Birthday Madness

Birthday Madness

I wished my coworker a happy birthday, and we got to talking about celebrating birthdays. Most people seemed to have problems celebrating growing older, but she and I were overjoyed at our increasing ages.

“My mom is very into birthdays,” I explained to a coworker.

“Oh, mine is too,” she assured me. “She calls me every year on my birthday, at the time I was born. Now it’s fine since she’s on the west coast, but when I was in college is was awful.”

“What time?” I asked.

“6AM,” she said with sorrow. “In college is was terrible. She’d call me at 6 and wake me up to say ‘Happy Birthday.’ I’d say ‘Why do you have to call? I know when I was born.’ But now? It’s nice. She calls at 6 her time, so I’m already at the office.”

“Oh, we don’t do that,” I told her. “But my mom calls me on fractional birthday.”

She looked at me with confusion.

“You know – half birthday, 3/4 birthday, 7/12 birthday.”

She continued to stare at me.

“We’re serious about birthdays,” I explained.

“That’s just birthday madness,” were her final words on the matter.

Happy Birthday!

Election Day: Primary Edition

Election Day: Primary Edition

My favorite work holiday is Election Day. I love elections. I love voting. I just wish that everyone enjoyed it as much as I do. I want voting to be a pleasant experience for everyone. For myself, the poll workers, and even those other voters who are rising up as one to build a better nation. Growing up, everyone loved voting. The people who loved it most were the poll workers. They hung out all day, surrounded by the aroma of the church’s bake sale, shooting the breeze and catching up with the neighbors. They were always thrilled to see me and my sister, and let us look at the signature books and play with the model levers. They were the best sort of people.

My New York poll workers seem to be the opposite. They’re pensive, morose, and sometimes bordering on hostile. But I know that deep down they just want to be surrounded by the smell of cake and coffee and ask me about our local garbage pickup. So I smile wide, and try to make conversation. It goes like this.

Me: “How’s it going so far?”

Poll worker: “Last name?”

Me, after providing my last name, first name, and address – twice: “How’s your day been? A lot of voters?”

Poll worker: “It’s slow. Kinda like this all day. Not many people here.”

Me: “Seems -”

At this point, the poll worker cuts me off my handing my a ballot and instructing me to go vote.

I took this treatment for a few elections, before my persistent joy began to make an impression. I’d get an almost-smile form the poll workers, a few words about their day and the neighborhood. Then, I’d vote. It was a start. Three years in, and we’d have actual conversations – and they stopped trying to explain to me how to vote. They knew I knew, and that we had more important issues to discuss. Like what had happened to the street clearning schedule.

Then I moved to a new district. I didn’t have all the time in the world to become friends with my poll workers, so I took extreme measures. I started handing out candy.

My first election, I had big plans – I introduced myself, got my ballot, voted, and then came back and introduced myself again and gave them the candy. They thanked me.

My second election, no one recognized me – and I only recognized one of them. But I was undaunted, and gave them a bag of candy with a smile. One poll worker looked ready to hug me. The other smiled vaguely.

My third election, I decided to go all out. In addition to the candy – an assortment of mini milky ways, snickers, and kit kats – I wrote my poll workers a thank you note. This time, when I whipped out the candy – tied with a bow – and attached card, there were squeals of delight. They thanked me, they smiled at me. They called over another poll worker to introduce me. Finally, I can look forward to an election day with the joy it deserves.

I have arrived.

I’m My Own Grandpa

I’m My Own Grandpa

I picked up the book. Weighted it in my palm, like a cantaloupe. Flipped open, checking the paper’s shine against the store’s harsh fluorescent lights. Glancing at the page, I noted the size of the type, color saturation of the illustrations, and ratio of animals to humans on the page. In under three minutes I’d evaluated all of the children’s books on the shelf, and selected the best one. It was brightly colored, with thick pages – difficult for those still developing their fine-motor skills to rip – and clear print. Baby G had a present.

And I had turned into my grandfather.

Zaydie used to buy me books. Sometimes it was once a month, sometimes five a week. I never asked where they came from or how he picked them. He gave me books, I read them. It worked well.

A few years into the book buying, Bubby picked up the book I was reading. Interested in the choice of a Sherlock Holmes-inspired mystery for a 9 year old, she asked Zaydie why he’d picked it. He shrugged. She asked again. He told her it was the print.

Zaydie, it turns out, would check out the book section every time he went to Goodwill. He’d pick up any book in the children’s section that had an intact cover, and open it to the middle. He had two criteria: paper quality and print. If the quality wasn’t too bad and the ink hadn’t run, he bought it. Bubby was aghast that he’d been passing off books without checking the content. My dad laughed. Zaydie continued to buy me books without reading them first. And now, it seems, I do the same.

Not to worry – Baby G loved her book; her parents thought I made an excellent educational choice of reading material. Little did they know that was all about the paper quality – which was fine enough that Zaydie would have bought a copy too.