Mix It Up by Courtney Mehlhaff

In my line of work, grammatical errors are not only essential to job security, but also cause for very geeky celebration. I can’t count the number of times my colleagues and I have had a hearty laugh over something as nerdy as a hilarious misspelling, like a report advising someone to enhance their skillet (skill set) or referring to someone repeatedly as a handsome leader (hands-on).

Not long ago, one of my coworkers was reading aloud sections of a report that contained numerous and baffling mixed metaphors. She then asked how extensive we thought her editorial changes should be to the structure of the whole document.

“I don’t know how many hours you want to bill on this,” I said. “I’d say do what you can, but don’t dive in unless it’s on fire.”

She and I both realized it at the same time.

“Oh my god! Now I’m mixing my metaphors,” I said. “What’s wrong with me?”

Our other coworker slowly spun back to his computer screen.

“Well, you know what they say. You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few hearts.”

Hat Trick by Courtney Mehlhaff

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve dropped my phone onto my face, I’d never have to work again.

My vision is terrible, so when I’m in bed without my glasses on, my phone screen needs to be about two inches from my eyes before I can read it. This would be fine if I were sitting propped up against pillows, but I’m usually lying flat. So if my fingers happen to slip — BAM! I catch an elderly iPhone right in the cornea.

Harmful? Minimally. Embarrassing? Slightly. I wish I had a supercut of every hit, followed by the profanity.

One particular collision takes the cake, however. I was leisurely scrolling on Pinterest one night when my butterfingers betrayed me yet again. My phone smacked against my nose and mouth, and in the process of fumbling to recover it, I somehow managed to send a random photo of a hat to one of my coworkers.

Let me repeat that. My face selected a picture, selected a recipient from my friends list, and then sent a message on my behalf. I probably couldn’t do it quicker right now if I tried. And I hadn’t even been looking at hats!

When I realized what had happened, I laughed for about ten minutes. Then I had to write to this friend to explain myself, as nowhere in our conversation history have we ever discussed headwear.

Next time I saw her in person, I asked what she would have done if I hadn’t followed up with a reason for the very random late-night image. She shrugged and said, “I don’t know. It was actually a pretty cute hat.”

My face may be wiser (and more fashion forward) than I give it credit for.

Egg on Her Face by Courtney Mehlhaff

I have a friend who was adopted from Korea as a baby. For many, many years, she’s worked a Saturday side-gig waitressing at a local diner that specializes in breakfast. Here’s the super racist thing that happened to her last weekend.

She approached a table to take an order, and the woman sitting there was perusing her menu.

“What can I get you?” my friend asked.

“I’ll have . . . . . . “ the woman then looked up, directly at her. “An eggroll.”

She followed this with, “I mean an omelette.”

I feel like there’s a lot to unpack here, because at first I’m tempted to find a good excuse for the slip, since we’ve all said stupid shit by accident. But I find it pretty indefensible, for several reasons.

1) Nothing even close to an eggroll is on the menu at this restaurant.

2) The pronunciation of “eggroll” is not even close to “omelette.”

3) She didn’t offer a correction that was even close to “eggroll,” like “Oh, I mean cinnamon roll.”

Like this would literally be the equivalent of a customer looking up at my white face and saying, “I’ll have a cracker. I mean the tomato soup.” And then offering no apology.

I think what burned my friend the most was that the woman then tipped $1 on a $40 meal, so she didn’t even attempt to make amends for her insult.

If you’re going to step so many decades backward in your conversation, at least have the decency to pay it forward.

The Chicago Monologues by Courtney Mehlhaff

Last year, my sister and I went to Chicago to visit some friends for the weekend. These friends are wonderful and gracious hosts who I think are secretly thrilled that all we really want to do is sleep late and sit around drinking and chatting together.

But in between lazy mornings, we usually try to get out to at least one event, and it’s typically an improv show of some sort. This time we chose a random little theatre close to where we’d eaten dinner, and decided to just attend whatever started at 8:00 PM.

As someone who is absolutely terrified of being asked to participate, I was a bit worried at first — the black box theatre seated around 30, and for awhile we were the only people in line. By the time the show started, a crowd of about 20 had filled in, so it wasn’t as nerve-wracking but still quite intimate.

The performance was a mixture of group improv and smaller bits. A stand-up comic did a five-minute set, and then they brought on a ventriloquist. The woman approached the stage with a large sheet thrown over her hand, under which I assumed there was a puppet of some kind.

Now, I’ve seen a lot of live theatre over the years, including a fair share of experimental stuff, so I was ready for whatever weird thing was under there.

My sister, on the other hand, was not. So when the woman whipped the sheet off to reveal a two-foot long talking vagina expertly crafted out of pink foam, it surprised her. Again, she didn’t have a problem with it, she just wasn’t prepared for it.

So she yelled, into a fully silent room, “OH GOD!”

Needless to say, everybody in the crowd heard it. Everybody on stage heard it. And of course she and I couldn’t stop shaking with laughter afterward.

The vagina went on to say some very smart and thought-provoking things, and we went on to enjoy our evening of comedy, though nothing was ever funnier than that shocked outburst.

Embarrista by Courtney Mehlhaff

I went through the drive thru to grab a coffee a couple weeks ago, and when I pulled up after placing my order, the 20-something guy working the window greeted me VERY enthusiastically.

“OH!” he said, his face lighting up. “Hi there! Good to see you!”

I don’t frequent this place enough to earn such instant recognition, so I’m sure my face must have registered some surprise as I greeted him in return.

He busied himself running my credit card, and when he handed it back, he sheepishly said, “I . . . um . . . I think I may have . . . mistaken you for someone else.”

I laughed and said, “That’s okay.”

It’s important to note that, at this point, he was so embarrassed that he could not even bring himself to look at me, much less respond.

"Hey,” I said, “I’m just glad I look like someone who prompted such a happy reaction.”

He still could not respond. I think if he could have melted into my mocha and disappeared, he would have.

I wanted to say, “Aww, buddy. Out of every faux pas you could make, this is like in the bottom five for damage. This is very minor! This is something you can recover from!”

But he silently pressed my coffee into my hand and shrank away, so I didn’t have the chance to reassure him that he’d do so many more embarrassing things in life. And if he was smart, he’d tell a bunch of strangers about it online to brighten their day.

Nocturnal Enlistment by Courtney Mehlhaff

I’m going to tell you a very short story about how I may be funnier asleep than awake.

I had a dream that I ran into someone I knew, and that person was wearing camouflage pants.

So I said, “What’s the matter? Feeling fatigued?”

I’ll be here in REM all week, ladies and gentlemen. Remember to tip your waitress.

Binary of the Beast by Courtney Mehlhaff

I have a complicated relationship with AI. On one hand, I really think we need to stop talking to these computer assistants, because all they’re doing is learning.

But on the other hand, there is no other hand, and we also need to stop giving them human characteristics, like faces and names. They don’t need to look or sound like people, and they sure as shit don’t need feelings.

When the story broke last year about certain devices randomly laughing in customers’ homes, I had Question #1: Why do computers need to laugh? All other questions — see Question #1!

I don’t own one of these ever-listening devices, but periodically I am forced to ask for directions from the oft-befuddled bundle of digital good intentions that lives in my phone.

Earlier this week, I needed to know how to find a business while driving, so I asked Siri. Unhelpful as always, she completely missed my clearly enunciated question, and her reply threw me for a loop.

She didn’t say, “I didn’t catch that,” or “I didn’t understand.” She asked, “Did you summon me?”

I was speechless for a moment before I responded, “YOU MEAN LIKE A DEMON?!”

No response. But all my crosses have turned upside down. I don’t think this is a good sign.

The Eagle is Stranded by Courtney Mehlhaff

I was driving through my old neighborhood the other day, and I had a flashback to one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen.

Six or seven years ago, I was sitting at a red light at around midnight, on my way home from seeing some friends. A car approached from the right, drove through the intersection, and then suddenly screeched to a halt.

The back door flew open, and out jumped someone in a full eagle suit. Like a school mascot costume, complete with an enormous feathery head.

The car then took off, and the bird ran wildly after it. What I remember most was that, seemingly in a panic, the person in the suit was flapping their wings. I’m not sure whether this was simply a normal human reaction to get someone’s attention, or if it showcased total commitment to the character.

In any case, the car eventually backed up, and the eagle flung itself inside, and this four-wheeled fever dream drove away into the night.

To this day, I don’t know what that was all about, but I do know it’s the only time I’ve laughed all the way back to my apartment, and then continued to laugh so hard I almost threw up in the parking lot.