Getting Spooky in the Suburbs

Growing up in the middle of nowhere, you have the occasional eerie experience. With the absence of humans and a lot of overgrown nature, it gets very dark, and very quiet. Howling, rustling, crickets and the occasional train compose a nightly soundtrack. Probably not a coincidence that both Pet Sematery 2 and The Walking Dead were filmed in our little country town south of Atlanta. So, it comes as a bit of a surprise that a moment in our suburban back yard last year gave me the worst case of the willies I’ve ever had.

To set the stage, I have to backtrack a bit first. On September 16th of 2018, we had to put down Artimus, who was a dear cat friend and a true legend. Because I grew up in the aforementioned boonies, the only way I know to handle the aftermath of this situation is to dig a hole in the back yard. I wrapped the little guy up, covered gently, and let the girls put flowers on top. For good measure, I found a large rock to mark the spot. Then I had a few too many beers because it was still 90 degrees outside in September and the only other dude in our household was gone.

His resting spot was up on the hill behind our house, along one of the main paths. Going up to the shed in the weeks that followed, I would usually stop and pay respects. We got a new cat (although he was frequently called Artimus), and life progressed.

Fast forward to the night before Halloween. Those of you that know me are well aware that I have an impressive costume collection. I was on the hunt for accessories to fit with our Jurrassic Park-themed family ensemble, so off to the shed I went with flashlight in hand…but something was different.

ARTIMUS WAS GONE. No doubt about it, either, because the stone was moved. Nothing left but an empty hole in the clay. Walking back into the house (after acquiring the perfect matching handkerchief), Allison could see the disturbance in my wide-eyes. Out of little girl earshot, I told Allison what I saw. “What do you mean he’s gone!? How is that even possible!?” Needless to say, I didn’t sleep super well that night.

I awoke with a million questions. First, we blamed the dog. Lucy is admittedly still bitter about us having kids and all. She fought with Artimus on occasion, but it seemed more playful than anything. Hard to believe she would stoop to that level. Plus, it would require physical exertion, which her tubby butt is wholeheartedly against. That was the sum of our suspects.

Being Halloween and all, we donned our costumes for the neighborhood celebration. We really do it up right, with a parade, occasional adult refreshment stations, and a strategically circular route. A handful of us adjourned back to Chapman HQ for some pizza and more breathable attire. It wasn’t until Joe and I were hanging out on the back porch that we heard suspect(s) number two: coyotes. 

One isn’t used to hearing a lively pack howling on a Wednesday night in the middle of suburbia. With the lack of a physical barrier between us, my skin start to crawl as I started piecing the mental puzzle together. The local stories and footage that started to pop up in the community in the hours that followed certainly did not help.

After considering all of the facts at hand, there is only one explanation for the vacant tomb. As far as I’m concerned, Artimus was Kitty Jesus. He died for the innumerable sins of his kind, rolled away the stone, cast away his robes, and sitteth up there chilling.

The Winner's Guide to Hiring Winners

I have never been a fan of the typical interview process. Too many unknowns and ample space for unauthentic fluff. Asking someone to “talk about a time where you exemplified ___________” makes it awkward for both parties and leaves much up to interpretation. Who knows, maybe that complete stranger is taking liberties with a particularly challenging episode of Man vs. Wild.

You need to find out what people are made of and do so in a very limited amount of time. That's why I've come up with Chappy's tips for hiring surefire winners. Squad up and prepare for world domination.

Image by Tumisu via Pixabay

Image by Tumisu via Pixabay

Pastry Time

Put a piping hot Toaster Strudel in front of them, slide over an icing packet, and give them 60 seconds to do their best. This works on several levels:

  • For creative types, that flaky crust is literally your blank, sugary, canvas with only essential tools. As Tim Gunn would say: “Make it work”
  • You want a great salesperson? Have them explain their approach and why this is the best toaster strudel ever. If you can close the deal on an amateurly-iced frozen pastry, then you are going to achieve greatness.
  • If they instead give you a commentary on healthy, well-rounded breakfasts, tell them we live in America, and we can eat sugar on top of gluten on top of sugar anytime we want.

Herd the Cats

Schedule the interview for 11:00am. Exchange pleasantries, throw a few softballs, then…have them get everyone on their prospective team to AGREE ON LUNCH and make it there BEFORE THE NOON RUSH (because otherwise there’s a flipping wait). I’ve seen very respectable people crumble under this pressure with people they’ve known for a while. 

  • If you can navigate everyone’s dietary restrictions and come to an amicable consensus, kudos.
  • To succeed, you’ll probably have to literally push people out the door. I have personally done this and would appreciate someone who cares this much about respecting the lunch.
  • Is there a better way to exemplify true leadership? If you can’t get your team on time to a simple meal, then good luck in motivating them for a project that isn’t delicious.

Last but not least…

Bust out the Tunes

Play the “get to know you” game for 15 minutes, hand over your Spotify account, and ask them make you a playlist. Provide an example (or a real party you are throwing) if you wish to establish guidelines. If not, that’s cool too. Stand back and watch the sweat drop…

  • We are going to co-habitate many hours every week, so understand how to reign in your fringe tastes for a bit without going full-on top 40.
  • This is actually a heaping pile of pressure. I am no professional DJ, but have very much felt the glaring judgment of a wedding party who isn’t keen on your latest selection. Sorry again, Joe’s Grandma, for MIA’s “Paper Planes” at the Henson nuptials. It was totally hot that summer.
  • Lil’ Jon did quite well in two different seasons of the Celebrity Apprentice, for whatever that is worth. And we all know his beats are off the chain.

Onward and upward, you titans of industry.