Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Driving Slow

Quick disclaimer: I realize that "correct" American usage rules would dictate that that title read "Driving Slowly," but I feel like turning "slow" into an adverb paints a different image in the reader's mind than the one I intend. So there.

Saturday I woke up at the ungodly hour (for a college student on a Saturday) of 7:30 am in order to make my 8:30 am dentist appointment. It was just a bit too early for me, so instead of getting up and into the shower like a good boy, I reset my alarm for 7:45 am and rolled over. I don't know what I was thinking. My appointment was in Riverton, and since I live in Provo, I really should have been getting in the car to leave at 7:45 am in order to make it in plenty of time. But in my sleep-addled state I believed myself Superman and didn't worry about being on time. I eventually got out of bed at 7:50 am and realized the predicament I'd put myself in. Shamefully I admit that when I'm late in the morning I'll sometimes forgo the brushing of teeth, and instead I chew gum until I can get around to it later. I know, I'm disgusting. Unfortunately this wasn't an option since I was going to the dentist. So I showered quickly, brushed my teeth thoroughly (twice) and by the time I ran out to my car it was 8:10 in the am.

Needless to say I drove rather quickly up the interstate. Luckily it was still early enough on a Saturday that there wasn't too much traffic, and I arrived at the office of Dr. B. Charles Push, D.D.S. at 8:40 in the am. The drive, while relatively traffic-less, was kind of stressful for me. See, I don't really like driving too fast. Generally I don't really like driving at all, but I especially hate it when I'm late to something that's pretty important, like a dentist appointment I guess, and I feel pressure to drive more aggressively and quickly than I'm comfortable. Maybe it's the fact that I've been in 4 accidents in the past 4 years, 3 of which totaled the car and none of which was my fault, but I tend to be a fairly cautious driver.

As you're reading this you're probably thinking to yourself, "Sam's such a square. I mean, what 26 year old man doesn't love to drive fast? That's the kind of thing that's written on the Y chromosome, isn't it?" Well, the fact is I haven't taken a science class for several years now, and I barely scraped by with a B in Biology so I can't tell you the answer to the chromosome bit of that question. As for being a square, I guess that I'll have to own up to that one. I mean, I do go faster than the speed limit on a regular basis, and I even got a speeding ticket once. But I'm nothing like my buddy Rob who once, at 6:30 pm on Thursday, got us from my place in Provo to a concert in Salt Lake in some ridiculous amount of time like 35 minutes or so. He definitely was going over 100 mph at one point. It was a thrilling ride, an enjoyable ride even, but in that moment I knew that it was something I'd probably never do were I in the driver's seat, even if my car could do that.

Anyway, The dentist appointment went off without a hitch -- no cavities -- and I got back in my car for the drive home. As I pulled out onto Redwood Road, I started thinking about my earlier drive that had brought me up to Riverton. I really hadn't driven all that fast. I mean, I probably topped out at 85 mph, but even so it had been fairly stressful. So I decided to try something unheard of in today's society. On the drive back to Provo I decided that I was going to obey the speed limit very strictly both on the freeway and surface streets.

I know, you're probably rolling your eyes right now thinking, "So Sam's one of those idiots that's always making me late to things,"  and images like this are being conjured up in your mind:

I'm flattered at your depiction of me as an old man, and apparently yes I am one of those idiots. Or at least I was Saturday morning. But let me tell you, it was one of the most liberating experiences of my life. I'm not even joking. See, I knew what my limit was on the freeway, and I knew that no one else was going to drive as slow as I was, so I was able to set my cruise at 65 mph while in the rightmost lane and away I went. It was wonderful. Where usually while driving the freeway I'm thinking about how I can get around the car in front of me or worrying about the car behind me that's clearly approaching at a rate of travel much faster than my own, I was at peace with myself not worrying about others. I'm always trying to negotiate how fast is too fast and how fast is too slow and how can I strike a good balance without making everyone around me angry. But on Saturday, I just set the cruise, put on a podcast and enjoyed the ride. That's not to say I was completely oblivious to traffic around me, but the thing was I didn't feel any pressure to adjust to the outside conditions of traffic because everyone else was driving faster than me and they all either went around me or matched my speed behind me.

As I reached the construction in Pleasant Grove and I reduced my speed to 55 mph, I realized another thing. Not only was I not having to stress about the traffic around me and how I fit in to the crowd, I also didn't have the stress of knowing that if I were to be pulled over by a cop, they would have every right in the world to write me a ticket because I was inarguably going over the speed limit. My conscience was clear and I could just sit back and allow the sweet sound of Ira Glass' voice to wash over me. It was one of the most enjoyable drives ever.

Now don't get me wrong here. I wasn't driving down the road thinking to myself that I was all superior to the rest of the drivers who were passing me, or anything like, "Those crazy lunatics are going to get us all killed if they don't slow down." Rather I recognize that everyone has to drive however they're comfortable. If, like my buddy Rob, that means screaming down the road as fast as you can, so be it. If it means puttering along like an old grandpa, by all means.

I got back to my apartment in Provo and couldn't believe how wonderfully stress-free I felt. I decided that I was going to drive slow more often. And I kept that resolution right up until the next morning when I was late to church and had to go 40 in a 25 just to get there without being too late.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

On Disney Princess SpaghettiOs and Being a Cheap Food Foodie

Yesterday I posted a status on Facebook about how Disney Princess SpaghettiOs are better than regular type. I think there was a little bit of misunderstanding as to my intentions, so let me explain.

First of all, so that we're all on the same page, here is a picture of the SpaghettiOs in question:

I'm sure that many people read my status and thought that I was trying to be cute or hipster-ironic. You know, because a self-respecting 25/26in20days year old man can't genuinely like princess SpaghettiOs unless it's some kind of a joke, right? I completely understand the confusion here because this kind of ironic humor is an aspect of hipster culture that I readily participate in. I definitely don't consider myself cool enough to be a hipster, but some of my tastes intersect with that world and I'm comfortable with that.

That said, I can unequivocally put to rest the idea that I was trying to be funny; what I said about Disney Princess SpaghettiOs had nothing to do with irony or pop culture or hipster humor at all. Incidentally it also had nothing to do with the cultural subjugation of women, though it would seem that many of my grad school friends have but that one lens through which to see the world and feel the need to point out and rail against anything that gets their uber feminist hackles up. Seriously guys, it gets old.

Anyway, when I said, "Disney Princess spaghetti-ohs [sic] are way better than regular," what I  meant to say was that as a food item and in terms of quality and taste, they are much, much better than the regular O's. Allow me to explain.

See, I see myself as kind of a foodie when it comes to incredibly cheap, packaged, processed and heavily industrialized foods. I know the best frozen burritos, I can whip up a mean pot of boxed mac and cheese, I consider corn dogs and ramen to be basic food groups, and I have a special knowledge of anything "spaghetti-related." Now I put the last item on that list in quotation marks because I realize many people wouldn't consider the spaghetti that I eat to be actual spaghetti. More often than not it's nothing more than noodles with butter on them, but that "nothing more" is fantastically delicious and if you haven't indulged in such a meal since you were a child I'd encourage you to do so. Along with my expansive knowledge of spaghetti comes a thorough understanding of the intricacies of spaghettiOs and other canned spaghettis.

Here is where I have to admit that I'm not a fan of canned spaghetti in general. I love the idea with every fiber of my clothing. I mean, I love spaghetti, so what could be better than easy access and rapidly available-to-eat spaghetti in a can? Well, I'll tell you what could be better, easy access and rapidly available-to-eat spaghetti in a can that is actually edible. I know, I know, I just claimed to be a cheap food foodie, but even I have a hard time downing canned spaghetti. Regular SpaghettiOs are an exception to my anti-canned spaghetti rule, and I usually enjoy them quite a bit, but even with SpaghettiOs the sauce to noodle ratio is too imbalanced on the side of the sauce. So when I get to the last few spoonfuls that are especially saucy I usually find myself enjoying the meal less and less and I end up straining off the sauce with my spoon to make for a more palatable food experience. For a long time this has been a frustration of mine. And that's where the Disney Princess SpaghettiOs come in.

As you can see in the above image, Disney Princess SpaghettiOs mix traditional SpaghettiOs with the Disney Princess ones. Now while I have absolutely no idea what allows for those seemingly random shapes to be considered Disney Princesses, that's not what's important here. What's important, as you can see, is that these shapes have a much tighter pattern which doesn't allow the sauce ready access to the full noodle. The result of which being there is a much better noodle to sauce ratio which allows for a much more enjoyable overall SpaghettiOs experience.

The biggest problem I see with Disney Princess SpaghettiOs is the knowledge that they won't last forever. After a few weeks, maybe months, the Campbell Soup people will get sick of paying Disney's licensing fees, and we'll be left with plain old O's once again. But until that time I will continue buying and consuming Disney Princess SpaghettiOs. I will savor every bite of that canned perfection, never knowing which will be my last.