Raising Hobos

My children, loitering on a street somewhere.
My children, panhandling on a street somewhere.
Speaking as a father, I have come to the sad realization that all children have the innate social decorum, personal hygiene skills, and civility of your everyday, bus-depot variety hobo.

How did I come to this conclusion? I cannot pinpoint it exactly, but my children have left a variety of clues as to their true hobo nature. Perhaps it was finding a collection of used Kleenexes discarded throughout our living room. Maybe it was the dirty socks or underwear strewn about our hallway. It could have been the umpteenth time I entered the bathroom and encountered a fresh “deuce” residing in an unflushed toilet.

Whatever it was, I now view our nice suburban home as a veritable tent city. Once I began to take notice of my surroundings, I found the signs of hobo “culture” were everywhere. For instance, around the dinner table each night, I am more apt to hear burping and flatulence than polite conversation.

Furthermore, like hobos, my children relish in their unhealthy diet and lifestyle. My daughter would happily eat a bag of gummy worms smothered in maple syrup for breakfast and wash it down with a root beer float.

Like hobos, my children have horrible hygiene. If left to their own devices, their teeth would go unbrushed and their hair uncombed henceforth. Forget showers too. I have honestly witnessed lengthy debates between my wife and daughter over whether a morning shower is necessary after one has an “accident” the night before.

Like hobos, my children sleep in a tangled rat’s nest of blanks, pillows, assorted personal belongings, dirty clothes and half-eaten food. In addition, like hobos, this “bedding” has the unmistakable odor of stale “pee pee.”

Like hobos, in settling even the smallest dispute, my children generally escalate it to a crazy screaming match in a public place.

Like hobos, the decision-making of children overly favors instant gratification and has an astonishing degree of short-term bias for someone that will live for another 90+ years.

Like hobos, my children constantly beg for money and rarely disclose how the money will ultimately be spent. Knowing their unhealthy lifestyle and bias for short-term gratification, I know my donations will not be going towards their retirement fund. However, there are rare instances that I do feel generous and hand over a dollar to a panhandling child or hobo. I’ve noticed, almost without fail, that within mere minutes of handing over the dollar that I’ll be approached by the exact same child or hobo, unabashedly requesting spare change once more. I then am put in the uncomfortable position of having to exclaim amongst a throng of bystanders, “What! Don’t your remember?, We just had this conversation 10 minutes ago! I gave you a dollar for “bus fare” or the candy machine, remember? Where did that money go?!”

I never really expect a response, as hobos often don’t provide the truth or a direct answer, anyway. Also, hobos complain a lot, make excuses, and are disrespectful. Hobos routinely fail to say “please” and “thank you” or generally show gratitude, even when you are bestowing generosity upon them. Does this sound like any children you know?

As I’ve outlined above, hobos have few redeeming qualities. My job as a parent, fundamentally, is to prevent my children from fulfilling their inborn hobo destiny. Now that I have begun to anticipate their lowlife tendencies, I have developed a counterstrategy.

I call my method “Hobo Chores.” The system is both simplistic and ingenious. Whenever I observe a hobo-esque act of anti-social behavior, I immediately and loudly assign a “hobo chore” to the offending child in witness of the entire family and other onlookers.

Now, there’s nothing inherently different from a “hobo chore” versus the type of routine chores our kids perform each day… except for the stigma of being associated with hobos. In other words, hobo branding has been the key to the program’s success. It should also be noted, that this is the first time in history that “hobo branding” has ever been successful in association with anything.

Look, it’s not easy being a parent. For those of you struggling with childrearing, feel free employ my methods. And someday, when your children are fully grown, and they are not aggressively panhandling in a touristy part of town or defecating on a sidewalk somewhere, you’ll know who to thank.

The Otis Spunkmeyer Conspiracy


Anyone that has school-aged children knows that there is no greater risk to their immediate survival than the biohazard known as peanut dust. Judging by the degree of vigilance exercised by school officials, apparently 99 out of every 100 children these days have a “severe” peanut allergy, where even exposure to a molecule of peanut dust will cause death that is somehow both immediate and excruciating. (The other 1% possesses only a “heightened” peanut allergy.)

That’s right, peanuts don’t even need to be ingested to be highly lethal. Once the dust from a solitary shell is air-borne, it reaches a “weaponized” state and kills indiscriminately and in vast numbers.

Thankfully, at my kids’ school, they take every ridiculous precaution necessary to safeguard against peanuts entering the premises. For instance, kids are not allowed to bring in homemade treats on their birthdays, as it risks the cross contamination of a stray peanut molecule into a batch of cupcakes. At lunchtime, if a child brings a peanut butter sandwich to school, they are immediately quarantined at a specially designated table in the lunchroom. When finished with lunch, these children must sanitize their hands and rinse away any residue of the biological agent known as peanut dust before heading to the playground. All of this is 100% true.

At this point, some of you may be thinking that I am insensitive to those with “Peanut Lung” or other legume-specific genetic defects. (“Hasn’t the X-Men quintilogy taught us anything about acceptance!?!”)

On the contrary, my outrage stems from the peanut-related hypocrisy of school officials. Without a hint of irony, administrators will pause their expungement of George Washington Carver from the history books and burning the collective works of Charles M. Schulz only long enough to remind parents of the annual school fundraiser: Selling giant tubs of Otis Spunkmeyer peanut butter cookie dough throughout the community.

To help raise the funds for this elaborate peanut defense system and other school priorities, each child must sell five giant buckets of cookie dough. Since there is money at stake, the same children that cannot be exposed to a single peanut molecule at school are now schlepping buckets of this concentrated biological agent all over the neighborhood. Doing the rough math, if one dust molecule can incapacitate an elementary school, a whole bucket of dough could wipe out the entire human race several times over.

Every fall, I watch these kids dutifully show up to school with a pallet jack, load up their dough into their parent’s SUV, and hustle refined bioweapons all over town. And the administration is happy so long as the kids return to school the next day with fistfuls of cash, and not, say, a fresh homemade batch of Otis Spunkmeyer peanut butter cookies for their birthday celebration.

(As an aside, I have this fight twice a year with my wife: One of the kids’ birthday rolls around, and she brainwashedly buys licorice or Oreos or some other “safe” peanut-free treat for the class. I immediately start yelling that she should rip open one of the many, many Otis Spunkmeyer (“If that is his real name?!”) peanut butter cookie dough buckets clogging our freezer and make a huge batch for the class. I implore her to just walk in, and dare them to say these cookies are not permitted on school grounds. I would seriously love to take the day off work to confront the administration with this flawless exposition of their hypocrisy. Anyway, twice a year, I rant on this topic for 20 minutes or so, and concoct the perfect strategy to extract my comeuppance. My wife tunes me out completely, and shows up at the school the next day with Oreos. Standard.)

Of course, it could be worse. Peanuts aren’t the only thing prohibited at the school. And as evidenced above, if it meant a lucrative fundraising opportunity, school officials would happily send children door to door selling buckets of guns, pornography, alcohol, tobacco and other contraband.

My Wife is a Cougar

Sorry to disappoint, she’s not a “cougar” in the traditional sense.

Picture her as a literal cougar, sitting atop a precipice stalking her prey. Crouched, her legs are like springs, waiting for an opportunity to pounce. Her eyes dart from side to side, her tail twitches in anticipation. And then… when her prey stumbles momentarily, her eyes widen, claws retract, and she leaps in for the kill…

Her prey? Any funny story I’m attempting to tell at a cocktail party or social gathering.

And just like a real cougar would, my wife will meticulously stalk a funny story from a hidden vantage point. She will wait for me to stumble in my recantation of the events, and then suddenly… she pounces! My funny story is unsuspecting, and puts up limited resistance to the surprise attack. Inevitably, my wife will snap the story’s neck, and haul the carcass up a tree to gorge on its entrails. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

You see, there are stories I enjoy telling in a group setting that my wife has heard a million times before. And whenever I find myself dispensing mirth in front of a new audience, my wife cannot resist gleefully cross-examining my testimony. She hangs on every word, just hoping, salivating, for a mistake that she can joyfully correct in front of a large audience.

Conversely, when my wife begins to tell a story I have heard before, I simply tune out. Although, to be perfectly honest, I generally tune out most of her first-run, original stories as well.

Not my wife though. Once a crowd has shifted their collective attention to me, she dutifully strives to prevent any embellishments in my storytelling. Unsatisfied with her role as the ombudsman of my narrative, she unfailingly decides that my solo act should really morph into a duet. A husband and wife storytelling duet! The irony, is that for many of my stories, my wife wasn’t there to witness the events firsthand to begin with anyway. Yet somehow, she knows the events of that particular night better than I do. And once she forcibly anoints herself the “co-storyteller” of one of my stories, it is only a matter of time before we are arguing with each other in front of our audience.

I look around, surveying the awkward discomfort of our friends. Nobody wants to make eye contact. I realize the story has been mortally wounded. If anything, I wish I had a blunt instrument nearby to put it out of its misery.

Thankfully, as is often the case, I am my own blunt instrument. As there is no way to win a fight with a hungry cougar, the best course of action is to withdraw. Remember to back away slowly and puff out your jacket or other loose clothing to appear bigger in stature. At a minimum, pop your collar and turn your pockets inside out. Never turn your back to the animal! Banging sticks or dinner plates together can also help provide a distraction for your escape. If possible, tossing a plate of hors d’oeuvres (especially baked brie) on the floor may cause the cougar to divert the attack elsewhere. Following these steps will insure you can live to tell another story someday… And sadly, this is how every cocktail party concludes for Mr. and Mrs. Centaur.

Uh oh. Did you hear that? My wife’s ears just perked up at the sound of me typing this post. Her nostrils flare, as she gathers in the scent of her prey. Be forewarned, I guarantee she will soon begin refuting irrelevant details of this post in the comment section below…

The Unnecessary Theater of Ordering Food at a Restaurant

There is a lot of unnecessary theater when ordering food at a restaurant. Recently, I had a waiter who took my table’s order but opted to forgo a notepad or bother to jot anything down. He just nodded approvingly after each request and then walked away. He memorized our order! Needless to say, this display of unwanted showmanship went largely unappreciated.

Similarly, if my accountant were to announce that he had done the math on my tax return entirely in his head, I would be equally nonplussed. While it’s an impressive feat, I would much rather he go ahead and fire up the calculator, sharpen a #2 pencil, generate a paper trail, and do his damnedest to get it right.

From the waiter’s perspective, there’s essentially zero upside to successfully memorizing our order. Why would you put the accuracy of my dinner order in jeopardy? Why even take that unnecessary risk? Who is this guy? Did our waiter recently abandon the cutthroat lifestyle of a riverboat gambler to wait tables at an Olive Garden?

Here’s the waiter’s job, in a nutshell: Relay the message of what I want for dinner to the kitchen staff. When they have prepared my meal, transport it safely from the kitchen to my table. No grandstanding is needed. You don’t need to dazzle me with your short-term memory skills, try to guess my weight or saw my date in half. Simply put, you don’t need to voluntarily make your job more difficult. Leave that to me.

Essentially, the only thing I want a waiter to memorize are the daily specials and what beers are currently on tap. Anything beyond that is excessive theatrics. And frankly, there’s just no room for showboating when it comes to bringing me my dinner.