Why I (Almost) Didn’t Do the #IceBucketChallenge

plastic-food-bag-ice-bucket-liner-8-x-4-x-12-1000-bxWhen I was called out to do the Ice Bucket Challenge, naturally some chilling thoughts surfaced:

I have to do this or I’ll look like a party pooper.

If I do do this I’ll begrudgingly have to nominate others and feel like a jerk.

This is gonna hurt the wallet.

I’m not sure I have a readily sanitary bucket.

You see, when some good friends benevolently challenged me and my wife, I got that uneasy feeling like I was sitting across the table from a used car salesman with a bad tie and dirty mustache. Not that I’ve ever faced that but I imagine it’s horrifying. And it wasn’t anything my lovely friends did. It was the whole thing in general.

Honestly, it felt like getting the digital age version of the chain letter. Remember those? Respond to this need to feed hungry beagles, donate a dollar, send it out to five more people and we’ll send you a certificate and a doggy biscuit. But if you don’t respond, no biscuits and seven years of bad luck. So it felt a little chain lettery to me, but the problem was I couldn’t ball it up and move on. Everyone was watching. Every virtual friend I ever had was waiting to see in the next 24 hours if I’d be man enough to accept or if I’d turn it down for some lame-o reason and be the guy who halted everyone’s fun train.

This is ridiculous of course; but who is thinking rationally when summoned to devise a bucket-of-ice-water-over-head-with-brief-speech-while-managing-toddlers-and-not-ruining-iPhone scenario? Not me, obviously. Really though, why not do it?

For one, I’m against compulsory giving. The challenge presents a “give or else” directive. Not mean-spirited, definitely for a great cause, but still compulsory. I know you don’t have to participate. But in this social media world, where Facebook sees everything, isn’t it hard not to feel obligated to accept? The pressure, whether real or perceived, is still pressure.

But I would acquiesce, of course. It’s harmless right, even if the challenge itself (not the cause) challenges my principles a bit. So I realize I’ll have to reach out and compel others, summoning my inner snake oil salesman. So I ask friends first if I can challenge them. A few agree, but one good friend hits me with the respectfully declined invitation due to the fact that the ALS organization, in some form, supports embryonic stem-cell research. I chihuahua. I do care about that sort of thing, though I admit I’m not perfectly studied up on all of it. And I’m not a right wing bag of nuts, if that’s what you’re wondering. I mean really, would I not give to a great organization with a meaningful cause for the simple reason that their research may be contributing to the prevailing sentiment that it’s okay to destroy what I and many others consider to be life, for the purpose of medical intelligence? Well, no, I might not. But it’s an ethical question that deserved pondering.

When I got home, I was 22 hours into being challenged and all of the haze and uncomfortableness made me think I wouldn’t do it. But my son had already heard rumors he was going to get to dump something on Daddy’s head, and there was really no turning back from that. So how could I do this thing with a good conscience and in some small way help the ALS community, which was whole reason for this spectacle anyway?

First, I wouldn’t join the spectacle on social media. Just didn’t sit right for me personally. Perhaps I didn’t want old high school Facebook friends I haven’t encountered in 15 years to see that my hair has receded slightly. But really, I could dump the hashtag along with the bucket of ice water.

Secondly, I would encourage nominees to consider giving somewhere, but not specifically to ALS. Nothing wrong with the thousands who have given there; I’m glad there is so much funding going towards finding a cure.

Lastly, I would encourage prayer for those who suffer from ALS. Certainly, it’s a different kind of gift, but a disease that casts hopeless prognoses could use some hopeful petitioning.

After all was said and done, my son wasted no time dumping the ice water on me and my wife. So the chain was passed on, my underwear was cold and wet, and an ethical decision had been made. Perhaps I thought way too hard about it. I could’ve just knocked it out unwittingly and carried on with my life.

But that’s not how we were made. Our conscience and our ethics are two waters in which we should always delve deep. I suppose, sometimes, the waters are more chilling than we would like.

The Jester Unsettled (In Memory of Robin Williams)

Behold, we present you the jester
A colorful character is he
Bursting forth in improvisation
Just sit back and savor what you see

Voila, there are eight contorted faces
A bulldog a jack and a mule
We’re astonished at this strange revelation
Making an ass of yourself was so cool.

Oh my, here’s an impersonation
Of an actor a maid and a prince
All jokers before it was way of of line
Yet we applaud with a chortle and a wince.

What on earth now the bastard is dancing
Each gesture is bawdy indeed
The tears fall down, in hysterics from this clown
Oh crap, would ya look, I have peed.

The comical comet exits the stage
Hear the praise of the king and his court
He retires to his quarters, brief relief from the orders,
‘Tis too quiet now for his sort.

His sanguine heart slows its thumping
A magnificent rush abruptly departs
Absent noise, that blessed distraction
Too still, too calm, too peaceful.

The universal lauding is a cruel drug
The last laugh trickles through his brain
Hushed into an unsatisfying memory
Agonized to relive it once more.

The court carries on making merry
While the jester weeps in the dark
Brutal irony was this last act of tragedy
Funniest man in the land cannot laugh.

**Personal Note: Like so many others, I was saddened by Robin Williams’ passing. His improvisational humor, impersonations, and absolutely unexpected comedy have greatly inspired my own attempts at humor in my life. While I have no insight to the depth of personal pain Mr. Williams lived through, I have a small understanding of the exhilarating nature of getting a laugh and longing for it again deeply, to the point of loneliness. Even the last laugh, it seems, is never good enough to satisfy a hungry soul. And so we mourn Mr. Williams.

13 Extremely Tame Thrills

04KJER0243Are you a thrill seeker? I’m not. Well, at least I don’t find thrilling what stereotypical “thrill seekers” might. You may find my ideas are just a little less extreme than yours.

Some of you are thrilled to water ski. That’s wonderful. My thrill comes after I’m invited to water ski but get a reprieve when the boat motor dies.

Others are thrilled to watch a horror movie. I’m thrilled to watch a documentary in which I learn something new about seeds.

Oh, bungee jumping is thrilling, right? Nothing like jumping freely off a bridge into a canyon below. Unless you’re me, and simply driving over said bridge arouses an array of goose pimples. Thrilling!

Few things produce the thrill of driving a fast car. Woo! That’s okay though, I’m thrilled to watch those clowns get pulled over for speeding. Thank you, Mr. Officer!

Many love the thrill of placing a big bet. Carson, can you imagine the payout with those odds? I can imagine a dragon swooping down and incinerating my wallet, no less crazy then you winning and the effectively the same result as you losing.

Let’s go whitewater rafting! What a thrill! No, that’s all right. You go. I’ll splash a little water over my face, take some real deep breaths and experience the joys of not drowning.

Hey Carson, how about base jumping? Hey, how about belly flopping straight into hell? Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee damnation.

Perhaps the ultimate thrill is sky diving. But isn’t a huge part of that thrill not dying? If the thrill is attached to not dying, I gotta say it’s not a big thrill for me. I am thrilled to have the prospect of being alive for the next five minutes. I am thrilled to drink a glass of lemonade and jump off a hammock. I am thrilled to sit on a soft chair and watch beetles mate. I am thrilled to wade around in a baby pool and maintain complete consciousness.

I am thrilled to not seek thrills.

The Death of the Staple Remover (and Other Office Supplies)

milton1The other day I looked at my desk at work and couldn’t believe how many items I have that I never use. The digital age has squelched my need for standard office supplies. Let me introduce you to some of my lonely friends.

First, here is my stapler family. At one time perhaps, having multiple staplers was a good idea. You’d never know when your exhausted stapler would give out and you’d need a reinforcement in a jiffy. But now my staplers are so seldom used it’s hard to find them behind the more-oft-used paperweight and peanut can.

Basically, if the need for stapling ever arises, I am beyond ready. Similar to a doomsday prepper, I’m just waiting for the day where all hell breaks loose and I have to put together 7,000 presentation packets in 30 minutes. And just in case the stapling goes awry, I have staple removers. That’s right, plural. That way if I’ve been removing so many staples that my first staple remover gives out, I can use the other one to remove my jugular. Truly, as far as staples go, I might use 20 a year. But just to be safe, I have millions at the ready. You know that box that is so stuffed full of staple bunches that you can hardly close it? Well I have three of those. So if I ever have to go to war in my office, I have a Rambo-worthy cache of ammunition.

Next, here are my two-inch binder clips. I suppose I could use them if I had hundreds of sheets of paper that needed conjoining, but these clips are more likely to serve as clamps to hold my aortic valve in place after the stapling fiasco.

Here’s my Scotch tape and dispenser, collecting dust. I’m concerned a decade of neglect might have an effect on its adhesion. Taping something in the office is so absolutely random. About the only use I can think of is posting a flyer no one reads. So, useless.

Oh look, this is my bottle of WhiteOut. I’ll have to remember to use that today to stay stealthy when I don’t want someone to see that I messed up my own signature. Let’s just hope this once vibrant liquid has not morphed into the worthless goop I’m expecting.

And let’s not forget the tub of tacks I could use for my cube wall. Who am I kidding though? Only a lady with 700 cats could find enough pictures to pin up and empty that tub.

Finally, here is my rubber band tray. Every few years, I actually pick them up ensure they have not become brittle. Honestly, I can’t even remember what we used these things for so I can make a joke about them.

Well, there are my office friends. If I forgot any of them, well, that’d be no surprise.