Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Teething Toddler Tantrums - Kids Are So Immature

Summer is slowly ticking away and I look forward to school starting in the fall. In August, I will be starting my Master’s Degree in Teaching. I have no clue what to expect, but am excited to get started. I will also be substitute teaching in the public school system. However, I have some concerns.

When I am finished with my schooling, I will be a high school teacher. I relate better with teenagers than younger kids. I have done youth ministry for many years and almost always work with the high school youth.  I occasionally venture into the junior high crowd, but not often.  I have a real problem working with younger children.

I was reminded of this two weeks ago when our church had VBS. Due to my work schedule, I could not be there the entire week. I was only available for two days.  Because of this, I could not get plugged in early and pick the job I would like to do, which is usually to take pictures of the event. I told Mandy, the coordinator, what nights I would be there and she could stick me wherever help was needed. 

On the first night that I was available, Mandy sent me to work with the 2 and 3 year olds. I was not excited about this assignment, but it was where they were short-handed for the night. Luckily, I was just there to help and not actually lead anything.  Give me a group of small children and I can keep them entertained for about 30 minutes, but nothing constructive will happen. I have no idea how people can teach a group of small children. It just does not work for me. We spent most of the evening coloring, cleaning up messes, and holding the ones that started crying.

Kids really seem to like me, but I have no idea why. Most of them I am simply tolerating until my time is up. Every now and then, there will be certain children I enjoy, but generally, I am not a fan. I even feel this way about babies.

I know most people just go ga-ga over a baby, but not me. I never have. Every time one of my friends has a baby, eventually they ask, “Would you like to hold him?”  I politely decline, and they say, “It’s alright. Here,” and then hand him to me anyway.  I know it’s alright. That is why they asked me to begin with. They had already approved the action before they asked. However, since I said no, I had not. Somehow, I always end up with the baby anyway. So, I bounce and sway and look at it until it starts to cry and then hand it back, grateful that we got that part out of the way.

It's OK. Barney scares me too.
I also do not believe that babies are very cute. They usually have splotchy skin, mis-shapen heads, and smell funny. They cry and sleep and poop. I do not see the fascination. As they get a little older and I can play with them, they begin to get a little more interesting, but even then, it has it’s limits. It is empowering to be thought of as the coolest person on earth because I can bounce a ball against the wall and catch it again. I feel so superior when I successfully roll a ball to a toddler but he cannot get it back to me with the same dexterity. However, sooner or later, he will cry for no apparent reason or fill his pants with putrid sludge. Since, I am very careful to never be left alone with small children, when these problems arise, I can easily escape responsibility for fixing it.

Dealing with older kids is a much different story. I have some sort of connection with teenagers I have never been able to understand. I like kids that age and they seem to like me. When I had my own business, it became a hangout for many of the local teens. When I was the pastor at Bakerville, many of the teens in the church would drop by my house, just to ‘hang out.’ I had no problem with that, I just couldn't understand the draw.

My favorite part about teenagers is the fact that you can talk to them.  By that, I mean have real conversations. They have been in the world long enough and their intellect has developed to the point that they can make meaningful observations about the world around them.  They have opinions and can usually explain them. However, they still need guidance, but do not just want someone to simply tell them what they need to do or think. They can appreciate the discussion and reasons behind why something is done a certain way. I remember being a teenager and thinking I had the world figured out, but I was still seeking answers and there were not a lot of adults who would really talk to me.

At my shop about two years ago, one of my co-workers was commenting to a customer about the number of teens that had started coming to the shop since I started working there. The customer asked me why teens seem to gravitate to me and I told him I had no idea. I really didn’t. I had asked myself that question many times. However, one of those teens was sitting in the room and she blurted out, “I know why.” My ears immediately perked up. I wanted to know this as well.  She told us, “It’s simple. You talk to us.” I pointed out that I can't be the only adult that talks to her.  She said that other adults simply acknowledge her and a few might try to make small talk, but none of them really seem interested in what she has to say.  She said, “You actually talk to me and then listen to me. We have real conversations about important stuff.”

I had to think about this for a long time. The concept is so simple. I screw up a lot of things in my life, but this is one that just comes naturally to me. I pay attention to teenagers because I like them. I enjoy talking to them. I like going to video game parties and just acting goofy. Maybe it is because I have a teenage mindset. I don’t know, but I enjoy their company and being part of helping to shape their minds as they are growing into adulthood. As a teenager, I sought out those adults who would truly listen and I had the privilege of growing up to be one of those adults.

I am really looking forward to completing my degree and then getting to be in the classroom every day sharing in their lives and helping to prepare them for the world outside. The high school years are a very important time in a person’s life. It is during the teenage years that they are forming what type of person they are going to be. Loyalty to friends, work ethic, outlook on life and various other qualities are formed during this period. I revel in getting to be a part of it.

During the education process I will have to do assigned field experience. I do not get to pick the age group for these assignments and am quite nervous about having to interact with small children for a grade, but I will push through. In the end, I will get to do what I love the most: teach and work with teens. Plus, I will have summers off.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

We're Playing Tag

I just finished my preparation for my next blog, but it will be delayed for a couple of days.  I received a Facebook message last night from Jessica Patch stating that I had been tagged (definition: to monitor the whereabouts of (an offender) by means of an electronic device) in her blog.  She had been tagged by someone else who had been tagged by a person before them.  

This tagging consists of several questions to answer about yourself or your writing and to then tag other people who blog.  Participating in this exercise serves several purposes:
  1. Apparently, this is supposed to be fun.
  2. It could be seen as a writing challenge.  Since I do not get to pick the topic, I am at the mercy of the questions posed to me. 
  3. It is dangerous.  This diminishes my usual method of taking several days to self-edit before I post. Look out!
  4. Blog-promotion.  I do appreciate being tagged by Jessica.  Jessica has many more readers than I do and her tagging me will bring traffic to my blog.  I have already seen a spike in the numbers for today.  Plus, I get to be promoted without me doing it. (i.e. endless Facebook posts that read, "CHECK OUT MY BLOG!!!")
  5. I get to point out the blogs of other people that I enjoy.


Do you think you're hot?
We just moved into a new house and soon discovered that our A/C was not working.  I was hot for a few weeks, but we fixed it.  However, I been told I look mighty fine in a suit.

Upload a picture of the wallpaper you are using.

I can't help it.  I like to laugh and find the humor in everything.  Over time, I have learned, it is always there, but sometimes you have to look for it.

When was the last time you ate chicken?
Yesterday, for Father's Day, my daughter and I shared a buffalo chicken pizza.  It was very good; I suggest you try it.

What were you thinking while doing this?
Why do we have to listen to a 45 second instructional to leave someone a voice mail? BEEP, TALK, we get it!  Condescending phone companies.

What song or songs have you listened to recently?
I don't listen to music regularly, but recently a coworker and I were reminiscing about the popular Christian groups when we were in high school.  This was when Christian music was just starting to break into the main stream.  We found ourselves singing "Holy Rollin'" by Bryan Duncan.

In 1987 or '88, Bryan Duncan was the headliner for the Illinois Christian Teen Convention.  I pretended I was  Bobby Duncan (Bryan's son) to meet girls.  It worked.  I am still in contact with some of them today.  A few are still asking to meet "my dad."

Do you have any nicknames? If so what are they?
I have had nicknames over the years, but don't really have one now.  I was named the "Lone Farter" in the 5th grade after embarrassing myself in front of the class while writing on the chalkboard.  You can figure it out.  Someone started calling me Bert in high school and that one stuck for several years.  Occasionally, when I run into an old high school friend, I will hear that again.  Most recently, my name was NEEDLES.  This was my club name while I was VP in a motorcycle club.  Since I was a professional piercer and owned a tattoo shop, the name made sense. Today, I generally walk away from anyone who tries to speak with me, so who knows what they are calling me now.

Tag 5 bloggers 
This part has been really difficult for me.  I only started blogging last October and haven't really done a lot of blog reading.  Just in this last month have I started taking this a little more seriously and looking for tools and other bloggers.  Therefore, I have very few that I read regularly.  Here is what I have so far.

Jessica R. Patch
She used to call her blog, What are you Doing Here?  I don't know what happened to that.  Now it is just her name, but I guess I can live with it.  Jess is a very talented writer.  She writes entire books, which I hope to try to tackle someday.  In her blog, she interviews Christian authors and writes wonderfully inspiring devotionals.  She blogs three times a week so there is always something new when I drop by.  As kids, Jess and I went to the same school and church.  I had a big crush on her sister for a few years, but I think it was fairly obvious, so I don't think I am revealing anything they didn't already know. 

Pantopragmatic Posturing
This is the blog of Maurice Smith.  You never know what you are going to get at this blog.  It is sometimes funny, sometimes serious, but always thought-provoking.  Maurice knows what he thinks and believes and will educate you on why he sees life the way he does.  Maurice was my youth minister many, many years ago and always challenged us to think more deeply.  He is still doing it.

In Shane's Brain
Several years ago, Shane and I were salesmen at a cell phone company.  He later joined my church and has since moved to New Orleans.  Soon after, he started blogging.  Shane's posts are generally about something that was on his mind that day.  Sometimes an inspiring thought, sometimes it was something that irritated him, and other days it is just a general observation.

God's Comic
This is the blog of comedian Brad Stine.  Always funny, but usually tackling serious issues.  Just like in his stand-up routine, Brad uses humor to illustrate his viewpoint.  Recent posts have covered low-flow toilets, male fashion, nude protesting, telemarketers, and the Green movement.  Definitely worth a read.

I don't know who else to tag. I really need to start reading more blogs.  If we do this again, I promise I will have five.  Get off my back.  Jessica, thank you for the promotion and the opportunity to participate in this exercise.  I really enjoyed it and  I still want to spend a day with you and 'Jane' getting into trouble.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Would You Like Fries With That?

I shocked my daughter on Tuesday by doing something I never do.  We were headed home from Wal-Mart and Kirsten decided she wanted a sweet tea from McDonald’s.  She had a dollar and did not want the tea I had brewed at home.  I pulled into the parking lot so she could run inside and she asked if we could go through the drive thru.  It was about 95 degrees and she didn't want to get out of the car.

I still don't know why, but I agreed.  This was the shocking part.  I don't do drive thrus.  I hate going through the drive thru.  Joe Pesci summed it up best in the movie ’Lethal Weapon 2’ as the character Leo Getz.  He had some very strong feelings about drive thrus that I'm not going to repeat here.  He uses rather colorful language, but captures the essence of how I feel about them.  If you've seen the movie, you know what I am talking about.  If you haven't, I recommend it.  It stars Danny Glover and Mel Gibson before his drunk-driving, Jew-bashing days.

I have worked in fast food and know from first-hand experience that the drive thru is different even from the other side of the window.  There is an extreme pressure to get those orders out within a certain amount of time.  At our local McDonald’s, you can see the timer that is over the drive thru window from the counter.  One website I checked stated that their McDonald’s has 2 minutes and 30 seconds to get a customer their order.  This timer starts the moment they pull up to the menu.

The worker is not allowed any leniency for the amount of time it took the person to order, the parent who is still trying to find out from their kids what they want, or the customer that is digging around in his car for loose change after he pulls up to the window.  They have two and a half minutes starting from the time they first pull up to the menu and ending when they pull away from the window with a full order.  If they don't clear the window fast enough, the stats for the shift are unacceptable and the employees get into trouble.  I've heard of many ways to cheat this timer.  Having a person pull forward has several advantages.  It allows the customer behind you to be served while waiting for your order, but also stops the timer for your order.  A Burger King in New York asks its customers to pull forward about ten feet after approaching the window and then back up again.  This stops the timer and gives them better times.

It gets a little ridiculous at times for these employees who are trying so hard to meet their times that the satisfaction of the customer is often overlooked.  I'm not blaming the employees.  If you happen to work in a fast-food restaurant, please don't send me angry emails, I recognize that this is not your fault.  I blame the corporate system that instituted these practices.  On numerous occasions, I've stood in line at Taco Bell, waiting for my nacho cheese chalupa, and watched eight cars get their orders before me.  I have no idea why the drive thru is given such a priority, but they must have their reasons.  However, ninety percent of the time, if my order is wrong, it has been when I've gone through the drive thru.

I often get stuck behind these people.
I understand that people are human and mistakes will happen, but I am convinced that there is some mandate of the universe that states when Brett Minor is in a drive thru, Murphy’s Law must be observed.

Some errors can be explained with simple logic.  While waiting inside the restaurant, if you order 4 sandwiches with fries and drinks and one of the fries is missing when they slide you the tray, it can be seen immediately.  Before walking away, simply state that you are missing a fry.  They quickly apologize and throw the extra fry on the tray.  Problem solved and forgotten about before you make it to the table.  At the drive thru, however, the food is given to you in a bag.  You won't notice unless you purposefully check, and even then it's not always that easy to dig around in there for accuracy.  However, this must be done BEFORE pulling away from the window.  Even if you pull away but catch it before exiting the parking lot, you must now go inside to have it corrected, which defeats the entire purpose of using the drive thru to begin with.  On the other hand, not checking leads to not knowing about it until you are at least a few blocks away or even already at home.  What are the chances that you are going back for that missing cheeseburger? 

It's even more difficult to check for accuracy on special orders.  When I worked drive thru at Hardee’s, it was not uncommon to get orders for unsalted fries, a plain cheeseburger, raw cookies, extra or no ice, or mayo instead of mustard.  Checking the bag for accuracy on these types of orders while sitting in the drive thru is nearly impossible.  If there are eight burgers, but one is supposed to have extra pickles, you have to unwrap each one to find it.  It's not worth the hassle, just go inside.

Throw on top of these issues the fact that the employees are very pressed for time and the accuracy rates are naturally going to fall.  It can't be helped.  I once received a snack wrap and salad when I had ordered a Quarter Pounder and fries.  I'd been given someone else’s order.  Since I was in a hurry, I did not get into the bag until I reached my destination.  This is why you must check your order before leaving.

Despite all the procedures in place to assure a fast drive thru experience, it never seems to work that way for me.  One of the advantages to going inside is when a particular order is finished they can hand it to whatever customer ordered it.  However, the cars in the drive thru are approaching the window in order.  The occasional person is pulled forward to serve the one behind them, but in general you are the mercy of the orders that were placed before yours.  This was the situation I found myself in on Tuesday.

All we had ordered was a sweet tea, but there were five cars ahead of us, including the one who went screeching across the parking lot and whipped in front of our vehicle.  I ordered her tea and then continued to sit in front of the menu without moving for another two minutes.  Knowing that it only takes about thirty seconds to pour the tea and put a lid on it, the window appeared to be a mile away.  We soon began to have an additional problem.  My van doesn't have air conditioning, which is not normally a problem when we are moving, but sitting in a drive thru on a 95 degree day without a/c is not my idea of fun.  Add to that the fact that my van begins to overheat when it idles and my patience was wearing thin very quickly.

The menu to window time was not going to be anywhere near two and a half minutes, plus it took over five minutes to even get to the menu.  I reminded Kirsten that the reason we were in this predicament was because she thought it was too hot to get out of the van.  After several more minutes, we made it to the first window.  Our local McDonald’s has two windows.  The first window is to pay and the second is to receive your food.  I gave the girl in the window her dollar and continued to sit there for another 3 minutes, not moving from the window.  I was tempted to walk inside and just ask for my tea since it had probably already been poured and was sitting on a counter.  Unfortunately, I was wedged between two cars and was too close to the building to open my door.  The exhaust from the other vehicles was making me light headed and I was not sure if I could hold myself upright if I did get out.

I laid my head back on the seat rest and tried to concentrate my thoughts away from the sweat dripping into my eyes.  I drifted off for a moment and was startled awake by a honking horn.  I was excited to see that the car in front of us had moved up another car length, but after wiping my forehead on my quickly dampening shirt, I realized it was only a mirage.  Kirsten had grown eerily quiet and I tried to reassure her that we were not going to die here, but my tongue had begun to swell and the lack of moisture in my mouth made it impossible to speak.  Certain I was entering the early stages of heat stroke, I collapsed forward onto my steering wheel.  The surface temperature quickly causing second degree burns jolted me back to reality.

I heard a slight tapping to my left and turned to see the most beautiful sight.  An angel was looking out the drive thru window with a sweet tea in her hand.  She said, “I figured I could just grab this for you so you wouldn’t have to wait for the next window.”  I began to cry and I kissed her.  She had saved us.  I thanked her again and we drove off singing praises to this merciful woman.  It warmed my heart to know that there are still decent people in the world, but my loathing for drive thru lanes is stronger than ever.