Stow Your Roll by Courtney Mehlhaff

About a year ago, I went to stay with some friends for the weekend, with the goal of helping them clean out their garage. When they’d moved into their house several months before, two of the stalls had become a catch-all storage facility for any random items that didn’t have an immediate place in their new home, and they were ready to weed through the junk.

A large rented dumpster was sitting on the driveway, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t immensely fun to chuck things into it. Actually, the whole process was fun for me, since I didn’t have to make any command decisions about what to keep and what to ditch — I’d just hold things aloft and wait for the word on whether to set it aside or throw it away.

With three of us intently focused on this project, it was only a few hours’ work. And despite the fact that it had been pouring rain all day, I was pretty impressed that I wasn’t terribly wet or dirty toward the end.

Then my friend asked if I could help him move an old carpet roll that had been sitting outside.

“Of course!” I said.

To his credit, he did ask, “Are you sure?”

Yes, I was confident I could aid him in this task. He took one end, and I took the other. It was heavy and very soggy, but doable.

What I didn’t consider was that, as we attempted to hoist it over the edge of the dumpster, he would naturally be much stronger than me. So his end of the roll would be raised much higher and quicker than mine. And all the rain that had slowly soaked into the carpet and collected in the middle would rush down the tube and drench me, like the coldest, filthiest waterfall imaginable.

As I stood there dripping dirty muck, I couldn’t find any words. I just made a shocked, sort of horrified high-pitched noise, like “EEEEEEEH!” Then I walked directly inside and threw myself into a steaming shower.

It was sheer hubris that left me sopping in muddy rainwater after what had been such a successful day. Oh, and the power of physics, which is very, very real.

Ab Fab by Courtney Mehlhaff

Last weekend, my cousin visited me with his two delightful children. When his talkative and hilarious six-year-old son wanted to explore the storage closet in the corner of my living room, I said, “Go right ahead, but there’s nothing too exciting in there.”

I walked over to find him staring at a shelf holding two five-pound hand weights.

“I lift weights sometimes,” he said.

“Oh yeah?” I replied, knowing that his parents are quite active and health conscious. “You work out?”

The kid then sat on my couch and leaned back proudly. “I have . . . one ab.”

I tried my best not to double over laughing.

“I almost have two,” he continued.

Moments later, he asked if he could try my rowing machine, which also happened to be in my living room in an attempt to combat winter laziness. His mom coached him through the motions, and then informed him he only had a minute left.

“Noooo!” he shouted. “I need more abs!”

His little sister echoed this refrain when she got on the machine moments later, and when they finished, they checked the display. Together, they had rowed 37 meters.

“We got 37 abs!” they yelled, triumphant.

Never did I think I’d be so entertained by the youthful pursuit of exercise excellence.

Humor Me by Courtney Mehlhaff

My sister and her husband are both very funny, and they crack each other up constantly, even unintentionally.

Her husband once launched into a story that he was very excited to relate and thought was absolutely hilarious. She wasn’t finding it particularly amusing, but she was enjoying his animated telling of it immensely.

After a few minutes of this entertainment, she interrupted him with a simple question.

“How much did it cost?”

His story had nothing to do with money, so he stopped short, confused. “How much did what cost?”

“Clown school,” she deadpanned.

This caught him by such surprise that he immediately burst out laughing and couldn’t stop.

In their house, the saying is true. Everyone’s a comedian.

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.