The Fab ad that made me shake my head and complain (why parenting is hard)

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Image 1: This is the start of the email. Oh, look, cute toys for kids. How nice. (now go to image 2)

[Adult content included in this post. You’ve been warned.]

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Image 2: Oh, cute stuffed animals and dolls. (go to image 3)

Today’s Fab email showcased cool toys for kids: dolls, bikes, scooters, bubble gum machines, etc. And I thought, I should forward this to my daughter. She’ll think it’s cute.

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Image 3. Bubble gum machine – a staple of childhood. (go to image 4)

And then I looked at the very last box with the headline, “Your Personal Playthings: Bedroom toys for boys and girls.”

Hmm. Bedroom toys for boys and girls? Really? What kind of toys are those? I wonder.

And I looked. Wow, has the world changed that much since I was kid?

Bottom right-hand corner. Oh, man.

Image 4: Oh, look, robots and kids playing. Then, bottom right-hand corner. WTF are those?

So, if I order a doll, scooter and robot for my child, I should get them a vibrator too? How confusing.

I complained. Fab was very nice, as they always are. They’re a good company with outstanding customer service, a model other companies should follow.

But this ad?

I’m wondering how the meeting to put this one together went: “Yo, Charlie, I need to fill one more space in the ad. I’m running low on ideas. What else do kids like to play with?”

[Charlie responds] “Holy crap, you idiot, it’s common knowledge kids like anything that takes batteries.”

I ask you, my good friends, and I’m no prude, but was the placement of adult sexual aids at the end of an ad with kids toys a big deal or not?

As a parent, it bothered me on a lot of different levels, like the fact there are images of kids playing right above it.

Am I over-thinking this, and why did it bother me so much?

There’s just something about it that feels wrong. Or am I just getting old?

This little guy was hiding at the very bottom of the ad. Doll? When did the lines between adult sexual aides blur with children's toys?

This little guy was hiding at the very bottom of the ad. Doll? Not exactly. When did the lines between adult sexual aids blur with children’s toys?

Breaking up with people who probably already broke up with you

Last weekend, on the beach, we met a very nice older couple. Our dogs met first, as their rare breed, 80 pounds, black and white with a patch over one eye, had a crush on our common black lab and couldn’t help but go Hugh Hefner on her every five minutes, until the leash came out and took the spark out of the stud.

Details about the couple: husband with salty gray, wavy, windblown hair, a deep tan, Ray-Bans, quiet; she of proper upbringing, talkative and charming, warm. They live in Santa Monica and have a house up here in Ventura they visit on weekends. They’re intelligent, articulate and the husband worked in Hollywood for a long time, making them successful. They have a son who is an engineer and working with a racing team back east.

Oh, and they’re in a class above us – the one I’ve always wanted to be in.

This is my calming ocean photo. I look at it and relax and forget about people that drive me nuts.

This is my calming ocean photo. I look at it and relax and forget about people that drive me nuts.

So, right off the bat, I’m depressed and jealous, a bad combo.

Why are they speaking to me? What do they want? 

My wife tells the woman, Joan, a name I just gave her, that I know and write about automotive technology and luxury cars. And Joan, it turns out, is in the market for a luxury car I know a lot about. We have a great talk about it on the beach, as I keep one eye on the dogs to make sure Cali doesn’t run up and steal someone’s food, which she likes to do.

And Joan and I continue what I like to call, “rich people speak.” I can’t explain it. The tone of the conversation is unique, and uncomfortable. Name-dropping, lots of questions about what you do. A sizing up of the other person. Networking for one’s personal benefit? (Is there any other kind?)

We hang out with them for about 20 minutes or so, and Joan asks us if we’ll be around next weekend (yes), and if we’d like to come over for a glass of wine (yes). Great, she and her husband will stop by later with their contact info.

Two hours later, they show up. I’m standing on the front patio when they pull up. Joan gets out of the SUV and gives me a piece of paper with their names, phone number and address. Again, they’re super nice, which makes me wonder again why they’d want to hang out with me. My wife, I understand. She’s the nicest person in the world. But me? It’s all about the cars, which I’m okay with, and used to. People love to talk about cars, but it’s usually men.

The week goes by. I ask my wife to send Joan a text on Friday. She does. We don’t hear back, but then Joan and her husband show up at our door later that day. She has information on tomorrow’s Artwalk (Did you know about it? Yes. Are you going? Yes. Would you like to hang out and have fish tacos? Yes.)

We talk for 10 minutes and I probably say a bunch of stupid things (to be discussed later in this post). And she tells me she didn’t see the text from my wife.

The next morning rolls around. I send a text to Joan on my wife’s iPhone because my Blackberry is drying out after its swim. But I don’t hear back.

We arrive at the Artwalk with a couple of our friends and I call Joan. It rings but she doesn’t answer and I leave one of those messages where I didn’t plan on leaving a message and sound like a complete idiot. These calls come easily to me.

We attend the Ventura Artwalk, which is a bit of a disappointment, as it’s more “walk” than “art.” I don’t hear back from Joan. And it drives my OCD mind crazy: Why did they come by twice and then stand us up?

I re-think their second visit to our house and analyze everything I said. What did I say wrong? I was nervous for some reason – stretching to be cool? More name dropping? Was it the point I made of how similar Google employees seem to Hollywood people, that they’re special and in the in-crowd? Arrogant? Did I piss off her husband?

I can’t figure it out and my wife doesn’t understand why I’m concerned. She doesn’t care. And it’s not that I cared, as much as, I was curious what went wrong.

We went to the beach at the end of the day with the dogs, and who do I see down the beach? Joan, her husband, and their horny exotic dog. They’re leaving. (Did they see us and leave?) I have a business card for them. So, I follow them home. (Yes, I’m aware that sounds very stalker like, but it was to give them the card, not peer in their windows.)

I catch up to them at their house, as 50% lung function does not make for moving quickly through deep sand.

Again, they were super nice and offer water, which I thought was for me, but was for my yellow lab, though I did think about getting down on all fours to share it.

We talked about the Artwalk. Joan forgot her phone, and they too were disappointed in the lack of artwork. I complimented her husband on an amazing career in Hollywood – I looked it up on the Internet. And I told him he should write a book about the experiences on the different movies. At some point, I slipped in a stupid comment about wanting to make sure everything was good, as I’m prone to saying stupid things. It’s a blur how I threw that comment in. (Come on, I’m insane. I’ll never know where the stuff that comes out of my mouth comes from or why.)

(Now here is the “breaking up with people who probably already broke up with you” part of the story.)

So, Joan asks how long we’ll be in town, as if to hook up with us again. (In a Bronx accent in my head: Oh, no you didn’t. Oh, no you didn’t just say that.) I’m having none of it. No way. She’s just being polite. How many unreturned messages will it lead to? I can read the signs, babe.

“That’s okay,” I say. “We don’t want to bother you. I just stopped by to give you my card in case I can answer any questions about the car. That’s it. “

“Well, we know how to get in touch with you then,” she said.

We say goodbye.

Back to the beach, I went, Luna, hydrated, at my side.

Was it the orange Cheetos stain on my shorts? My week-old, bristly beard and the four long hairs sticking out of my left cheek that I was too lazy to shave or pluck? How stupid did I sound? What mistake did I make?

I’m sure they were relived after I left and looked at each other in agreement that meeting strangers on the beach would be something they would never do again.

BUT THEY CAME TO OUR RENTAL HOUSE TWICE! Twice. I don’t get it.

I’ll never know what happened. And that’s the part that will drive me crazy – for frickin’ ever and a day.

ARGGGGGHHHHH. Damn dogs. Next time, I’m getting two pit bulls, not cute, friendly Labradors.

Addendum to yesterday’s post

If I could really shape shift, I would look like Don Draper, but a lot happier.

If I could really shape shift, I would look like Don Draper, but a lot happier.

INT. Today’s CF Clinic appointment – morning

Nurse: Hi.

Unknown (wearing a yellow hospital mask): Hello.

Nurse: You’re looking good. So tan.

Unknown: Thank you.

Nurse: You’re not feeling well, huh?

Unknown: Nope.

Nurse pauses, looks at Unknown again.

Nurse: You look good. Your hair looks different, short. It’s nice.

Unknown: Thanks.

Nurse: I must have caught you after a haircut, huh?

Unknown: Yep

Nurses takes another look at Unknown.

Nurse: Are those new glasses?

Unknown: Yep.

Nurse: They look good. Very stylish.

Unknown: Thank you.

Yes, after writing yesterday’s post, this happened. A gift from the blogging gods!

I’m not sure I nailed the exact quotes, but I’m close. The nurse is super nice. And everything she said was complimentary. I could, however, detect that there was something about my appearance she couldn’t put her finger on. She just kept looking at me over and over. Kind of like I was . . . wait for it . . . a person she didn’t recognize. I am, after all, a master shape shifter.

And then I blew the lowest PFT I’ve ever blown in my life. HUGE FAIL. Tomorrow I go to jail for a dose of IV antibiotics and the most hated drug I’ve ever taken – oral steroids. Hello, hallucinations. Soon, I’ll really believe I can shape shift.

Happy, happy, joy, joy, it’s off to jail I go, where I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow . . . nothing down.

I’m a shape shifter (be thankful you’re not)

Ah, my favorite self-portait photograph. I look the same each time you see me.

Ah, my favorite self-portait photograph. I look the same each time you see me.

If there is anything I don’t understand about human nature, it’s the propensity or desire to comment on a person’s looks when you greet them. I’m not talking about a “hey, you look great,” or other generic comment. I’m talking about something more specific – a detailed analysis or critical review of the way the person looks.

It’s happened to me most of my life.

I would understand if I gained 500 pounds thanks to a bacon-chocolate and Cheetos addiction, and it came as a surprise to the other person. Yes, I get it. Comment on how I look. I understand. I’m giant now, a man-sized Oreo. I have a problem. I’m quite different from the last time you saw me. Critique away. You have my blessing.

Or, what if I shaved my head and had a bright red target tattooed on my noggin? I might receive, and deserve, a comment or two. I get it.

But what I don’t understand are the people who comment on subtle differences in one’s looks – the proofreaders of human appearance.

“You look fantastic,” my business colleague said to me after an extended break from bumping into each other.

Now I’ve established that that’s a nice way to greet someone. Nothing wrong with it. Nice, perfectly delightful.

But he didn’t stop there, adding the tagline: “Yeah, the last time I saw you, you didn’t look so hot.”

Okay, rule number one after saying, “you look fantastic”: stop there. That’s a winning line. Nothing more need be said. You can only get in trouble if you add anything (especially if you’re a man speaking to a woman at work, which can only lead to a possible dismissal based on sexual harassment charges).  Again, you can only screw it up after the first compliment.

And this was dude to dude. Do we guys ever comment on each other’s looks when we meet – other than maybe a, “looking good, man.” “Yeah, thanks, man. Been hitting the weights hard, eating lean.”

The most recent comment: “You don’t look like the same person,” the carpenter helping me build my picket fence said to me after not seeing each other for 5 months, and for only the second time ever!

How is that possible? Not the same person? I guess it’s the 10K I spent in Argentina on a face transplant. And to think I thought no one would notice. 

Now, most normal people might ask for more detail: “Hey, what do you mean by that? Is that good or bad?” Not me.I don’t want to know because I either look bad now or at some point in the past. So, I don’t want to spend the day fretting about how I’m deteriorated since you saw me last, or how I looked like crap the last time.

I guess it’s just part of my life and the sign on my forehead that reads: Tell me how I look. Win a pony.

Protecting my family is one of my greatest challenges

My wife and had a little tiff at dinner tonight.

The source of our discussion and tension happened while I was at the reclaimed lumberyard this afternoon (and getting my hair cut, but the lumberyard part of my errands sounds more manly). While I was gone, several losers came to the door. I’ve talked to my wife about what to do, or not do, when someone we don’t know comes to the door – don’t open the door. This is L.A., not Mayberry.

If you come to my door to sell me something, scam me, or harm my family, this is what you have to look forward to. (A handsome model with a shotgun – scary.) © auremar – Fotolia.com

So, here is a shortened version of the conversation:

Wonderful wife: We never have people come to the door anymore but we had a few today. 

Evil me: Really, who?

Wonderful wife: Two kids. I opened the door . . .

Evil me: You opened the door?

Wonderful wife: Yeah, I thought it might be UPS with my sunglasses?

Evil me: Why didn’t you look in the monitor first to see?

Wonderful wife: I don’t know. I didn’t think of it.

Evil me: Why did you open the door?

Wonderful wife: I don’t know. The dogs were there.

Charming 10-year-old daughter who always takes her mother’s side: Yeah, Daddy, the dogs were there. She only opened the door a crack.

Wonderful wife: I made a mistake. Sorry, I’m not perfect. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.

Evil me: Why did you open the door? You could have talked to them through the glass.

Wonderful wife: I don’t want to talk about it.

Evil me: Why did you open the door?

Now if my wife were writing this, she would have added, “in an angry tone,” next to all of my lines. And she’d be correct about that. I was pissed because I tell both my wife and daughter never to open the door when I’m not home. I don’t even open the door anymore. I talk to the assholes who invade our privacy through the glass or window. The police told us most of the time it’s either a scam or someone casing the house. There is no reason to open the door for anyone you don’t recognize. It’s why I’ve considered gating in the house.

Most of the people who come to the door are creepy, with crazy-ass stories they’ve perfected while smoking meth day after day in the back of the Scooby van. Their stories require instant decoding to understand and sort the bullshit from the truth.

They’re the “door-to-door” equivalent of spam emails asking for money.

(Hello, good Sir, I’m Herbert Harold Henningsworth the fourth, and I’m here at your door today to give you share of 1 million dollars in Spanish bullion discovered off the coast of Florida. But I had the bad fortune to park my van, which holds the gold, illegally, and your local constables towed it away. I need $500 and a share shall be yours when I retrieve my transportation from the impound lot. Cash is preferred, please.)

My favorite scam is when teenagers arrive at my door and say, “I live over on [insert street name of your choice]. I’m Ron and Mary Wilson’s son. Ronny Jr., Hi, and I’m working to earn enough points to go to China to help orphan children learn to read and assemble iPads. I’m hoping you can help me, a good local kid, save the world. Cash is fine.”

Oh, the Wilson’s son, because I know everyone in a 10-mile radius around my neighborhood. Yeah, Ron and Mary. What the heck?

These little scum artists try to knock you off guard because your brain is trying to make out if this is a real neighborhood kid, which means you don’t want to tell him to F off, lest his real parents show up later with baseball bats and pitchforks and a little payback for Ronny’s Jr.’s humiliation and trauma, all caused by you.

I know I’m overly protective. But there are only two people I value above all else in this life, and protecting the two of them isn’t always easy, especially when they are nice and loving and caring females. I, being the complete opposite in sex and temperament, try to keep the lions and hyenas away from them.

But some days, it ain’t easy. Nope, it sure isn’t. But every day I try to figure out new ways to do it better.

Hi, my name is Unknown. How may I help you today?

I need a new refrigerator, range, range hood, dishwasher, microwave, sink, and kitchen faucet.  I have a credit card in my wallet on standby. The contractor is waiting, tapping his foot, and ready to build our new cabinets. All systems are go for a blast off to new shiny stainless-steel goodness.

Simple process, right?

[Sound of buzzer signaling an incorrect answer.]

So sorry, that was the wrong answer and a trick question. I have learned that wanting to buy new appliances is different from actually buying new appliances. It’s a maze of frustration and disappointing retail experiences, and I’m lost in its high walls.

I’m an idiot. I wasn’t even thinking of a blog post when I went to these stores. I have a bunch of pictures of price tags, but none of the nasty stained stainless steel frig, which looked like an octopus made love to it at night. I have to remember to take pictures. Argh.

First there was Lowes on Sunday. My wife and daughter in tow, I walked around the appliance section for 15 minutes. We opened and closed doors, stuck our heads in ovens, flipped through the Consumer Reports kitchen issue, and generally did everything possible to look like customers wanting to buy new appliances, even considering filling the frig with charcoal from the BBQ grill section and putting a match to it.

There were two Lowes employees standing talking to each other, probably about how their Saturday nights were so rocking, and how helping annoying customers on a Sunday was the worst job ever. I refused to go up and ask them for help. Sorry, that’s not my job. That’s their job, which clearly they were under-qualified for.

Second up was Pacific Sales, which I must admit had the cleanest and best layout of any of the appliance stores I’ve been to this week. When the power went out in the store upon our arrival, I should have taken that as a bad sign from the shopping gods. And yet, there were hardly any customers in the store, which I noticed when the lights came back on. A perfect time to shop. Wrong. I saw a lot of employees talking to each other, which makes me think they were buying appliances from each other.

So, after about 20 minutes of confirming our Harry Potter invisibility cloaks worked, and failing to steal a range hood by hiding it in my frayed Abercrombie shorts, we left Pacific Sales, appliance-less.

Last on the list was our sorry experience at Sears. Again, very few customers and two employees standing around talking to each other. And again we left. But I did write Sears about the experience and told them they need to clean house by trimming the herd of employees who don’t help customers. And they need to clean the house because the store was filthy. Layers of grimy fingerprints coated the stainless steel refrigerators.

Several frigs were broken, like the $3K Kenmore that puked the ice-maker onto the floor when I opened the door, making a loud plastic BANG, which delighted my daughter as she was no longer the only family member to drop something in a retail store, she having a wee habit of knocking stuff over when we shop. I’m now in the “dropping noisy stuff on linoleum floors” club. Yay, I made it.

My grandfather took me to Sears when I was young. I loved it. He bought Craftsman tools. I buy Craftsman tools. My mother-in-law worked there for years. I bought a TV there, and Kenmore appliances. But this is not the same Sears. This is the Sears filled with apathetic  employees who will have poor work habits (apologies to the hard-working employees of Sears and mixing them with the ones soiling the company’s name and heritage). It’s not my grandfather’s Sears anymore.

This car is a classic.

These experiences made me think of the following: Retail stores are dead, but just don’t know it, with exceptions of course, such as women’s clothing and shoes, which my wife refuses to buy off the Internet. I can buy clothing and shoes off the Internet. In fact, I prefer it. So wait and watch as Sears and Pacific Sales go under. However, stores like Lowes will probably survive because it’s hard to FedEx 2×4’s and keep prices low.

Leaving the mall where numerous stores were papered up (bye bye Sony store), my daughter and wife had to listen to me rant the entire way home. The problem may have just been me and the fact I look scary with a paper bag over my head.

I worked in retail for over 15 years. And I did well, always a top salesman. If a customer was in the store, he or she was greeted and approached. If there was time to lean, there was time to clean. And we had managers who were crazy about these rules, not shying away from bootcamp-like tactics to make us feel lower than low if we did a poor job or goofed off. I wish we could dig up a few of these Ford Maverick-driving, divorced three times, politically incorrect, chain-smoking psychopaths, and unleash them in retail stores across the country.

The service would be a lot better and people wouldn’t depend on the Internet for product information. And best of all, true, knowledgeable sales people would make a comeback. But we’d probably still order off of the Internet to save a few bucks.

So, change is coming. What will the future of retail stores be? Will they be satellite locations for Amazon where we go to pick up our purchases? I don’t know. But if retail stores continue to provide zero service, they’re doomed. And that is kind of sad.

There won’t be stores and we’ll all be ordering solely from pictures on our computer screen, which in a way is similar to how they ordered products many years ago from catalogs, like the Sears Catalog, which makes me wonder if we’ve advanced. Internet ordering is more convenient and faster, but is it that fundamentally different from 100 years ago and a catalog?  I’ll think about this as I search appliances on the Internet tonight.