Sunday, June 28, 2009

May I Touch You?

I imagine living in a puritanical society was pretty simple. Societal rules were pretty clear.
1. Wear black all the time
2. Don’t touch anybody ever
3. Avoid red lettering
Boom, done. No questions asked.

But the society we live in today is full of personal space and public affection, hidden boundaries and broken rules. It can be quite difficult to negotiate the social atmosphere. Especially for a guy like myself who grew up in a particularly affectionate generation.

By the time I got to the 8th grade I was hugging and kissing my female friends on the cheek whenever we would say hello or goodbye. I don’t know if it was us feigning adulthood or just a natural progression in trying to get closer to touching the opposite sex, but either way it became quite common within my social circles.

But that was in New York. When it came time to move to Arizona for college I didn’t even think twice that these social customs might be a little bit foreign to the people of the Cactus State.

One of my first nights in Arizona I got a ride home from a class member, a nice girl whom I had just met. When she dropped me off at my dorm, I moved to engage in an act I had performed hundreds of times with all of my platonic friends; I leaned over from my passenger seat to give her a kiss on the cheek to say goodbye. This would have been made infinitely easier had she met me halfway like I was used to.

But she sat there paralyzed. Like Super Mario in a Tanooki suit, she didn’t move. By the time my lips finally made it to her cheek I felt like I had spent 2 months on the Oregon trail. It was a completely G rated kiss on the cheek, but when I pulled away the look of shock on her face made me think I had accidentally tried to get to third base with her… which had NOT been the case!

Obviously my social customs were a little different than those of some of my new friends in Arizona.

Flash forward to current day. I am a working professional (whatever the hell that means). And I spend my days in business environments with people my age that I get along with pretty well.

Now business custom dictates that I shake their hand, but that feels cold and informal with female peers of my age that, in any other scenario, would involve a hug or kiss. However neither of those is appropriate in an office environment unless of course;

  1. They have retired, quit, or been fired
  2. They are receiving an award
So what I often do is just walk up to said females and stand there with my arms akimbo and uncomfortably lean slowly toward them hoping for some sort of last minute intervention that will make my course of action obvious.

I end up looking like more of a creep than had I just agreed to shake their hand in the first place.

The worst part is if they are leaning slightly in which implies a hug but I’m thinking I’m supposed to give them a polite kiss on the cheek and then next thing you know I have some female in a suit pressed awkwardly up against me and I’m gasping for a breath through a mouth full of hair.

I feel like an awkward award presenter. Like I’m about to give Taylor Swift her next Grammy award and a handshake is too formal, and a high five too juvenile, but a hug makes me seem like I’m one mistaken touch away from hearing those dreaded words…

“I’m Chris Hansen from Dateline NBC.”

I don’t know the rules. I just don’t.

When I first started working after college I was terrified of a sexual harassment suit. I don’t behave inappropriately around women (well…not that much) but I was so aware of having to behave like an adult (whatever that means) that I ended up embracing my German roots and showing no emotion at all.

Companies make such a big deal about explaining their rules and regulations and policies when they hire you that it’s a great way to become paranoid. Based on my last 3 jobs, if those rules had been in place while I was in college… I would be probably serving a life sentence in solitary confinement.

We as a society need to embrace hard and fast rules on this. A name tag system could be used.

“Hello I’m a hugger”


“Keep your hands where I can see them”

We just need something clear and concise. But I have an idea. I submit that we all (except for the smelly people) hug all the time. Hear me out on this one.

As long as you are wearing a shirt (which, unless you are Ricky Martin, you probably should be) there would be no skin on skin contact. Just 2 humans embracing in a cottony wonderland and it is done. No weak, dead fish, weird touch, germ filled, hand shakes. No my face touching your face, my lips on your cheek, your ear in my eye etc.

Granted I get excited to see pretty much everybody. And I’m kind of like a koala. If you’re willing to hold me, I’m probably just going to hang on as long as you do.

So the next time you see me, whomever you are, just give me a hug. Don’t even let me go for anything else. Just wrap me up, and hold me, and maybe you could whisper in my ear that I am loved. That would make me feel good to.

Unless of course you’re from Arizona, in which case, please just wave.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

I Brake for Shrubs

I have always been a good driver. Both of my parents taught me to drive, but my Dad is the one who spent more time with me in the car. We'd drive around neighborhoods with wide streets on Saturday mornings in my sister's white Ford Tempo, running errands and such.

The Tempo was barely more than a go-cart itself, which suited me well because that was what I had the most experience driving anyway.

I'm not entirely sure why I drove more with my Dad more than my mom. Maybe it was just one of those things, or maybe it was because my Dad and I had bonded over an experience that took place while I was still in the thick of puberty. The event I speak of was both traumatic and hilarious. It is a story my father and I recount often. it is the story of my first "car" accident.

The accident I speak of took place while we were on a family vacation. During family vacations we would usually pair off. My Mom and sister would spend the day shopping or at the pool, and my Dad and I would play golf.

Mom would drop us off at the golf course and my Dad and I would load our clubs onto the back of a white electric golf cart.

Now there are rules about minors driving golf carts. I'm pretty sure I remember it being that you must be 16 years old to drive the golf cart, and in some places you must have a driver's license.

My Dad has always been very trusting of me. And we both thought that rule was ridiculous. Did they honestly believe that maneuvering a 600 pound plastic lawn mower around a park at 9 miles an hour is exactly the same as going 70 down the highway in a 2,000 pound Buick?

But my father believe in my ability to be responsible and handle such a complex task as knowing the difference between the gas pedal and the brake pedal, and the subtle variances between going forwards, and going in reverse. And besides, he was sitting right besides me. There was no traffic. Was there anything that could really go wrong?

The answer of course, was yes.

We had just finished hitting practice balls at the range, and were going to head over to the putting green for a little practice before we teed off. I asked my Dad if I could drive. Sometimes he would wait until we were out past the first tee box but this day he wasn't worried. Either because I was starting to look older, or because he was relaxed being on vacation. The point is, he let me. Way to go Dad!

So we hopped in and I started along the little path to where I thought the putting green was. Humming along at all but a brisk pace we took the turn around the clubhouse and were approaching a fork in the road. Thinking I knew where to go I started to turn the wheel to the left.

"Left?" I asked my dad, already deep into my turn.

And my normally calm and relaxed father realized my error.


Slightly panicked I yanked the wheel to the right. But golf carts don't come with power steering, so my race car like maneuver was not nearly as sharp as I had hoped it would be. And instead of swerving to the right path we were now set to split the fork and crash into a wooded area.

I would like to take a moment here to tell you a little about my experiences with crashing vehicles up until this point in my life.

While I had driven a golf car before, I had never crashed one. in fact all of my collisions had taken place no on 4 wheels, but on 2. My black 12 speed mountain bike was my primary form of transportation up until I got my license.

I rode that thing with moderate success over potholes, ice patches, and all other manner of obstructions. Once in a while I'd lose control and jump a curb or hit an old lady. But I would brace myself for impact, like all other kids did, by using my hand brakes and taking my feet off the pedals, putting them out in front of me to brace myself for the crash.

So it makes sense that as my father and I headed for a (kind of) high speed collision with a gaggle of shrubs, I didn't step on the brake. No. I instinctively put my legs out in front of me to stop the cart from crashing.

And seeing as I was not Fred Flintstone, this did not work.

Instead we crunched over a plastic bucket which made a horrific sound and we came to a rest firmly embedded in the shrubbery.

"Back up back up!" My Dad said, more embarrassed than angry.

Terrified that we were about to be in serious trouble, I threw the cart into reverse (which actually means I just flipped a switch). It might not have attracted as much attention if it hadn't made the ear piercing EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE sound when it was put into reverse.

With the cart screaming for attention I punched the gas and we crunched over the bucket again, scraping it along the pavement, the sound even more horrific the second time.

"Go go go!" my Dad said, as I killed the screaming and put it into forward gear. Flooring it, we drove away trying to play it like we had not just crashed a $4,000 machine into a $4 bucket and a beautiful bit of greenery.

We tried to stay out of sight as long as we could, but we had to drive past there to get to the first tee. We passed the scene of the crime shortly thereafter and saw a golf course official inspecting the mutilated bucket and destroyed bush, wondering what moron could have possibly been so incompetent.

My Dad and I both peered over at him raising our eyebrows as if to say, "Oh geez I wonder what could have happened there."

But of course we knew.

My Dad had been my partner in crime. We were both guilty. He would tell me later that he realized the next time I started to make a wrong turn, he would let me continue on instead of trying to correct me halfway through.

And I realized that the real reason they want you to have a license to drive a golf cart is so that you realize the breaks are located inside the cart, and not, as I had thought, in the bottoms of my shoes.

Oh well. Live and learn.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Rich Boehmcke Might Be...

I’ve been questioning my identity as of late. Not so much about what I am doing with my life, but more so who I am. And it isn’t based on my personal insecurities. The factors are more external.

I subscribe to a lot of magazines. Some of these include GQ, Esquire, and Details. These are the kind of monthly publications that define masculinity.
Yay I'm a man. And because those magazines are published by large media conglomerates that publish other magazines, I sometimes get solicited to purchase subscriptions to those other magazines.

Usually I get solicited for other magazines in the same genre.

No big deal.

But then I got a letter from Out Magazine.

Out magazine, for those of you who do not know, and are incapable of deducing, is a gay men’s lifestyle magazine.

I have never read the magazine before. It could be good or it could be bad, I really have no idea. The existence of the magazine has no effect on my life. I really don’t care.
But I myself am not gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that), so why are they soliciting me?

I think 1 of 2 things happened. Either I was accidentally solicited for the magazine, or somebody took a look at the magazines I subscribe to and said, “Hrmmm, ya know… Rich Boehmcke might be gay.”

I kind of laughed it off. It was a funny story for around the water cooler or to tell my friends. I even held onto the envelope for a while so I could remember to laugh about it and tell other people.

I forgot about it. Life went on as usual. All was well and good.
That is, until I received a second solicitation from Out magazine.
It was like after they sent me the first one, they seemed concerned that I had not responded. And they said, “Really Rich? Are you sure you’re not gay?”

I had to sit and ponder. Were they really questioning my sexuality or was somebody there just screwing with me? I turned down my KD Lang CD so I could think about it for a while.

I am a gmail user. I love gmail. One of the more unique features of gmail is the smart ads that appear in a bar at the top of the page. These ads are customizable. But for the most part they solicit you with advertisements from large corporations based on the subjects or content of your emails.

Lets say you are doing a lot of emailing about apartments, you might see an add at the top of the page for “SCOTTSDALE APARTMENTS STARTING 149K.”

That makes sense. Once in a while I’ll click on the ads. I don’t always pay attention to them though. But recently one caught my eye. - Read The Reviews On Dual Action Cleanse Before…

My eyebrow raised and I did a double take. I wasn’t really sure what to think. I stared at the advertisement for a moment. I then scanned the 30 or so emails in my inbox to see if I could uncover the reason for the solicitation.

Had someone sent me a poop joke? Did I tell someone I was having a crappy week? Had I mentioned I use a #2 pencil?

No. Nothing. I had no emails of the sort in my inbox. I was left to believe that based on my emailing and internet searching tendencies, somebody at Google was left to think, “Hrmmm, ya know… Rich Boehmcke might be constipated.”

But my relief turned quickly to confusion. What kind of entity found it necessary to put information about colon cleansing into diary form?

Was this somehow more comforting for some people? I can imagine the conversations.

Wife: Hunny come read this.
Husband: Ew I don’t want to read about Colon Cleansing.
Wife: Oh sweetie, you know you’re backed up.
Husband: That’s true.
Wife: And besides, it’s written in diary form. It’s private and discreet and honest.
Husband: Oh alright, if it’s in diary form.

No way dude. Noooo way. I am not clicking on that link.

And then I got piece of spam (it was spam right? Right?) with an offer for a FREE COLON CLEANSE.


I understand that internet spam hooks some people. Trial Viagra, free laptops, and fifty seven million dollars from an African prince seem like great offers.

But why would anyone, based on an email, that came to them out of nowhere, go somewhere and let someone do… THAT to them. I would love to see the response rate for that email. I’m sure the number would shock me.

I also have an email I use just for junk. You know, the kind of email you use for signing up for contests, joining online newsletters, or subscribing to mailing lists for weekly coupon updates.

There was one department store I like that I figured was worth signing up for the coupons. They have great sales and I figured it would be good to get regular coupon updates from them. So I put in my information and I immediately started getting weekly emails.

They were all well and good until I got one with a particularly disturbing headline.


For those unfamiliar (this blog is so informational) Spanx makes "body shaping" undergarments designed to give the wearer a slim and shapely appearance. Many famous people wear them. People like Oprah.

Again I was confused. Hadn’t I checked off my preferences for the email? Coupons for men’s items only! Even if they were soliciting me to buy this as a gift for someone, has any man ever bought a woman control top panty hose? Ever?

But once again I was left with only one possible solution. Based on my shopping and searching, somebody at this department store was probably saying to themselves…“Hrmmm, ya know… Rich Boehmcke might need some body shaping undergarments.”

It has taken me some months now to become comfortable with the fact that I am NOT a constipated homosexual with weight issues.

That is until I check my email again. The sad thing is, I don't even know what I get to be insecure about next.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Discount Happiness

I have a problem. I love coupons.

But it’s not all coupons that I love. No, there is a particular coupon that tickles me unlike any other. A coupon, that upon sight of, I begin to engage in semi-ridiculous and (once again) seemingly irrational behavior.

And that is the coupon for a store called Bed Bath and Beyond. My friends constantly make fun of me for being what they call “obsessed” with Bed Bath and Beyond, or the BB&B as I like to call it. And I suppose it’s only fair because I used to make fun of my mom for the same thing… until I became her.

For a long dark time in my family’s life, there was no Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I don’t know where we got our toiletries. Maybe we borrowed them, perhaps we stole them. But I remember BB&B suddenly bursting on to the scene later in my teen years. Before the arrival of the BB&B, all bed and bath stores were alike, there was no beyond. But once the Beyond came into play, there was no turning back.

If I needed deodorant, toothpaste, or hair gel, my mom would say to me. “Go to Bed Bath and Beyond, it’s cheaper.”

What made it cheaper was Bed, Bath, and Beyond’s infinite stream of never expiring 20% off coupons. They send them out nearly every week, they are good for any item in the whole store, and they never expire.

And back when their competitor Linens and Things was still in business, BB&B accepted their coupons as well.

What also makes the coupons unique is the fact that they aren’t normal sized, they are giant. Their coupons are large, half page sized, so you can’t even put them in your pocket. You need like, a man purse (also known as a murse) or wagon to transport them all so that when you get up to the counter with your 6 items, you can save $2.50.

It is kind of like trying to buy something with one of those giant celebrity checks they give out at golf tournaments. Every time I use them I expect the cashier to ask me to smile for the camera.

Now back when I was 19 years old walking through BB&B, the store itself was a little overwhelming. A whole section for towels? How many aisles of bedding sets were really needed? And pots, Jesus how many pots and pans could one person use? (Answer here)

But nonetheless every time I needed toiletries, I would end up at that store. It was a pretty basic trip, grab my necessities and then split.

But then again I was the only 19 year old male in Bed Bath and Beyond during the summer trying to get 20 percent off Crest white strips with a 2 year old Christmas coupon from Linen’s and Things.

However, now that I am a homeowner with an apartment full of needs, guess where I go for nearly everything?

And it’s not even just a normal enjoyment I get from the BB&B, its kind of an obsession. When I tell my friends I have to go to Bed Bath and Beyond to buy deodorant, they make fun of me. But you know what, if you had to pay 8 dollars for the fancy deodorant your dry cleaner got you hooked on like a crack junkie, and you could get a buck sixty off the price with a coupon that came in Sunday’s flyer, you’d be no different than me.

I don’t just collect the coupons, I horde them. I have a little place where I stash them in my apartment and then after several weeks I examine my stash to see what a collection I have, and then I skip merrily to BB&B.

And yes I admit, if my neighbors don’t take their coupons when they get home, and they just leave them sitting on top of the mailbox, well… I take those too.

Plus the fact that BB&B coupons get mailed out with the name of the resident on them. The woman at the register is scanning coupons in which every other one has a different persons name and apartment number on them, all while I stand at the register and try to pretend I didn’t steal, ahem, save those coupons.

It’s exactly the same as when I would go to parties as a kid. Right when everyone was going home I’d run around the banquet hall collecting all the left behind favors, ultimately confusing my mother when I’d come home with 11 mugs that said “Melissa’s Bat Mitzvah.”

I know this really is obsessive but I even took a day off in the fall to do some of my shopping. It was fantastic, and quiet. I bought all the things I need. And just so you know, the best day to go is Friday morning because that’s when they replenish all the stock.

Honestly they work really hard on that Beyond part. They should really call it Bed Bath Above & Beyond. I mean sure we are all susceptible to the impulse items by the register, but the whole damn Bed Bath and Beyond is impulse items!

Everything seems like a really good idea. Cedar shoe trees? Sounds good. Shower curtain liner (which I didn’t even know I needed)? Check! Arm and Hammer refrigerator baking soda with color indicator strip? Don’t mind if I do!

Recently I went in with a list for these 5 things:

Toilet Paper
Dish scrubber
Belt Rack

Here is what I bought

Sun block
Mesh dish scrubber
Arm and Hammer Refrigerator Baking Soda
Belt Rack
2 cedar shoe trees
Extra long sponge dish scrubber
Tooth paste
3 tooth brushes
Toilet paper
2 allergen free pillow covers

What was supposed to be a simple shopping trip had me walking out with a receipt that looked like the Declaration of Independence.

So how did I go in with the intent to spend 20 dollars and come out spending 96? Well obviously… I have a problem.

I think it’s fair to say that some months I spend more money at BB&B than I do on alcohol. But you know what, the day that they switch the daiquiri mix they sell from virgin to loaded; you can guess where I’ll be.

God I love coupons.