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.

Presidential Fitness by Courtney Mehlhaff

As human beings, our brains are programmed to see faces in everything. Perhaps that’s why, when I’m on my rowing machine and I look at the scratched-up wall on my right, I can’t help thinking that a rather sad, contemplative Abraham Lincoln is watching me work out.


It has just now occurred to me that I live on Lincoln Street. This is freaking me out a little.

Hammered Handyman by Courtney Mehlhaff

One of the very first houses I looked at last year, in my quest for a new abode, was a 1920s two-story on the first day of its listing.

My realtor met me at the address, and together we headed inside. We sensed something "off" right away, since the door was unlocked and there was a cigarette laying beside the sink.

We called out and looked around. Finding no one, we decided to just spin through as quickly as possible. The tour was interrupted about a minute later when a very disheveled, very inebriated man wandered inside. He wanted to tell us all about the house. Loudly.

Turns out he was the owner, who happened to live across the street and had decided to fix up and sell his second property instead of renting it out. He slurrily explained all the improvements he'd made -- personally -- to each and every corner of this "nice fucking house."

It took all my willpower not to say, "Sir, you're drunk NOW! How drunk were you when you were making home repairs?!" 

But shoddy craftsmanship wasn't even my main concern. The biggest problem was that he would still be living just steps from my front door, and might get the notion to drop in anytime in an altered state.

When he started profanity-laden price negotiations directly with me, I called it a day and walked off. He may have made some nice additions to the property, but the extra three sheets were not an effective selling point.

Rock Opera by Courtney Mehlhaff

So I have to tell you this story, because I'm still not entirely sure what to make of it.

A couple months ago, I went to an opera. My seat was about eight rows back on the main floor, and in the very front row sat a man who started making noises about halfway into the first act. 

The first few times, I didn't quite know what I was hearing. I thought perhaps there was some interference from offstage. However, after about ten minutes, it became clear that the low, guttural grunts were coming from the audience. 

I'm not trying to make fun of this person, because he evidently had a condition of some sort, and he deserves to come out and hear beautiful music the same as everybody else.

The noise, which I can only describe as the sort of surprised, huffing "Hoh!" you might hear from a large ape, wasn't frequent enough to distract me for long, and I soon tuned it out. Until the first applause break, when it turned into, again, what I can only describe this time as the sort of screeching you might hear from a very excited chimpanzee.

Everybody heard this. You could FEEL them hear it. And then the most extraordinary thing happened.

Instead of nervously laughing, or shooting the guy disapproving glares, or outright complaining about the outbursts, everyone in the audience simply cheered louder.

Like, really loud. It quickly turned into, dare I say, a downright raucous crowd. I even saw the conductor kind of look up, puzzled, and then delightedly launch back into the music with extra gusto.

This leads me to two possible conclusions. 1) That audience was just full of the best people, who amped up their reactions to make the man in the front row feel less alone.  Or . . . 2) Opera-goers are always secretly looking for any excuse to express their hardcore love of arias like they're at a rock concert.

Next time I'll throw up a sign of the horns gesture during some recitative and see who throws one back.