Sunday, July 02, 2006

I'm not a cripple, but I am single!

I got back from the family picnic . . .

3rd Rock from the Sun

I was really sleepy after I got back. It seemed very hot in my apartment. I took a little nap. I woke up and it seemed even hotter. I noticed that there was air coming out of the vents. I took a closer look and saw that the HEAT was blowing! You see, I usually keep the heat on and the thermostat set for like 60 degrees. This way in some freak accident, my apartment won't freeze up. Apparently though (I'm speculating) if the temperature gets sufficiently high above the set point, something inside the thermostat flips the feedback and the heat turns on... thus forcing the temperature higher... causing a greater problem... (this is why "positive feedback" is unstable, engineering kiddies) So I'm dealing with that now.

Family picnics are funny things. Pre-picnic, there is usually a pretty large delay in how information gets around, and that information ends up getting obscured in ways that aren't even reproducible in a game of telephone. This not only makes it awkward when people ask you very outdated questions, but it's especially awkward when you ask a standard question and find out that you really didn't want to know the answer.

So the parents showed up at my place around 12:30pm. I was wearing a white polo shirt with green horizontal stripes and some low-rise slim-fit boot-cut jeans and sandals. It's a outfit that I think works well on me, and I thought this thing was mostly inside. Mom and dad show up in shorts and explain that it's a picnic (i.e., outside) so I change. On goes the T-shirt and plaid shorts. Mom says, "Why don't you wear that shirt you had on before and your green shorts?" I own green shorts? Yes, apparently I do. Certainly mom's idea is going to look silly when I put it on... Oh, to my surprise, it doesn't. Who knew I had this outfit? Apparently mom did.

We got to Uncle Jack's around 1pm. (my parents don't understand that it's fashionable to be a little late) We head around back. One of my cousins (remember, my cousins were all born circa 1956 and have houses and children and retirement plans) is putting down a table cloth on a table outside. A cooler needs to be moved FROM THE TABLE TO THE BENCH while the table cloth is placed over the table. My aunt attempts to move it and can't, so I place my hands on the cooler to help.
Aunt: "OH, NO! Your shoulder!!" (takes cooler from me, and again can't pick it up)

Me: "No, no, really, it's okay. The surgery was a long time ago. It's fine. I can do this."

Aunt: "NO! I don't want to risk sending you to the emergency room!"

Me: "No, really, things are fine." (grabs cooler away from aunt and moves it two feet over and one foot down so it could sit on the bench temporarily)

Aunt: "I just don't want you to hurt yourself."

Me: "It's really fine. I'm lifting now. It's okay."

This is all causing quite a spectacle among the few people there. This serves to remind everyone who is there that Ted had something done to his shoulder a few months ago, and he's probably just acting macho, so take it easy on his shoulder. In fact, when we were about to leave, a few of the youngins started playing volleyball, and during a conversation with Uncle Jack about work he might do on a new particle accelerator, we have this conversation...
Uncle Jack: You should go out there and play some volleyball. Oh, wait, you wouldn't want to do that with your shoulder.

Ted: No, really, it's okay. Things are pretty much completely healed. I'm fine. I could play volleyball; I'm just not playing right now because I think we're about to leave.

Uncle Jack: So why don't you get another beer? (clearly not believing me about the impending departure)

Ted: Well, really, I think we're about to go...

Unfortunately, mom started to get social right after she said we were about to leave, so for all intents and purposes, I was making things up. I should have had another beer. I should have played volleyball; however, I'm pretty sure that my physical therapist actually DOESN'T want me playing volleyball right now. There's something ugly about banging a volleyball against my new tendon that he probably wouldn't like. I didn't really feel like telling Uncle Jack this though... I'm not a cripple!!

Now, recall from the previous post about this upcoming picnic that last time I had a family get together with this side of the family, Liza came along and was a social butterfly. Everyone liked her, and her ability to socialize took a lot of pressure off of me (and, evidently, my brother-in-law). Well, apparently everyone remembered her...
Theresa: So where's your girlfriend?

Ted: Oh, we broke up a little while ago.

(awkward silence... no good way to segue out of that)

Aunt Carol Ann: So how's your girlfriend?

Ted: Oh, we broke up.

Aunt: Oh, I'm sorry to hear that.

Ted: I hear she's doing pretty well though. (smile)

John: So where's Liza?

Ted: Oh, we broke up about two months ago.

John: Oh, that's too bad. She was really nice.

At this point in this last conversation, I really wasn't sure how to respond. I think I said something about sometimes we talk (though that's not really true)... It just threw me. Why would you say something like that? There are two ways it could go:
  • I broke up with her: In this case, "She was really nice," just says, "Wow, that was a stupid thing to do."
  • She broke up with me: In this case, "She was really nice," just rubs it in that I got dumped by someone I liked.
Anyway, after that he and I had an interesting conversation about other stuff, so that was okay. We talked about my brother. He revealed something personal. We talked about a meteorite that he found in the creek behind his house (he took it to OSU; they said that every month someone brings in something they think was from space, and his was the first time in 30 years they've actually seen something that was actually from space) and some other things. That was a high point of the stay there.

After food was prepared, I sat down next to Dustin, a second cousin of mine who I thought was at least 20 and in college. He's wearing a Hollister tee ("Hollister" across the chest) and some Lee Dungarees cargo shorts. I figure it would be a good idea to ask, "So, Dustin, are you in school right now?"


The next 45 minutes I was asked questions like, "So, have you heard of network sales?" (um... like Amway?) I humored him and was patient and had him explain how he's selling health products that work to adjust the frequency of your brain (um... the brain doesn't vibrate, dude, not like that). Then he asks me if I've ever heard about the "law of attraction." I couldn't believe I was actually in this conversation. He explains to me that quantum physics has shown that whatever you think of, the universe will bring to you. If you're feeling bad, you're going to attract a bad day and things will keep getting worse. I commented that that might be a perception issue. He didn't seem to care what I had to say, so I went back to humoring him. It just kept going.
Dustin: I used to be a shy person, but then I read this book, and I started changing how I thought about things. Before I'd have a hard time meeting women, and now three or four of them at a time will walk up to me.

Whoa. Hold on, there, buddy, Tom Cruise called and wants his character from Magnolia back. Ever think that maybe the reason you're having so much luck with women might have something to do with your age? Is it really the simplest explanation that they're being "attracted" to you by some quantum mechanical force in the universe?

He went on to talk about how most people are stuck in crappy lives where they have no control and work 40-hour weeks for the rest of their lives until they retire and then die. He didn't want that for himself, so he was planning on making enough money by 25 or 26 to retire then and do whatever he wanted to do after that. I asked him if he ever read Daniel Quinn. He hadn't; I was a little surprised. He talked a lot about how he's not conforming... As he said this, I had a hard time taking my eyes off of the "HOLLISTER" across his chest.

So eventually something happened that let me get up, throw my beer away, and take enough time coming back to the table that our conversation could end. My parents, who were sitting across from us the whole time having their own conversations with other people at the table, were very impressed with my patience.

So that was basically the picnic. I now have a manila folder Uncle Jack gave me with information about the International Linear Collider (ILC) (damn it, spell checker, Collider is a word!!) and told me to pass it around my friends. I think he's hoping I'll be able to get more companies involved in the project so they'll raise enough capital to actually build the thing.

Don't get me wrong. It's really nice to see people. I'm glad we've been doing these things "more often" in the last couple years. Really.

Happy 4th of July Weekend. Go see your family. Tell them I said hello. And make sure they know that I'm not a cripple, and I'm available if any of your cute cousins want to give me a spin...

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