Things My Parents Do When They Visit Me In The City

1. Complain about how far a walk everything is.
2. Confuse waiters by speaking slowly.
3. Misunderstand the rules of sidewalks.
3a. Walk unacceptably slowly.
4. Ogle.
4a. Point.
5. Ignore cultural pretensions.
6. Ask me why hipsters dress "that way."
7. Point.
8. Take camera-phone pictures of "cool bikes."
9. Quiz me about Philadelphia's byzantine street parking rules.
9a. Eventually just make me park the car.
9b. Register surprise when it turns out that, after driving in the city for three years, I am an adept parallel-parker.
10. Quiz me about Philadelphia history like I am a tour guide.
H.M. Make me feel like I am sixteen all over again.

Reasons I Know I'm Getting Older

1. I prefer cranberry juice over other juice/fruit drink options.
2. I feel vaguely guilty when I download pirated movies.
3. I no longer cringe when I hear Journey/Bruce Springsteen/Rush.
4. The word most often used to describe my day is "frustrating."
5. When getting out of a good chair, I sometimes groan.
5a. Chairs and the larger wold of sitting have become more appealing.
6. I stay inside when it's cold.
7. Nineteen-year-olds seem frivolous in their extravagant lifestyle choices.
7a. I use the phrase "lifestyle choices."
8. The Atlantic is my favorite magazine.
9. I like waking up early in the morning and getting to bed at a "reasonable hour."
10. Plaid is my favorite color.
11. I will not buy or drink Popov, Vlad's, Ezra Brooks or any variety of liquor that costs less than ten dollars per fifth.
11a. Nor Kool-Aid is an acceptable mixer.
11b. Nor is a 5 gallon Rubbermaid container an acceptable punch bowl.
11c. Nor is a red Solo cup an acceptable goblet.
12. People call me "mister" when I'm dressed nicely.
13. Some Saturday nights, I stay in and make collages.
14. I neatly fold my clean laundry.
14a. I do laundry more than once a month.
15. I appreciate 60 Minutes.
16. There are four cardigans in my closet right now.
17. Feeding squirrels stale bread is an acceptable way to spend an afternoon.
18. When driving, I leave my right blinker on for miles.
19. Crosswords are the bomb.
20. My tweed blazer has elbow patches.

Hell is a Waiting Room

I woke up later then I expected

"Crap!" I shouted at my alarm clock, hurtling out of bed into a disoriented rummage for my clothes.
Suited up, I got in the car and drove an unexpected forty-five minutes, to CRI Worldwide, a sinister sounding organization in one of the ugliest parts of South Jersey that conducts clinical research trials. I was intended for the depression unit, JN-517.
I arrived fifteen minutes post-appointment, and put on my best guilty school boy expression when I spoke to the receptionist.
"I was supposed to be here at ten."
"That's alright," she chirped from her office chair perch, bloblike. "Just sign in."
There were fourteen signatures ahead of me, and seven people in the waiting room.
Hell is a waiting room, with out of date copies of Prevention magazine and The View on repeat. This one was special.
My fellow inmates were all considerably older than me and almost entirely sedentary. Except for one, the Television Coach.
Wearing what seemed to be a house dress and slippers, she sat in the corner when I walked in, talking on a land line phone (seriously! a land line!) and examining her nails. She hung up almost as soon as I sat down and opened the Susan Sontag book I was reading.
"Can I change the channel?" she asked the receptionist, from across the room, wagging her hand at the television. I grimaced to the pages of Suzzy Q.
"Sure," chips the blob, "but there's no remote. You have to do it with your finger."
My god, I thought, this waiting room is trapped in 1997!
Sure enough, Television Coach changes the channel and immediately discovers that Married with Children, easily the most pathetic excuse for a sitcom in the history of television, is on.
"Oh, you so stupid," she mumbles at the television three times before sitting down, and then proceeds to coach the family through the turbulent and very unfunny domestic issues.
"Mmmhm, you tell that man. He don't respect you."
"I'd give that boy a slap, that's what I'd do."
And so on.
The Blob, seeing I was reading, asked if I wanted to go sit in the other waiting room. Yet something compelled me to stay.
And then I realized: the story was not yet over.
A man walked up to the window, knocking on it. The Blob opened it.
"Can I get a Hot Pocket?" he asked, "And a Sprite?"
What? Surely he will be rebuked, I thought, for imagining this is a microwavable version of Ishkabibble.
"Sure, sweetie," says the Blob, and hollers into the back for Anna, who I can only assume resembled Cookie from Matilda, to prepare this man the finest Hot Pocket in all the land, and produces a can of Sprite from her desk.
"Oh, you gotta try that with some mustard, Honey," offers T.C., who is apparently the benevolent guide, the Sherpa of the waiting room, the keeper of the keys. The man nods at her, as if carefully considering her proposition. He turns back to the Blob.
"Can I get a smoke too?"
No. Fucking. Way.
"You bet," the Blob responds, proferring a pack of Marlboro Red 100s to the man, and letting him take three. He sticks two behind his ears, the other in his mouth, and struts out the door for his cigarette break while his Hot Pocket gets warm on the outside and the cold on the inside.
Twenty minutes later, they called my name, I peed in a cup, and drove away slowly from what was the strangest waiting room of my life.