The Horror of January 1st

In a quiet and peaceful little house on a quiet and peaceful little street in a quiet and peaceful little neighborhood being occupied by not-so-quiet and not-so-peaceful not-so-little protesters, Sally woke up.  As Sally arose, she noticed the bright sun gushing in through her window’s half-open blinds.  In short, aside from the chants and riots outside, it was a quiet and peaceful little picturesque scene.  [Cue Violin.]

Sally tilted her head. [Narration] That’s odd, she thought, I don’t remember hiring a violin player to play eerie music. It must be one of the protesters outside having a recital, or something. [Cue animated clouds.]

That’s odd, Sally thought. The last time the bright morning turned to a dark and stormy night was when…that’s never happened before. It must be one of the protesters outside playing with even more chemicals. [Cue knocking.]

That’s odd, Sally thought. I thought my parents had gone to run errands and that I was home alone. It must be one of the protesters asking for a tuner for their violin.  [Cue ax.]

That’s odd, Sally thought. That’s not a very nice way to ask for a tuner, chopping down the door with a bloody, rusty ax.

So, Sally, doing what any sane actor starring in a horror film would do, opened the door.  Amid much screaming, blood, violence, screaming, violence, blood, violent screaming, someone screaming “Bloody-!,” bloody violence, and violently screaming blood cells [etc., cut out to preserve the PG ration of this blog and because I just ate dinner] the camera zooms out (all the way through the window) to reveal that the sun is once again shining and the scene is quiet and peaceful outside the house.  The violin music has stopped.

When the police arrive later, they notice that on the wall, written in blood, of course (because no good horror-film villain ever bothers with pens), is “January 1st was here.”

For those of you who are still here, and have not just left me to run around the house turning on all the lights, locking all the doors and windows, and grabbing a baseball bat from the garage, let me tell you-wait, is that a noise behind you? No, sorry, that was a mean thing to do (and we all know that that always stops us teens from pulling pranks…). I was going to tell you: this horror story (which I’m hesitantly referring to from now on as “Violence, Blood, Screams, etc. on Jan 1″ in case anyone from Hollywood wants to buy the rights) is actually a very accurate rendition for what you should be experiencing today.

If you’re an adult, then you’re thinking, “Wait, what? It’s the first day of the New Year.  It’s a weekend. What’s the issue with that?” Ohhh-hohhh.  Typical out-of-touch adult, I see, used to the year-round pattern of work and weekends as opposed to a nine-month period of extreme amounts of work.

The issue, as I’m sure you know, is that school starts in two days.  TWO DAYS.  That means a few things.

First, any homework that you had over winter break has to get done at some point, probably late tomorrow night.  It’s time to throw procrastination mode into overdrive.

Secondly, that means tomorrow morning is the last day you will be allowed to sleep past sunrise.  It’s time to go back to spending less time sleeping than you spend wondering if there will be a rapture tomorrow. (Which is why I’d recommend becoming a teen radio preacher as a part-time job, as you might get a bit of sleep).

Thirdly, there’s no end in sight. Your next major break from school is going to be in the spring, which is three or four months away.  The only reason you survived all the way to Winter Break is because of artificial substances like gum, caffeine, and sugar.  And to afford enough of that for the next three months, you might have to sell one of your holiday gifts (I hear people like to buy My Little Pony: Genetic Experiment Kits on Craigslist).  We all know that if you just ask for the best possible present, sugary caffeinated gum, most relatives interpret that as a plea for clothes.

But even during days like January 1st, when everything looks bleak, it’s important to stay positive: you don’t really have to start your enormous 40%-of-final-grade semester project on the history of the automatic toilet as it pertains to cultural diversity until tomorrow.  And if you decide to do an interpretive dance for your project, you probably don’t even have to start it until the wee hours of the morning of January 3rd.

If You’re On Thin Ice….Break It: 3 Icebreakers You Need to Avoid

Ice breaking activityThere’s no more denying it: summer, a warm, free, and joyous season, is over.  It is now officially winter (I think.  I don’t know who officiates winter, and dates don’t mean as much anymore because of “Climate Change” which is really Global Warming even though it is also Part-of-the-Globe Cooling – see the intro of this post if you’re confused. )

Yes, I did just skip fall.  Fall is a season useful only to the top 1% of retirees who have the time to go on ‘nature’ walks and watch the leaves change, a luxury most of us can’t afford (are you thinking what I’m thinking? “Occupy Deciduous Trees”).  I spend all of fall pretending that summer isn’t over yet.  However, once it is winter, I start looking forward to the end of it when summer begins (no, I don’t count spring either).

One of the things that happens in winter is that ponds freeze, and while I’ve got many amusing stories about ice-skating/sledding/skiing/rock-guitar-playing that all end with a frozen splash and hypothermia, I’m not here to talk about literal ice.  I’m here to talk about the metaphorical ice, as in “icebreaker.”

Icebreakers are generally activities meant to acquaint groups of people with one another and are run by the person who had organized the group in the first place.  Essentially, they were invented to make meeting new people less awkward, but have instead had the reverse effect (hi, I’m George…can you twist your arm this way-no, the other way…).  I’m mentioning them now so you are prepared for possible 2nd semester class icebreakers.

The Human Knot

This icebreaker really gets you close to those around you (and was mentioned above-poor George).  You form a circle, except for the one person who is always somehow left out, and then grab hands with two different people across from you in the circle.  Then, the idea is to untangle the group so you are once again in a circle.

This icebreaker is quite physically demanding, and usually results in a sprained ankle or hyper-extended earlobe.  By the end of it, you’ll be wishing you stayed home, unless this takes place at school, in which case you’ll fantasize about tying the teacher up in knots with his in-laws and leaving them in a dark closet.

The Name Game

Winner of the “Stupidest Idea EVAR!” icebreaker award (3 consecutive years), the point of this icebreaker is to learn others’ names. Again, you form a circle, and the first person says their name, along with something that starts with the same letter as their name (usually and adjective).  Then the next person goes, and also repeats what the person before them said.

While this might have worked in medieval times, when everyone was named Henry, Louis, Mary, or Elizabeth, people today have names starting with every letter of the alphabet.  And so, while words in that letter may exist, they make the person sound like they are going bonkers (“…adventurous Adam.  I’m…Baloney Bob”).

I mean, what if your name starts with a ‘U’? Only bad adjectives start with ‘u:’ under-, un-, etc. (“etc.” in this case meaning I could really only come up with two ‘bad u’ prefixes but I wanted it to seem like I was more intelligent than that, and so I put an “etc.” so you would naturally assume I knew more and didn’t want to write them.  By the way, don’t take this idea too far: “My Fellow Americans…We Have Gathered Here Today…Etc.”).

Do you become “Unstable Ursula,” ready to melt down at a moment’s notice (“This human knot game is so..*sob*..hard *bawl*”)? How about “Unintelligent Ursula,” which is degrading? Even the good words don’t work: “Understanding Ursula” makes you sound like some sort of psychologist who expects you to spill your guts at a moment’s notice, even though you just met an-look, it’s not my fault, I swear.  I just feel so…guilty and there was nothing I could do…I mean, who would know it was incredibly flammable…(cue tears).

Maybe “Unctuous Ursula” (I believe the definition of unctuous is, literally: does anybody have a dictionary or dictionary app?).  Before you get to thinking that I am genuinely concerned about the ‘U’ demographic, though, let me tell you this: I would be, except I just realized nobody’s* name starts with U.

*Except Ursula, which is only the name of crystal-ball physics who could predict whether or not the event they attended would have icebreakers and thus never appear to the ones that did.

If You Could Have One Superpower

The first step to this is: you form a circle (would you have guessed?).  Then, you survey everyone to see what superpower they would have if they could only have one superpower.

This is probably the least embarrassing, because those of us with ‘awkard-ness sensing’ skills will just say something like flying.  However, there will always be that one person who feels that this is an appropriate time to share one of their insane ideas that will mark them forever in the eyes of those also in the circle.

From personal experience, I can tell you I have heard: “To be able to sneeze ink,” “To have the ability to never get a papercut,” and “To be able to clap and sound like a snare drum.” I mean, you can have ANY superpower, and you choose to sound like a drum? Well, that broke the ice as well as a falling piano would.

With all this in mind, I beg, dear reader, that if you are ever in a position of power enough to command others to do icebreakers, you turn that opportunity down.  Otherwise, you might recognize me-I’ll be running to the kitchen to get a sheet of ice that I can break over your head.

The Actual Process of School Pictures

One-two-three-smile!  Four-twenty-five-hike! Seven-eight-nine-cannibalism! Of these three phrases, which would you rather be hearing? Personally, I’d rather be tackled by a 458lb linebacker or stuck in a room with a sociopathic number than be at school pictures.

To start, school pictures take place at school registration, so you’ve already got a bunch of bad things, including long lines, many fines, and – something else rhyming and unpleasant, um, let’s go with – intrusive-species vines.

But, to add to that, there is the whole process behind school pictures that is poorly thought out.

The Forms

In today’s society, nobody is who they say they are, especially if they are on TV or their name is Smith.  Thus, you can’t get your picture taken unless you fill out a form.  Thankfully, though, the only identification needed on the form is filled out by yourself, so you can make up whatever you want.

However, you also need to purchase pictures.  That’s the optimal business model, in my opinion: convincing the school to use your company and then making additional profit.

Regardless, you will have many options.  In your first category, you’ve got the ‘retouching’ options, which can all be done in Photoshop but will nevertheless cost you at least $324.

Then you’ve got your picture packages, which allow you to decide at what size you think your head is and order pictures of that size (sizes range from wallet photo to 17×13); if you are rolling in money, though, you can just buy the ‘every size sampler package’ for $32,299.99.

Finally, you’ve got your background color choices, which, by business regulations, all have to be colors that you’ve either never heard of or are at least 8 letters long.  Average choices include: cerulean, aquamarine, sapphire, amethyst, puce, doctor’s-office-pea-lime-mold, and absence of pigment (gray).

The (Fourth) Line:

If you were here for the school registration, you know that this will be the fourth line you will wait in.

This line is incredibly stressful, due to the mirrors, free combs, and parent volunteers whose only job is to make sure you don’t actually benefit from the mirrors or combs (using a pre-written and approved script of about four lines).

Here’s how it usually goes:

Parent Volunteer: Do you have your form filled out?

You: Yeah.  [Pick up comb and muscle way into mirror].

Parent Volunteer: Hey! Don’t push!

You: Sorry [Somebody else catches you off guard, pushes in front of mirror.  You try to comb your hair in a window.]

Parent Volunteer: Here, let me help [Styles your hair into a 1980’s trend].

You: Um, no thanks [try to fix hair].

Parent Volunteer: Make sure you don’t put that comb back in the box.

You: [Momentarily distracted] Okay. [Go back to combing hair].

Parent Volunteer: Do you have your form filled out? [You don’t answer]. DO YOU? [Grabs and shakes you, messing up hair].

You: [Trying to escape] Yes!  I Do! [Push away, go back to combing].

Parent Volunteer: Hey! Don’t push! [You ignore parent volunteer].  Here, let me help!

You: No! Don’t! I’ll put the comb back in the box! [Dangle comb threateningly over plastic box].

Parent Volunteer: Make sure you don’t put that comb back in the box!

You: I’ll do it! Or you’d better let me comb my hair!

Parent Volunteer: Well, do you have your form filled out?

You: [Give up] No, I never filled out my form! [Break down into tears, grabbing kid next to you for support].  *Sob*.

Parent Volunteer: Hey, don’t push!

You: [Momentary resolve] That’s it.  [Take comb, drop in box, and walk back to front of line].

Parent Volunteer: NOOOOO! [Dives into comb box, impaling self on plastic combs.  Arises with a fistful of combs, and many others are stuck in clothes, hair, etc.  Runs, wild-eyed, out of scene, shouting:] MAKE SURE YOU DON”T PUT THAT COMB BACK IN THE BOX!

As you can see, it’s no wonder that many teenagers find picture day to be stressful.

The Posing

Once you make it to the front of the line, you will be met by photo assistants (three levels above parent volunteers), who will ask you to sit on some dangerously stacked crates.

If you look down, you will see tape on the ground, which is where you should place your feet.  Your feet won’t be in the picture, nor will your legs or lower torso, but it gives the photographer a feeling of power.

To further that illusion of ultimate control, you will be told to turn your chin (“a little more”) until you’re feet are on your left and your chin is on your right.  Here the thinking is that the skin on your face will be stretched so tight that it will be physically impossible not to smile.

If you are lucky, they will take the photo before a parent volunteer shows up to see what’s holding up the line, and who will also offer free combs to the photographer.

The Student ID

When you finish with your photo, you will receive a freshly-printed card with your photo, name, and number on it.  Your card will also have a bar code, telling you the resale value.

You can use this student ID to check out library books (which you will forget to return and consequently rack up enormous fines), buy lunch (which will likely give you a digestive disease scientifically known as “I’m not feeling too w-BLAAARGHGHGHH”), or pick simple locks.  It doesn’t really matter, though, as you will likely lose your student ID before the end of the day.

Picture-Pick-up Day

After seven months, you will receive your picture envelope.  Even though much of the envelope is solid, your embarrassing picture will be visible through a plastic window.

This leads to the spread of the contagious disease known as “You show me yours and I’ll show you mine-Hahahaha! That’s your picture? You look like a Wildebeest!” or YSMYAISYMHTYPYLLAW, for short, as it is known in the medical community.

It is impossible to escape this embarrassment, no matter how hard you try to pretend that the big white envelope sticking out of your backpack is just your lunch, so I’d recommend trying to convince your parents to pay for overnight delivery instead (only $45,620 more and will arrive in 9-37 days).

School Registration, or Airport Security in Training

A Really Long LineAirports and Schools have a lot of things in common.  For instance, they both inadvertently fry your brain under the pretense of “for your own good.”

Also, as I recently learned, they are both good at slowing down the most basic procedures.  One of these procedures is known as school registration (which, while it may have occurred weeks ago, is still topical, mainly because I wrote this post and am not planning on wasting it).

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love school.  I love school almost as much as I love it when a Russian satellite falls out of the sky and adds a new window to my house.  But registration has got a long way to go on the lovability charts.

Maybe you aren’t sure what registration is, so I’ll give you a quick summary: you register for school.  Those four words, though short in length, describe a process so terrible that the major movie corporations ‘beep’ it out.

You know, when you’re watching some outtakes and the actor will mess up their lines:

“You can’t…oh BLEEP [school registration] I forgot the BLEEPING [school registration] lines.  Let’s do this BLEEP [school registration] again.”

However, since I am not in favor of media censorship on this blog, I will describe the terrible process for your benefit.

Warning: Parental Advisory.  Content may not be suitable for parents of all ages.

The Starting Time Mathematical Formula

Having failed at these mathematical calculations twice now, I am definitely qualified enough to explain the formula.  You should arrive (if you want to avoid the lines) at “Scheduled Start Time” – “Twelve Years” = “Prime Arrival Time.”

Got that? You need to show up at least twelve years early to be first in line.  First in line is important, because the difference between the first and last people to finish registration is something like six days.

So, then, continuing with math, you can obviously see the benefit: waiting twelve years for six days = negative 4,377 days of time saved.

The First Line: Schedule

The first line you will come to (unless you got there early) is the line where you will receive your schedule.  It will be organized by alphabetical last name, meaning you should hire a little kid to sing the alphabet for you so you get in the right line.

When you finally reach the front, though, someone else (who was not smart enough to hire an alphabet consultant) will cut ahead of you.  This will be legal because they will have the expressed vocal permission from the volunteer at the table for the other part of the alphabet that they actually need to go in your line, but “just real quick.”

Then, as fate would have it, they will completely forget how to spell their own last name, and it will take them twenty-three minutes to find their schedule (so I’d also recommend bringing dog tags with your personal information so this doesn’t happen to you.  Plus, if you don’t make it out, they’ll know what to do with the body).

Now that you are at the front, you can pick up your schedule and frantically look at it for two (2) things: one (1) do you have any classes that aren’t study hall, late arrival, or early release (if so, try to get out of them) and two (2)(to)(too) do you have any fines, indicated by a black stamp of death that will say something obscure like “Library/Textbook Fine,” “Bad Grades Fine,” or “Misfiling of Tax form IA-17b Fine and/or Jail Time.”

Depending on how fresh the ink is, you could lick this stamp off, but you may die of blood poisoning.  Otherwise, you should bring whiteout and lots of different colors of paper.

The Second Line: Fees and Money

I say “Fees and Money” because the line is where you pay fees but also end up giving money for some things that don’t seem like constitutional fees.  (If you are a frequent flier with over 50,000,000,000 weekly miles, you can skip this line.)

This is the longest line, which means if you have any extra money, you should definitely use a bribe.  I’m not sure who you’d bribe or whether or not it would be effective, but at least the action of losing even more money will take your mind off how long the line is.

When you make it to the front (estimated time: four (4)(for)(fore!) days), you will be directed to a table.  At that table will be a volunteer (serving community service time for fraud and petty theft, fittingly) who will walk you through the fines/fees/other reasons to give them money.

First come the fines that are extras, such as the “Library/Textbook Fine.”  They will pretend to look at a sheet of paper (which is upside-down, if you are paying attention) and then inform you that you forgot to return “The Red Badge of Courage,” probably because you burned it, and that your fine is $300,000 or your Pulmonary Artery (cash, check, or scalpel?).

Then come the regular fees, which are more predictable.  You have to pay for any unusual class materials for art or language classes, such as clay, paints, or live Bulls for Spanish.  You also have to pay for a yearbook (even though you haven’t seen last year’s yearbook yet), a calendar, and a year’s supply of coffee for a teacher.

The Third Line: Textbook Pick-Up

Since your wallet is now empty, you should be strong enough to carry 4-9 textbooks, depending on your classes.

As you enter, a volunteer will look at your schedule and gesture vaguely as to where your textbooks may be, including the ceiling, depending on if that volunteer had coffee that morning or not.

You can drift around, hopelessly lost, until you notice all the labels in big bold letters.  You need to find the labels and pick up them (the labels) according to which classes you have.  To save time, you could also pick up some textbooks.

By the fifth textbook, your arms and back will be dislocated, so you should hand a few (textbooks, not arms) off to your alphabet consultant.  This helps because the textbooks will crush your four-year-old alphabet consultant, letting you avoid paying the three-dollar consulting fee.

Eventually, your textbooks will be scanned by yet another volunteer and you can put them in your locker (which was assigned on your schedule).

Finally, you are done with the majority of registration.  However, there is still a fourth line, known as “Pictures.”

If you plan on starring as the run-away teen in a major TV-show/movie, skip pictures, as it will cut the obvious and unnecessary scene where the FBI guy asks, gesturing in the yearbook, “Is this your kid?” even though we all know the answer.

Otherwise, check back in three days for the low-down/what’s up with school pictures.

Readers: I hate two-part posts that make you wait just as much as you, but this article was getting mighty long, and I’ve got a lot to say about school pictures. These won’t become a regular thing.