowel. Londyn, Kylee, Lyla, Ayden, and Kylie comprise over 107,000 kids.

Let’s say you like Ayden, but a someone beat you to it. That won’t stop my people. We will relegate it to a suffix without breaking a sweat. Jayden, Brayden, Kayden, Cayden, and Hayden (which made the best-of list on both sides) amassed a whopping 230,706 in just six years of procreation. Throw in the “Aydens” and you could repopulate Orlando.

There even appears to be an ongoing feud as to whether our daughters should be named Adalynn (12,549) Adalyn (12,859) or Adeline (12,848).

Like previous generations, we still love our Judeo-Christian / Bible names like Sarah, Mary, Abraham, Noah, Jonah, Cane and Abel. However, we also reserve the right to name our daughters Genesis (28,039) Trinity (20,976) and Eden (13,684).

Just to keep our edge, Luna (14,013) Serenity (28,063) Harmony (11,102) Destiney (17,346) Valentina (16,908) Ivy (13,684) and Ximena (13,700) were all very popular girl’s names. 

Getting desperate, I clicked on one of the “Unique Boy Names” ads that tend to come up when you have been searching for baby names.

The first list sounded like an American Gladiator call-sheet gave birth to a biker-gang sorting-hat. 
Ace, Blade, Spike, Falcon, Hawk, Blaze, Thorn, Steel, Phoenix and Ajax were a few standouts.

I then tried the “Baby Boy Names with Swagger List.” Featured names included Zenon, Cadmus, 
Racer and Brees. There was also an entry for Waldo but you would never live it down if you lost that poor kid.

Next was the “Rebel & Heartbreaker” boys’ names. Steel yourselves ladies….

Ajax, Arsen, Bacchus, Biff, Gael, Gannon, Hercules, Jed, Lars, and Rock. That site even had a helpful column that told you each of the name’s meanings. For instance; Rock means “rock or stone.” I am not joking.

Perhaps we will just name him Playden and be done with it……

*On a side note, the name Adolph enjoyed massive popularity in the United States for several decades with over 7,500 boys having been given the name by the time World War II started. I imagine the majority of them immediately began going by their middle names.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Yard Sale

With a third child on the way and a pressing need to clear some floor space, my wife and I decided to subject ourselves to the most shameful of all domestic endeavors: the yard sale. The first step was marketing. So we placed an ad in the local paper and made some yard signs to position at nearby intersections.

Then, it was time to place an add on Craigslist. Before crafting my own ad, I perused a few of the other items listed under “Yard Sale.” The idea was to do a little opposition research to see what we would be competing with on that Saturday. The image below was lifted from the very first garage sale ad in my immediate area. I am not joking.

And yes, I added the black modesty bar so as not to run afoul of Blogger’s adult content policy. It seemed unlikely that anyone could remain that oblivious to their surroundings and still manage to navigate the Craigslist posting process, so I had to assume it was intentional. Since their posting was going to generate far more traffic than the handful of poorly—lit photos of a food processor I had at my disposal, I briefly toyed with idea of contacting the wonder-crotch twins and asking if they would just sell my items on commission (and burn anything that remained).

Instead, we forged ahead and ran the ads on Friday informing the general public that we would be open at 6 AM on Saturday. So, at 5:30 AM we arose to find a running car in our driveway helmed by a middle-aged woman on a Bluetooth headset. It became immediately apparent that she was the advance scouting party for the individual she was on the phone with because she quickly glanced over each item and gave a loud verbal assessment of it to the person on the other end.

Moments later a man in his fifties saunters in, makes eye contact with the woman and tells her to tell her sister Rose that he said hi. Pausing her narration, she informs he counterpart that Billy said hello and in the blink of an eye she was gone. Billy hung out and haggled over a used pair of men’s khaki pants before leaving empty-handed. In the next hour, we were hit by a handful of other yard sale enthusiasts who willingly traded sleep for the opportunity to browse our selection of teacher supplies and a gently-used hamster enclosure.

Fortuitously, there happened to be an estate sale in the vicinity; so while people were waiting for their assigned time slots, they hung out at our garage sale and made ridiculous offers on items that we were clearly not selling. We met one very sweet soft-spoken retiree who purchased a wicker bench from us. She asked if I could carry the item to her vehicle, which I soon realized was a small SUV.

After some finagling, I managed to work the majority of the bench into the trunk but we were unable to close the liftgate. After locating some spare rope, I managed to tie it down to where she could get it home. As I did this, we discussed the erosion of common courtesy and the lack of chivalry in our modern society. Discovering I had laid down my knife inside and needed it to remove the excess rope, I told her that I needed to run and grab something to cut the rope with.

Gently protesting, she began digging in her purse while assuring me that she “probably had something” that could slice through the rope. Foreseeing myself attempting to saw through a nylon cord with a fingernail file but unwilling to appear dismissive, I politely waited for her to conclude her search. Then, in one swift motion, she produced and deployed one of the largest serrated folding knives I have ever seen. Perceiving my shock, she told me, “Baby, I grew up on the southside of Chicago so you’re lucky this is all I found in my purse.” I returned her handbag machete and she sweetly thanked me once again before driving away.

Following her was not one, but two separate individuals who breathlessly approached my wife and I asking if we had any “saxophones we would be willing to sell.” This was perplexing since none of our marketing material mentioned musical instruments of any kind. Perhaps they were both participating in a band-camp scavenger-hunt.

Four hours in, we were visited late in the day by an older gentleman killing time until his estate-sale slot was available. We had a pleasant conversation and he inquired as to the curious behavior of modern parents always holding onto their children’s hands in public. Speaking for myself, I admitted that without physical restraint I worried that my children would wander in front of a car. He contemplated this for a minute, and then mused at how much the world had changed since his own youth.

From there, he began to recount an episode of Forensic Files he had recently seen. The episode featured a young mother who was in public with her preschooler and turned to get some water from a drinking fountain. By the time she turned around, the child was gone. He went on to explain that the child had never been seen again and despite evidence of a grisly demise, a body was never recovered. Grunting with amazement, he concluded his story by admitting that he guessed “that might be a pretty good reason to hold a kid’s hand nowadays…..” He then bid me good-day and drove off.

Finally, after 7 hours, we closed up shop. That night, around 8:30 PM, my daughter and I were sitting on the couch as I got her dressed for bed. The doorbell rang several times and I peeked through the curtain half-expected to see Forensic Frank holding a shovel and a bag of lime. Instead, there was a man I vaguely recognized as a neighbor pushing an infant in a stroller.

I opened the door and he looked at me and stated matter-of-factly, “I missed your garage sale.” Unsure exactly how to respond, I said, “Yup.” An awkward moment of silence passed between us before he asked if I was selling any clothing for little boys. I told him that we were not and then he asked if I had anything else for sale. I told him that I was still trying to unload some furniture. He asked to see it and indicated that he and his wife would be back to get it. I never heard back and he has waved at me twice since then while I was out getting my mail. I should have just taken my chances consigning with the Swingers' Sidewalk Sale down the road... 

Monday, July 3, 2017

A Vasectomy Story Part 2

Having survived the procedure, my next task was to survive the billing department. As I was urged by the service provider to pre-pay for my procedure, I was somewhat taken aback when I received a separate invoice for an “office visit” the day of my vasectomy. Dismissing this as an easily resolved discrepancy, I placed a call to my account representative and we had the following conversation:

Me – Yes, I had a vasectomy a few weeks ago and I pre-paid for the procedure but I just received a bill from you related to the procedure. 
Them – You pre-paid for the cost of the procedure, but not the office visit occurring during the procedure. 
Me – But it was an in-office procedure, by its very nature it wasn’t going to occur anywhere else but the office. So why wasn’t my presence in the office included in the cost of the procedure? 
Them – Again, because you were in the office for the procedure you were charged for an office visit. You only prepaid for the procedure itself. 
Me – Was there an option to have the procedure in the parking garage or at an Arby’s? 
Them – Of course not sir....
Me – So there was never a scenario whereby the aforementioned office visit wouldn’t be part of the cost of the procedure? 
Them – All I can tell you is that the office visit was not included in the pre-payment estimate.
I begrudgingly paid for the office visit and prepared to make my “deposit.” On the day of the procedure, I had been given a small green bag and two sample cups. I was told to just drop off my sample at the front desk and make sure it was recent and “still warm.” They assured me that they would be in touch once the results were in.

So, on the day of the deposit, I searched all over for the green bag but I could not find it. We had some plastic Wal-Mart shopping bags, but somehow that seemed creepier than just openly brandishing the sample cup. Instead, I decided to place the cup in the front pocket of my khakis. This decision was based on the idea that a “pocket carry” would provide the privacy I wanted while still keeping everything warm per my instructions.

Finally arriving at the front desk, I deftly removed the cup from my pocket and leaned toward the receptionist as I whispered, “I just need to drop off a sample.” I doubt if her reaction would have been any different had I actually placed my genitals on the counter and informed her that they needed to see a doctor. She recoiled dramatically and declared that she “wasn’t touching that” which immediately drew the attention of the waiting room.

Sheepishly, I informed her that I had been told to just drop the sample off at the front desk. While still maintaining her defensive posture, she invited me to “take it back to the lab myself” if I so desired. At this point, the clerk to her left (who had been valiantly pretending to be engrossed in a billing statement) broke and began snickering.

Dejected, I took my cup and walked back to the lab. Much to my chagrin, there wasn’t anyone there. I stepped back into the hall to make eye-contact with the wary receptionist and indicated that the lab was empty. She shrugged her shoulders and suggested that I “leave it on the counter” as if I was returned the keys to a rental car. I picked a spot next to a warm vial of urine and left the cup. Walking back out, I half-jokingly requested a receipt.

In hindsight, I realize that it is disconcerting to be handed the secretions of a complete stranger. However, when one works in a urology clinic these scenarios cannot be completely ruled out as part of one’s daily responsibilities. Had the same transaction taken place at the customer service desk at Hobby Lobby, her reaction would have been justified. Weeks later I would receive a separate bill for testing the sample. I was beginning to suspect that a “stirrup-rental fee” was pending with my insurance.

Then, the letter that I had been waiting for finally arrived. The doctor informed me that my sample had a negative analysis. This was immediately followed by the caveat that “no procedure is 100% effective” and the failure rate is “1 in 2500.” I was hoping for a “Certificate of Sterility” and a power-ring, but apparently their office does not do that sort of thing.

That number seemed rather low (I was hoping for something in the same ballpark as being struck by lightning at an indoor poetry slam in rural Mississippi) but until I had something to compare it to I would reserve judgement. It turns out that the “failure rate of a successful vasectomy” (I take issue with the phrasing) is nestled between a PGA golfer getting a hole-in-one and being born with a third nipple.

As a side note, the odds of a member of the general population choking to death is around 1 in 4,000. I am fairly certain that my odds of meeting my demise in this manner would increase dramatically if my wife were to ever to utter the words “I am pregnant” during a future meal.