Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Little Cynical

The other day one of my students and I were talking about very serious and complex issues (as I often do with my students, they are teenagers after all).  One of the items we were talking about was how to more easily chart and classify people (after all, isn’t that what life is about).  You see, back in my high school days, I carried a graph around with me wherever I went (I still have it by the way).  It gave certain people certain ratings and was very helpful in determining what could be expected of certain types of people. 

As we were talking, I decided that, similar to my high school days, it might be beneficial to come up with a very simple code to classify people.  After all, who really wants to take the time to describe a person in several paragraphs when one phrase or word might do the trick just as easily?

Let me explain.  Our chart is based upon how you react to people when they approach you.  For example, pretend I’m talking to the Mrs. and somebody approaches to talk to me.  How I react is oftentimes based on what type of person is approaching (sometimes my reaction is based upon how mad the Mrs. is at me in that moment, but that’s a story for another day).  Anyway, likes I was saying, when the person approaches, how I act says a lot about my perception of that person.   Do I get excited?  Do I start to look for the closest exit?  What do I do?  So, if I could describe my reaction in one phrase, I could then use that same phrase to describe the person to someone else.  Right?  I’m pretty sure it’s infallible.

Editor’s Note: Of course, if I were a better person, this list wouldn’t exist and everybody would be a Blue 
Bridge.  But I’m not, so it does.   

Anyway here is the chart.  The word in quotations marks is the descriptive word.

1. A “Shoelace”:  When this type of person approaches, you’ll tend to get really nervous.  In order to calm your nerves, you take a second to tie your shoe in order to gain your composure.  This could be a someone of the opposite gender (or same gender depending) whom you find attractive (only if you’re single of course) or maybe somebody who’s really famous.

2. A “Smile and Nod”: When this type of person approaches, you just keep your eyes glued to the floor because you’re so intimidated.  You just keep your head down and nod occasionally whenever anything is said.   Basically any adult (but especially my bosses) fits this description for me.

3. A “Blue Bridge”: There was some debate about which name to choose for this one, so I just chose both.  This is somebody who you’re just pleased as punch to talk to.  When they come, they have your full attention.  This is what one prefers to be classified as (well, this or a “Shoelace”)

4: A “Sunday School Lesson”: This person is just below a “Blue Bridge”.  What they say is interesting some of the time, but for some reason sometimes you just don’t seem to connect.  By all accounts what they’re saying is interesting, but sometimes, for some reason, it’s not.     

5. A “History Lesson”: In a conversation, this person only holds your attention in spurts.  If anything even semi-interesting passes by, your attention is usually gone.  Most of my students would classify me as a “History Lesson”.  You don’t mind them talking to you, you just hope they don’t expect you to really care.

6. A “Politician”: Right below a “History Lesson” and right above a “Cell Phone”, the whole time this person is talking, your attention is focused somewhere else; the lights on the ceiling, the book in front of you, the TV.  You’re not quite ready to take out the cell phone, but you really have no idea what the person’s last sentence was.

7. A “Cell Phone”: When this type of person approaches, you have your cell phone ready.  By the time they start talking, your texting away furiously (or at least, you’re pretending to).  Your desire is that this person gets the hint and doesn’t stay around too long, but you don’t want to make them feel bad by actually telling them this.

8. A “Neighbor”: This is the older version of the cellphone, but still a fairly useful term.  When this type of person approaches, you listen for a second or two, but at the soonest possible opportunity (without being too rude of course), you turn your attention to the person next to you.  Your hope is that if you don’t acknowledge them, eventually they’ll move on to another area in the room.

9. An “Appointment”:  This person is a step past a “Cell Phone”.  You try to be polite by saying you have an appointment, but you just can’t take the risk of them not getting the cell phone or neighbor hint, you just have to get out of there.

10.  A “Walk Away”: For this type of person, you’re not even worried anymore about being polite.  You just have to get out of there as soon as possible.      

After reading this, I’m really fairly certain these are essentially the only adjectives you’ll ever use again in describing a person.  You’re welcome.  Once people understand my classification system, it will make personal descriptions so much more simple and quick. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

That One Day

Just so you know, it was on this day thirteen years ago that I entered the Empty Sea, beginning my preparation to eventually serve an LDS mission in the Switzerland (and Germany for a little bit).  I will never forget that day.  It remains one of the most pivotal points in my life (if not the pivotal point in my life).  After eleven years of reflecting on the mission, I’ve determined there really is no adequate way of articulating the experience.  It’s an event that, for many reasons, defies description.  There is simply no way to explain what it’s like to be a full-time missionary.  

That said, an anniversary of such an event demands listification, even if that list may not be totally understandable or appreciateable by some.  Here is the list:

Some Things I learned from the Mission:

1. I learned how to talk to people, kind of.  Before the mission I couldn’t talk to people at all.  After the mission, I could talk to people in German about church stuff.  So that’s a little bit of progress.

2. Walking in church shoes for more than 30 minutes is actually quite uncomfortable.  Walking in church shoes for two years, well that’s even more uncomfortable.

3. Expect to see the hand of God in your life every day.   There are daily miracles all around if we look hard enough.   

4. The greatest food in the world is a Doener Kebab from Germany.  Serious.  Ask anyone that’s had one and I promise they’ll agree.

5. The smell of marijuana smoke gives me a headache.

6. All day is a long time to be around anyone, even the nicest companion.

7. The strongest testimony in the world doesn’t help a missionary too much, unless he/she is willing to share it.

8. I learned that if it’s been a hard day and nobody will talk to you, find an African, they’re usually pretty nice and talkative (which makes me wonder what missionaries in Africa do when they’ve had a long day and nobody will talk to them).

9. I learned that most missionaries are pretty average (and actually a surprising amount are pretty below average), but the Gospel and the Spirit are amazing.

10. Switzerland is a breathtakingly beautiful country. 

11. Italians are crazy drivers, but actually very clever (which differentiates them from most Californian drivers)

12. I learned that I wasn’t nearly as smart as I thought I was (I am now though).

13.  If you work as hard as you possibly can, God usually has a way of rewarding you.

14. There’s absolutely nothing like a good nap on Preparation Day.

15. In personality and temperament, I’m more like a Swiss person than an American person.  Somehow I was born on the wrong continent, which is a little frustrating actually.

16. I learned that if I had to live with an adult male for the rest of my life, I would probably have to be put in an insane asylum.  I really have no idea how wives can handle having husbands. 

17. I learned that two people, named Neil Hahl and John Holbrook respectively, are great, great men.

18. Generally speaking, you get out what you put in. 

19. I’m a huge fan of dependable, punctual public transportation.

20. And finally, I learned that the end of the mission isn’t really the end at all. 

A Note about the Mrs.

Ten Reasons I Don’t Hate the Mrs.

1. She does my laundry, and Holden’s laundry, and Gemma’s laundry (and her laundry as well).

2. She can give me helpful advice when the girls I coach are acting in ways that defy rational explanation (which, of course, is fairly often).

3. She once drove to Tooele (pronounced “two-will-uh” for those who are ignorant) just to watch me coach a soccer game.

4. Although she’s had several prime opportunities, she has yet to make me sleep in the garage (we do have a garage by the way, and if I had to sleep there I think I would cry).

5. She knows who Tim Duncan is and what team he plays for.

6. She keeps me updated on such important things as the Bachelorette and the latest Taylor Swift news.

7. In eight years of searching, she was the only one who could consistently put up with my complete lack of mental awareness.

8. She supports (and even encourages) my cardigan obsession.  (Side note: The other day I wore a cardigan to school and one of my students tweeted “I’m pretty sure Mr.Wright is wearing a girls sweater”.  I still haven’t recovered.  It's not a girl's and it’s not a sweater.)

9. She has survived three years in the Goshe (which, for a Salemite, is no small task).

10. She gave birth to the cutest girl on the planet (in my humble opinion).