Hand Knives and Other Nonsense

Based on the existence and fairly stringent enforcement of child labor laws in this country, I feel fairly confident that I can take it for granted that I work with adult, full-grown people in my company. 

Adult, full-grown people generally possess common sense; granted they use it far less frequently than we might like, but they possess it nonetheless.

Sometime with-in the last few weeks one such adult, full-grown person, upon arriving at a meeting wherein breakfast was provided, (despite the ongoing directive to conserve funds wherever possible, I might add) and noticing the lack of proper cutting implements to divide the unsliced bagels, took it upon herself to bring a large serrated knife from her cubicle into the conference room to cut the bagels.  She then proceeded to place one of said bagels into her lesser hand and begin slicing the bagel in two.  What happened next is very unclear as there were, in reality, very few witnesses to the event, but from what I understand the adult, full-grown person somehow managed to cut through the bagel and fairly deeply into one of her fingers.

Having used her own knife, brought from  her own cubicle and under her own steam sliced into her own finger, she took it upon herself to clean up her mess, wrap up her hand, and driver herself to the emergency room where she received, I’m told, approximately eight stitches.  No one called 911.  Crime Scene Cleaners were not called to clean and dispose of the bio-hazardous fluids that escaped.  No one even bothered to call security and submit an incident report.  Hell, it wasn’t eve filed under Workers Compensation.  The woman is fine.  No lasting effects from her injury.  She has even returned to work.

What with us being a bunch of adult, full-grown people, you might think that was the end of the story.

You would be wrong.

Earlier this week, I was shown a document, created by an unknown entity, and approved and finalized by someone who makes a lot more money than I do, to be posted in all break rooms and conference rooms.  The document was printed in full color and laminated thickly so that it would hold up for a good long time to come.  As is so often the case (particularly with things that originate where this document did) not nearly enough, or the right eyes fell upon this document in advance of calling it complete and only after it had been finalized, printed and posted did I see it (not that I’m calling myself the right eyes.)

I have received a number of comments from people I am friendly with in the building.  People who are not complaining to me in an official capacity or with any expectation that I will, or could, effect a change, but simply because they know me and my level of intellect and know I will understand where they are coming from.  Nonetheless, these people are complaining as they state, rightly, that this document is downright offensive.

The document is titled “Careful Cutting:  Knife Safety Tips”, and just as it sounds it is a list of suggestions how to handle a knife safely…  Because clearly one distracted person who took responsibility for herself is irrefutable proof that the entirety of modern society is too ignorant to manage a knife without some guidance.   The document is laid out as a list of bullet points; brief sentences with suggestions that are entirely valid, though clearly written for kindergarteners.  It is written with some of each point bolded as one would do for a document that has highlights within each point that are most important.  In other words, I make a list of things and I’d like you to read the entire list, but if you won’t, please at least read this part and you’ll get the primary focus of the line item.  The purpose of strategic bolding in a document such as this, is that even if you don’t read anything more than what I have strategically bolded, you will still get the point of the document.

That said, here is what this document says to most people who will read it:

Following these basic guidelines for using knives can help to ensure safety in the work environment.

  1. Be alert and pay attention
  2. Always use a solid surface
  3. Do not hold food
  4. Point away.  [That actually is a sentence on the document.  Just “Point Away.”]
  5. Use your free hand to firmly hold the food
  6. Never use a knife
  7. Hand knives
  8. Do not startle or distract someone
  9. Wash and store knives immediately

Honestly?  Some of those are really good advice; words to live by, even!  However, with the exception of number six, I’m not sure how clearly they actually convey whatever point it is we were trying to convey, which I can only assume is not “We think you’re too stupid to take care of yourself.”  Now don’t get me wrong.  I understand we live in a ridiculously litigious society where we sue fast food restaurants for selling hot coffee that we then burn our vajayjays with when we put the scalding hot cup between our legs and then drive, resulting in the necessity to print “caution, contents may be hot” on every hot-beverage paper cup ever made for the last 17 years.  But I think the actions of the woman in this situation proved that she was not interested in suing her employer for something she so clearly held total responsibility for. 

  1. Be alert and pay attention  Well, yes.  Whether you’re driving, or walking, or cutting a bagel or balancing your checkbook (does anyone do that anymore?) being alert and paying attention seems like excellent advice.  It prevents mistakes from being made and erroneous information being disseminated.  Admittedly, it also prevents fingers being severed… usually.
  2. Always use a solid surface   Always?  Isn’t it conceivable that there will be times when a solid surface will not be ideal?  I like my bed to be soft and fluffy.  For sure my pillow needs to have some give. My chair at work could actually stand to have a bit less solid surface that I sit on.  On the other hand, I prefer a solid surface to drive on and a solid surface to write on and a solid surface on which to put my laptop.  Solid surfaces do, indeed, serve many purposes; but “always”?
  3. Do not hold food   Holding food can certainly become messy from time to time.  Crumbs drop everywhere.  Sauces tend to drip off of the food item and run down your hand and arm.  It can make for a real mess.  Hell, even today I ate a couple donuts with a knife and a fork, (In clear violation of rule number 6).  But sometimes you have to hold food.  It’s pretty tough to prepare food without holding it from time to time and some things, like pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs and sandwiches, were just made to be held (actually I eat pizza with a knife and fork too, but clearly I’m a rebel.)
  4. Point away.   Seriously.  That’s an entire sentence.  I have no idea what purpose this advice serves.  I mean, my mother told me pointing was rude.  And after a while your arms get tired.  Clearly more research is needed on this one.  I need better guidelines before I can go around pointing, away.
  5. Use your free hand to firmly hold the food   But?!?  Didn’t you just tell me not to hold the food?
  6. Never use a knife   It would be pretty tough for me to imagine going the rest of my life without ever using a knife again.  Nonetheless, I think we could actually have accomplished exactly what this document is trying to accomplish with these four simple words.  NEVER. USE. A. KNIFE.  I can guarantee you will not cut your own finger off if you never use a knife.  You will also never cut a steak, or toast and shmear a bagel or make a peanut butter and honey (or jelly if you prefer) sandwich, effectively, again, either.
  7. Hand knives   The only thing I can figure is this must be the working title of an Edward Scissorhands Prequel/Sequel (commingsoontoatheaternearyou!)
  8. Do not startle or distract someone   Again, it only seems polite.  I mean, some people really don’t like surprises and some people are easily distracted and need to be able to focus.  Wouldn’t you feel guilty if you startled someone into a heart attack or something?  I know I would!
  9. Wash and store knives immediately   Well, I mean,…  I’m kinda in the middle of something right now.  Can’t it wait till I’m finished?  Also, what knives?  I don’t see any knives.  Does that mean I have to guy buy some knives first?  You’re kind of asking a lot.

I admit it.  I think the whole document is stupid.  I think it’s utterly absurd that something like this has to be made because of one isolated incident with one person who hasn’t even suggested that it’s anyone else’s fault, but if we are going to do something along these lines, at least we could come up with something that is a little better written and laid out!

(By the way, if you’re anything like me, you really want to know what the rest of the document actually really says.  If you’ re not interested, you can stop here and skip to the bottom to leave your comments. Ahem.  Otherwise, here is the rest of the document in its entirety.)

  1. Be alert and pay attention when you have a knife in your hand.  Do not get distracted or engage in conversation when using knives.  Keep your eyes on the blade at all times.
  2. Always use a solid surface  to cut on.
  3. Do not hold food  in the palm of your hand while cutting (i.e. bagels, fruit.)
  4. Point away.  When you are using a knife, always cut downward and with the blade of the knife angled away from you.  Never angle the knife toward you or your fingers.
  5. Use your free hand to firmly hold the food item against the solid surface, making sure fingers are out of the way of any slips that might occur.
  6. Never use a knife  for any purpose other than cutting.  A knife blade is not to be used as bottle/can openers, staple removers, box cutters, etc.
  7. Hand knives  to another person handle first, with the cutting edge pointed away from your palm.
  8. Do not startle or distract someone  who is using a knife.
  9. Wash and store knives immediately  after use.  Hand wash knives with the edge of the blade away from your hands and dry thoroughly.  Never leave knives in a sink.

Actually, I don’t think knowing the full text of the document makes it any less offensive…

Anybody know if they sell “safety knives” next to the “safety scissors” for kindergarteners?

Sometimes Things Happen.

Sometimes things are going to happen.

Sometimes things might happen.

Sometimes?  Sometimes things don’t happen at all, or, at least, not the way they are planned.

Actually, it’s usually that last one, but that’s not what I’m thinking about.

Sometimes, I plan to write about something, but I want to wait until the thing happens, or until the thing is over and the whole story exists to be told.  And then because I want to wait to talk about the thing, THE THING is all I can think about.  Any and all other THINGs are absent from my mind when I’m trying to think of something to write about and then I go days and days without writing anything…

And then THE THING happens, and I’m too busy to write about it and it never gets written about anyway.

Sometimes, the thing that I’m thinking about – and by “thinking”, I think it safe to say, I mean “obsessing” – is something that, maybe, I shouldn’t write about at all.


I am, apparently, an inherently negative person.  I know, that’s shocking!  Apparently, it comes with, or is the cause of, or is in some way or other partnered with clinical depression to be, well, not negative, exactly, but fatalistic? negativistic? doomsday thinking?  I’m not sure really…

Three weeks ago, I went for my regular therapy appointment.  I sat down on the couch and I said something like this:  “So!  I’m sure this is completely inappropriate, but who cares.  And I’m sure you’re going to say, ‘no’, but I figure it can’t hurt…  But you can say no.  It’s OK.  But anyway…  I’m having a birthday party next Saturday and I would be glad for you to come.  You know.  If you wanted.”  (There’s nothing like being clear and concise and confident… And that was nothing like it.)

She said no, of course.  And I wasn’t the least bit surprised.  She said something along the lines of it being something she can’t do in her role in our relationship and then she wanted to talk about what it would be like for me if she were there among my friends.  I admitted that it would be a little strange and while I trusted that she had the good sense not to say the wrong thing I did wonder how she would handle the “So, how do you know Kevin?” question.  I told her that while our relationship is different from any of my other relationships, she knows me better than pretty much anyone else that would be there (including Michelle really).  And while our relationship is, by design, kind of one-sided, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to extend the invitation.

She told me, as I knew she would, that she could not attend the party, but that she definitely wanted to hear about it when we met again, which would be after the party.  Our conversation revealed that this was my first ever birthday party, that I’ve never had one before because my family didn’t do birthday parties, and as an adult I didn’t believe I had anyone to invite and/or that anyone would show up if I did.  She thought the fact that I was having the party was a good thing, some sort of progress for me, but also an opportunity for a lot of anxiety, and these “feelings” she keeps talking about, to come up and so she would want to know about the party afterward.

Last week I went in, sat down, took a deep breath and she asked me, “So tell me about the party.”  We talked in great detail about the party.  What went on.  Who was there.  The good turn out of people (about 15.)  The interactions.  The conversations.  The music (I made an iTunes playlist.)  The cake.  I also told her about the myriad disappointments that occurred.  All the people who never acknowledged the Evite.  The number of people who declined the invitation.  The handful of people who I really wanted to be there who weren’t.  The deviled eggs that I looked forward to for two weeks which got knocked over on the way to the party and were inedible.

Deb had a number of favorable comments that, proof-in-the-puddin’, I don’t remember, about my handling of the situation and the “progress I have made” and I, of course, discounted most of what she had to say.  She told me that she had all this confidence and faith in me and my ability to do… whatever, and I keep telling her “I can’t”.

I asked, “I said ‘I can’t?'”  (I didn’t say I can’t.)

“Well, OK.  Not, ‘I can’t’.  ‘Yeah, but'”, she told me.  (Yeah, that I said… a lot.)

I don’t know why I’m predisposed to seeing the negative side of everything.  I mean, I know we all do that to some extent, but it seems like most people at least see things equally positive and negative.  My birthday party post was so short, with just the pictures, largely because, as fun as it was and as much as I enjoyed the people that were there, I couldn’t think of anything to say besides “I wish that…”

What I wish, is that I was less like that and more able to take things as they come.  I wish I was more confident and able to feel good about myself, who and what I am, without constantly having to worry about what other people are going to think.


This week-end, I found out something.  Something that I already suspected.  Something that doesn’t surprise me, and yet blew me away.  And something about which, despite all the reasons I should feel differently…

Michelle’s nephew Curtis graduated from High School on Friday.  His Graduation was Friday, Saturday I went to Michelle’s for my bi-weekly laundry extravaganza.  Saturday night, Michelle’s family had a barbecue to celebrate Curtis Graduation.  And on Sunday, at the butt-crack– actually, before the butt-crack of dawn, Michelle flew to Tulsa (with strict instructions NOT to call my mother) for two weeks, for work.  When I arrived at Michelle’s house on Saturday she told me that she would be leaving me to go to the Barbecue and asked if I was going to come over when I finished my laundry.  I asked her who was going to be there.  If they were having a party for Curtis and his just-graduated-from-high-school friends, I wasn’t interested, but if it was a family thing than I would try to stop by.

Michelle told me, “I think it’s just going to be family.  Maybe one or two of his friends will stop by.  I think Jonathan will be there.”

I enjoy every opportunity I get to torment Michelle because deep down inside I am an evil bastard.  I asked, “Who’s Jonathan?  Is that his boyfriend?”

While continuing to stir the shrimp scampi she was making, part of our traditional, Kevin’s-birthday-meal, she chuckled and said, “yeah.  Sort of.  Until he upgrades.”

Did anyone else just hear the record screech to a halt?  No?  That was just me?  OK.  Moving on.

I let it go for a few minutes so we could finish the conversation we were having.  and then I asked her to clarify.  “So…  Were you just…  going along with what I said?  Or is Jonathan actually Curtis’s boyfriend?  Is he really gay?”

I used to jab at Michelle every so often with the idea that Curtis was gay.  I’ve suspected it since I met him – when he was four years old.  Michelle always got defensive and said he wasn’t, which is what made it so fun, naturally.  Once gain, evil bastard!  Now she’s talking about it like it’s not big deal, which so help me, it shouldn’t be, but daaaamn!

Apparently Curtis and Jonathan have known each other for years.  Curtis was in a special program at his high school that’s geared toward performing arts and not to invoke the stereotype, but there’s a reason why stereotypes exist.  Curtis, purports himself to be “bisexual”, but like so many people (especially gay men), I’m not sure I believe such a thing exists.

So here’s the part I should be ashamed of…

Curtis is 17.  He’ll be 18 in August.  Already at 17, he’s figured out (or thinks he has) that he’s “bisexual”.  Already at 17, he’s got a boy friend.  At 36, I’ve never had a boyfriend.  Already at 17, he’s come out to his family, and apparently had no qualms about doing so.  At 36, I’m pretty sure I’ll never come out to my family.

So I’ll admit it…  Yes, I’m jealous, or maybe envious, is the right word.  Is there really a difference?

If I weren’t an inherently negative person, then surely I would see how wonderful all of that is.  I would be proud of him for not denying himself.  I would be happy for him that he had the strength and the courage to come out to his family.  I would be proud of his family for creating an environment where he could come out and for being so accepting of and loving to him.

I would be.

Oh, wait…

My First Birthday (Party)

Despite getting off to a rocky start (venue wasn’t open when it was supposed to and we were late getting set up), my birthday party turned out pretty well in the end.  Several people attended and there was a good mix of people from various “worlds”.  Some of my favorite people from the EMT class attended as did two people from work.  And Michelle’s family was there as well.  There were three or four others from work I would really have liked to attend, but they had previous commitments that required them to miss it.

Since this was my first birthday party, it had to be a “first birthday party”.  Cake, decorations, etc.

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A good time was had by all.


Two years ago, when I was contemplating becoming a Big Brother, I was looking for an opportunity to do something of value in the community.  I wanted to do something that would make a difference.  I wanted to do something that was ongoing, not just a one time deal to make myself feel better and then move on.

I suspect I wanted to fill a void in my life that can not be easily filled through more “natural” means, yet not fill it so much as to take on a 100%, full-time commitment that maybe I can’t afford to take on.  I liked the idea of having the opportunity to influence a young person and, hopefully, make a positive difference in his life.  The thought may have crossed my mind, once or twice, that I might be able to “save” a troubled kid; help him to find a better way to live.  Maybe I wanted someone to idolize me, perhaps to aspire to be like me, though I really hoped to give him more to aspire to than I have done.

There have been times, more than a few in fact, where I felt like none of that was happening.  Lil’B is a good kid with no problems to speak of.  (I hope he stays that way, but he’s only nine.)  With the exception of one outing when he was seven, the first day after Halloween, when he’d had much too much candy for breakfast, he’s never misbehaved and he accepts the limitations I place on him (that his mother has requested) without any trouble.  When we go to the movies and we go to the concession stand, when the cashier asks us if we want anything else, I see him point at the candy in the display case.  I laugh, tell him no and tell the cashier that our order is complete.  Lil’B laughs and we go on about our day.  (Mom doesn’t want him to have very much candy because he misbehaves if he gets too much sugar in his system.)  An occasional piece of candy, every once in a while is allowed, but not all the time.  He knows this and doesn’t get upset when I tell him no.

I’ve tried to enquire about deeper issues.  Is he hurting about anything?  Is there anything that’s bothering him that he wants to talk about?  But of course you have to be subtle about such things, you can’t come right out and ask.  He always tells me he’s fine.  He doesn’t talk a lot.  As often as not, I ask him a pointed question (i.e. What did you learn about in school this week?  What did you have for lunch today?) and he answers with “I don’t know.”  I feel bad when we’re driving down the road in silence, but I’ve run through my list of questions to ask him and he’s answered “I don’t know” to all of them, so, in silence we drive.

There have been times when I felt like maybe this relationship wasn’t serving any purpose after all.  I wanted to make a difference in his life, but maybe I’m not.  I wanted to feel warm and fuzzy, knowing that I was important to him, but I don’t.  I thoroughly enjoy the time we spend together, but some weeks I feel like I’m going because I’m supposed to, not because I want to.  I feel badly about that, and I hope he doesn’t see it.

Sunday afternoon was my regularly scheduled time with Lil’B.  Neither of us really knew what we wanted to do.  Our last few outings have been movies, which are always fun, but I – and I hope he – likes to do other things besides sitting around in a cold, dark room not talking to each other, sometimes.

I showed up at his house right around 2:00, our usual time and while he was finishing getting ready his mother called out to him in Spanish; something about “la escuela.”  He still has one week left of school, but he already has his report card and she wanted to show it to me.

He did very well in school.  They had three terms and for each term they were assigned a numeric score; not an average, a number.  I didn’t memorize the meanings of the numbers but essentially a 3 was average, or meeting the standard.  A 4 was proficient in the particular skill.  I’m not sure how those numbers relate to the letter grades and percentages out of 100 that I remember getting, but whatever.

For the first two terms he got 3s for both reading and writing, but then in the third term he got 4s.  This is a bi-lingual school.  So he was rated proficient reading and writing both English and Spanish.  For the other subjects, Science and Math (and it seems like there was one more) he had gotten 4s throughout the entire year.

Lil’B’s mother told me she was very happy that he had gotten such good scores; both Lil’B’s older brother and younger sister got good scores as well.  Then she told me that the day he brought the report card home he was very excited and he told her, “Be sure to show this to my Big Brother!” (Warm)

I told him I was very proud, and I am.  He’s worked hard this year.  In the second grade we had to bring his homework with us sometimes and spend some time on that and he didn’t much like having to do that.  In the third grade there was an after school program that he was in and he had time to do his homework there.  He got his homework packets done every week in the after school program and, we are told, he even helped the other students with their homework (particularly the math, yech!)

We decided to go Miniature Golfing for our outing which was a lot of fun, except that I don’t know where my sunscreen is and I was wearing short sleeve’s, shorts and flip-flops.  I now have some very oddly laid out sunburn.

It’s the end of the school year for a lot of students.  It was also the first really nice day we’ve had so far this summer.  Mother Nature seems to have forgotten that this here is California, land of sun and fun; also that it is mid-JUNE and we like to not have to wear coats this time of year.  Naturally, the mini-golf place was very busy and there was a back log of parties on the course.

Lil’B and I got stuck behind a party of six, spanning in ages from “Grandma” all the way down to “Little Lexie” who was “not quite three and doing surprisingly well” (if you count carrying your ball over to within two inches of the hole and then using the narrow end of the club head and a double ham-fisted grip to hit it toward the hole – and still missing half the time).  Clearly a completely unbiased opinion from Grandma.  I opted not to get mad, because as much as it’s no fun to sit around and wait, I don’t like to feel rushed either and the party of six was every bit as entitled to enjoy their time in the sun as Lil’B and I, and all the people behind us.

So Lil’B and I would play our hole and we’d move ahead to wait for the next one after “Little Lexie” finished making her play.  Since we were only two, and they were six, there was a lot of time waiting between rounds.  We’d finish playing, move to the next hole and sit on one of the many benches around (Well, I sat.  Lil’B usually didn’t.)  When we were finished, the family behind us, two little boys – probably close to Lil’B’s age – and their two young parents, would play.  It seemed that only the boys were playing.  Mom was there to keep score, and I would guess, dad was the money.  (Actually, mom and dad may have been on a date.  At one point I heard one of the boys say, now I want to try this hole with my mom.  I would only be guessing to say what that meant.)

It was around the tenth hole, when I was sitting on the bench waiting for Little Lexie to finish her play and the family behind us finished their round on hole number nine.  I scooted down to the end of the bench and the two little boys sat down next to me.  Just then Little Lexie moved on and Lil’B stepped up to take his shot.  I guess the family behind us had been watching us closely because when Lil’B took his shot and his ball stopped fairly close to the hole, one of the little boys looked at me and said, “Your son is pretty good.”  (aaaand fuzzy)

I didn’t correct him.  It seemed like it would be unkind to point out an error he couldn’t have known he’d made.  Besides, “I’m not his dad, I’m his Big Brother” is no explanation at all, since you can’t see the capital Bs when you talk.  I think we all know by now, Lil’B is mexican…  I?  I glow in the dark.  Clearly we do not share any blood, so we can’t be brothers… unless one of us is adopted I suppose.

I simply answered, “He gets a lot more practice than I do.”  And from then on we were all chatting together and having fun together.  It may have become apparent later that maybe I wasn’t his father when I talked to Lil’B about our outings, but nobody questioned it.

And I realized something.  I would be proud to be his father.  Maybe someday I’ll get the chance to be a father, but if I don’t, at least I’ll have had this time with my Little Brother, and that’s pretty special, too!