Saturday, April 27, 2019

Spam Callers: the Middle Child Dilemma

     I am a prime target for spam callers. I see a number I don’t recognize pop up on my phone, and I start to get anxious. “Don’t pick it up,” I tell myself. “It’s spam. You know it’s spam,” I remind me. And I totally know I’m right. It’s probably that cheery lady who scares the shit out of me every time she calls when she says she’s from my credit card company, but then assures me everything is okay however “time is running out to take advantage of these great rates.” Or it’s likely that guy from some mysterious tech company who creepily claims to know “there’s something seriously wrong with your computer.” I hope it’s not the guy who greets me with a “Hi!” so lifelike and with just the right amount of pause built in before he says anything else that I actually say hello back and then feel totally demoralized when I realize I’m conversing with a machine. They’re the worst. Or it could be that woman who keeps calling me from Belarus. I know it’s one of them, or someone else I have absolutely no need to speak with. So I’m not going to take the call. Not gonna do it.
     But then my Middle Child insecurity kicks in. What if it’s not credit card lady, computer dude, that really friendly robot, or my Slavic sweetheart? What if this number I’ve never seen before is someone I actually do know? Maybe they got a new number and the very reason they’re calling me is to let me know that if I see this number, I should know it’s them, and not some spammer. Or maybe it’s someone I used to know. Maybe it’s an old childhood friend who has spent hours upon hours and tracked me down after all these years and desperately wants to reconnect. I’m just going to ignore their call after all the hard work they went through to find me? That’s messed up! How would I feel if someone did that to me? As you might have guessed, pretty terrible. With each ring, the doubt builds and temptation grows until it’s too much for me to resist. And that’s how they get me. Every. Single. Time.
     It’s quite pathetic, but totally understandable. It’s also nothing new. This goes all the way back to when I was a child -- before cell phones were even a thing and were just some crazy idea on “The Jetsons” or “Get Smart.” Back then, I was obsessed about getting mail. I wrote in a previous post about how I was always writing letters to politicians, tourism departments, television networks -- even NASA -- just so I could be assured of receiving a daily dose of postal attention in return. I couldn’t wait to get home from school so I could check the mail. There were even days when I pretended to be sick just so I could be home when the mail arrived. So is it really any wonder that I have a hard time not answering when my phone rings, even though I know there’s no reason to?
     If I’m being totally honest, I actually look forward to those calls. I like engaging my new spam-calling buddies. “Where are you calling from?” I’ll inquire. “What time is it there? How’s the weather? Can you hold on a sec while I finish eating dinner?” If they offer to call back at a more convenient time, I’ll insist it’s no bother while chewing loudly into the phone. One time, my imaginary meal got caught in my throat and I had a raging faux choking attack. That was fun.
     I particularly enjoy flipping the script on my newfound phone friends. After answering questions about everything from how many cars I own to how many TVs are in my house, I asked one curious caller if he would now answer a few questions, then I proceeded to inquire about his TV viewing habits, home ownership, airline preference, and more. He actually was answering my questions, until he got so frustrated he told me -- wait for it -- “I don’t have time for this!” And he hung up on me. I thought that was particularly ironic.
     While most people happily sign up for the “DO NOT CALL” list, I'll pass. Instead, telemarketers will probably place me on their own “DON'T BOTHER CALLING THIS GUY ” registry. But I hope not.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

There Is No Hope, Man

     Middle Children are always looking for recognition. It’s like our birthright. Our raison d'être. Of course, simple name recognition would be a great starting point. But all too often, you hear the all too familiar Mid Kid mantra: “They don’t even remember my name.” Sure, this can happen to anyone, but to a Middle Child it’s particularly debilitating. Just more proof that we don’t matter. More evidence of our invisibility. I cannot count the times when my mother, meaning to call out to me, would first call each of my siblings’ names before arriving at mine. Or what about the teachers at school that repeatedly confuse you with a sibling. It’s not just limited to family. There’s always that deflating feeling when you’re speaking with someone you’ve met before, whose name you remember, but you just know they have no idea what your name is. Even worse, I had a secretary (back when they were called secretaries), that always answered my phone, “Bob Hopman’s office.”
     I have always said Middle Child Syndrome is the gift that keeps on giving. You can be happily going about your day, minding your own business, when suddenly -- and without warning -- it will rear its ugly head. You might innocently stumble upon something from your past that you never before realized adds yet another page, or in this case another post, to your Middle Child story. Like the other day when I was flipping through my college yearbook. It’s been quite a few decades since I
graduated, and in all that time I never noticed this poke in the eye -- but there it was, literally staring
me in the face, right next to my Senior portrait. Bruce S. Hopeman.
     Nope, not me.
     I suppose it could’ve been worse. I mean, they could’ve called me Bob S. Hopeman. I guess I should be grateful? It's just a typo, right? But, still. I know I shouldn't take it personally. Bad proofreading is nothing more than an oversight. But that's the last thing a Middle Child needs more of.
     Like I said, this certainly wasn’t the first time I lost out in the name game. I wrote in a previous post  about not even getting top billing on my own birth announcement. Sure, I was given short shrift, but at least they spelled my name right! One could argue that aside from being born, what had I really done to deserve more than a mere mention anyway. But this is a whole other story. I mean, I worked my ass off in college and graduated summa cum laude, for what --so this Hopeman guy can steal the show? I do all the work and he gets all the glory? What a load of BS. And now I have to wonder -- did they make this same error on my diploma? Did I even legitimately graduate, or did my misnomer get my degree? It’s a hopeless feeling. Or should I say hopless.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Tourism Gets a Case of Middle Child Syndrome

Introducing “The Middle Child Travel Guide.”

The Spring/Summer travel season is here, and millions of eager explorers are ready to schlep their Samsonites to every corner of the globe. (Can globes even have corners?) If Conde Naste Traveler’s list of “The 10 Most Popular Cities of 2018” is any indication, most of these spirited sightseers will hardly be taking the road less traveled. Perennial favorites London, Paris, and New York City are once again among the top tourist targets. Slightly more valiant voyagers will lug luggage to Bangkok, Dubai or maybe Singapore. Oh, sure -- the favorites get all the attention. Every year it’s, “London, London, London!” “Oooh, Paris is so pretty in the spring!!” Meanwhile, dozens of deserving destinations go unnoticed. Cast aside, like Fodor’s forgotten Middle Child.
     Thanks to “The Middle Child Travel Guide,” now these overlooked options will get the attention they desperately deserve. Imagine Smack Dab travel experts all around the world bringing you the scoop on the best of the next best places to visit. Of course, you’ll have to imagine, because no way do I have that kind of budget! Instead, I will travel the internet and compile reports from people who have actually been there. And since even those destinations everyone knows and loves have sights that go unnoticed, I’ll make sure they get a chance to bask in the limelight, too.
     Of course, your input will help make “The Middle Child Travel Guide” even better. If you know of any destinations that are sorely in need of more tourist love, or if you know of sights that don’t get seen enough, let me know and I’ll make sure to include them in a future post. (E-mail me at, or comment below.) For now, we’ll start with a destination in France that’s not Paris. Incroyable!
Lyon: France's Enfant du Milieu
     Middle Children know what it’s like always being compared to a more beloved sibling. So how can France’s third largest city compete with the home to three of the top ten most popular tourist attractions in the world according to TripAdvisor? Well, while the Eiffel Tower casts a looooong shadow, Lyon is no slouch when it comes to memorable monuments. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with more than 160 buildings classified as Historic Monuments, including its very own (and less crowded) Notre Dame -- which according to Anthony Bourdain “is simply a more beautiful church.”
It's All a Facade: those buildings aren't real. It's a mural!
     Paris may have some of the greatest museums in the world, but in Lyon you don’t have to even enter a building to see amazing artwork -- it’s actually on the building. CitéCréation has more than 150 trompe-l’oeil murals on buildings all around town. Paris has none. The Seine is a lovely river, but Lyon has two -- the Rhône and the Saône. That also means Lyon has twice as many Left Banks and Right Banks. But who’s counting?
     Lyon also has their own unique version of a bistro. They’re called bouchons. In all of France there are only about 20 officially certified bouchons -- all in Lyon. And speaking of food, Lyon is the home of the late Paul Bocuse, a.k.a. “The Pope of French Cuisine.” In fact, many call Lyon “The Culinary Capital of France.” It’s certainly worth finding out if they’re right.
     Paris does kick Lyon’s ass when it comes to crowds. It’s one of the most crowded cities in the world. Lyon, on the other hand, is five times smaller than Paris and much less crowded. Oh, and it’s less expensive. Of course, you don’t have to choose between the two. Lyon is under 5 hours from Paris by car, around 2 hours by train, or you can catch a non-stop flight and be there in less than an hour.
     For even more reasons why Lyon deserves your attention, check out these links:

And here’s a link to the Lyon tourism site.

DISCLAIMER: “The Middle Child Travel Guide” isn’t a REAL book. I created that cover,
but the background image is a planner available from Chronicle Books.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Share Your #middlechildmoment!

     It seems Middle Children have a way of letting the world know we’re Middle Children, without saying a word. A former co-worker sent me this dead giveaway, an obvious #middlechildmoment. If the middle swing wasn’t enough of a clue, the wardrobe choice removes any remaining doubt -- no ifs or ands. Just plenty of butt.

      Send your #middlechildmoment to me at, and I'll post it here on the blog, at the Smack Dab page on Facebook, and on Twitter @midkidmusings.

CLICK HERE to see another classic #middlechildmoment