Saturday, August 31, 2013

Blown Jobs


I work for a very large company. Well, maybe it isn’t so much a “company” as an “organization.” OK, “organization” may be somewhat of a misnomer because it isn’t, well, terribly organized. But I believe I once saw a statistic quoted in a press release implying that the cluster of people paid by the same entity as I am are technically coworkers in a behemoth so behemothish it very well may be the largest employer in not only my city, but perhaps the entire universe. There are so many people employed by this nebulous group that pretty much everybody in a certain echelon of society (hint: not THAT echelon, look lower) has their bank account replenished every 15th and 30th of the month in the same way I do. I will not identify for whom I work, but you can easily find out by asking either the NSA or Russian government.

I provide this information as a context for you to understand that the powers that be or not to be have literally google number of people from whom to choose when assigning people to actual jobs. And these jobs are usually union-driven, with discrete tasks simultaneously so specific and vague, that I fear my cat may one day become my supervisor. Yes, I now have a cat. Long story.

So, for those of you who work in smaller companies, where managers and supervisors and the like struggle with hiring employees with the right “skill set” to “fit” the “job,” take heart. It isn’t rocket science. Does the job applicant have somewhat of a pulse? Perhaps a pulse that is supplemented by Beta-blockers or a pacemaker? Even better. Then viola! You have yourself the perfect employee for the job. No matter what the job is.

Where I work, employees are chosen for their positions not by any particular qualifications, but by where they appear on a list of names. The list isn’t by actual experience in the field, alphabetical or, clearly, by SAT score. I believe the list is compiled in a way IO professionals refer to as the “throw darts at a dart board” method. By the way, I purposely did not spell out the acronym for IO (sorry, AP Manual of Style), to give you a flavor of what it is like to work in a faceless bureaucracy. It is fitting that my name begins with a “K,” just like Kafka’s Joseph K.

The way you find out you have been selected to be interviewed for a position is you receive both spammish (postal) mail and phone calls offering you the opportunity to vie for a position. Neither the mail nor caller provide any details whatsoever about the position, aside from the union-generated title and legally vetted tasks. Apparently being a Ph.D. in a completely sedentary job requires no more than 50 pounds of lifting. I guess I am in violation every time I heave myself out of my chair.

Just a head’s up for those of you in the job market. The more words and syllables to the job title, the fewer qualifications you need. I always suspected this, but had my suspicions confirmed recently when a slew of “fashionably dressed” people paraded down the hallway, presumably being considered for a job title with at least 65 qualifiers, but ending with the word “clerk.” My only knowledge of “clerks” prior to this had been Supreme Court law clerks and differently “fashionably dressed” clerks at Tower Records. None of these applicants fit into either category, adding to my confusion.

So once you have been placed on the “list,” sometime within one day and 40 years later you may receive the aforementioned letter and phone call. The letter, I suspect, is sent to literally millions of people, or at least that was probably the case before the company ran through its stash of “Forever” stamps.

The call, however, may be reserved for only the top 10,000 on the list. Often, you are already working for the company, but on the list for a promotion or just to get the hell away from your current boss. In case you are waiting for “the call,” I will give you a sneak peek: At the most professionally inopportune moment, a blocked number pops up on your phone. You assume it is either your child’s school or that your home is being foreclosed on. You pick up the call, imagining all sorts of horrible possibilities. And the horror on the other end of the phone is even worse than what you imagined. A monotone muttered in an accent indicating that English is not even in the top 10 languages this employee has encountered. Usually in an accent also indicating this person recently relocated from a part of the world where horrific human rights abuses are reported to occur. You immediately fear for their safety, but then realize they are explaining they work for your company and may very well be calling from down the hall, at which time you fear for your own safety.  While your cortisol is soaring, you are being repeatedly, relentlessly, monotonously asked if you want the interview time being offered, despite the fact that it clearly conflicts with the actual job you currently have, and would show an enormous lack of professionalism to leave your work at the designated time. Is this a trick to test your work ethic? Or is it really a means to recruit you as a spy for a hostile government, where your accent would be considered “hard to understand”? Your efforts to glean more information about the job are stymied by the caller’s lack of communication skills. Aha! Part of their nefarious plan! You will be lured into a “To Catch a Predator” type scenario for monolingual, career-driven people!

The applicants who don't find themselves outed on MSNBC’s “Lockdown” eventually find themselves with a plastic badge and dozens of keys. The IDs are color coded, and get you a 10 percent discount at Subway, but don’t seem to make much of a difference in terms of job expectations. Again, the pub dartboard apparently had its role at a managerial liquid lunch, because in addition to the non-communicative phone callers, I have encountered a blind chartroom employee and a wheelchair-bound amputee grounds keeper. The latter, I might add, I almost mowed down in the parking lot because he was inexplicably wheeled smack dab in the middle of the lot, smoking a cigarette.

Clearly, there is a method to this madness because many, many, many people apparently make their way to the mysterious “interviews” and are “hired” for “jobs,” because there are plenty of people milling around the circa 1986 Xerox and fax machines in the various industrial complexes throughout the greater metropolitan area. And most of them drive nicer cars than I do. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Noah's Arc of Life

I am not an emotional person.  I can only recall experiencing any ocular moistness twice in the past decade: At the end of Toy Story 3 and when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004.


So it is not entirely insignificant that something our President said recently caused me to have what I can only describe as a pre-weep twinge. And I have to give kudos to our Vice President for greasing the emotional wheels.


Although my official academic field of inquiry is Psychology, there are several topics that spark my interest more than the one which is my professional bread and butter. Well, actually only two: Politics and Sports.


Come to think of it, it really isn't much of a stretch for a psychologist to be compelled to follow these. Both are replete with characters that would make even an undergrad psych student chuckle.


But because of the clinically diagnosable narcissism, grandiosity, and histrionics displayed by many (dare I say most?) athletes and politicians, it is rare indeed for a product of either world to exhibit the one thing that purported role models should: Integrity.


President Obama--doubly cursed as an athletic politician!--has, in a sense, reversed the curse. While I have always suspected him to be a person with a keen sense of fairness, I will admit I was a little disappointed when, by January 23, 2009, he hadn't rolled back decades of inequity by issuing Executive Orders willy-nilly, and punishing the narcissistic, grandiose, and histrionic so-called leaders who preceded him. No one said integrity can't come with a dose of vindictiveness.


So while I have had moments of appreciation for President Obama's actions regarding stem-cell research and ridiculously discriminatory military policy, as my "Got Hope?" bumper sticker slowly peels from my car, a vaguely dissatisfied feeling had continued to linger. My gnawing disappointment stemmed from the feeling that he has so much potential. There was little doubt that he was on the right (as in correct, of course, not right-leaning) side of many of the "social" issues that government really has no business dictating. And maybe it was this sort of squeamishness that gave him pause when teachable moments presented themselves on these issues.


But President Obama erased years of frustration by stating the obvious: "Same sex couples should be able to get married." Such a no-brainer, but score one for integrity anyway. 


However, not to take away from this almost-tear-inducing moment in history, but to me, there are two elements to the whole "Who should get married?" debate that are even more fundamental: 1) There is really nothing inherent in the act of getting married that necessarily implies that partners will become parents; and 2) The only people who have any idea what goes on in a couple's life ("married" or not) are the two people themselves, no matter what sexes they are.


President Obama prefaced his aforementioned support of same-sex marriage with the rationale that he knows of many people in "committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together." While this, again, is stating the obvious, it really has nothing to do with whether two people should be allowed to marry.


While in many senses, a committed couple--married or not--constitutes a "family," at least by IRS standards, the debate about same-sex marriage has been erroneously (in my view) focused on a couple's ability to parent. Conservatives spout off abut how a "family" has a mom and a dad, while more progressive believers timidly point out that off-spring of same-sex couples can fare just as well.


The commitment and responsibilities of being married and being a parent often overlap, but they are not necessarily embarked on by the same people. Is there anyone who has never met a couple (same-sex or otherwise) who has no children? Is there anyone who has never met a single parent or non-biological parent raising a child? 


What has been missing from the utterly pointless debate about same-sex marriage is the fact that people--coupled or not--of all ilks go through life, sometimes raising children and sometimes not, through reasons both within and out of their control. Adults (and sometimes children) who want children often do not rear them, for reasons both within and out of their control. Adults (and sometimes children) who did not plan on being parents often become a caregiver through reasons both within and out of their control.




The "traditional" assumption seems to be that a man and woman who don a tuxedo and white dress are an ongoing benefit to society. If anyone didn't already suspect that there was something appallingly dangerous in ascribing virtue to people based on their ability to participate in a wedding celebration, all they need to do is consult news reports, many of our dear Sports and Political figures, of couples who are "married" in the "traditional" sense. Cheating, violence, humiliation, irresponsibility, murder--all of these despicable acts occur behind closed doors of officially married and non-married people alike. Every day. 

So why legislate dysfunction to only couples of the opposite sex?





Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Your Child is Sick!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that any child sent home from school is a targeted victim of a classmate who wants to wreak havoc on the well-being of that child's family.

Work meetings have been scheduled, carpools have been arranged, the contents of the refrigerator is not set to expire for another 24 hours. The entire work/school week is planned down to the second. Pee breaks are even accounted for, as long as no one washes hands for more than the AMA-approved 30 seconds.

So how dare little Jared or Jenna so much as breathe on my precious spawn. At drop-off this week, I am pretty sure I saw a globule of snot perched precariously on Penelope's nose. She better avoid my kid like the plague. I know for a fact that her father freelances at home, so if Penelope's nasal mucous starts to turn, she can go home, use the neti pot, and plant herself in front of Yo Gabba Gabba until her sinuses get aired out. (Dads are OK with TV on sick days; moms generally are not.) I, on the other hand, am utterly useless at home during a weekday, and cannot afford to spend an entire day sitting in the home office, refreshing the screen of my iPad over and over, making a concerted effort to ignore my child so she does not think sick days are fun.

Last week, I dabbled in staying at home. My child displayed some of the classic components of malaise, and it was a Friday anyway, so I worked in the morning while my husband stayed at home, then switched with him at mid-day. I spent most of the morning at work trying to figure out which child in my daughter's school was the germ bully who had the nerve to inflict this unwellness on her.

Within a four-hour span, I had cleaned and vacuumed the entire interior of my rather large car--the first time in its 10-year lifespan that I can recall "tidying it up." I unearthed permission slips from 2004, a Power Rangers VCR tape, and a bag of Pirate Booty that had inflated like a balloon. I also tilled bare patches on the lawn, and mowed the grass, which included three different areas of the property. I updated Little League websites and sent snack reminders to the teams' parents. I made an actual phone call to someone to schedule something, but never heard back. I picked up my son and a friend from school--when school actually let out! True, it took me about 20 minutes to figure out where to find him on the campus, but, hey, I was a woman of leisure, I had nothing but time! I continuously fed my son's bottomless pit of a friend, who apparently has not learned that the question: "Can I get you anything?" is meant to be purely rhetorical.

I was utterly exhausted from four hours of channeling my inner Ann Romney.

OK, I will confess to the fact that I have sent my very own Typhoid Child to school on more than one occasion. If there is one thing parents who work in and out of the home all agree on: Children must be out of the house as much as possible. It is imperative in order to preserve the sanity of the parents. That is not to say I doubt the psychological stability of those who home-school their kids*. Well, maybe I am saying that. Anyhow, from infancy to about 2, a feverish, inconsolable child can be deposited at daycare guilt-free by pronouncing the child to merely be "teething" and to note that you will be unreachable for the rest of the day. From preschool through elementary school, bags under the eyes and lethargy can be written off to the child "not being a morning person" before being dropped at the school office door. In middle and high schools, a mid-day call from the nurse can be brushed off by proclaiming how "dramatic" your child is, and allude to a Language Arts test the child may be trying to avoid.

Working parents know that sick days are precious commodities in the corporate world, not to be wasted on days where anyone is actually too sick to take advantage of the day off. So just a warning to my children's classmates: If you have so much as a sniffle, convince your parents you need to stay home. That will make me happy. And if you see my child vomiting on the playground, discreetly hand her a paper towel and don't tell the teacher. I've got work to do.

*Editor's note (by the way, I am the editor): I recently met a family who home-schooled their kids not because they were religious fanatics, but because they were an impressively bright and creative family... granted, an impressively bright and creative family with ample free time, patience, and income to stay home with their children while fostering their being impressively bright and creative. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Jane and Dick

There are few situations as chronically awkward as being the parent of a child on sports teams. Each season, even the most agnostic of us pray not only that our child will not get stuck on a team with the kid who hasn't gotten a hit since TBall, but also that we do not have to spend the next 12 weeks pretending we are not offended by the observations of the bore of a mom (Wow, thanks for summarizing another sermon for me!) or a drunken dad (No thanks, 9 am is a little early for me.).

Elementary school boys in uniform are completely interchangeable. Even the kids I have known since first grade are, four years later, completely unrecognizable to me when in a cap and matching polyester garb. To make matters worse, it seems as if the boys in my town come in two sizes: really short and really tall. So if I can remember whether the kid who was on my son's basketball team and is apparently now on his soccer team is from the short or tall category, it might jog my memory as to which kid he is. It takes a Ven diagram to figure out if the Jacob A. from my son's third grade class has now been reincarnated as a third baseman on his Little League team, or if the Sebastian in left field is the same one who threw up on my son in summer school.

Although the parents do not come in uniform, and are in more of a variety of shapes and sizes, they blend with each other as surely as if they were Rockettes. I have typically been the "Team Parent" which, for the non-sports parents out there, involves developing a sophisticated set of spread sheets, databases, and contact lists in order to ensure that no parent shirks his or her snack duty, potluck offering, or donation for the end-of-season coach gift. It requires a laser-like focus and attention to detail that is not even required in my day job. But I have to say as kick-ass as I am as a Team Parent, my parent-recognition skills leave a lot to be desired. I live in fear that a parent will come up to me and ask me a snackstand-related question without identifying themselves by their last child's last name and configuration of their email address. In a team with two Jadens, two Gabriels and three Matthews, there is no way I even bothered to commit your kid's name to memory. And that cheerful email reminding you of your imminent field-raking duties? It was a mass email sent to the entire team. I have no idea who you are. I continue to be haunted by one mom who emailed me that she was trading snack duty dates with "Jane" because she did not supply any of the identifying information that would compute in my Mr. Spock-ish Team Mom brain. I will have to wait until the kids are without an after-game snack and look to see who looks most mortified. That will be Jane.

Aside from the few moms and dads who I already know and like, the rest of the parental units are like a sea of Stepford sports fans in sunglasses, with an eerie number of them sporting baseball caps featuring logos from resorts in Aspen. I do have to wonder if there is some Parent Club that I am not privy to. A club so elite that my status as working class Team Parent renders me ineligible. Since I typically take an interest in their friends and am friendly with many of their parents, I don't want my kids to catch on to the fact that I have no idea who is on their teams, or who comprises this group of parents. Truthfully, hanging out with people with whom fate has  aligned you with for a number of weeks is akin to Middle School romances. You exclusively share emotional highs and lows for a short, but intense, period of time. But by the next sports season, you have moved on and are sharing similar shallow intimacies with technically different, but basically similar, members of your peer group. If my son refers to a teammate, I say, "He seems super nice!" even if I have no idea which kid he is. And if he asks if I know so-and-sos mom, I invariably reply: "Sure, she's super nice!" We live in a nice town, with nice people. So it is statistically likely that even haphazardly labeling people "nice" will usually turn out to be accurate.

However, my social faux largesse backfired on me recently. After a hard-fought game, members of the opposing team taunted my son's team with a phrase that was surprisingly crude for the gentility of the town. The ring leader apparently was a kid who also terrorizes others on the playground. Turns out it was a kid who had been on one of my son's teams, a kid I had cheerfully deemed "super nice!" As my son shared the indignities this kid inflicts on others during recess, the psychologist in me provided my son an analysis of the emotional and environmental forces that may be driving this child to behave in this fashion. At the same time, the mom in me thought, "That kid is a total dick."

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Groupno

I am not a team player. I be neither a borrower nor a lender. I do not share well. I am happy to take my toys and go home. Yet, I still manage to occasionally feign being a productive member of society.

So what's the deal with kids these days being forced to "work collaboratively" on project after project? Does it really take more than one 10 year old to google a few facts about the state capital of North Dakota, print out pictures, and glue stick them to a poster board? I am trying to raise my children to be self-sustaining citizens. If they can't count on Social Security and Medicare being there for them, why should they be held hostage to whether a classmate remembers to save the report on her flashdrive in preparation for the next day's report, or whether a boy's mom has the starter yeast for the Amish Friendship Bread to represent Pennsylvania in the food festival? My children have been trained from an early age that while mommy will not step foot in your classroom or take even a token interest in your homework, she will go to Target on her lunch break and buy printer paper, Sharpies, and even the occasional dry erase board off the sale rack.

When I was in school, I do not recall being herded into groups under the pretense of demonstrating how the whole is more than the sum of its parts. It isn't. Let's be honest. Groups are made of two types of people: Bossy ones and lazy ones. I get the feeling that my children simultaneously fall into both categories: Bossy when foisting their ideas on the group, and subsequently lazy (and bitter) when their ideas are summarily rejected. Total chips off the old block.


Back in my day, the one "group" in which we were required to participate was for team sports. The nonverbal cue that we were to "work together" was the fact that we were also forced to wear identical outfits. Team sports are basically a group project with uniforms and an audience thrown into the mix. There were the dominant ("bossy") kids who had a natural affinity for the sport, and the chubby ("lazy") kids who died a slow, painful death every day at practice or games. To add to the futility of it all, the sports we had to endure were field hockey and lacrosse: two forms of recreation that we would never again encounter in any aspect of our lives. Ever.   

Despite the grueling years of pointless preppy physical pursuits, I noticed that my cohort of high school classmates includes a large spattering of lawyers, doctors and professors. Heavy on the bossy, light on the lazy. Alumni notes make little mention of professions where group skills might come in handy, such as camp counselor or NBA player. 


Oftentimes, I would be blissfully unaware of my son having any group assignments. I would be cruelly edified of the fact only at the end of the semester, when my son has to do a "self-assessment" of his accomplishments and future goals for the upcoming semester, school year, and, presumably, retirement. My son, knowing this "self-assessment" was being handed in to his teacher after being forced to share it with me (yes, I have to sign off that I reviewed it with him), would stick in a vague goal about "working better in groups." Me, ever the probing psychologist, am compelled to delve into this goal: "Who else was in the group?"I ask, as I guzzle some Pinot Noir and stick a spoon in a jar of peanut butter. It seems to go without saying that teachers lump "learners of different styles" together in these groups, resulting in him invariably being assigned to work with a number of take-charge girls, and attentionally challenged boys. He lists the others kids in his group. "Say no more," I assure him, and sign off on the "self-assessment."

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Where the Sidewalk Ends

I swear I do not live in a suburb. And I don't mean swear in "I do solemnly"... I mean swear in the ^%%^$#^%^& Eminem context. Although I prefer the word exurb, I will never cop to living in anything other than a metropolitan area.

My home is located literally within walking distance of the relatively large city of Pasadena and the even larger city of Los Angeles. Realtors might say our community is nestled in between these two metropoli. I, however, would say we are wedged, a term that sounds more aggressively urban. But, truth be told, where I live is a bona fide city of its own. We have a mayor (though I have no idea who that might be and, from what I understand, it is not a paid position) and our own Parks and Recreation Department and Unified School District. True, many erroneously refer to my 'hood as a "town" (but don't ever do that within earshot of me), but it is approximately the size of a university with a football team--even a pretty good football team.

Recently it occurred to me that prior to moving into our current home, I had only lived in places with either a sidewalk or grass, but never both at the same time. You know what I mean? The house-to-road flow goes house-lawn-sidewalk-grass-street. We are fortunate that our house's front yard is completely obscured by both a stone wall and some sort of free-flowing plant that cascades over onto the sidewalk. As a result, only the most prying eyes are privy to the state of our front lawn. And that is a good thing.

When we bought our house, we apparently didn't look too closely at the accompanying deeds and documents. In my mind, we own everything within the confines of the various walls and fences that were erected prior to our moving in. A gray area is a row of vegetation that straddles the phantom property line between us and our neighbors. My husband and our neighbor had a friendly discussion about the firework-like shrubs that form our earthily nebulous property line, and thirdhand description of the shrub's genus sounded to me something like Lycarituitumaneous. So we are the proud co-parents with our nice, horticulturally savvy neighbors of a flock of Lycarituitumaneous.

A few weeks after we moved in, we returned from a daytrip to see water gushing onto the grass patch that is sandwiched between the sidewalk and street. Wow, I remember thinking, we are benefiting from the city's kind largesse. I wonder if they provide extra sprinkler water to all new residents? My husband and I were reaping the city love until a different neighbor came running up to us to inform us our sprinkler had been gushing water all day. This is a neighbor who thinks my name is Carol, rather than Karen, so I secretly scoffed at his judgment on the issue. I politely thanked him, not recalling his name at all, and smugly began emptying the trunk from our day away. "Remember," he sternly warned as he crossed the street without looking both ways, "you pay for that water!"

What crazy talk was our previously sane-seeming neighbor spouting? We are already paying disproportionately higher taxes than everyone who bought before the housing boom. Why on earth would we be subsidizing the city's water output too? Was there a City Hall I could fight? I was pretty sure that building next to the folksy T-shirt embroidering store on the city's main drag might have had a "City Hall" sign on it.

I never made it to City Hall, or even bothered to review our real estate documents, but peer pressure clued me in to the fact that it was our job to maintain that slice of lawn freely used by passing dogs and seasonal political signs. Neighbors gave us the name of a gardener who worked on their lawns and gardens, including their slices of community property. Problem was, this gardener came whenever he wanted, so instead of the usual practice of leaving an envelope of cash at the door, you had to periodically mail him a check. Since I couldn't even master the names of my new neighbors, there was no way I was going to remember the name of the gardener in order to write out a check. And that would require having stamps on hand.

So we decided to be our own gardeners. How hard could it be? We are educated, active people. I went online and ordered various cutters and pruners. There were about a million things to consider for each gadget: electric, gas, or battery. Voltage issues. Horsepower. I knew I didn't want gas anything, and I didn't really understand the different between electric and battery, so I just ordered items that were not the most expensive, but not the least expensive. I was excited as the boxes arrived, but when I realized that things needed to be plugged in to really long extension crds, and batteries needed to be charged overnight, I lost interest. The joy left Mudville.

Fortunately, we live on the crunchy side of town... errrr, I mean city,  so our straggly back-hair patch of public lawn straddles the tail of the neighborhood lawn Bell Curve, but isn't a total outlier. A few neighbors have infested their patch with wandering ivy vines, eliminating the need to mow. Others have attempted to arrange stones in a decorative way on their patches to avoid any primping. Occasionally I will know that my husband has mowed our patch because the very same neighbor who calls me "Carol" will let me know that the sprinkler is again broken, most likely dislodged by an aggressive mower, resulting in water gushing. Good thing we have that Neighborhood Watch. And, he of course reminds, me, we are paying for that water.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Nerves Shot

I am a highly excitable person. And I am proud to be the genetic descendant of a long line of highly excitable people. Half my family is highly excitable, and the other half near-comatose. Whether this is a mere coincidence or a Darwinian-honed survival skill, I will not venture to guess. But I have my theories.

I am psychologist who has endured countless years of graduate study related to human behavior, as well as innumerable seminars purporting to train mental health professionals to use "coping skills" meant to keep such excitability at bay. However, one of the reasons I was able to get a doctoral degree and spend subsequent years preparing for grueling licensing examinations (while birthing and rearing babies--at times while simultaneously participating in the aforementioned professional activities) is because I am hard-wired to resist the "mindfulness" and "guided relaxation" practices that my academic predecessors espouse. Those that can, do; those that can't, spend years in graduate school in order to have a prayer of someday being employable.

So it is not surprising that for me both nature and nurture collided and I produced at least one child predisposed to the irrepressibility of spirit that has marked many generations of my bloodline. Take a hair-trigger startle reflex, add a hefty dose of killer competitiveness, and mix in a "the world sucks" mentality, and you get a sense of half the DNA my poor children have inherited. And not from their father.

One of the best ways to witness one's personality quirks in vivo is to go out in public. Preferably in a highly charged environment like a sporting event in which one's child is a participant. Seriously, what's the deal with those parents calmly sitting on the sidelines, quietly returning to the Atlantic article they were reading when their child is not on the court? And the parental dyads with a single offspring who are thoughtfully discussing how junior's Kenpo training helps him better execute a zone defense? These alien creatures add to the stress of watching boys of startling variability in height, athletic prowess and attentional skills attempt to win a basketball game. Hello??? Sports, like politics, are a BFD, and are no place for calm and reason.

Recently, I was seated next to a quiet couple whose son apparently was on the same team with my child. I have no idea which boy belonged to them, because they watched the game with no reaction whatsoever. They most likely had no idea which child was mine either, because I was bellowing "DEE-FENSE!!!!!," "shoot... Shoot..... SHOOT!!!!!" to any 10 year old wearing white on the court in front of me. Perhaps it became evident which boy was my offspring when four of the five boys responded to my directives with a blank stare, while one appeared agitated by every play and each call by the referee. Trust me, nothing rattles the nerves of we high-strungers more than the piercing shriek of a whistle in the midst of bouncing balls, waving arms, and pungent odor.

The nice parents next to me politely nodded as I shared with them our family philosophy of how basketball is just a game, and the important thing is to have fun and support your team. I may not have had a chance to fully explain our Zen approach to sports because at that moment my son appeared distressed at a call by the ref, prompting me to calmly excuse myself from the conversation with these lovely people to provide my son emotional guidance: "JESUS CHRIST! CALM THE HELL DOWN!"