Jurassic Lark by Courtney Mehlhaff

I recently made a $20 impulse purchase at Target in service of a pun.

When I saw this dinosaur cookie jar, I immediately knew two things: I had to own it, but more importantly, I had to fill it with an assortment of teabags. Because . . . .


Totally worth it.

A.I. Don't Think So by Courtney Mehlhaff

Whenever I read an article about how artificial intelligence is the greatest threat to humankind, my first thought is, "Damn straight. For the love of God, stop giving robots human characteristics and emotions! Nobody needs this!" And I have a brief panic attack while I imagine a scenario in which Skynet becomes self-aware.

And then I think about my relationship with Siri. And that makes me feel better.

Because if computers' ability to take over the world is measured by how well this electronic imbecile can understand the simplest of sentences that I speak . . . well, let's just calm down.

I honestly can't think of a single interaction I've had with Siri in the car that didn't make me want to throw my phone out the window.

Just a few days ago I was driving home from out of state, and I texted a friend from a gas station asking if she wanted to hang out when I got back to town.

She replied yes and asked if I'd like to grab dinner together when I arrived.

By that point I was driving again, so I enlisted Siri's help to craft a reply. After five straight minutes of misunderstandings and restarts, my friend received the following message, naturally sent by mistake:

"Hate you Siri I hate you so much"

This was by FAR the least profanity-laced combination of words that Siri could have grabbed out of the air in those five minutes, though they captured my feelings quite well.

When I saw what I'd sent, I tried to rectify the situation with a follow-up message, but I was laughing so hard that Siri kept producing a text that translated "ha ha" into "bubba."

We're safe for now, people. I'm sure of it.

Can't Live With 'Em . . . by Courtney Mehlhaff

I was reminded recently of the best explanation of love and heartache that I've ever heard.

A friend was telling me how they'd unexpectedly seen an ex-boyfriend at an outdoor summer event. They didn't interact -- my friend just glimpsed him in the crowd -- but in that moment, all the memories of their fiery affair and devastating breakup came flooding back.

My friend summed up these intense and competing emotions thusly:

"I just wanted to run over there and bash his head in!"

There was a long pause, during which the anger softened.

"And then hold him, while he died."

An ASS Out of U and ME by Courtney Mehlhaff

I was on a flight from Charlotte to Minneapolis a couple weeks ago. It was the last leg of a trip; it was late, the plane was late, and I was tired. As I squeezed down the narrow aisle, I noticed an older couple already standing in my row, kind of slouched over the seat backs. As I approached, I smiled and said, "I think I have the window."

"Yeah, I guess that'd be why we're standing," the woman snapped, like it was my fault they had an earlier boarding group. But I settled in quietly with my headphones on, determined to be polite.

Shortly before takeoff, a group of bros piled into the exit row in front of us. Big, white, college-aged dudes sporting backwards baseball caps and bravado. Within minutes, I had a seat crammed into my knees. And that's when I lost control of the only thing passive-aggressive people ever lose control of: my inner monologue.

"OF COURSE!" I thought, squirming uncomfortably in my painfully squashed position. "Fucking OF COURSE! First these two give me a bunch of ATTITUDE, and then this. Only a bro would be oblivious to the fact that there are OTHER PEOPLE on this plane, people who don't recline their seats simply because that makes you an ASSHOLE. This guy's had the world HANDED TO HIM ON A FUCKIN' PLATTER -- he's stretched out in an EXIT ROW, for Christ's sake -- but he's still gotta take up EVEN MORE ROOM because NOBODY EVER TOLD HIM HE COULDN'T!"

It didn't help that the two cranky buzzards next to me retained all of the leg room for their teeny tiny little legs.

So I was pissed, but I did not lean forward, tap this monster on the shoulder, and say, "You, sir, are an asshole." No. I remained inwardly steamed, as I am wont to do. This is especially true in airports, where things are increasingly "Comply or No-Fly."

A little while later, after my pack of bone-dry, horrible airline pretzels, I was feeling no more charitable toward the idiot in front of me. But I noticed that he was firing up his laptop, and because it was nighttime, I decided to use the window reflection to angrily check out what he was watching. Some playoff game, probably, or something violent and offensive. Ooh! With any luck, I'd catch him looking at porn (which, to be fair, I have seen men do on planes).

But what I saw instead was that he was halfway through the live action movie "Beauty and the Beast." Like Emma Watson twirling in a sparkly dress and furniture magically turning into people. Like, clearly not something he ordered by mistake from the in-flight catalogue. He was into it.

And I couldn't wrap my head around this. I gaped in disbelief for so long that I inadvertently watched most of the live action "Beauty and the Beast."

When the credits rolled, he went back to the main menu. I was on pins and needles as he scrolled. Whatever would he choose? I'd judged him pretty harshly, but this guy was proving to be an enigma. 

The Lego Batman Movie.

Of course it was. Because you know what happens when you assume.

Arachnids and Acronyms by Courtney Mehlhaff

Here are a couple quick things that made me laugh this week.

First, I'd like to shake hands with whoever wrote this "answer" in the Q&A section for a Home Depot shop vac:



Second, I saw this sign and puzzled for a full minute about why we all had to be so quiet:


I was volunteering at Second Harvest Heartland.

Nevertheless, He Persisted by Courtney Mehlhaff

Some friends of mine have a very smart 5-year-old who never misses a thing (even when you think he's not paying attention). Unsurprisingly, the looming specter of our current president occupies his thoughts somewhat obsessively. 

His mom was recently talking to him about the importance of playing nicely with others. He listened carefully and then declared, "You know who I don't want to share my toys with? Donald Trump!" His mother assured him this would likely never be an issue.

One evening at their house, he was asking an endless stream of questions about 45 after one of the adults (probably me) forgot that mentioning DT would set the kid off. His parents gave a few answers and then said we wouldn't talk about someone so unpleasant anymore.

He considered this very thoughtfully for a few moments. Then he stated matter-of-factly, "OK. We can talk about Elizabeth Warren."

Peep Show by Courtney Mehlhaff

My house has a half-finished basement that features very sexy knotty pine wood paneling, circa 1960. It also features, inexplicably, two 4-inch holes punched into the wall, about two feet apart, at eye level. 

Although I ask everyone who visits to venture a guess, the true function of the holes remains a mystery. They're handy for peering into my utility room but otherwise a pain in the ass.

I mentioned to a friend that I couldn't decide what to do with them. Patch and paint? Plug them up? Hang some artwork awkwardly in the middle of the wall? He suggested that I get two portraits with the eyes cut out, a la Scooby Doo. (I'd be lying if I said I didn't briefly entertain this idea, but in the end the spaces were just too small).

I was really stuck for a good solution. And then, last week, it hit me. I'd been going about it all wrong. Having two weird holes in the paneling isn't a problem -- it's a gift. Because instead of hanging something over them, you can hang something behind them. You can do this:


It's all a matter of perspective.

A Bad Rap by Courtney Mehlhaff

I love it when people play their music loud and proud. I was at the grocery store a few weeks ago when a car rolled through the parking lot bumping Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" like it was a party anthem.

I like to think I'm similarly unapologetic about my choices, though I was extremely relieved that a group of colleagues who unintentionally snuck up on me at work (I had my headphones cranked) did not know I was rocking out hard to the live version of "Hotel California."

Sometimes, though, circumstances beyond our control align perfectly to embarrass us. I recently visited a friend who lives in a very nice suburb filled with lovey new houses full of little children.

During the 30-minute drive, I plugged my phone in and listened to Verdi's "La Traviata." For whatever reason, when I play opera through my car, I have to turn the volume up really high. And this isn't a problem . . . until you unplug the phone.

Because here's the thing you should know about me. I fully realize that I look like someone who would be into opera, and in that way I am a foregone conclusion. But my first and truest musical love is rap. So my radio is usually tuned to a local old-school hip-hop station.

So, when I pulled up outside my friend's house and yanked my phone free of the cord, what song blasted into her picturesque neighborhood?

2 Live Crew's "Me So Horny."

And not one of the verses, either, but the hook. It was literally a switch from a mid-volume Italian tenor to full-volume, bass-rattling, "Ooh, me so horny, ooh ooh me so horny . . ."

I slammed my hand into the dial, leaving a few final strains of "Me love you long-time" hanging in the air, and hurried up to the house as if fleeing a crime scene.

Friends, if I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times. I'm nothing if not classy.