Sandy and the Dangling Crane

We create our own disasters sometimes. Whose bright idea was it to leave a crane erected like the gallows over NYC yesterday, for instance? Did they not get the memo about the worst storm of the century bearing down?

I admit I did little myself to prepare for superstorm Sandy. Murphy’s Law might thus have sealed my fate — sparing those who were ready and doing in those who were not — but instead I snugly checked into a king room at the Embassy Suites after my shift, on the company’s dime, and kinda kept working, watching the horrific drama play out on an HD TV. Make that TWO HD TVs, one per room. Drat. I couldn’t quite watch from the bathtub.

“Crane expert” from “Goose Creek”?  I had assumed he was an ornithologist.

I deserved that bath, though, because I managed to turn what was little more than a heavy rainstorm in metro D.C. into an unforeseen (and untold, ’til now) disaster all my own.

Friend and colleague Sharyn checks out the damage to our headquarters.

If you saw my blog yesterday, you’d know that a giant “A” descended from the heavens at US TOD Y headquarters. As an investigative copy editor, I made it my mission to trace the source. I’d already examined two intact USA TODAY signs on the building and three GANNETT signs. I figured there was one I couldn’t see from indoors, so after my shift I meandered onto the median strip between the building and the Dulles Access Toll Road.

Turns out that at that time, about 8:15, our region was being hit the hardest, with gale-force winds and buckets of rain. I nearly fell down or was picked up, unsure which, and as I breached the treeline, I was startled by a CRRRAACCKKKK and blinding flash of light. I figured I’d met my doom. Still, I managed this photo:

Another “A” accounted for.

I also completely peed my pants.

One of these letters is not like the others. Can you tell which one?

By the time I made it to the hotel, drenched to the bone and smelling vaguely of urine, I figured I deserved that bath. Because I’d learned from the security guard upon exiting work that my mad search was for naught: The “A” on the ground was but a protective sheath of the letter on the building that had blown off.

My initial photo clearly shows the “A” in “USA” is receded. No great mystery. The “D” sheath also fell, about two hours afterward. A dropped “AD.” Happens all the time in the newspaper biz.

I’ve doffed my own protective journalistic sheath as I remain glued to the sad news elsewhere. My warmest, driest thoughts go out to those truly suffering in this storm — people who didn’t create their own suffering.

And, with my free oatmeal, grapefruit and piping coffee, I’ll have a side of rainwater as I watch the hotel’s atrium leak  — safe from any further embarrassing leaks.

Then … it’s back to the office and being on the lookout for dangling modifiers, not building scraps.

The leaky atrium at the Embassy Suites Tysons Corner in Northern Virginia.


Big news at USA TODAY: Sandy swiped our ‘A’

ImageAt about 3:52 p.m. ET, we in the newsroom heard a loud crash, and ran to the window. That’s the dropped ‘A’ there, in the flower bed below. Collective “gsp.”

It appears we could be reduced to: US TODAY. Or USA TOD Y. Not sure which.

Below, buildings crew worker Carlos recovers the ‘A’ from the 2nd-floor balcony garden. He tells me: “Miss, it is not safe to be out here right now.” Yes, but I am COVERING THE STORY. Maybe only a copy editor could understand.

Photo and 2012 copyright by Terry Byrne, USA TODAY

Update at 4:45 p.m. ET: Thinking now it must be the “A” in GANNETT. All the As in USA TODAY are accounted for. I even went to the rooftop to photograph the second photo, and it’s pretty gusty up there, which makes me pretty GUTSY.

All right. The puzzle deepens. I have photographed three sides of our headquarters. All three GANNETTs look fine. What we need is a traffic helicopter, or maybe some iReports from citizen journalists on the toll road to find the missing vowel.

A ‘Sandy’ foot in my mouth

I used to groom myself this way when I was young. Disgusting, I know, but what I’d give to have that flexibility back.

So maybe I spoke too soon there (in my previous post) sneering at the severity of “Frankenstorm” and my neighbors’ panic in hoarding survival kits and caboodle.

As the alerts intensity, my skepticism dissipates. And now, gah, there’s no water or “D” batteries to be had anywhere within 50 miles of my home.

Lucky for you, my power will soon go out, and you won’t have to read any more of my reckless posts. I’ll be reduced to eating peanut butter, wilted lettuce … what else do we have here? Oh, nuts.

Hunker down, everyone, and stay safe.

Below, a snapshot of my TV, tuned relentlessly to The Weather Channel … the last thing I’ll see when the power goes out.

For those of you who no longer read the paper (a once-a-day updating of the news, like taking your vitamins).

On fear of ‘Frankenstorm’ and water pressure

Draining supply of water at my local Safeway. By Sunday, no bottled water or “D” batteries could be found anywhere in town.

Someone ‘splain me this: Why the mad rush on water in advance of the monster hurricane, cleverly dubbed “Frankenstorm,” which promises water, water everywhere?*

The toilet paper I can understand. It is, after all, days before Halloween and its companion Mischief Night — lots of TP’ing and mummifying ahead.

The water I don’t get.

At first I thought people were confused by the National Weather Center’s official moniker for the beast: “Sandy.” Is it a sandstorm?

(Aside: Has NOAA ever named a hurricane Noah? Might set off even more panic, even induce ark-building.)

I asked someone in line at my Safeway just now, who had her cart loaded down with jugs and bottles: Isn’t it more likely we’ll just lose power … not sewage services? Our taps should still work. Right? She shrugged.

She may have been on auto-pilot, as so many Snowmageddon survivors are.

The way I see it:  The only thing you should really be stocking up on right now is candy. Either Halloween goes off as scheduled, and you’re prepared and won’t get your house TP’ed, or you can’t cook and will still have plenty of survival calories on hand.

Otherwise, my short list for Frankenstorm preparation:

1. Flashlights/batteries

2. Candles/matches

3. Board games, for if you get bored.

4. Condoms, for if you don’t. (See No. 2)

I just can’t fathom the water thing. Unless hydropower is further along than I thought and people are practicing the dam thing at home.

(*Note: I mean no disrespect to serious victims of hurricanes in places where disaster truly strikes, such as my beloved New Orleans, tsunami-stricken Japan, the Caribbean, where people have already lost their lives from this beastly storm. But this is Northern Virginia. That’s all I’m sayin’. Yeah, famous last words.)

‘Women and children first’ is so 1912

A nice guy holds the door for me at work … for the sake of the picture. This generation is big into taking pictures.

A stunning event at work today: Outside the elevator, a young man stepped aside and motioned for me to go first.

I could scarcely move. I strained to recall the last time I’d witnessed an under-28-something cisgender male behave thusly.

Since our media megalopolis declared itself “digital first,” bands of coding whipper-snappers who run laps with laptops tucked into the crook of their arms somehow decoded that guiding principle as: They get to go first.

I’d grown used to yielding to packs of geeks in every corridor. They depress me because they utter things like: “Print is dead” (no lie, I heard this in the elevator yesterday from a pair of them, and they were chortling about it). I’ve come to expect that sort of thing from them.

But this? Deference to me, a vestige of the green-visor age? Totally out of character.

Simply put: Chivalry is dead to this generation.

The flip side: Do women even want this kind of treatment?

How many of you have had a door held open by an older gentleman … except the door proves 30 yards away and you feel obligated to scamper in heels, heart-racing, everything jostling, while he holds, watches, just to accept his lame help despite being perfectly capable and strong enough to open a freaking door, for goodness sake … then wonder whether your frazzled display was how he regularly gets his jollies?

Happens to me a lot.

Some women take offense to door-holdings and after-yous. What about that double-door set-up at malls and office buildings? You murmur, “Thank you” once … then a beat later, “Thank you, again” giggle-giggle, gaze at floor.

Or, you take turns: I’ll hold once for you, you hold once for me.

It’s not just older men doing this for hot young women, it’s women doing this for men, women doing it for women … unsure I’ve ever seen men-on-men door-holding. Come to think of it, what IS the proper distance to hold a door for someone? Is it when they’re 10 feet away? 15? I hate making them run. Why run? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of easing things for the other person? Here, I’ll hold the door and spare you the 2-pound pull, if you’ll just run sprint drills for my amusement.

Are these spaces sponsored by businesses, like highway cleanup signs? Is it just another form of cheap advertising? So many things in modern life confuse me.

One thing that does shock me in this day and age are parking spaces reserved for “expectant mothers” or those with young children. Shocks me because NO ONE EVER USES THEM.

They remind me of those vintage “Baby on Board” rear window suction signs announcing the presence of an innocent in tow, ss if someone would ram the rear-end of your vehicle so long as no one under 5 were inside. After the wreck, the driver whimpers, “B-b-b-but I had a yellow diamond sign on there, din’tcha see? You were supposed to steer clear of me!”

Here in Northern Virginia, almost everyone violates traditional handicapped spots, despite hefty fines attached. Entire crime rings get built around fake handicapped placards you can pull out of your glove box to hang from your rear-view mirror when convenient. Yet I never see anyone violating these “expectant mother” spaces … let alone using them.

Would an actual pregnant woman feel obligated to prove she’s pregnant, especially if she weren’t showing, if she parked there … is that why they don’t bother? I wonder about fat women. Could they get away with parking there, in a pinch? Who would dare challenge a fattie or even someone post-menopausal? Beware the hot flashes.

I watched this prime piece of real estate at Pan Am Shopping Center in Fairfax, Va., for about two hours one day. No one ever parked there. Does the mere having to read a sign scare people off?

Maybe no one violates these spaces because they circumscribe law.  Where would be the fun in crossing a blurred line?

Or maybe … just maybe … these spaces indicate a resurgence in societal values regarding “women and children first,” hearkening back to the noble men on the Titanic who gave their lives so that the delicate innocents might flourish.

Anyway. I just wanted to thank that elevator guy. It was nice.

When did Halloween get so sexy?

That’s me, in the off-season. Yes, the photo has been altered — my mom added some orange background.

Doncha just love his name tag? As if no one would recognize him otherwise.

Less than a week until my favorite holiday. This marks my first Halloween ever that I don’t need a costume.

People who really know me say: “You NEVER need a costume.” Ha-ha, funny, people.

I know what they MEAN is: I am sorta a Halloween freak. And by that they mean: It also happens to be my birthday.

You may now get it out of your system. I’ve heard them all:

“Are you gonna go in your birthday suit?”

“You can take that mask off now.”

“Are you a good witch or a bad witch?”

And those aren’t even the good ones.

Before you think this post is some cheap way to broadcast to the world THERE ARE ONLY SEVEN SHOPPING DAYS LEFT UNTIL MY BIRTHDAY, let me tell you:

I read something fearsome in “the USA TODAY” today (actually, last night, because that’s where I work, so I get the first look) about how Halloween has been co-opted by adults.

Poor Max suffers through a dry run of his get-up. Will he find the will to get up and go?

Well. Sometimes we miss the scoop. It has always been for adults, silly. Do you think babies are begging to be outfitted in scratchy mesh ladybug suits? Don’t you ever wonder why every house on the street runs out of king-size Kit-Kats before the sun sets? Do not even talk to me about costumed pet parades.

This year, though, will be unlike any other. I typically make it a policy to never work a birthday in my life … but due to a schedule snafu, I. must. work. On my birthday. On Halloween, with all the other working stiffs aka zombies aka robots aka fairies. Scary.

I thought about dressing up at the office, but no one is likely to notice, because, as I browse the latest female adult costumes, I notice they’re not so different from my typical work clothes. For instance, there’s …

“Sexy Medical Marijuana Nurse” (topical) …

and “Sultry SWAT Team Member” (make it SEAL Team 6 and it’s a hit) …

And can’t ignore “Sexy Skunk,” with front and rear views. It unzips.

What perv thought these up, anyway? Doubtless every little girl dreams of being a sexy skunk. Wouldn’t be caught dead in one of these.

Ah, idea: roadkill.

Fill in the blank — you can find a “sexy” anything costume online. Pretty much all the same costume, stripper stockings and the barest hint of fabric.

I understand the point is to scare people, and no doubt my public would be frightened to see me in one of these, but I pine for an old-fashioned holiday. Give me some gore. Or at least actual cleverness.

The past month on Facebook, I have tried, like a Mardi Gras float captain, to toss out ideas for you people to ensure that my virtual holiday is grand, even if I must sit on the sidelines. Here is a quick summary, to get your wheels spinning.

Merge man’s two best friends:

Subject your baby to being stopped for lots more Instagram clicks:

Be sure to use spirit gum, unless you want your face to truly unzip:

Face- and body-painting is always a great fallback:

This is daughter Cassy and her handiwork. Cassy’s on the left. 🙂

Another view of our fiercely beautiful girl.

Stark contrast, good vs. evil?

Riff off your favorite horror-flick chicks:

From left, “The Birds,” “The Bride of Frankenstein” and “Carrie.”

Or your favorite commercial mascot:

Creepiest pitchman of all time, the Burger “Peeping Tom” King

This one is pretty easy, just a few bruises, Band-Aids and hair product. Be sure not to shave!

Use balloons in creative ways:

Couples/groups can explore before-and-after takes on celebrities, like black vs. white Michael Jackson, good vs. bad Sandy from “Grease” (Olivia Newton-John), on- and off-the-wagon Lindsay Lohan, Charlie Sheen, fill-in-the-blank, or Fat vs. Army vs. Greaser Elvis:

Can’t argue he’s pretty scary, on so many levels.

Wheelchair-accessible wows:

Get super-creative, for the vertically challenged:

Or accentuate your best features (your outsized ego):

I won’t rule out the requisite pet torture:

And check out this mind-boggling array of punny costumes, compiled by The Huffington Post.

I am counting on all (two) of you who read this blog to provide me with horrible glimpses of the fun I missed next week. E-mail photos to: I will follow up with a blog celebrating my fright and crowning someone VIRTUALLY GHASTLY or SICK or whatever pertains.

And when people ask me what I’ll be for Halloween, I’ll just give my standard answer: 39.

Why do we wave? Is it about surrender?

“Adorable mouse waving” is the file name for this jpeg I found on the Infiniternet. Does this mean lab mice are BECOMING MORE HUMAN?

Waving “hello” or “goodbye” might seem a natural, friendly thing to do to attract notice. But what are the origins of this distinctly human gesture?

Desmond Morris, the brilliant anthropologist and author of The Naked Ape, notes in his 1979 book Gestures that a wave can be a beckoning signal and that it differs by region and manner (number of fingers used, position of the hand, direction of the palm, etc.). A “palm-show” wave is the most common used worldwide, but in Italian-speaking regions a “palm-hide” wave is de rigeur and often confused as a “C’mere” signal.

Anyone who has lost track of one’s parent or spouse in a crowd or parking lot can attest to the beckoning wave — how embarrassing when they’re waving like a banshee* not seeing that you already see them, jeez!!!!

It occurred to me recently, though, that a wave, like a kiss, might be interpreted as a cue that you intend no harm to the other person. Like “hands up” or a “put your hands where I can see them” sign — a promise you won’t attack, just a friendly, non-aggressive gesture.

That thought made me sad, considering that the default would mean we are all naturally out to get each other, that we must signal peaceful intent  before judging someone or being judged suspicious. It made me wonder whether there could have been a different outcome if Trayvon Martin had waved to George Zimmerman, or vice versa.

It also made me think of my daughter, a rape survivor, who these days is more aware of male strangers who approach, like the creepy guy on the bus who seemed to be stalking her and then waved, like a come-hither beckoning that felt like a potential attack.

A kiss, meanwhile, is among the most defenseless postures we can take — the teeth are not bared, there’s no chance we’ll try to consume the person, our eyes are closed, etc. The reason it feels good, I suppose, has to do with the sensitivity of the lips, the intimacy of proximity, as well as the psychology of it  — that blissful feeling of surrender, of trusting another human being, defenses down.

I pray my daughter can feel that way, not preyed upon. Someday. Soon.

“Two Wrestlers” by Cesare Francazano

The “kiss” of betrayal by Judas of Jesus mentioned in the Bible referred to a physical embrace — it wasn’t as if Jesus and Judas were making out. Back in those days a “kiss” was a “hug,” a defenseless posture to show you wouldn’t strike or kill someone. (Combative wrestlers often seem to be hugging, but somebody’s always likely to get hurt!)

Bruno Mars in Times Square, minus his mouse suit.

You don’t need me to tell you that Saturday Night Live has sucked lately. But on last week’s show, if you stuck with it, there was a redeeming bit, a short film called “Sad Mouse” starring Bruno Mars in which he took a job as a Times Square panhandling-style mouse in a Disney-esque mascot suit and was told to wave to strangers.

Filled with anxiety, he asked: “What if they don’t wave back?!” Sure enough, given it was New York and all, he suffered serious rejection throughout most of the tender-hearted, bizarre scene.

It got me thinking. About how I want to hug my daughter today, though she’s 700 miles away. About a dear friend of mine who offers frequent, quick, shy waves as a sweet expression of his love. About how the time I last saw another friend two years ago, as he lay in a hospital bed, he dismissed me with a wave, meaning “no worries,” before entering a coma and dying. About how a stadium of people can become synchronized in a mega-“wave” (OK, different geophysical origins) of support for their flailing team and move mountains, or at least a lot of hot air. About the hopefulness inherent in a wave.

And how sometimes we wave off the waving people — like in Times Square — as crazy when they might merely be trying to connect … or, for once, be noticed.


(*To all haters: I’m well aware a “banshee” is more audible than visual, but I liked the image and the way it sounded.)

Lance Armstrong’s slap on the wristbands

I’m holding out for a hero.

What makes me hurl about Lance Armstrong’s downfall isn’t so much his marathon hypocrisy, or even the generations of wristbands bearing false witness to nobility.It’s that few are talking about the runners-up, the also-rans, those possibly squeaky-clean cyclists in his wake who were cheated of glory. As Armstrong gets stripped of his trophies and titles, shouldn’t we be adorning someone else with his sloppy-second laurels?

You argue: They were all probably doping to get where they got. It was a culture of cheating. Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France, vows to blot out not just Armstrong’s record but the entire field of competition by negating seven years of  championship races from 1999-2005. Like it never happened.

This seems a classic sweep-it-under-the-rug response. Can’t we try a little harder to boost my spirits and prove performance-boosting doesn’t run so rampant? Bloomberg has reported, indeed, that of the handful of cyclists who stand to inherit Armstrong’s tainted spots in history, three of them drip in doping scandals of their own.

I wanted to believe Lance Armstrong was superhuman. We all did. I mean, just look at him.

We thought Lance Armstrong — an anti-hero despite the superhero name — knew no bounds. Rather, he knew no rules. And oh, snap! What about all those souls inspired to wear his Livestrong wristbands; maybe their good works can cancel out his bad.

But I need a hero. And not just a woe-is-me whistle-blower like Armstrong’s U.S. Postal Service teammate Dave Zabriskie, whose testimony propelled the International Cycling Union (UCI) into doing the right thing. Yeah, OK, pat on the head, nice to see the conscience-raising.

A rhinoceros beetle grub. I’m told these mealy things make fine meals for the pygmies in the Congo — that children will stand around a tree waiting for someone to burst it open like a piñata, so they can collect handfuls and take them home to be cooked.

C’mon, sports is about being in awe. I want some AWE-SOME now. Let’s dig deep and elevate a story about some lone cyclist who had to wrist-band his bike together as a poor kid in the Congo and subsist on rhinoceros beetle grubs, who fell down a lot, maybe lost a limb, but got back up. I don’t know. You tell me. I know nothing about cycling. I know little about sports, as you can probably infer.

But this doping debacle has suddenly gotten personal. It’s the U.S. team, and that’s us. And it’s getting to be where there’s a hall of shame in every sport. Baseball’s Barry Bonds-men. My New Orleans (non-)Saints. I’ve even read (Googled, just now) charges about  basketball games being thrown — for money! (yeah, this happens in soccer all the time, but the NBA?)

Not to sound naive. But why does competition lately seem to bring out the worst in us? Including politics, which has been reduced to keeping score and gaming the system. Is there no end to the lengths we’ll go to win, win, WIN?

It’s no wonder I prefer art over athletics. There’s no disputing its awesomeness, even when there are tricks at play.

So, until someone can show me an honest, high-achieving athlete, this guy, below, gets my vote for greatest cyclist EVER, for elevating athleticism to an art form. Give Danny Macaskill some of that Lance Armstrong money for his mad skills.

‘Needless to say’ … but I’ll say it, anyway

You can fill in your speech bubble with your own communication crutches.

People tell me I’m a good listener.

At least, that’s what I hear.

Been noticing many of us have pet phrases punctuating our speech, like a vocal signature. Some are assaults on the ears, such as those who pepper narratives with, “Do you know what I mean?”

I am convinced those overusing this phrase are convinced no one else could remotely rise to their level of understanding. To be fair, maybe they’re just super-hungry for feedback. Take pity on them and answer. “You must mean — you’re superior to me.”

Another one I get a lot: “Is that right?”  This countrified tic is not so much a request for proof or sources but a friendly affirmation, like its hipster cousin: “I know, right?” They both say: “I hear you.” As that soulful Seventies expression “Tell it like it is” meant “Your word is gospel.”

Or today’s shorthand: “Word.”

Communication is a two-way street, so a listener’s interjections are vital proof they’re listening. But when your responses are repetitive and knee-jerky, what else might they be saying about you?

I’ve analyzed my own speech and writing for communication crutches and their subtext.

My top tics:

“Needless to say …” I may be giving my listeners the benefit of the doubt here, assuming they already know something (a compliment to their intelligence); or admitting I’m hardly original (self-deprecation); or pussy-footing around what they desperately need to hear (diplomacy).

“At this point …” Leaves open the prerogative to change my mind; says I’m receptive to change.

“Actually” Acknowledges the listener’s skepticism .. or my need to confess. Or maybe it’s a sign I’m lying. Could that actually be?

“Seriously” Means: “The previous material was humor, and copyrighted.” Or reveals a fear that no one ever takes me seriously. Similar to actually, actually.

“One thing …” I love to count, bah-ha-ha!!!! Such a tease, though, as the second thing rarely comes, or gets derailed by the first, which is usually the best.

Other talking tics and what they might say about you*:

(*’Course, I’m no psychologist, but anyone can try this at home)

“Wouldn’t be surprised if … / It wouldn’t surprise me …” You’re jaded.

“Wow.” You’re speechless.

“That’s great …” You’re jealous.

“You’re kidding!” You’re not as incredulous as seeking elaboration or gossip.

“Let’s …” You’re either faux polite or delegating to me.

“Sorry …” If used outside the context of an actual apology — when you mean “Excuse me” or “Sorry I said sorry again, didn’t I?” — you tell the world that you regret your very existence. Smacks of low self-esteem. This used to be one of my tics, until my daughters started beating it out of me (thanks, girls).

“Yeah, yeah, right, right.” Save your breath, I’m way ahead of you. (Alternatively: You have a nagging partner at home.)


Not to make anyone self-conscious. My pseudo-definitions don’t apply to the occasional utterance. I’m talking heavy repetition. Say, if you had a parrot and it picks up on your speech because it’s drilled into its little bird brain, along with your cuss words (like that ad for The Washington Post where the fake parrot voice-over says: “Can’t take this. Not another day,” etc.)

When speech matters most, though — like during a job interview or something — paying attention to what you say could truly pay. Even when seeking the No. 1 job in America.

A ‘look’ at the presidential debates

When Barack Obama came on the scene, I fixated on his “Look …” crutch. He inserted it everywhere, in press briefings, on TV interviews — as if it bought him time to think. And he’s a pretty slow talker to begin with, I know, right?

Look, Ma. I’m on TV! (How do I look?)

“Look” is technically pedantic and means “pay attention,” but to my ears it can make a speaker sound defensive. Like a plea from someone who’s been bullied a lot — subtext is “Gimme a break” or “Whaddya mean?” Playground stuff. Or threatening, like Jimmy Cagney (hear the sneer): “Look, it’s like dis, ya see …”

Lately, during the year-long-plus campaigns, Obama’s “looks” have sounded dismissive, like a vocal shrug, an excuse.

Someone else must have noticed, too. Whoever debate-prepped the president effectively knocked out this word from his lexicon.

In the first debate Oct. 3, he used initial word “Look” only once.

1. OBAMA:  “Look, the genius of America is the free enterprise system and freedom ,,,”

Compared with FOUR TIMES for challenger Mitt Romney.

1. ROMNEY: “… with regards to that tax cut, look, I’m not looking to cut massive taxes …”

2. ROMNEY: “Look, I’ve got five boys. …”

3. ROMNEY: “Look, we have to have regulation on Wall Street. …”

4. ROMNEY: “Look, the right course for America’s government, …”

Remember “Look” magazine? Remember magazines?

In debate No. 2 on Oct. 16, the “looks” were neck and neck, 2-2 (not counting all the times Romney told Obama to look at his pension):

1. OBAMA: “Look, the cost of lowering rates for everybody across the board, 20 percent.”

2. OBAMA: “Look, when we think about immigration, we have to understand there are folks all around the world who still see America as the land of promise.”

1. ROMNEY: “Look, I want to make sure we use our oil, our coal, our gas, our nuclear, our renewables.”

2. ROMNEY: “…Look, there’s no question but the people recognize …”

For all of you out there looking for a drinking-game prompt for these job-seekers’ third and final presidential debate tonight, “look” might not be what you’re looking for. Not if you want to get effectively drunk.

One thing, though: Mom was right.

Thinking before we speak could make the difference between our words ringing hollow and ringing true.