Of side tracks, not-dirty pants, and lip balm

After last night’s epic (and no doubt pulitizer-worthy) post detailing the preferred wardrobe of the technically-inclined individual, I have a confession to make: I got way sidetracked. It happens a lot more than you might think. I’ll sit down at my keyboard, prepared to spit out an insightful 500 words about whatever topic I’ve been contemplating all day, like how facebook has become free therapy, why felines don’t like baths, or how my children break my heart by growing up in tiny ways each day.

You know, because those are all pretty similar themes, right? I may not be consistent, but at least I’m consistently random.

So, anyway, I have a weakness; I can’t just launch full-steam into my topic du jour. For whatever reason, if I want to complain about gel-based toothpaste or explain my dislike of creamed corn in agonizing detail, I usually have to begin with something like my breakfast cereal or the joy of extra-large first grade pencils and then transition into my main point.

See? I just did it again.

The question, then, is what was supposed to come of yesterday’s blue denim-based introduction? Obviously, the answer could only be lip balm.

Wait. Lip balm? Yes. Hold your horses, we’ll get there.

First, another shameful confession: I’m a multi-day pants wearer.

Undoubtedly, many of you wrinkled your noses as you read that, thinking how utterly disgusting it is that I would debase myself by wearing the same pair of pants to work…twice. Never consecutively, of course, lest my secret be noticed. By my coworkers. Who read Puddintopia. D’oh!

I guess that cat’s out of the bag now.

In that case, let’s be completely honest; I write software for a living. I don’t know how many of you have ever seen a software engineer plying his trade, but allow me to offer you quick example of a typical day:

Man, software engineer, enters office and unpacks laptop. He sits. He begins typing in incomprehensible codes. Hours pass. Powerfully caffeinated beverages are consumed. Man stands to use the restroom, consumes food largely lacking any nutritional value, resumes typing incomprehensible code (while sitting). Late in the afternoon when no one is watching, Man checks his MMORPG’s guild forums for player updates (still seated). Man stands, packs his laptop, and leaves.

Ok, so maybe that’s slightly embellished. Still, there’s a lot of truth in all that. In other words, while I’m at work, I sit around. A lot. Frankly, not too much dirty happens while you sit in an office chair. I’m sure the pants can take it.

I said previously, my work-attire changed around the first of the year. It used to be Dockers, but now it’s Levi’s. As a result, my business casual pants have been hanging in the closet, alone and forgotten, for most of the year, except for when I visit customers. And that’s how it came to be that two weeks ago, when I pulled down the navy-colored pair for a quick, one-day road trip, I found that they were second stagers.

I knew because I found my missing tube of Carmex.

For those of you unaware, Carmex is the crack of lip balm. And when I say that I mean it; the stuff is hardcore and habit-forming. A kid usually starts with a gateway balm, an original Chap-Stick first, and then maybe a cherry-flavored before long. Sooner or later, often in the cold, dry months of winter, they take their first hit of Medicate Blistex. After that, it’s a fast ride down a slick spiral.

Countless times I found myself wandering a dark alley at night with a faded, empty, yellow and red tube clenched in my quivering hand, looking for a dude name AR-rex to get me a quick fix. ‘Cause when your lips go all dry and start to chap, they sting and burn, and that’s when you start licking them for a little moisture. But that little bit is just a tease that evaporates in the harsh summer night and they get dryer and more chapped, but you keep licking and licking because you can’t help yourself. Sooner or later, they finally crack and you end up looking like Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Except without the poncho, and nowhere near as cool. But dried out, cactus-like. Eventually everything ends up spinning while you stagger around, begging passers-by for a waxing, medicinal hit.

Hi, my name is Puddin, and I’m a lip balm abuser.

Along the way, though, I got lucky and my tube ended up forgotten in a pair of pants in the closet. Sure, I noticed it was missing, but I was too busy to stop at Walgreen’s for a fix, and one Carmex-clean day led to the next. Somehow, I strung together two days, then three, then four, a week, and then a month. Enough days in a row that I finally managed to break that menthol strangle hold.

Until I found the stash in those pants, a full tube, begging to be used. Come on, Puddin, you’re gettin’ a little chapped there, just take the one hit. You’ll be in control.

But I knew better. I have friends who’ve gotten off it. Some, like me, by good fortune, and others by using a substitute. I hear Burt’s Bee’s can help you out of the hole. But I knew enough to know that if I spun that scarlet cap off the tube, it’d be climbing back in for good. Thank God that cap is red, the color of failure.

It’s sitting on my nightstand still, unopened. But I can’t throw it away. I need it, as a reminder never to let that monkey back on.

Or maybe that’s just what I tell myself.