Parking Lot Road Rage and Adult Bullies

comic-red-angry-car-300pxThis isn’t the post I wanted to write this week, but after the weekend’s events this is the post I needed to write.

Saturday started off like such a normal day.  We had NHL with us (JSL was with B’s parents) and we were doing some shopping for needed supplies.  As we pulled into a parking lot of a local shopping center, someone pulled out of an aisle without stopping and looking and almost hit into us.  We both stopped, we honked, and some choice words may have been said.

We urged him to go on (he was already halfway into the intersection), but he signaled for us to go.  Eventually, we went on our way.

Now, if the story ended here, it wouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary.  Encounters like this happen all the time.  Unfortunately, this is not the end of the story.

As we drove on, the guy pulled behind us. At first, we didn’t think much of it, but then he started pulling up close to our car.  B pulled down an aisle to get away from him, but the guy followed us.  Down the aisle, he got close and attempted to get around us. He couldn’t get to our side due to the aisle width, but he made his intentions to not let us go quite clear.

As we neared the end of the aisle, we began to panic.  B told me to call 911, but I held out hope that we would lose him by going down another aisle.  We rounded a big snow pile and went down another aisle.  Our pursuer followed.

This was it for even me.  I pulled out my phone and called 911.  As I spoke with the operator and gave her our location, we reached the end of an aisle.  A car stopped to let us go and then pulled behind us.  We’re not sure if they knew what was going on or not but this seemed to be key.  As we passed the store we had wanted to go to B rolled down her window in case we needed to yell for help from random shoppers.  We pulled down a few more aisles (while I was still on with 911) and it looked like we lost him.  We pulled into a parking spot and waited for the police to arrive.

The officer was great and took our information.  Unfortunately, in our panicked states, we didn’t think about getting the guy’s license plate number. Our minds were totally devoted to "get away from this crazy guy" and not on "collect evidence to give the police.". The officer noted all the security cameras around the parking lot and said he could check those.

The officer told us that we did the right thing by not stopping and confronting the guy.  In fact, the only thing he recommended that we should have done differently would have been to leave the shopping center and get on a main road.  We explained that we lost him soon after getting on with 911.  Besides, the guy had been trying to cut us off.  This was tricky in a parking lot, but would have been easy on the main road.

We questioned whether it was safe for us to go into the store as we were afraid that he was still lurking in the parking lot and would "take his revenge" on our car.  The officer assured us that we’d likely never see or hear from the guy again.  He said that the guy was probably upset that he didn’t get the last word in and decided to give us a scare.  Mission accomplished, idiot!

Not only were we panicked, but NHL was really on edge.  He wanted to leave and was nervous all through the store.  Thankfully, our car was untouched when we got back to it.

The next day, i had a fight with my father.  I had recounted the take to him the previous night and he called me to update me on their big snowfall.  He also criticized my calling the police, saying that this "escalated" the situation and that he surely has our license plate number and can track us down.  He told me that we don’t know this guy or what he’s capable of.  I replied that the escalation was taken when this guy moved from "nasty words shouted through closed windows" to "chasing through a parking lot."  As for not knowing what the guy is capable of, that’s exactly WHY we called 911.  We were being pursued by some guy we didn’t know.  If he had managed to force us to stop, would he have shouted obscenities at us and left?  Would he have pulled a bat out to smash our car?  Would he have taken a gun out to shoot us?  I needed to be sure that the police were on their way BEFORE we found out what his plans were if we were stopped.  I wound up hanging up on my father as he kept insisting that we should have kept the police out of it.

Yesterday, at work, I told a few coworkers about our weekend parking lot pursuit.  As I told the tale, I could feel a familiar panic rising inside me.  Here I was two days after the incident and the pursuer was out of our lives, but my anxiety over the situation was threatening to overwhelm me.  I distracted myself with work until I felt the anxiety subside.

While we were in the store, post- incident, NHL asked me why someone would do what this guy did.  I answered that we had just encountered the adult version of a schoolyard bully.  I told NHL that he makes himself feel better by getting good grades or doing well in a video game.  In other words, NHL is a normal person who feels pride in accomplishing something important to himself.  This was not the case for the guy who chased us, though.  That guy felt like the only way he could good about himself was to make others feel bad.  He didn’t know any other way to improve his self image than by squashing as many people as possible under him.

Unfortunately, I’ve had a lot of experience with bullies growing up.  Bullies thrive on setting the rules – placing themselves above their victims – and ensuring that their victims fear the bully.  This bully wanted to make sure that we knew that he was above us and that we feared him.  Calling the authorities wasn’t an escalation.  I’m sure the bully would have wanted us to view it as that, though.  Bullies don’t like when their victims get assistance.  However, this wasn’t some schoolyard bully taking a kid’s lunch money.  This was a grown man driving in a reckless manner and possibly threatening violence against me, my wife, and my child.  Contacting the authorities was exactly the right method to stop the bully and to protect us from his pursuit.

The bully did succeed in making us afraid of him, but this fear will be short-lived.  Whether or not he faces legal repercussions for his actions, I refuse to change my behavior (e.g. not going to that shopping center anymore) or live in fear of any bully.  As the anger over being put through this fades, what will remain is pity for an individual who can only find meaning in his life by pushing down and scaring others.

NOTE: The "Comic Red Angry Car" image above is by roland81 and is available from

Not Enough Time

sanglass-300pxA couple of nights ago, as I was getting the boys into bed, JSL began crying uncontrollably. At first, we were worried that he wasn’t feeling well.  When we confirmed that he was feeling fine physically, we asked him why he was crying.  He didn’t quite know at first, but after I asked a bit, I began to get a good sense of his problem: He was sad because there were a lot of things he wanted to do and not nearly enough time to do them.

Boy, can I sympathize.

While JSL is torn between crafting, watching TV, playing video games, and playing with his Imaginext toys, I find myself trying to find time for different pursuits.  During the time that I’m not in my day job, I have freelance work to complete. I also have to make dinner, help clean up, share my favorite geeky TV shows/movies with my boys, watch new shows/movies, craft, write blog posts, spend quality time with my wife, and read. Then there are new activities that I’d love to start like working on a novel (I’ve had a story idea for almost two decades), attending cons, learning how to solder, and traveling.

There just aren’t enough hours in the day to fit everything in. I’d need at least a dozen of me to get everything done. Eleven more TechyDads would get everything done, though our house would be too crowded.

All I can do is do my best. I can focus on what I want to do the most, cut out time wasting activities that I don’t really need to do, and do my best. When JSL was in tears, I told him just this. It helped him to know that he wasn’t alone – that other people (even his father) suffered from this and could help him figure out how to get as much done as possible.

How do you juggle your list of things you’d like to do? What do you do when you find there’s not enough time for all of them?

NOTE: The image above is "sandglass" by jarda and is available from

Is This Is A Midlife Crisis?

RoadSign-midlife-crisis-smallI wrote the following late one night when I was feeling vulnerable. For the most part, I don’t let the opinions of random strangers bother me. If someone I don’t know says that I’m horrible at something, 99 times out of 100 I’ll shrug it off and won’t give their opinion a second thought.

Unfortunately, the night I wrote the post below, my defenses were weakened from various different changes happening. This let the online comment sneak past. Someone (who knew me from only a single post online) had questioned my skill as a web developer and I let this sow doubt as to my skill and my future.

I’m not feeling this doubt at the moment, but didn’t want to just junk the post. After all, I’ve felt this before and will likely feel this again at some point. Here’s a glimpse into how I felt when the world seemed to be crumbling around me.

When men reach a certain age, they tend to go through a phenomenon known as a midlife crisis. The stereotypical midlife crisis involves a man buying an expensive and highly impractical sports car (usually red) and having an affair with a woman half his age.

Of course, I’m nothing like a stereotypical man. Sports cars strike me as highly impractical and a waste of money. As for affairs, saying I have zero interest in one somehow doesn’t encapsulate how repulsive the idea sounds to me. I’d never do something that would hurt my wife and kids like that.

I’ve always pictured that my midlife crisis would involve some tech purchase. Something that I might not need, but whose cool factor would be too good to pass up. Maybe a drone that takes HD videos or a home automation system.

Recently, though, I’ve been feeling off. Elements in my life seem to be changing and I don’t deal with change well. I said this before in my friendship post, but now I’m wondering if this goes beyond not having any friends. I’m second guessing my career, my place in the web development community, who my online tribe is, everything.

I tend to like anchors in my life. I like to have a plan for meals during the day. It helps me cope with the chaos that the rest of the day presents. If I’m at a party, having one person I know that I can stick near aids me in dealing with the loud noise and dozens of conversations surrounding me that threaten to overwhelm me.

I feel like bits of the world around me are falling away – pieces that I’ve used to define myself. All of this is feeding my self-doubt and Imposter Syndrome. It’s making me question other pieces of myself.

There are times when I feel like I don’t know who I am anymore. I feel like the TechyDad of a few years ago was not only a completely different person, but that I don’t even know who the person I am now IS.

And there you have it. Like I said above, I’m not feeling this way at the moment, but all the seeds of this still remain inside of me. I still feel doubt when evaluating my skills. I still feel like the world is changing rapidly around me and though I’m keeping pace at the moment, I feel like one slip will leave me hopelessly behind. I feel like my anchors – the pieces of my life that I count upon to stay constant in an ever changing world – are less sure than they used to be.

I’m not sure whether this is an oncoming midlife crisis or just my Imposter Syndrome finding new ways to mess with me. Either way, I feel like I have some rough waters ahead to navigate.

NOTE: The image above is based off of Road Sign Border by Arvin61r58 which is available via

The End Of A Couch Era

our_couch_smallLast night, we put our couch on the curb to be taken away.  This might not seem like too huge a step.  People get rid of furniture every day, right?  This couch was the first thing B and I bought together, though.  It has lasted for 16 years.  There were many late nights spent watching TV and movies on the couch.  The boys went from babies being posed on the couch to kids playing on it.  The couch was a central figure in many of our home activities.  Now, as I write this, it is sitting outside in the dark, cool night waiting for the garbage men to haul it away.

Part of me wants to rush out and drag it back in.  To permanently affix it to the floor so that it will never leave us.  We can’t keep it, though.  Over the years, the springs in the couch have broken and fixing it would cost too much.  We lived with it in this manner for many years, but we finally purchased a new couch.  Besides, dragging the couch back in would be too difficult for me to do on my own.

Still, after we put the couch on the curb, we had the boys come out to say goodbye to it in their own way.  I took quite a few photos and videos of them having one last fun time on the couch.  Then, something magical happened.  Google messaged me to let me know that it had created a movie out of my photos/videos.  It was so perfect, I just had to share it.

Farewell, couch.  You might be leaving our lives, but we won’t soon forget you.  Thank you for all the wonderful memories.

18 Things I’d Tell 18 Year Old Me

dear-18-year-old-meRecently, the Bloggess tweeted what she would tell her 18 year old self.  This got me to thinking about what I would tell 18 year old me.  Unfortunately, I had so much to say that I couldn’t fit it in 140 characters.  So I’m putting it into a blog post which will be sent into the past for 18 year old me to read.  Here’s hoping that I don’t cause any time paradoxes! (As you read, you can tweet your favorite sections by clicking on the Twitter icons next to the section headings.)

NOTE: The envelope image above is "Envelope 2" by kuba.  This image is available via  I’ve modified it by adding "Dear 18 Year Old Me" text and "writing lines."

Dear 18 Year Old Me,

Hi.  This is you from the future.  Specifically, from the year 2015.  You might remember that Back To The Future 2 depicted the year 2015.  Well, it got it completely right.  We have hover cars, 3D billboards, and clothes that dry themselves.

I’m kidding.  We don’t have any of that stuff.  Well, except the clothes that dry themselves, but that’s just boring old evaporation.

What we do have, or what I have specifically, is perspective.  You’re young and still trying to figure things out.  I’m older and have many of those perplexing puzzles solved.  Some things I’m still trying to find the answer to.  I’ll let you know if our 70 year old self sends me any information on those.

On to my advice:

It Gets Better twitter

Since you’re 18, you’ve just graduated from high school and are headed into your first year of college.  You’ve just escaped the horror that was high school bullying.  I wanted to tell you that it gets better.  People in college are, on average, much better than high schoolers were.  People in the adult world/workforce are better still.  College will begin an era of your life where you can begin to repair the psychological damage that the years of high school bullying caused.  In the end, those jerks who made your life a living hell in college will fade into bad memories and nothing more.  They can’t hurt you anymore.

There’s A Reason You Are Like You Are twitter

For years, you’ve felt like you’re different.  You’d often fantasize that you were Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation examining those weird human interactions that seem so foreign to you.  It’s very isolating when everyone else seems to "get" socialization but you don’t.  You have blamed this on your high school bullying (see the last point) and will continue to do so for years.  However, eventually you’ll figure out that the reason everyone else seems to have an automatic knowledge of social protocol and you don’t is because you have autism. Your brain operates slightly differently than other people’s brains. This is a good thing when it comes to working with computers (see: The Internet Is Cool later on), but not so good when it comes to reading facial expressions, inferring tone, or knowing just what actions are socially allowed/expected.  Don’t worry, though, you’ll learn how to operate in the neurotypical ("non-autistic") world just fine.  Yes, you’ll have times when you just want to melt down and/or shut yourself off from the world, but you’ll be able to deal with these situations, postponing your melt downs/shut downs until later.

You Will Find Love twitter

At 18, your relationship with the opposite sex is a rocky one.  Right now, you tend to get a crush on someone and get feelings that are so strong towards that person that you don’t know what to do. You doubt your every move. Eventually, the object of your affection starts dating someone and you back off dejected. Seeing all the couples paired off together is physically and emotionally painful for you.  First off, I want to tell you not to overthink yourself.  You try to think up every possible outcome to the point of paralysis.  You feel like you can’t act until your plan is complete but your plans can never be totally complete.  You can never plan for every eventuality.  Secondly, you also pause taking action for fear of your heart being broken.  However, your heart is getting broken by doing nothing.  Better that you try, fail, and learn from the experience, then hang around the starting gate, never moving an inch, and not knowing how to navigate the path ahead.

Eventually, though, you will meet someone. This person will not be like the others. Every action that, for other women, filled you with doubt will feel completely natural. This person will become your best friend, the love of your life, and the mother of your children. So when you’re feeling left out of love, please know that you will find love and won’t be alone forever.

Idealism Is Great But Doesn’t Work In The Real World twitter

At 18, you know just what is right and wrong with the world.  You know that good is good and evil is evil.  People on the opposite end of the political spectrum baffle you because there’s no way someone could possibly believe those views, right?  Compromising in the face of opposition is wrong, you believe, because your views are right and there’s no other way.

In short, you are idealistic.  Now, there’s no problem with idealism.  You should always hold fast to your ideals.  However, in the real world, one needs to remember that not everyone holds the same ideals.  Since we can’t splinter the country (or the world) into a million different factions, we need to compromise.  To function in the real world, you need to see your opponents’ reasoning and find some common ground.  The real world isn’t a place of absolutes – it’s a realm of grey areas where you sometimes need to work with people with views diametrically opposed to yours to find a consensus.

Be Persistent twitter

Right now, you enjoy writing science fiction stories.  You dream of being published like your hero, Isaac Asimov.  You do eventually "get published" in a way (see "The Internet is cool" below), but not from a magazine.  Your one submission gets rejected and you give up.  Don’t give up.  You have a knack for writing so keep at it.  Even more importantly, you enjoy writing so don’t give up just because a magazine rejected you.  This same advice can be applied towards many other aspects of your life.  Keep at what you enjoy even if other people tell you that it’s not worthwhile.

Know When To Listen To Others twitter

As much as it is important to be persistent (see the previous section), being persistent in the face of everyone else telling you not to do something can be needlessly stubborn.  My specific example would be your beard.  At some point in college, you’ll decide that Commander Riker looked good in a beard in Star Trek: The Next Generation so you should grow one too.  All of your friends will tell you that your beard looks horrible.  They will declare that it makes you look way too old.  However, despite their protests but you’ll persist with it for quite awhile.  Don’t.  Shave that sucker off ASAP!  The moustache too.  You just don’t look good in facial hair.

The key is to know just when a person’s advice should be taken.  If an acquaintance tells you that a movie is stupid and you should never watch it again – despite the fact that you enjoy it – ignore them.  If a friend who shares similar interests tells you that they saw a movie that you haven’t seen yet and it was awful, you might be fine skipping it.  It takes time, but you need to know what advice/opinions from what people to take to heart and what advice/opinions from what people to ignore.

The Internet Is Cool twitter

This veers from the "general life advice" of all other sections, but I’m including it because soon your world will expand dramatically.  I’m not talking about college itself.  That will expand your horizons plenty, but I’m referring to The Internet.  Of course, right now I’m sure you’re saying "The Inter-what-now?!!!"  I won’t get too technical (you are a newbie right now, after all), but the Internet is a world-wide network of computers.  You’ll be able to look up information and talk to people from around the world.  Yes, when you’re my age, you’ll regularly chat with people from Australia, Canada, England, Florida, California, etc. as if they lived next door.  (In fact, this letter is being posted on the Internet and will be read by people around the world.)  The Internet is going to shrink the world.  Even cooler, devices called "smartphones" will let you connect to the Internet where ever you are and will let you look up information whenever the mood strikes you.

Remember that "you’ll be published" comment from before?  Well, on the Internet, everyone is a publisher as well as a reader.  You’ll be able to write about whatever you want to write about and put it on the Internet for anyone to read.  (For example, this letter to you, my younger self.)  The downside is that the readers can be quiet so you might, at times, question whether anyone actually likes reading your stuff.  Then again, you wouldn’t get much response if your articles were posted in a magazine and since you’re running your own "Internet magazine," only you can reject your articles.

Relationships Can Be Hard And Complicated But They Are Worth It twitter

Right now, you have an idealized mental picture of a relationship.  You imagine that you begin dating someone, everything goes smoothly until you are married, and then everything goes smoothly for the rest of your life.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this isn’t true.  Relationships take work.  They can be hard.  They can hit rocky patches where it looks like everything is going to shatter into a million pieces.  They can cause you a ton of aggravation.  Still, despite all of this, they are worth it.  The highs of knowing that the person you love loves you back is worth all of the rocky times that occur.

Your Parents Weren’t Always Wrong twitter

At 18, you think that your parents are out-of-touch with reality. They can’t possibly know anything about anything and you know everything about everything.  I’m sorry to tell you this, but you’re wrong.  Yes, your parents were wrong about a lot, but they were right about a lot as well.  Except forcing you to give a half-dozen roses while in your suit and tie to the object of your first crush.  That was wrong.  Your father should have let you stick to your original plan of simply giving her a birthday present.  Then again, even the wrong things your parents did were done out of love.  In the flowers incident, your father honestly thought his actions were increasing your chances with the your first crush.  So please don’t be too hard on them.

Learn From Others’ Mistakes, Learn From Your Mistakes twitter

So we’ve established that your parents did some things wrong, correct?  Learn from this.  Make a mental note of every wrong thing that’s been done (while not holding it against those who made those mistakes) and figure out how you’ll do the right thing.  If you can’t figure out the right thing, sometimes doing a "less wrong thing" is progress.  This doesn’t just apply to others’ mistakes, though.  This applies to your own mistakes.  You’ll make a lot of mistakes.  Some that you’ll regret even two decades later.  All you can do is figure out where you went wrong, what you should have done, and then do that next time.

Don’t Dwell On The Past twitter

You have a bad habit of dwelling on mistakes.  You’ll do the wrong thing and then get stuck on this for days at a time.  Every spare moment is spent reliving this moment over and over as if this time it will turn out differently.  As if, by sheer concentration, you can turn back time and fix your misdeed.  You can’t.  Get over it.  Everyone makes mistakes.  The key is to learn from them (see the previous section) and then move on.  If you wronged someone, make it right as best you can, but dwelling on the past too much can keep you from enjoying your future.

Don’t Worry About Letting Others Down twitter

You love science right now.  That love will never dim.  However, your desire to major in physics is going to backfire big time.  (Spoiler alert: Quantum Mechanics is horribly difficult and will be your downfall.)  As you struggle with the decision to abandon your major and switch to a new one, you’ll feel something that threatens to keep you in your old major: Guilt.  You’ll feel guilty over leaving your old department.  Guilty over letting down your professors.  Guilty that you are leaving their small department with one less student.


There is a time to worry about others, but there is also a time to think about yourself.  When it comes to your future, don’t worry about letting others down, worry about what is best for you.

Have Fun twitter

Right now, you are very focused on doing well in school. That’s not a bad thing. However, remember to carve out time to have fun. Don’t work 24/7 or you’ll burn out. Having fun is very important. So put the schoolwork down, go out with friends, try something new, and have a blast. In twenty years, you won’t remember that you got an A on some random essay for some random class, but you will remember when you were at a party with an oversized foam hand, made a slightly dirty joke (referencing what hand size meant) to a female friend, and made her smile.

You Don’t Have To Go It Alone twitter

You tend to be a very independent person.  You try to tackle any challenge that presents itself all by itself. This does mean that you learn how to conquer things yourself instead of only relying on others, but it can be a lonely path.  When you are shouldering a burden by yourself, the weight can be overwhelming.  It doesn’t need to be though.

You have friends. You have family. Talk to them. Let them know what you are going through. You don’t need to deal with everything by yourself.

Ignore The Voice twitter

There is a voice inside of you right now. It can be faint sometimes, but very loud other times.  This is definitely not a nice voice. It will tell you that you aren’t good enough. It will whisper in your ear that nobody loves you and never will. It will tell you that you are all alone in the world.

Do not listen to the voice.

Listening to the voice can, oddly enough, feel good. There’s some level of comfort that you feel when you curl up in a dark room and let the voice tell you "the truth." This is a false comfort, though. The voice is lying.  The voice thrives on you feeling isolated and alone. It WANTS it to only be you and the voice versus the world. It wants you to think that you need it.  The reality, though, is that the voice needs your isolation, not the other way around. If you seek out friends and family (see: You Don’t Have To Go It Alone), you will get stronger and the voice will get weaker.

You’ll Find Your Tribe / Embrace Your Geekiness twitter

In life, there can be a strong pressure to fit in. If you stand out too much, you might feel like people are negatively judging you. People might shy away from you or your might find yourself with nothing to talk to them about because you don’t have similar interests.

Thanks to the Internet, though, (see: The Internet Is Cool) you will find your tribe. You will find that group of people who share your interests, no matter how obscure. Even without this group, though, don’t be afraid to enjoy what your enjoy. If other people don’t like those things, that’s fine. Maybe they haven’t been exposed to it yet (and would like it if they were) and maybe they just don’t like what you like. Everyone has different tastes. Don’t be afraid to enjoy what your enjoy just because others find that outside of their definition of normal. Remember that, even at 18, we had the motto "Normal is Boring."

You Are Stronger Than You Think twitter

Somewhere in your brain, you will always feel like that bullied high school kid. You will imagine that people are sitting and waiting for you to make a mistake so they can laugh at you over it.  You will feel like life’s challenges are just one straw shy of breaking your back. You will question whether you can accomplish anything or whether you are doomed to fail.

Always remember that you are stronger than you give yourself credit for. You can do more than you think you can. The self doubt will threaten to cave you in (see: "Ignore The Voice"), but push that aside. You have talent and can accomplish anything you put your mind to.

Some Things Won’t Change twitter

In Lewis Carol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass, Alice laments "I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it." So it often goes for you. You will realize where you are going wrong, will give yourself some advice on how to improve, and then will proceed to ignore your advice and keep going down the wrong path. Many of the pieces of advice given above could just as easily apply to me today as it does to you, 18-Year-Old-Me. So, please listen to yourself and take your own good advice.

So that’s my advice to you, 18-Year-Old-Me. I’d include some stock tips as well, but I’ve been told the "Paradox Dampeners would explode causing the entire universe to cease to exist.  That seems to be too big of a risk over a couple of bucks.

There are great things ahead of you. Hopefully, my advice will help you out in your journey.

Good luck in your future (my past),

– You From Twenty Two Years In The Future

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