Men’s Room Etiquette

I’m not a big doom and gloomer. I don’t spend my days trolling the internet for further signs of the apocalypse, or collapse of western civilization. As a culture I think that we have a tendency to be a little self centered. We get so wrapped up in ourselves that we assume the past was some idyllic Eden from which our iniquities have exiled us. Well, I’m enough of a history geek to know that’s not true. And when it comes to the decline of western civilization, well, let’s just say that there’s a reason pr0stitution is called the world’s oldest profession. In my opinion, mankind crawled up out of the primordial ooze a few million years ago, looked around, shrugged, and crawled right back in. We’ve been there ever since.

That said, there is something that I feel we need to discuss. It’s a topic that has been weighing on my mind for some time, and well, I think I need to clear the air. Because frankly, I am beginning to worry that the pillars upon which our great civilization rest, are beginning to crumble. It has come to my attention that somewhere during the course of my lifetime people have seemed to forget the rules of bathroom etiquette. And by “people” I mean men, because I am not exactly in the habit of hanging out in women’s rooms. At least not since the restraining order.

For that matter I am not exactly in the habit of hanging out in men’s rooms either. That sort of deviant behavior is best left to pop stars and members of congress.

No, what I am going to share is wisdom gleaned from years of business travel with a small bladder. Or an enlarged prostrate. The jury is still out on that one. So without further ado, here are:

The 20 Prospect Golden Rules of Men’s Room Etiquette:

  1. Just because the stall has a resemblance to a phone booth does not mean it is one. Hang up. Unless you’re talking to a perv, chances are that the person at the other end of the line would hurl if they knew what you were doing.
  2. Conversation is not appreciated. I did not come here to make friends, and if you did, I am obviously in the wrong kind of bar.
  3. Eye contact. See #2
  4. Do not talk on the cell phone while standing at the urinal, unless something has become stuck in the plumbing and you are dialing 9-1-1 to summon the jaws of life.
  5. If there are more than 2 urinals, and one of them is occupied, do not choose the one right next to the occupant. Seriously. That creeps people out.
  6. Same goes for stalls, you perv.
  7. You are not Fonzie, and this is not your office.
  8. Do not blow your nose in the sink. You are no longer living in rural China. This is why civilization invented tissues… and sleeves.
  9. Put the toilet seat up before you pee. Did your mother teach you nothing? Jeez…
  10. Pants around your waist, not your knees. Or ankles. Unless I am in the wrong kind of bar. In which case, please excuse me. I’m not that comfortable with my sexuality.

Thank you. This concludes our public service announcement. Now back to the regularly scheduled programming.

He’s got legs.. he knows how to use them…

I’ve always been painfully shy, insecure, and deeply afraid of rejection. So naturally I started a blog to share my most personal and embarrassing stories with the world. Luckily, “the world” is typically composed of all 7 of my regular readers, plus my in-laws. (Hi Pops! Thanks for stopping by!) So nothing I say here is usually very shocking to most of the people that read it. In fact, I think one of life’s great truisms is that we tend to view the events of our lives as being far more important than other’s do. I doubt that anything I have revealed during the course of the last year has shocked anyone. Let’s face it. I am about as average, normal, and boring as a mentally unbalanced person can be.

That’s why the internet blog is the quintessential outlet for navel gazing. We can blab on at length about mundane, unimportant details that no one else cares about, and still get the thrill of being “edgy” like Lenny Bruce for “laying it all out there.” It is hard to believe that I have been blogging for over a year, but as the good and patient Mrs. 20 Prospect can attest, I never do anything halfway. No, when I decide to learn how to swim I jump into the deep end. So naturally, starting a blog quickly went from being a hobby to being a time consuming obsession, much like my foray into the world of cycling.

My cycling obsession began in the mid 90’s. One of my good friends had gotten big into cycling after college. He moved to Connecticut where he started riding, and then racing mountain bikes. Soon, he had moved into road biking and joined a cycling club where he began road racing. During a visit to Connecticut in 1993, I bought my first mountain bike after renting one for the weekend, and riding with him in the woods around Torrington. I mailed the bike back out west, and it became one of my prize possessions, along with my backpack and my skis, as I travelled around the country. Once I settled in Minnesota, I began searching out the local trails, and soon convinced my good friends Dan’l and Chris to drive up to the Chequamegon National Forest in Wisconsin to camp and ride the trails there. Before long I was riding weekly with a group of guys from work.

Riding the same ten miles of trail week after week, got old pretty fast. That’s when I decided I needed a focus, so I set my sights on racing. I did a few local mountain bike races in the Twin Cities and got my butt handed to me by several 90 lb. women. My manhood and self esteem was hurt, but I was determined to improve. So I joined a local cycling club, and started training hard. Over the winter I bought a road bike, and subscribed to Cyclesport, and the next spring I began logging some intense miles. In cold, 40 degree weather I would head out clad in lycra from head to toe, as the March winds tore at my exposed flesh. By summer, I was putting in 50 mile rides. That’s when I decided to stop mountain biking, and instead get focused on road biking. So I switched clubs, and enrolled in a racing class with the SPBRC.

There I was, a 30 something guy in a class with a bunch of guys in their 20’s, learning the finer points of riding etiquette. Road biking is full of subtle little details that distinguish the serious cyclist from the “Fred”. Sunglass frames are always worn over the outside of your helmet straps. The labels on your tires always face the drive chain, and are aligned with the presta valve. There are all sorts of does and don’t when riding in a paceline with others, but the biggest distinguisher between the recreational cyclist and the diehard, is their legs.

Real cyclists shave their legs.

The reasons for this are sketchy, with obscure claims about sanitation when cleaning out road rash, but the real reason can be summed up this way. All the cool kids do it. In Europe, the center of the cycling world, the true professionals all shave their legs. For this reason, cyclists the world over lather up in the shower, and break out the Lady Bics.

Riding with the club on Saturday mornings, we’d head out in a group of 40-50, all clad in matching jerseys, riding in perfect sync as we pedaled past the hipsters hanging out in the coffee shops, and headed out of town. Smooth legs glistened with beads of sweat as we climbed the hills of St. Paul in the slanting morning sun. Then there was me, looking, and feeling like Magilla Gorilla. No one said a word. They didn’t have to. I could see it in their eyes.

“Newby”

Now I’m a fairly competitive person. It wasn’t enough that I could hang with them on the climbs, or take my pulls at the front. I wanted them to respect me, and view me as one of their own. So with my first race approaching, and Mrs. 20 Prospect visiting her cousin in Sheboygan, I sat down on the edge of the bathtub one Friday night, with soap, shaving cream, and a new blade on my razor.

OK, I confess, I’d had a few beers before hand, to steady my nerves.

Then tentatively, I place the blade against the front of my thigh, and drew it back across my rippling quad muscles.

Then I screamed like a schoolgirl.

Keep in mind that my swarthy, Central and Eastern European ancestors were endowed with thick, curly, black hair. This genetic trait served them well as they hunted Stags in the Black Forest, and across the snowy Carpathian mountains. But here in the 20th century, it doesn’t really serve much purpose as I sit behind a desk. Except to keep my legs warm on those cold winter mornings. (It’s kinda like having built in leg warmers.)

Once the initial shock and pain subsided, I looked down, and there across my hirsute legs, was a stripe of bright white flesh. “WTF do I do now?” I wondered. I couldn’t exactly walk around with a big stripe shaved into the front of my legs. After the pain of the first stroke, I was having serious second thoughts about this.

So I took another swig of my beer, and soldiered on. An hour later our bathtub was covered in black, curly hair, and my legs were shiny pink and tingly. I must say, underneath that thick coat of fur was one sexy set of gams. Each and every muscle of my legs was defined, and ripped like some cover model in Men’s Health magazine. Not that I read Men’s Health magazine.

What? Stop looking at me like that!

OK, so there I was, all pink and tingly, marveling at the strange sensation of having skin rubbing skin as I lay in bed. But I knew that when the sun rose, I would be hanging out in front of Grand Performance, trading stories and opinions about the merits of Campy vs. Shimano, looking the part of a real cyclist.

Except that nobody seemed to notice. Oh well, at the very least I didn’t feel so self conscious about my legs when I was riding with the club. However, that’s when I discovered that I now felt self conscious the other 99% of the time. Standing in line at the grocery store, I felt like everyone was staring at my legs. If only I were bald, I could at least make them think I was a cancer patient.

When Mrs. 20 Prospect came home on Sunday night she shed tears like Jujubes.

Now I not only felt stupid, I felt guilty too. Damn Catholicism.

My race came, and went, summer quickly faded into fall, and slowly things got better. Little black itchy stubble at first, then fat, bristly whiskers like porcupine quills. Finally, by autumn my legs were once more covered with curly, luxurious, hair like a mink coat. Just in time for winter.

So what did I learn from this experience? Did it make me a better cyclist? Did I garner praise, adoration, or respect from a group of malnourished waifs on two wheels? Not exactly. What I learned is that women go through entirely too much trouble on behalf of men. Really ladies, if this is just a small part of what you endure to look lovely in the eyes of men, let me make a confession.

We’re not worth it.

No, seriously. If you all stopped shaving tomorrow, we’d get used to it. Sure, it might gross us out for a few days, but what alternative would we really have? It’s not like sheep are any less wooly.

What? Stop looking at me like that!

Eventually, we’d all just shrug, ask what was for dinner, and life would continue.

So ladies, on behalf of all men let me say, “Thank you”, for this grand gesture. But honestly, we really aren’t worth all that trouble. Evolution may have transformed the cave woman into today’s sexy cover models, but as for men, we’re still living in the cave.

Top Five

Last week were the first cold days of fall on the front porch. The wind was ripping and tearing at the house, trying to find a way inside. After the monsoon’s we had earlier in the week, I had hoped for a reprise to summer. Instead we got leaden clouds, and a cold wind blowing in from the steppes of Outer Mongolia.  OK, OK, God, it’s fall, I get the point already!

Driving the kids to school the maple trees were flaming orange in the overcast, and already the first few fallen leaves of autumn were swirling down the street, inspiring mopey teenagers all over town to pen poems about death in their journals. Not that I did that when I was a teen. At least as far as you know. (Note to self: burn those old journals in the fire pit tonight)

Last week was Lil’ Miss 20 Prospect’s parent-grandparent lunch, and since Mom and Grandma were in San Francisco I got to be the guardian-du-jour. (I don’t speak French, but I think I just said I got to protect the soup). Anyway, rather than make the 40 minute commute to work, just to turn around and drive right back to school for lunch, I took the morning off to work from home. And by “work from home” I mean “hang out in a coffee shop surfing the internet, waiting for the Used Record store to open so I could loiter and browse.” (Shhh, don’t tell our shareholders).

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Autumn puts me in a pensive mood. I’ve always been deeply affected by the seasons, and fall has always had the biggest impact on me. (Relax. I’m not going to share a poem about death.) Ever since the weather started cooling off, I’ve been playing old 80’s music in the car on the drive to work. My playlist has been kind of limited, as most of my music from college and single days was on cassette tapes, which have gone the way of Victrola’s, and pay telephones. Being a Luddite, it took me until 1994 to embrace CD’s. Then a few years ago, Mrs. 20 Prospect convinced me to get rid of most of my old CD collection of 90’s music. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time as the kids were so little most of what I listened to was Raffi, and the Wiggles. (You know you have arrived as a parent when you drop the kids at daycare, and realize half way to work that you are not only still listening to the Wiggles, but you are singing along.)

Mrs. 20 Prospect bought me an iPod for Christmas last year, and ever since I have been gradually adding back to my music collection. Being a Luddite, however, it took me months to figure out how to operate the thing. So I just want to pause a moment to ask; if Steve Jobs is such a freaking genius, why is iTunes so bleeping hard to figure out? I could do my taxes in less time than it takes me to find and download a podcast. So, instead I loaded all of my current CD’s into iTunes. Well, the ones that didn’t get purged, or have been bought in the last few years. Which meant that my collection was mostly Alt-country stuff like Lucinda Williams, Wilco, The Jayhawks, Son Volt, and old Uncle Tupelo.

So now that I have an iPod, and a half hour to myself in the evenings as I walk the dogs, I have started listening to music again. Lately, I’ve missing been all the old music I used to listen to in the 80’s and early 90’s, which was the first and only time in my life that my tastes in music were remotely topical, and relevant. (That probably had more to do with rooming with a couple of guys that had great taste in music, and working at a college radio station, than anything on my part.)

So I considered downloading some music from iTunes. Of course this had a few drawbacks.

First, I am technically incompetent and not at all convinced that I could do it based on my experience with iTunes.

Second, I am cheap and the thought of paying $0.99 a song seemed way too decadent for my frugal ways.

Third, I am still suspicious of buying downloaded songs. I mean really, what have I bought? I can’t see it. I can’t touch it. I just can’t wrap my little brain around the abstract concept of digital music. What if my computer tips over and all the songs leak out? How would I pick them up off of the floor? (Yes, I fully realize that these questions are on par with an aborigine believing that a camera steals souls)

So for these three reasons I have continued to buy CD’s.

Well, mostly because of reason #3.

My store of choice for buying music in the Twin Cities, is, was, and always shall be Cheapo Records. Besides the obvious reason that the store is named after me, they have the biggest remaining collection of CD’s in the city. Of course, that’s like saying you have the biggest collection of VHS tapes. But, the best part about Cheapo is that married 40 something guys like myself have been forced by their wives to sell off their  CD collections, so the used CD bins are overflowing with 80’s and 90’s music.

So I spent the bulk of an hour perusing the bins, looking for deals as I waited for lunchtime. For 20 bucks I was able to add back a nice portion of the soundtrack of my life. This trip netted me New Order, The Pixies, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and some REM.

So, without further ado, I give you the TOP FIVE songs for morning commute…

5.)    New Order: Blue Monday

4.)    REM: Gardening at Night

3.)    The Jesus and Mary Chain: Just Like Honey

2.) The Replacements: Unsatisfied

1.)    The Pixies: Gigantic

So that’s what I have been listening to lately, which probably explains why this blog has been marinating in stories from the 80’s the past couple of weeks. What have you been listening to?????

Our Lady of the Subdural Hematoma

Mom is back, and all is right with the world. It’s amazing how quickly the family can slip back into business as usual. I don’t know why this surprises me. We shift back into normalcy pretty quick after my business trips, so it why should Mom’s vacation be any different.

This morning dawned rainy and cold. Not a very promising start for the girl’s soccer game. By 10:30 the rain had stopped, but the field was a pit of mud. I wasn’t sure how the girls would handle it. They’ve been working hard, and are finally starting to show a little aggression, but would they be willing to get down and dirty?

Well I needn’t have worried. My first clue that something was different, was when half the girls took mud from the field and smeared it on their face like war paint. And folks let me tell you, they came prepared for a war.

The teams went up and down the field on each other all game long. Bodies were flying, mud was splattering, and at half time the referee stopped by to have a word with me.

“Coach, uh… can I talk to you?”

“Sure, what’s up?”

“Well, I’m not sure how to put this, but, uh… some of the girls have been swearing out there on the field.”

“What? Really? Who?”

“Well… several. Some on both teams. I’m going to give you a warning, and ask you to talk to the team. The next time I’m giving ’em a card”

“OK sir, I’ll have a talk with them”.

As I turned back towards the sideline, all I could think was “Wow. Am I a master motivator or what? I should be giving motivational speeches for a living.”

I have to say, I was kind of proud of them. Of course, I’m supposed to be the adult though, so I had to put on my best grown up voice, and call the girls around to have a talk with them. The whole “you are representing Our Lady of the Subdural Hematoma… blah, blah, blah., sportsmanship… blah, blah, blah, respect,… blah, blah, blah character.”

I felt like Sister Josepha. Not something I anticipated having to do, but then again, times are different. All the nuns are dead now, and I think the kids parents probably cuss a little more than our folks did. Well, if their parents are anything like me and Mrs. 20 Prospect, it probably sounds like the boiler room of a Navy ship around their houses.

Of course, the 5th graders put on their haloes, and looked up at me as sweet and innocent as could be. How could such little princesses possibly be cursing like sailors out there?

Hmmm… maybe the war paint gave them away.

So after denials, and assurances that they would never, ever, say a swear word on the soccer field, they headed out for the second half.

The game ended in a draw, and I couldn’t have been more proud of them. We showed those rich kids from Highland Park how we roll in the North Metro. That’s what I’m talking about…

Next game, I’m thinking of changing our nickname from the Jaguar’s to the “Potty Mouthed Hussies”

I Will Survive!

Well we made it 5 whole days without Mom in the house. We haven’t had any tears since day 2, except mine, but those don’t count. Tonight we will be picking her up from the airport. Right after we get done cleaning the house. What a mess. It was a heck of a party, and thank you all for coming. Unless you were the one that threw up in the downstairs bathroom. I’ve now discovered the limits to the magical powers of Febreeze.

I have a new found respect for single mothers. Sisters, I don’t know how you did it. Mine are old enough to bathe and dress themselves and I still felt like I never stopped running. When do you find time to get to the grocery store, much less cook? Thank god I was born a man. I’m not tough enough for motherhood. It doesn’t get any easier after you’ve squeezed the bowling ball out between your legs, does it? Not having to endure child birth is God’s greatest gift to men. That, and peeing in the woods. (That never gets old)

So starting tomorrow it is back to normal around the 20 Prospect household. The dogs will not have to spend the day at the neighbors, the kids will not have to tolerate my cooking, and I won’t have to try to remember their names. I think we’ll all be happy about that.

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week!