The Misadventures of a Fearful People Pleaser

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Girl on Aisle 7

In my early twenties I was attending college classes in the mornings and working at my parents hardware store after that. The college campus was filled with beautiful young people looking to impress and attract each other. The hardware store, on the other hand, was mostly frequented by smelly old men covered in sawdust, grease, or whatever else they were tinkering with that day. Each day as I arrived at work, I would slip into the back room and exchange my dressed to impress clothes for my "How may I help you?" clothes—complete with a 50 foot tape measure and a paint-splotched-pin-striped-collar shirt and a faded blue vest with buttons pinned on it from various suppliers of everything from sand paper to dog food.

One of my co-workers was a really cool lady named Josette, who having sons of her own enjoyed helping me in my pursuits of the opposite sex. For example, across the street from the hardware store was the bank drive-up. The rest of the bank was on a different block, but the drive-up was directly across the street and working in that drive-up there was a girl I was interested in (For brevity's sake I will call her "Bank Teller Girl"). Now, I had only seen her through the bullet proof glass of the bank window, but she was always friendly to me as we spoke through the drive-up intercom and never once told me I had to be in a car to use her lane. So you can see why it seemed like true love. Each day, Josette would make up reasons for me to go to the bank. "We are low on nickels" she would say and send me across the street. An hour later, she would tell me that she hadn't realized that we were also low on tens. I would smile and play along, later apologizing to the "bank teller girl" that Josette had messed up again. She would draw a smiley face on my receipt and send over a bunch of suckers along with the change. I would then report back to Josette on how it had gone. Eventually with her encouragement, I got up the nerve to ask "bank teller girl" out on a date. I sent a note through the tube requesting that she go out with me. She said 'yes'. We did go out, but we found that actually being able to talk to each other face to face didn't seem as enjoyable as our drive-up antics and so nothing really came of it.

After that, I returned my attention back to clogged p-traps, and convincing people that an extension cord with prongs on both ends was not a good idea.

Until one day, as I was straightening the painter's putty, Josette hurried over to me and in a hushed voice said, "There is a girl on aisle seven that I think you may want to help." I could tell by her tone of voice what she meant. She meant that the stars had aligned and there was actually a young attractive girl in the store—a damsel in distress—who needed a man like myself to come and rescue her. As, I walked toward aisle seven I tried to envision this beauty and the over-appreciative reaction she would have to my helping her.

As I turned the corner onto aisle seven, I was surprised to find exactly what I was expecting—an attractive girl with dark hark looking at the various bins before her. I stopped momentarily in my tracks. Somehow seeing her for real caused me to think that maybe I had left all of my courage on aisle six. I suddenly became very concerned with how dorky I looked in my ridiculous vest with clanking buttons pinned to it. I looked down at my dirty hands and wondered if my face was smeared with dirt as well. I considered retreating out of the aisle and making a quick visit to the mirror department, but just then she looked up at me. Her expectant eyes paralyzed me and my mind went blank. At this point, I was supposed to say "How may I help you?" or "Is there something I can help you find?" But none of those oft repeated phrases were coming to me. I approached her and looked at the bins she had been searching for some possible guidance—Pan Head Stainless Steel Screws. I opened my mouth and what came out horrified me,

"So, you looking for a screw?"

She looked at me for a moment. I thought I was going to die. She probably noticed the shades of red I was now turning. Then she burst out laughing.

"Yes, as a matter of fact I am."

Monday, March 17, 2014

Pepper's Ghost & Love Stories

Stephen Covey (author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) is famous for saying that everyone looks at and interprets life through their own lens, and that it is crucial that we "look at the lens through which we see the world, as well as the world we see, [because] that lens itself shapes how we interpret the world." Oftentimes the things we perceive and even fear are illusions or distortions of reality. To illustrate let me tell you about my favorite stage illusion—sometimes used in theatre, theme parks, rock concerts, magic shows, museum exhibits, etc. It is a simple technique, first documented in the 16th century and commonly referred to as "Pepper's Ghost".  The name "Pepper's Ghost" may not mean anything to you, but if you've ever been to Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm, etc. you've probably experienced it. In fact you have experienced a basic version of it when you look out a window at night and notice your own reflection floating ghost-like on the other side of the glass.

The illusion is done with a large piece of glass that you don't realize you are looking through and strategically placed lighting to make something or someone appear in the scene that isn't actually there. In its earliest days it frightened audiences by producing ghosts on stage and today it is still able to baffle skeptical modern viewers with its digital projections reflecting onto a semi transparent foil instead of glass—bringing to the stage dead performers, animated characters, and other digital imagery all seemingly alongside live performers. This bewildering illusion is sometimes thought to be one of the origins of the term "smoke and mirrors" even though it technically requires neither. If you've ever been to Disneyland's Haunted Mansion you have seen one of the most famous uses of this effect (and the biggest) in the ballroom where the translucent ghosts are waltzing and celebrating the way that only Disneyland ghosts can do.

So going back to our Stephen Covey quote we can see how important it is to recognize if we are looking at life through a lens that is distorted, cloudy, or reflecting half truths. This can happen when we base our opinions and beliefs on gossip or hearsay. A friend of mine and I were almost turned against each other by a third person who liked to twist the truth and pit us against each other. Once we realized the source of our problems we vowed to always go immediately and directly to each other any time we heard anything that seemed out of the ordinary. How many love stories and movies are based on someone misinterpreting the truth or being lied to by a third party (The love story industry would probably go out of business if everyone recognized and corrected this common human weakness). All sorts of problems can arise and life can be difficult to navigate when we don't put forth the effort to find out the truth directly from the source. As the bible says, "For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully" (1 Corinthians 13:12)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Classifying Halloween Music

During the Christmas season a few years ago, a coworker of mine expressed her annoyance with Christmas music and that we had to listen to "the same six songs" over and over again. We both knew that there was more than six songs but she didn't think there were very many more. So we decided to write down every song that could be considered a Christmas song and we soon realized that we needed to set up some rules to guide us in what was to be classified as a genuine Christmas song. Besides both of us having to agree on each song, we also decided that only songs that had been covered by multiple performers would qualify. And they couldn't be songs that were played on the radio during other parts of the year. After a few days of listening to the radio and writing down every new song, we agreed on about 70 songs that were regularly played Christmas Songs.

Now my question is what about Halloween music? This is much tougher to classify. Sure, there are many Halloween related songs—songs about ghosts, horror, mysterious women, monsters, and even the devil. I know that I have my favorite Halloween related songs, but if you apply the same rules as outlined for the Christmas music, not much qualifies. For example I love Oingo Boingo's Dead Man's Party, but as far as I can tell it has only been released by the one band and when it was popular it was played on the radio year round. Now there are some songs that are exclusively associated with the Holiday, but many of these songs would also be disqualified if we follow the same rules. The radio stations don't help us out any by switching over completely to Halloween music as that holiday approaches and then never playing them again all year like they do with Christmas. So what constitutes a Halloween song? There are CD compilations you can buy and varying play lists people have posted on the internet. Some would include sound effects albums (like 'The Chilling Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House' put out by Disney beginning in 1964), others think horror movie soundtracks should qualify (who can forget the disturbing music to Psycho?). I am not sure what the qualifications should be but a few songs come to mind:

Thriller by Michael Jackson is still popular around Halloween and a great song (with an iconic 13 minute video from John Landis)
Monster Mash - I really hate this song, but it seems the most like a cousin to the Christmas songs in that it is only played around the holiday, there have been other versions (still nothing I like), and it seems old.
Grim Grinning Ghosts - comes from the Disneyland Haunted Mansion ride, and has been covered by various groups. It is a fun little song and gets me in the spirit of spookiness. 
Dead Man's Party - As I mentioned before, I think this should be included in any list of great Halloween songs.
This is Halloween - from "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas" has also been covered by Marilyn Manson.
Time Warp - A fun song that people dance along with that comes from The Rocky Horror Picture Show starring Tim Curry (who I especially love in the movie 'Clue')

What songs would you include in a list of Halloween songs? Would you include sound effects or music from soundtracks? Why? What rules would you use to guide your choices?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rocky Mountain Haunters Logo

I designed the logo above for the Rocky Mountain Haunters group.  They are located mostly in and around the Rocky Mountains as the name implies and have a passion for Halloween and haunting.