Possible Side Effects by Courtney Mehlhaff

If you let me hang out with your children, I may inadvertently teach them things.

About a month ago, I went to a friend’s house for dinner. Afterward, we decided to watch a holiday movie, and we settled on National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

Now, her two boys, ages 11 and 9, had never seen it. But the younger one immediately recognized the thesis statement of the entire film by commenting after the first five minutes, “This dad is terrible.”

The humor is relatively mild, and the kids did okay with occasional profanity. It wasn’t until a dream sequence where Chevy Chase imagines a beautiful woman slowly beginning to remove her swimsuit that their reactions amped up.

Hoping to calm this sexy scene, I turned to the young gentlemen and said, “Guys! Relaaaax. It’s just a little side boob.”

And you know what? They quieted right down. Like that was a satisfactory explanation for what they were witnessing, and all they needed was a name for it.

Boys, that is side boob. Friends, I’m sorry I taught your kids about side boob.

GOP-ble Wobble by Courtney Mehlhaff

As we’ve finally reached the end of the holiday season, here’s a little story from Thanksgiving that I completely forgot about until now.

I traveled about four hours by car to visit my sister, who was having a large gathering on Thanksgiving Day. But the night before, the only people in the house were me, my parents, my sister, and her husband. Just as we were getting ready to dig into some pizza, my dad gathered us around him in the kitchen.

Please keep in mind that, years ago, he was quite conservative — he once said the following to me, without a hint of irony: “Cotonee, I hate to break this to you, but you’re what some would consider a liberal.” At the time, this was not meant as a compliment.

However, his very serious and heartfelt pre-pizza speech went like this:

“I just wanted to tell you all that I love you very much, and I pray for your health and happiness every night.”

OK, good start.

“And I want you to know that I’m thankful for each and every one of you.”

Very touching.

“But this year, even more than that, what I’m most thankful for is that the Democrats took back the fucking House.”

Couldn’t have said it better my liberal self.

Bed & Breakup by Courtney Mehlhaff

I logged on to a travel site the other day to leave a review for a hotel I’d stayed at on vacation. Imagine my delight at finding this rating from another reviewer:

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A couple thoughts.

First, I was not aware that it was standard practice for those in the hospitality industry to ask whether their guests happened to be in the process of committing adultery. I think that’s exactly why someone with infidelity on the brain (and elsewhere) would frequent such an establishment. So on that particular point, I feel this place should have rated much higher.

Second, as we wandered foreign streets packed with tourists from across globe, I actually did wonder this aloud to the friend I was traveling with — no kidding — “How many of these couples do you think are cheating right now?”

Little did I know that the very hotel where we were resting our weary sightseeing heads was such a hotbed (pun intended) of scandalous behavior! But now I will definitely return, since I know what kind of clientele they cater to.

Yippie Ki WHAT by Courtney Mehlhaff

Last week, I got into an elevator after work to reach the parking garage. I was headed for the top level, but the elevator stopped about halfway there.

When the doors opened, there was a group of about six guys in their 20s standing around. A couple of them looked at me, but nobody made a move. However, as soon as I reached over to push the “close door” button, they lunged forward.

“Sorry,” one of them said as they piled on, squishing me into a corner. I could hear them mumbling about whether they should go up or down, and which floor they wanted.

So, being a generally helpful person, I decided to ask their destination and offer directions.

But what I said, absolutely inexplicably, was this: “Where you tryin’ to git?”

Like a cowboy. I’m not kidding.

Not “Where do you want to go?” or “Where are you headed?” or even “Where are you trying to get TO?” But “Where you tryin’ to git.” I might as well have spat tobacky into a nearby spittoon and moseyed on back to the ranch.

This brand new configuration of words, which I’ve never said before in my entire life, just popped out of my mouth, and I heard it happening, and then there was nothing I could do about it. I didn’t even have the excuse of playing too much Red Dead Redemption II to account for my odd mode of speech.

The guys, to their credit, simply responded that they were on their way to a basketball game, and I told them either first or second level would be good options.

They thanked me, and I stepped off at my floor. Then I turned and said, “You guys have a good night.” And if I’d been wearing a hat, I swear I would've tipped it.

Green Means No by Courtney Mehlhaff

On my drive in to work last week, I was stopped downtown at a red light. Off to my right, I could see an older lady begin her journey through the crosswalk. However, she stepped off the curb much too late to make it across the street before the “don’t walk” sign lit up.

When my light turned green, she was right in front of my car. And to my surprise, she stopped, turned, narrowed her eyes, and wagged her finger at me.

I was flabbergasted. Not only was I not glaring out my window angrily, but I was actually waiting quite patiently for her to cross. I hadn’t honked my horn. I hadn’t even gestured.

And also, just for the record, I wasn’t planning on starting my day with MURDER.

I still have no idea where this woman’s attitude came from, but I won’t forget what it telegraphed: “Don’t you dare ignore the sanctity of human life in strict observance of traffic rules. Don’t you dare, you law-abiding bastard.”

Maximom Overdrive by Courtney Mehlhaff

Before I moved into my first apartment in my early 20s, I needed to drive about 50 miles from my hometown to pick up a few necessary furnishings. They weren’t anything crazy — a desk, a rug, a bookcase — but they were too large to fit into my car.

So my mom arranged to borrow a small pickup truck from one of her coworkers.

We set out together on a Saturday afternoon, my mom behind the wheel. We were halfway to our destination when her cellphone rang. It was the coworker. I don’t know if he had a sudden fear of us hot-rodding around the countryside on a destructive joyride or what, but he called to check in.

“What’s up?” my mom asked me.

I covered the mouthpiece. “He wants to know how the truck is working out.”

And in a moment of pure mischief and brilliance, just to mess with him, my mom replied, “Tell him she shakes a little at 90.”

Bargain Hunter by Courtney Mehlhaff

I was driving around with some friends and their kids a couple weeks ago, when the dad mentioned that he wanted to stop at a nearby outdoor equipment store.

There was a collective groan from the backseat, because the kids knew his browsing could quickly get out of hand and take up a large chunk of the day.

“Awww, no!” the older child whined.

But the younger sibling decided to put some firm limits in place.

“You can have five minutes there.”

Their dad laughed. “Oh, five minutes, that’s all I get, huh?”

There was silence for a moment before the tables were turned. A small but confident voice replied, “I can take it to three.”

Hold the Butter by Courtney Mehlhaff

A Facebook friend posted about an encounter at the movie theater that left him shaken, not stirred. He said he went to the men’s room before the show, and there were other dudes in there using the urinals.

This is not the troubling part.

One guy had brought in his movie snack. Rather than set it on the sink while he did his business, or even hold onto it (because do you really need two hands to complete this task?), he had elected simply to place it at his feet.

Shockingly, even this is not the troubling part.

The most worrisome aspect of the whole scenario was that the guy’s snack was not a sealed bag of candy. It was an open tub of popcorn.

Now, I don’t make a habit of visiting men’s bathrooms in commercial spaces. But I know what their aim is generally like in residential homes. So I can’t even finish this explanation without wanting to gag a little.

I especially hope this dude wasn’t attending a film with a date who was waiting expectantly for him to return from the concession stand with a treat.

I told this story to a male friend just to gauge whether I might be overreacting in my horror. When I got to the snack type reveal, he covered his mouth with both hands and gasped. And then I couldn’t stop laughing, because I’d never seen a man react that way before.

There’s a first time for everything, it seems.