The not so obvious tremendous value of Facebook birthday wall posts…

So yesterday was my birthday, and anyone who really knows me knows that while I love other people’s birthdays, I am not a fan of my own.  Perhaps it is because it is a reminder of what is still not accomplished while the years continue to roll relentlessly by, perhaps it is a fear of my own mortality, perhaps it is because it is getting harder to get that many candles on a normal sized cake.  I always wanted a way to see it in a better light, and something that people seem to take for granted (or that they even disparage) has turned my mind around 180 degrees on this.

As anyone who is on Facebook knows, any current birthdays of Facebook friends show prominently on one’s Facebook page in the right sidebar.  Clicking on that birthday list then brings up a pop-up that then allows you to quickly enter a birthday greeting for all of your Facebook friends who are having a birthday that day.  I’m sure everyone has seen it, but it looks like this:

Image

They make it SO easy.  So easy in fact, that one will get birthday greetings from all sorts of people: family, friends, acquaintances, former co-workers, that person you went on two dates with and never saw again, people you haven’t seen in two years, people you haven’t seen since college, since high school, since GRADE school even.

So easy in fact, that I have heard people say how valueless it all is.  That someone who has not seen you in ages wishing you a happy birthday doesn’t mean anything; that they don’t know your current life and just did it because they were on Facebook, it popped up, and it only took them five seconds.

The people who say that are looking at it all wrong.

Instead, try it the way I am going to explain to you, which I did by accident last year and on purpose this year.  On your next birthday, give this a shot and see what you think, no matter WHAT your opinion on birthdays Facebook birthday messages happens to be.

This is what I did:

Whenever I saw someone post on my page for my birthday, I simply took a few seconds to think of them and whatever we had shared whenever we had happened to share it:  a cry last week, a laugh six months ago, a conversation five years ago, an adventure two decades ago.  When I took just a few seconds to think of that person, who I had perhaps not thought of in YEARS, I was able to nearly ALWAYS found something funny, interesting or moving between us, and this did not take much effort.

What it DID do was to give me such an appreciation for the people we are fortunate enough to know at different times in our lives.  Something that, in these days of constant data flow coming at us from what seems an unlimited number of directions, we can easily forget.  With all of the ability to connect these days in so many ways, our friendships can seem fleeting because we are so quickly on to the next.  Many last for years or decades, but some just last when we are in a certain place in our lives; but they all have an impact, and that is worth remembering.

But we need a marker in space and time to allow for the remembering, and that place and time is your Facebook wall on your birthday.  And as amazing as those memories were as they trickled in all day and filled my soul and my heart, I found a way to make it one step better.

When I would see their post and think of our shared experiences, I would choose one and reference it back to them as a comment on their birthday greeting.  A mention of when I was looking through photos of a friend’s vacation on her iPhone only to come across a nude shot of herself.  A reference to someone’s cool car they had back in high school.  A reminder of the time we got caught in a lightning storm above the treeline when we thought we were rugged outdoorsmen and instead ran like frightened rabbits.

Pretty simple, right?  But now my small effort of remembering had a larger effect: now you’ve given back to them what they gave to you, which is a memory that perhaps you had both forgotten.  Let’s call it paying it BACKWARD.

For me, I think the sum total was 134 different people posting a birthday message on my wall, and like I said, I could come up with something for nearly every one of them.  I mean, who gets to remember 134 different shared experiences that occurred over a lifetime in the course of one day?  And even better, reflect them back the person who shared it with you?

That alone was enough to change my mind about how I feel about my birthday.

So when your special day comes, give it a try, and let me know what you think.

 

And of course, happy birthday.

Got five dollars you don’t need? Here is a good cause that could use it.

BCM-Logo-horiz-tag-summit-4C-lores

Obviously from the title I’m not that great at asking for help, so please bear with me.  Plus it isn’t really help for ME, but rather for some kids who could really use it.  If you want to skip all the stuff below and to help me reach my goal of helping get over a dozen city kids into the great outdoors for the first time in their lives, you can go straight here:

My Summit For Someone Essay and Donation Page

Big City Mountaineers gets city kids into the outdoors to learn outdoor skills and to be mentored; these trips are not day hikes, but rather week-long backpacking trips with a defined goal like scaling a certain peak, and what makes this charity amazing is that the ratio of mentors to kids on each trip is ONE TO ONE. If there are eight kids, there are eight adult mentors, and so much of the time is spent talking about their lives and their challenges. To know why I felt compelled to do this, PLEASE take three minutes to watch this video narrated by one of the kids; it explains it better than I ever could:

Big City Mountaineers – Taylor’s Story

I am quite close to my goal of raising $4500, and if friends who want to help can donate even what we all spend on a good coffee or a decent lunch, it can help me get over the top.

If I CAN reach this goal, which would allow at least a dozen kids like Taylor, who have had a pretty tough life through no fault of their own, to do something COMPLETELY new that they would never get to do without our help, and perhaps impact them in ways larger than this one week.

Again, here is my donation page and my essay that I wrote in order to be part of this:

My Summit For Someone Essay and Donation Page

Thanks for listening.

The power of a real apology…

We’ve all done it; said something that had unintended consequences, made a choice without regard as to how others might be affected, just basically did something that hurt someone else.  Fortunately, we have an amazing thing called an “apology” that, while it can’t undo history, it can go a long way toward getting the feelings involved back to where they were.

But to achieve that, it needs to be done correctly.

I have had two situations in the last week, one for which I am merely a spectator to both sides and one in which I am somewhat in the middle, and in both cases I am baffled by the seeming unwillingness of people to just apologize.  Correctly.

Now I know this is a judgment on my part, but let me explain.  If a friend has a tragedy in life in which you are not involved in any way but you are rather just “there for them”, then saying you are sorry for how they feel makes total sense.  The way they feel has nothing to do with your own actions and choices, and so to say “I’m sorry you are sad”, or “I’m sorry you feel hurt” and any other similar phrase is often quite helpful.  This is because your job at this point is to SYMPATHIZE.

An actual apology should not phrased the same way as sympathy.

If the person’s feelings are a function of your own words and actions, I don’t think the other person is looking for your sympathy.  They don’t need to know that “You are sorry that they feel hurt”.  They need to know that “You are sorry that you hurt their feelings.”

These are not even remotely the same.

The obvious difference is that one takes responsibility and the other does not.   And what the hurt person needs to know is that you take responsibility, not that they have your sympathy.

Now this does not mean that every situation where someone gets hurt requires an apology.  Sometimes things need to be said that may hurt someone else and there is not a way around this.  It may seem counterintuitive, but the actions which I find MYSELF apologizing most often for are those that had completely unintended consequences, where I hurt someone feelings without realizing my actions could be hurtful.  Just because it was not INTENDED does not mean it is not my fault that their feelings got hurt.  if you back into someone’s car in a parking lot, you had no intent to damage their vehicle but it is STILL your fault, even it was an accident.

In the situation in which I am a spectator, the person’s response is “but I didn’t mean to hurt their feelings!”, which may also be the reaction of you, the reader.  There is the argument that how they interpret your words and actions is up to them and if they are hurt by them, then it is their problem and not yours, but I think if you try tack that in every situation you will not be pleased with the results.

And certainly the people around you won’t either.

Lastly, a real apology seldom comes with a a lot of conditions, explanations, caveats, and the like.  If you need to fill out this form in your head when apologizing, you’re probably not really apologizing.  You are justifying.

apology

So try this the next time you want to apologize: do it in as few words as possible and see how it goes.  I try to keep mine to this:

“I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings.”

When repairs go wrong.

As you many know, I have always been a fan of fixing something that is broken if possible rather than just tossing it and buying something new.  There are so many reasons to do this: saving money (by at least delaying a purchase), throwing away less trash and just feeling good at the accomplishment.  Recently my pool cleaner was not working and rather than spend $400 on a new one, I was able to buy all the replacement parts and essentially rebuild the entire thing other than the case itself for $80, and some of you may have read about my restoration of a friends 1960′s floor lamp.  Awesome, right?

Sometimes repairs go wrong.

No big deal or big cost, but I was using my 25-foot tape measure recently to measure something damn near 25 feet long.  I should say that a 25-foot tape measure is really a 20-foot tape measure, since taking those last five feet out often results in it not going back in again.  As was this case.  No problem; I’ll fix it!

I took it apart, knowing it would need to rewind the spring in it.  I started winding it back up, checking to see if it had enough winding to pull the tape all the way in when I heard a loud SNAP, which was the spring breaking near the end.  Well crap, looks like I’m not fixing this.

What I was unprepared for was what was left of the wound spring essentially EXPLODING out of the case when I went to set it on my desk. I’m glad I was clear because the edges of the spring are razor sharp!Image

Moral of the story: Much like in life in general; we can’t fix everything.

Fixing things…

Though I have always have been one to try to fix something that is broken before considering buying something new, my time away from work recently has caused me to look at this even more closely.  Whether it is repairing my own shoe sole when the shoe uppers are still in great shape, having my dry cleaner put a patch on my Lucky jeans where my ass has worn the them thin or getting all the parts to repair my pool cleaner, there is satisfaction for me in extending the life of something that I own.  If I can get another year out of something and delay a purchase, awesome.

This has generally been limited to my own “stuff”, though after reading an article in the New York Times about a “repair cafe” in Amsterdam it makes me wonder how many interesting and possibly useful items are sitting around in people’s home and apartments in downtown Phoenix.  Would something like that be possible here?  At the very least, perhaps I could keep my eye out for “things that need fixin’”…

It didn’t take long to find something; while visiting a friend downtown I noticed an interesting floor lamp likely from the 1960s; kitschy wooden leaves and big plastic shades meant to make it look like a multi-colored flower.  My friend had it sitting outside because it didn’t work; the wiring was gone, bulbs were out and the switch was not working properly anyway (it was one of those cool old mechanical rotary switches where one click turns on one light, then another turns that one off and other two, then a third click turns them all on and another all off).  I asked if I could take it and see what I could do.

I wish I had taken photos during the process; I disassembled the entire lamp, polished all of the brass pieces which were quite tarnished, cleaned and oiled all of the wood (being outside in Phoenix had really dried it up), fixed the nicks in the finish with furniture markers and cleaned the the shades which were caked with dust in all of the nooks and crannies.  So it was clean and looked nice, but my goal was to light this baby up!

I found the problem with the switch and repaired that, ran new wiring all through it, got some bulbs and then even put a dimmer on it (I think EVERY light should have a dimmer).  Even I was surprised how nicely it turned out:

I brought it back to my friend and she was almost in tears.  Total cost for making this huge difference?  About ten bucks and couple of hours of work to bring back a 50 year old lamp to almost original.  I felt great for saving something so nostalgic and she loved the mood it created in her small but cool space.  The best part for me was when I asked her about a week later if she had used the lamp; her response?

“Use it?  It’s the ONLY light I use now.”

And it had been sitting, not working, and getting dusty on a patio.

Mission accomplished.

The bad airplane seatmate…

It was a pretty full flight; when that’s the case, the best chance of having an empty center seat (since I tend to sit on the aisle) is to go to the BACK of the plane.  I didn’t follow my own advice and ended up with the seatmate from hell.  Where to start?

First of all, he was a big guy, both tall and wide.  Why he would choose to sit between two dudes when there were other center seats further back is beyond me.  Then he really did think his “personal item” (which was the size of a carry-on suitcase) could fit under the seat in front of him, which it couldn’t.  Fortunately for him (and possibly unfortunately for anyone needing to leave this plane in a hurry, as we were in an exit row) he was able to hide this fact from the flight attendant with his what I can only describe as bell-bottom dress pant legs.  I noticed these while he was taking off his SHOES.

You know how we often don’t mind the smell of our own feet?  Someone else’s, especially in confined space where I am trapped for the next 90 to 120 minutes.  Oh lord.

So then, he opens up and proceeds to eat an entire airport pepperoni pizza.  And then a salad SMOTHERED in Italian dressing.  Washing it down with a 32-ounce Coke.  Keep in mind this is a 90 minute flight; a airport or some peanuts couldn’t tide you over?

I thought the worst of it was over; the pizza and dressing smells had dissipated, I came to accept that I could leap over his bag if I needed to get off the plane through the emergency exit, he was done loudly slurping the last tiny drops out of his monster Coke using a straw (men use straws?) and I had successfully handed over his pile of trash to the flight attendant.  Maybe now he will sit for the last 45 minutes of this short flight?

Ah, nothing like a big meal and the gentle rocking of an airplane to help one fall asleep.  AND START SNORING LIKE A CHAINSAW.  Are you kidding me??

And we wonder why every now and then, someone goes crazy and tries to open the cabin door while in flight…

Shoot me now.

The full story of finding my stolen bike on Craigslist and GETTING IT BACK!

Some of you who know me in real life may know that several months ago my friend Nathan and I were able to retrieve his stolen bicycle from the thief who had taken it 30 minutes earlier.  Time for round two, this time with MY bike.  Anyone who knows me knows I love my downtown bike, built for me by my friend Chris a few years ago:

On Wednesday, March 20th, I went to see a movie at the downtown Phoenix AMC Theatre in the middle of the afternoon and when I came out, my beloved bike, which had been locked to a bike rack on the side of the building, was gone.  After going through the usual “maybe I locked it somewhere else” routine for 15 minutes I had to accept the fact that someone had STOLEN it.

After walking home, I got in my car and started cruising around downtown looking for it but really had little hope.  I made a flier to put up in a few places like the downtown ASU campus and then because I had read an article about finding their property on Craigslist, I started looking on there.  I didn’t really expect to find anything, so imagine my surprise when I see this ad placed four hours after my bike was stolen:

Not much to go on, but I just had a feeling.  My bike fit the (limited) description, and since I had my frame powdercoated there were no markings as to the manufacturer, and usually people selling bikes will put at least the make and model if there is one they can see.  I decided to call the guy up…

I got the guy on the phone (he said his name was Al) and gave him a story about wanting a simple single speed bike for my wife (I’m actually single) and asked a few questions but nothing too detailed; I didn’t even ask the color.  Al volunteered that it had “big tires” on it and I responded that I didn’t really want a bike with knobby tires because she was going to ride on the street.  He responded that the tires were large, but smooth and not knobby.  Gotcha, man!  Who else but me has a single-speed 29er with 2.25″ Schwalbe Big Apple tires on it??  THIS WAS MY BIKE.

I said maybe I could come see it the next day and acted like I was in no rush and he said that he could show it to me anytime the next morning up around I-17 and Northern.  I said I would call him in the morning and see if we could arrange something, trying not to act too eager, which I certainly WAS at this point.

Needless to say, sleep was difficult if not impossible that night.

I called Al the next morning after having picked my buddy Nathan to help with this (as I mentioned, he and I had caught a guy who stole his bike months earlier; I still need to write about that one, which was pretty interesting).  I had filed a police report online, and then called the Phoenix Police to ask how to handle the situation.  They said the way they work it is to have me arrange the meeting, then call the police about 15 minutes before from a nearby location to show them my ownership evidence (photos of me with the bike, a list of components and markings on the bike) and to devise a plan.  So here we go…

I dropped Nathan off at the meet location about 40 minutes ahead of time to act as a scout and we stayed in constant contact through text.  A typical interaction:

Nathan: “All still clear.”   Wayne: “Roger.”

Yeah, we were playing spy, but why not?  We might have a chance to get my bike back!

I wasted some time before calling the police about 25 minutes later.  They showed up, I showed them my report and ownership evidence and explained it all.  We decided that I would wait for the guy at the meeting location and as soon as Nathan saw him riding up he would call one of the officer’s cellphones and tell him the guy was there with the bike.

Then I get a call from Al asking if I was there and asking if my (fictional) wife was with me.  I said she couldn’t make it because of work but if it would fit me then it would be fine for her.  I don’t know if he had spied me and called to see why I was alone, but he said he could be there in a couple of minutes.  Like two minutes later, the guy rides up ON MY BIKE (I knew it!) and we started to chat.  I kept my composure though I wanted to throttle him, but didn’t want him running before the police arrived either.  I looked the bike over and asked a question or two to waste some time until the police arrived, and the next thing I know Nathan comes flying around the corner and two Phoenix Police SUVs roll up fast and box us in.

STUNG!

I then got pissed and told the guy “You need to talk to these officers; you stole my fucking bike man!” then gave him a hard shove away from my bike before the one of the officers told me to stop because I think he didn’t want me getting in trouble.  I wanted to punch the guy but doing that in front of two police officers would probably not be the smartest thing.  Plus this may sound weird, but a small part of me felt sorry for the guy; he was probably in his forties and didn’t seem agile enough to have stolen it so I’m sure some one else stole it and then he just sells them.  I’m not saying that makes him a good guy, but he certainly didn’t look like he was getting rich off of this; I guess it is just his (bad) way of getting by.

Just before we left, this was the scene:

Yeah, my buddy Nathan looks pretty pleased but I guarantee you that my smile on the other side of the camera was at least as big.  And as we get into the car to drive off, Nathan turns to me and excitedly says the exact same words to me as I did to him several months ago when we caught the guy who stole HIS bike:

“Dude, can you believe it??  We got your bike back!!”

Maybe the excitement comes because so few people are fortunate enough get back what gets stolen from them.  A sad fact.

Well this time, score one for the victim.

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