#396 When the hold music is actually good

When I was in high school my friend Chad worked at a big-box electronics store down by the lake. He’d put on a shirt, tie, and giant clown-faced grin before selling bubble jet printers and floppy disks on Friday nights.

Since the rest of us were hopeless layabouts we’d aimlessly cruise around town sipping Slurpees before popping in to pick up Chad at the end of his shift. We’d show up a few minutes before closing, trade stinkeye with the manager, and then mindlessly flip through CDs and sit on the torn black leather couches watching neverending loops of Toy Story.

I still remember the terrible music that played over the sound system in that store. It was classical on a Casio keyboard peppered with in-house ads telling you to keep shopping. And they somehow wired this into their phone system too so if we called Chad and were put on hold we’d hear the same thing.

Whenever Chad punched out we’d all leave together and pass a new gang of shaggy, tired-eyed employees trudging in for the night shift. They were wearing torn jeans, carrying lunchboxes, and getting ready for a few hours of unpacking delivery trucks, stocking shelves, and buffing floors.

Now, these guys would feed an AC/DC or Metallica CD through the sound system and work all night headbanging while stocking shelves. Basically, since the systems were tied together it meant if you called the store at night looking for a friend you’d get pounding riffs of You Shook Me All Night Long or Enter Sandman while you were waiting.

Calling big box stores in the middle of the night isn’t common, but sometimes actually getting good hold music really does happen. Yes, it’s those rare moments during an annoying wait when the old fave chimes on out of nowhere. Sometimes that surprising song lifts your mood, sometimes it gives you a smile on a stressful day, and sometimes it transports you to another time or place, and sometimes it just feels

AWESOME!

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#397 Eating the first freshly baked cookie from the oven even though it’s way too hot

It burns.

Chocolate chips drip down your fingertips as that softly-crumbling cookie melts into a hot puddle of steamy goodness in the middle of your mouth. Gasp for air, pop your eyes, and suck in some cool breaths as you try to chew without touching that red-hot cookie lava.

Part of what makes these cookies delicious is that you can’t buy them at the store. Nope, cellophane stacks of paper-wrapped packs got nothing on the hot crumbly oozing across the burning pan. Remember, you sweated up a storm in the kitchen for these — cracking eggs, melting butter, and beating the wet floury mixture into a sticky brown pulp.

Now is not the time to wait.

Now is the time to enjoy it.

AWESOME!

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#398 Going to a movie by yourself

It happened by accident the first time.

Years ago I was staying after school but had late-night plans to meet friends at a downtown movie theater. I was going to catch a lift with my parents, watch the latest Bruce Willis blow-em-up, and then squeeze into my friend Mike’s rusty Saturn for the ride home.

Well, I got there late and the theater was already dark with hypnotic Fruitopia commercials playing as I walked in. I had no choice but to walk around whisper-yelling for a few minutes before eventually giving up and settling into a cozy seat at the back, figuring I’d find them after the show.

After the super slow-mo explosions faded into tearful hugs and scrolling credits the lights lifted up and my friends were nowhere to be seen. I felt like inventing a wireless telephone to send them electronic letters on the spot, but the network infrastructure just wasn’t ready. So I bundled up and walked home before sorting out the mixed up plans the next day.

And sure, it felt a bit strange sitting alone at the back of the movies for the first time, but you know what? It was pretty enjoyable too:

1. Dress down for Chinatown. When you’re chilling at home under the blanket you can relax in old sweats and classy bedhead, but when you’re on the town it’s time to squeeze into tight denim and well-coiffed hairdos. Now, when you’re hitting the multiplex solo you can fight the fashion police in your maroon nylon jumpsuit and tank top.

2. Bag the bucket. Enjoy the whole bucket of popcorn to yourself with worrying about getting stuck with the oily kernels and burnt bits at the bottom of the bag.

3. Kick open the escape hatch. When you’re lugging your baby brother to a Saturday afternoon cartoon or doing date night in a syrupy romcom that escape hatch is bolted on tight. But if you’re watching a movie alone and aren’t digging the flick you can just bail and see something else without guilt. Freedom is always nearby.

4. Squeeze into center seats. You know when you’re looking for seats in a crowded theater there’s never any twos or threes in the best spots? Well, there’s usually a single seat wedged in there! If you’re late just forget the front row and get into the game.

5. Invest in yourself. Because there’s something sweet about getting quality You Time. Sure, we’re social creatures who love dinner parties, basement hangouts, and constant texting… but it’s also good unplugging your brain and escaping into distant fantasy worlds on your own. No talking, no whispering, and plenty of armrests mean you can enjoy the solo trip.

Going to the movies by yourself is about growing up and growing older and growing more comfortable in your own skin. It fills you with the freedom of just being yourself and letting everything else just slip away …

AWESOME!

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#399 Discovering a shortcut on your way home

Move over, Marco Polo.

Columbus, Clark, and Cortes, you got nothing, either.

Sure, maybe you sailed over choppy waves, fought with cannibals, and documented distant lands. Maybe you traded silk with kings, discovered precious stones, and toppled terrible empires. Maybe you even found new technologies and trade routes while helping us realize the Earth wasn’t flat.

But we just figured out cutting through the drug store parking lot saves us ten seconds.

Beat that.

AWESOME!

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#400 Putting your own shoes back on after going bowling

It’s like rolling a strike for your feet.

AWESOME!

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#401 The sound of dry leaves blowing across an empty parking lot

Orange skies burn as winds whisper for your chilly walk home.

The sun dips down in the distance and dogs bark behind backyard fences as your hair blows wildly in the cool and crisp breeze. You squint into the wind and stuff your hands in your thin pockets as you sniff up that smoky sweet smell of garage barbecues, dusty furnace fumes, and dry leaves.

The sound of leaves blowing in the street adds a peaceful soundtrack to the scene and feels like nature’s talking to you — like waves crashing onto a beach or wind whispering in your ears on a late night bike ride.

It’s the sound of a good summer gone by and the sound of a cold winter coming. It’s the sound of seasons changing, life rearranging, and everything just blowing on…

AWESOME!

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#402 Perfectly stapling through a thick stack of papers

It’s just you and me, Swingline.

Sure, we’ve tangled before: Your jagged, splintery arms stabbed sharply back through the top of my book report, you mangled your neck on a powerful hammer-punch, and you didn’t make it through a few fat stacks, forcing me to surgically fingerpick you out of there, which frankly kind of hurt my fingernails.

But not today.

Today’s the day you crash through a thick stack of sheets like an icebreaker busting through a frozen lake. Just push through with purpose till your arms squeeze together and give my science lab a hug from the other side.

Nope, no broken bones, no twisted limbs, no poor penetration.

Just a beautifully crisp and stapled stack of

AWESOME!

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#403 Seeing a really happy dog out for a walk

I’M OUTSIDE! I’M OUTSIDE! I’M OUTSIDE! I’M OUTSIDE! I’M OUTSIDE! I’M OUTSIDE! I’M OUTSIDE! I’M OUTSIDE! I’M OUTSIDE! I’M OUTSIDE! I’M OUTSIDE! I’M OUTSIDE! I’M OUTSIDE! I’M OUTSIDE! I’M OUTSIDE! I’M OUTSIDE! I’M OUTSIDE! I’M OUTSIDE! I’M OUTSIDE! I’M OUTSIDE! I’M OUTSIDE! I’M OUTSIDE! I’M OUTSIDE! I’M OUTSIDE! I’M OUTSIDE!

AWESOME!

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#404 When someone’s leaving the bathroom at the same time as you so you don’t have to touch the door

Germs are real.

Tiny baby bugs, squiggly creepy-crawlers, and mini-millipedes are camping under your nails, hot-tubbing in your sweaty palms, and putting their feet up in your fingers.

Coughs and colds jump hand to hand and mouth to mouth — latching onto you through handshakes, high tens, and those dreaded bathroom door handles.

Basically, anytime you finish scrubbing your hands in a food court bathroom it’s time to get out without germing yourself up using an old classic:

1. Paper pusher. Here’s where you use crumpled paper towel on the door handle to avoid full contact. Of course, now you’ve got to find a garbage can or toss the paper towel on the floor like a litterbug, also known as providing passive aggressive feedback to management about where to put trash cans. Bad style points.

2. Sleeve saver. This is when you furrow your brows, shake your head, and curl your fraying hoodie sleeve over your hand while reaching for the door. Now you walk away with clean paws but could have a urine stained shirt to show for it. Bad style points.

3. Bum first. If you’re lucky enough to get a push door you can always back into it with your plump, doughy Stairmaster butt instead of touching it with your hands. Careful though, you might smack someone in the face or shatter their wrist while looking the wrong way. Bad style points.

Bottom line — getting out of the bathroom without getting all virused up ain’t easy. So when you find yourself washing hands beside someone else it’s time to start slow-racing them so you can follow them out. Soap strong, dry slowly, and squeeze out right behind them, making sure to use the classic Toe Hold Move to wedge your foot in that quickly closing door. Now just smile and zoom outta there with an empty bladder, clean hands, and a bright future.

Great style points.

AWESOME!

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#405 When someone pronounces your name right on the first try

It ain’t easy.

When I graduated from college they draped us all in slippery black gowns, put square hats on our heads, and sat us down in the hot steamy arena to wait patiently for our names to get called. When they did we got up and swished across the stage to accept little ribbon-tied rolls of paper representing years of early morning classes, all-night study sessions, and months of stressful exams.

I remember they got a fancy-pants professor from the Linguistics Department to read everyone’s name off a sheet of paper. She was mostly aces, too. Ng’s and Png’s couldn’t trip her up cause she’d just ing and ping like it was no big deal. Of course, she butchered a bunch and I’m pretty sure I was Neil Pasta-rike-ah that day.

But you know what: that’s fine, that’s fine, that’s totally fine.

Because we all mess up words all the time. Seeing new names and saying them right is tricky business and not for the faint of heart. I am terrible with names so my only strategy when I see a toughie is saying “Sorry, how… how do you say your name?” Of course, after they tell me I realize I’ll never be able to do it justice so I nod and smile and avoid ever saying it again in my life.

Of course, it’s this constant challenge that makes it so sweet when someone actually nails it on the first try.

If you actually pull it off we say good work, tongue twister.

Today we salute you as a brother or sister.

AWESOME!

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