Posts Tagged ‘random’

Tidbits for a Friday

October 8, 2010

One of my favorite terms in the business of financial documentation, where I make my living, is “satisfaction and discharge.” I don’t know what it means exactly but it’s something to do with “indentures,” which are kind of like dentures except not at all. If it were the other way around — “discharge and satisfaction” — I’d know exactly what they were talking about.

+++

Here are some other terms and phrases from the prospectuses I read that I enjoy: “compensation package,” which replaces your real package when you’re successful enough to be getting stock options and fully paid health insurance coverage; “the parties met telephonically,” which means one guy called another guy on the phone; “orally indicated,” which means “said”; “stakeholders,” which sound like vampire killers; “mandatory redemption,” apparently a requirement that you submit to Christ; “tender offer,” something one lover might make to another; “total capitalization” which, for some reason, is set in all lower-case letters; and “EBITDA,” which always reminds me of Porky Pig.

+++

I see that Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, breakout star of “Jersey Shore,” is now frequently going by a shortened version of that nickname, “The Sitch.” When he tires of that, I predict the following progression: “TS” (short for “The Sitch”), followed by “Tease” (a combination of “T” and “S”), followed by “Darjeeling” (a type of tea), followed by “Darj,” followed by “DJ.” At this point, to avoid confusion with fellow cast member DJ Pauly D, he will continue on to “DJ2,” “The Second,” back to “TS” (short for “The Second”) and finally to “That Guy Working at Walmart Who Used to be ‘The Situation’.”

+++

Loving the baseball playoffs, but not understanding the excessive spitting by the ballplayers. Are all the steroids causing water retention, which for some reason can only be expelled orally? I suppose there are worse ways of getting rid of excess hydration in public. I’m just glad this isn’t an issue in other occupations, like law, banking, medicine, politics, etc. How awkward would it be for your dentist to be matching you spit for spit during your oral surgery?

+++

My normally taciturn manager stopped by my desk the other day to show me a picture of himself as a five-year-old. I’m not sure why, nor do I have any idea what was the proper response in a workplace setting. I said he was “cute,” then immediately regretted my choice of words, lest it be grounds for some type of verbal harassment. Wish I would’ve said something like “my, you were young once.”

+++

Easiest job in the world must be as an advertising copywriter for TV ads featuring sports celebrities. During last night’s playoff game, for example, we got to see Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon extol the virtues of a vitamin product for men over 50. “That’s a hit!” he proclaimed. Football stars “tackle” dandruff problems, basketballers think buying the new Ford Edge is a “slam dunk,” and race car drivers using Viagra “finish first,” though their wives don’t necessarily think this is something they should be bragging about.

+++

Listeners of National Public Radio are no doubt familiar with the philanthropic work of Robert Wood Johnson, a 19th-century entrepreneur and  industrialist whose foundation funds many of the network’s best programs. I want to hear more about his brother, Dick Wood Johnson, the pioneering pornographer.

+++

In the third inning of last night’s Braves-Giants game, the high-definition feed briefly changed to regular definition. I thought I was having a stroke.

+++

Was saddened to hear driving in this morning that the lyricist for the eighties Caribbean-influenced dance hit “Hot! Hot! Hot!” had died. As we pause to remember this great artist, it’s worth recalling his words as we seek comfort for our loss:

I’m hot, you’re hot, he’s hot, she’s hot
I’m hot, you’re hot, he’s hot, she’s hot
Real hot, real hot, real hot, real hot
How you feeling?
Hot hot hot, hot hot hot
Hot hot hot, hot hot hot
Hot hot hot, hot hot hot

+++

Spectrum Brands is one company that seems to have nailed the concept of corporate synergy. They’ve brought together diverse and seemingly unrelated products under one roof, and somehow made them connected. The company has four divisions: Global Batteries and Personal Care (global?); Global Pet Supplies (again with the global?); Home and Garden; and Small Appliances. Name brands you may recognize include Dingo Meat in the Middle rawhide snacks for dogs, Rayovac batteries, Hot Shot bug killer, Remington shavers, George Foreman grills and Breadman breadmakers. So if you ever need to plump up the family pet, stun him, kill him with poison, remove the hair from the meat, cook him on a grill that drains off all the fat, and serve him up as a sandwich, Spectrum Brands is the company you need to turn to.

An editorial: Stop the damn dumping

September 23, 2010

I live in a quiet suburban neighborhood covered with towering hardwoods. Through the subdivision runs a small brook. On one side of the creek is a community of about 60 single-family homes, the kind of classic middle-class setting complete with well-behaved children and well-groomed lawns. On the other side is a development of townhomes called “Clover Creek,” which houses many retired faculty from the nearby college.

These condo dwellers — or “condors,” as we on the other side of the creek call them — appear to be a bunch of uncivilized animals. I’m not sure what these former professors taught during their time at university, but I’m thinking it had something to do with the barbarian sack of Rome or perhaps the situational ethics of illegal dumping.

My house is right across the street from the quaint little bridge that leads into the condos. Ever since we’ve lived here, there will be at least one incident a month where one of the “condors” discards a mound of refuse right across from my driveway. This is what’s out there right now …

I have no idea what this junk is or used to be. Behind the large wooden panel looks to be a charred step-ladder (foreground) and a rattan hamper now shredded beyond recognition.

This is plainly against city code. The first time it happened, we called the proper authorities and they came out to post a “no dumping” sign, which was stolen within days of its installation. (The pole holding the sign remained behind but it didn’t turn out to be much of a deterrent).

Ever since, we’ve watched a cavalcade of junk appear. Old sewing machines. A sled. A box fan. A VCR. Sometimes, I’ll go out there myself and drag the offending item back across their precious little bridge. Other times, it’ll sit for weeks until one day it disappears, carried off presumably by scavengers.

Which is what I thought condors were supposed to be. Aren’t they the big ugly birds that feast on the carcasses of dead animals? Why, then, are these condors instead producing rubbish instead of eating it?

Oh, I find ways to exact my measure of revenge. Since they don’t have roll-out garbage bins, they have to carry their household waste to a large dumpster near their entrance. A sign says it’s for the use of condo residents only, but I’ll sneak over there sometimes and throw in a bag of soiled cat litter, just for fun. Once, I even spilled a little in the road.

This only gives me so much satisfaction, however. Usually, I and my family just sit and steam, powerless to stop the unseen elderly who roam the night, hauling old chairs and bedding behind them.

I call on the residents of Clover Creek to stop this irresponsible behavior immediately. There’s a perfectly serviceable city dump somewhere around here where they can drag their antique asses and their beat-up furniture for proper disposal. Rise above your baser instincts and your bestial ways. Quit putting all this crap in front of my house.

The readers speak!

August 27, 2010

Thanks to everyone who was kind enough to comment on yesterday’s post. Getting on the “Freshly Pressed” front page of WordPress is the best thing that’s happened to me this year, which should give you some indication about what a horrible year it’s been.

I think I deserve a day off to relish the honor. So I’m turning today’s edition over to you, the readers, with this collection of comments you’ve made in recent months, offered without any context whatsoever.

  • I am constantly on the lookout for new and interesting sports sites and posts… which is what led me here. I certainly plan on visiting again!
  • I actually do read the obits frequently…mostly a throw back from my nursing days and also probably due to my chronic health issues and the fact that I almost died a few years ago…it has piqued my interest in death
  • I can’t remember the last time I drank water for another purpose besides swallowing a pill
  • Interesting read. Thanks – from an antique phone enthusiast
  • Now I realize I’m peeing in a run-of-the-mill bleach scented men’s room
  • I hear that dentists are protesting the elimination of foil containers — as oral injuries associated with the packets were a reliable source of revenue
  • I thought I was the ONLY ONE IN THE UNIVERSE that hated the Van Allen Belt! Now I don’t feel so all alone
  • I’m a noisy sneezer: I can’t help it. If I tried to “suppress” a sneeze, my head would explode.
  • I don’t mind a nose picker when I work with kids, but the picker/eater makes me cringe a bit
  • Thankfully, I have an abnormally stretchy bladder
  • I was with you all the way through the word “stiff” which always has such a positive meaning but parted company when we got to “informative”. I would have substituted “obscurational”, which I know is a word because I Googled it
  • It’s always nice to have a number to phone
  • Why can’t all fruit be as easy to open as a banana? Now there’s a fruit with customer service instincts
  • You left out that he was so good they buried him twice
  • My “things” won’t be as creative as yours
  • When I feel I MUST have one…I just cut it into sections without peeling it..then peel the edible part out of the wedge…but even that can be a pain
  • And you are so right about jacks. And don’t get me started on mini spare tires
  • Any system of communication that references the Fonz and killer asteroids has GOT to be good
  • Loved the saw on the head dream….wonder what the analysts would think of that one? The feet on the wall is totally bizarre
  • We had a dummy we called Overboard Ollie. Whenever we did a man overboard drill someone would grab him, toss him over the side, and yell “man overboard”. When not being submerged in salt water he would find himself is some of the strangest places
  • Just choose one already. Whether it be Pokemon or Digimon a hobby is for the better
  • ‘Hogging’ is also a term meant to describe the driving of a train.
  • As a teen, I sang along to a lot of songs, though I couldn’t understand the lyrics
  • Also I’d like to correct a scientific misconception regarding dead frogs. [They] don’t bloat, at least if you poke holes in them
  • Um, but surely the acids and alkalis would all cancel each other out, leading to bland “neutral” judgements… you need to introduce a justice made of potassium to really get the sparks flying
  • I like “Blogging”
  • Amazingly… what you have said definitely made me happier!
  • Hi, I just found this blog/post by coincidence… I think anyway, at the very least I’m pretty sure I didn’t know what I was clicking
  • Last week I made an appointment for my annual mammogram
  • I cannot imagine any other system that could possibly explain the tremendous and tumultuous volume of words published on your blog.
  • If you can stick pieces of glass or Saran wrap onto your eyeball … Men are such wimps
  • In my opinion your article is very nice and very helpful
  • Blind Jack also took a number of film classes, usually off to the side of the auditorium with Ruth Stone describing to him whatever was appearing on screen. He might even have been a mass comm major
  • 5 minutes? How is that enough time to take a nap in the waiting room?
  • Perhaps it happening out of sight and therefore out of mind is the best thing about toilet flushes
  • My human had a similar experience with a ruptured tranny line. Thank goodness for small town farm boy mechanics who stay open ’til six on Saturday
  • I remember waking up in the middle of the night once in Spain, after having drunk far too much, I admit, and I thought there was an intruder in the front room. I went to investigate, armed with the first weapon to hand, my wife’s hairbrush!
  • I love tattoos and don’t for a second regret having any of them. I’m currently getting a koi tattoo sleeve done down my right arm — can’t wait to get it finished! My local tattoo artist is extremely experienced and also very expensive but, he’s worth it!
  • Hope you try our creamy concoction…I’m sure you’ll go GaGa
  • Yep…we have those stores too….you have to bag or box up your own purchases there
  • None of this rules out the possibility that I am subconsciously trying to get back at you for ALL THE TIMES you put your damn used underwear on top of my stereo so long ago
  • And speaking of dead raccoons, that reminds me that week before last, I found a freshly dead mouse in the house. I respectfully picked it up by the tail and respectfully threw it into the ferns beside the driveway.
  • I HATE THOSE THINGS! …fire ants that is… I rather enjoy apples
  • Your squirrels are too busy having sex with exotic Argentinian squirrels to whom they are not married.
  • I feel, number 1, that even the president himself could have found humor in the post…most self-assured people can laugh at themselves. Number 2, I believe I am allowed to think it was funny, and not disrespectful. And number 3…you are exactly right that cussing is not socially appropriate
  • The Hall and Oates reference caught me completely by surprise straight from left field
  • I have frequently found myself walking through the drive-through
  • Could you check out my blog? I really want to hear your opinion on my thoughts
  • I once read about a man who had cancer. He went to a cabin by himself
  • I went to school with an Elijah Oliver…his parents were way into the PTA
  • I want to wear those paper outfits I hear you get at hospitals.
  • Yesterday, the “L” word brought 28 visitors to the post that has it. It is the reason that post retains its #1 ranking despite being very old. I can tell you that “Guatemalan porn” was #2, but that topic is no longer popular.
  • Thinking about vampires and the difficulty of maintaining a relationship for as long as 24 hours gave me a headache
  • We arrived the other day to my husband’s mom’s property. He says to me, what’s that sitting in the middle of the property? As we walked closer we found a mother sheep and a little baby. We both just looked at each other. As we walked closer the sheep got up and ran off, along side traffic. I hope their fate ended well. Strange moment.

Taking a shot at joke-writing

August 23, 2010

I like to think of myself as a humorist (somebody has to do it). I deal in the long form, incessantly bemoaning an obscure point until hopefully I think of some type of amusing payoff.

Humor writing is far different from joke writing, which is the short form. Because of its emphasis on brevity, I think joke writing is much harder, and have never felt very comfortable tackling it.

But today, I thought I’d give it a shot. I don’t necessarily promise quality here, so be forewarned. Please proceed with caution.

+++

So a preacher, a rabbi and a priest die, and find themselves at the Heavenly Gates to meet St. Peter.

“I appreciate the diversity you’re showing me,” St. Peter tells them. “But I think these days, there should also be an imam here.”

“But we thought that was a separate heaven,” said the preacher.

“All three of us are of the Judeo-Christian ethic, and didn’t think we’d need to be accompanied by someone of the Muslim faith,” said the rabbi.

“No,” said St. Peter. “The heaven of Islam is the same as the heaven for you.”

“So, remind me,” said the priest. “How many virgins is that again?’

+++

A dog walks into a bar and orders a gin and tonic.

“I’m not sure I can serve you,” says the bartender. “Are you 21?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” says the dog. “Dogs rarely live to be that age.”

“Are you at least 21 in dog years?” the bartender asks.

“It’s not as easy to calculate as you’ve heard,” the dog responds. “I was born two years ago but after just one year of maturation, we’re able to reproduce. So I’d say I’m well past legal age.”

“I’m sorry,” says the bartender. “I’ve always heard it was one dog year equals seven human years, so that makes you only 14. I can’t give you a gin and tonic.”

“But I’m really thirsty,” says the dog. “Can you at least show me the way to the toilet?”

+++

Why did the chicken cross the road?

The question implies that the chicken had a reason for crossing the road, and that’s an irrational application of anthropomorphism, the attribution of human characteristics to non-human entities. Either the chicken passed over the roadway for the merely random reason that if he was to walk at all, he had to walk in some direction. Or, more likely, he spotted a grain of corn or other seed on the opposite shoulder and was headed that way so he could provide himself a measure of sustenance.

As members of the bird family, chickens have very good vision, and could easily spot a kernel of corn across the street.

Most people don’t realize that.

+++

A traveling salesman shows up at a farmer’s house and asks if he can’t rent a room for the night. The farmer responds that the only spare bed is in his daughter’s room. She’s home from college, where she’s majoring in etymology, the study of words. But as long as the salesman promises there’s no hanky-panky, the farmer will let him share the room with her.

In the middle of the night, the salesman awakes to find the daughter hovering above him, about to give him a kiss.

“What’s the meaning of this?” stammers the salesman.

“‘This’ is a grammatical word used to indicate somebody or something already mentioned or identified or something understood by both the speaker and the hearer,” responds the daughter.

+++

Me: I have a knock-knock joke, but you have to start it.

You: Ok, knock-knock.

Me: Who’s there?

You: ?!?!?!?!?!?

+++

The little moron shows up at his middle school guidance counselor’s office, and says he’s concerned he won’t be able to go to high school next year because he doesn’t have a ladder.

“Don’t call yourself a ‘moron,'” the counselor chides the young man. “You have learning and other developmental disabilities, possibly related to an attention deficit disorder and/or a chemical imbalance in your brain that predisposes you to hyperactivity.”

“Huh?” asks the little moron. “I have no idea what any of that means.”

+++

What do you get when you cross Glenn Beck and Newt Gingrich?

A creative and compelling argument about how homosexuality represents a hallowed feature of the American experience.

+++

A lawyer appears in court completely disheveled. His pants leg is torn, he’s missing a shoe, and there’s a large bruise on his right cheek.

“What happened to you?” the judge demanded.

“I tripped on a banana skin out in the hallway and fell,” the attorney responded.

“That’s no excuse for showing up in my courtroom is such an awful state,” the judge answers. “I’m throwing out your case.”

“That’s too bad,” the lawyer says. “I hate to lose on appeal.”

+++

How many husbands does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Five.

One to select a bulb with the wrong wattage.

One to improperly unscrew the bowl from the ceiling.

One to pick an energy-efficient light when it’s obvious that brighter lumination is needed for reading at that particular location.

One to stand on a chair instead of using a perfectly good stepladder.

And one to suggest “why don’t I just blow a hole in the damn ceiling with my shotgun and we’ll call it a skylight?”

+++

Your momma is so old, so fat and so ugly that it would be a disgrace to make fun of her condition.

Three things I hate, besides Monday

August 2, 2010

A lot of people say there’s too much hate in the world today. I say it’s just directed at the wrong things. Instead of hating other races, other countries and other religions, we should focus on the particular entities that have done us wrong.

Here are a few that I vehemently oppose.

I hate watermelon

Maybe it’s a contempt for the familiar, considering I grew up in a melon-inundated south Florida. Maybe it’s the fact that few other fruits are as physically imposing, so dangerous if dropped that they can break your foot. Maybe it’s the rugged rind, the sticky juice or all those seeds.

Or maybe it’s that it tastes like a cucumber soaked overnight in a cocktail of artificial sweetener, Red Bull and urine.

I ate enough watermelon as a kid to know that I hate it as an adult. It’s supposed to be healthy, containing as much as 92% water, but so does the Gulf of Mexico and you don’t see people drinking that in. It has many hidden vitamins in its rind, which most people avoid eating due to its unappealing flavor (the rind is reputedly even worse than the flesh). It stimulates the body’s production of nitric oxide, thought to relax the blood vessels, much like Viagra does. Still, I’d rather be dehydrated, undernourished and flaccid than eat watermelon.

A suburban legend of my youth was that a kid once got a watermelon seed stuck in his nose, and it took root in the nutrient-rich “soil” of his nostrils. Because the melon can grow so fast, he woke up the next morning with a huge swelling in the center of his face. Doctors at first thought it was a brain tumor, then were even more horrified to learn it was a watermelon, growing right there in his sinuses. They conducted emergency surgery on the poor boy, then had a picnic right there in the operating room, literally enjoying the fruit of their labor.

On my first trip to India, I endured a 36-hour plane ride, off-the-chart jet lag, and the culture shock that comes from encountering unimaginable poverty, intense heat, overcrowding, card-carrying lepers, and the smell of a sewage river next door. But that was nothing compared to what I came upon at my first breakfast. I asked for my usual OJ, and was told that all they had was watermelon juice. There would be no mystical experience of the subcontinent for me. Hundreds of millions of people living in third world squalor is one thing; drinking a liquefied melon first thing in the morning is quite another.

Fun facts about the massive green orb — that it was declared the official state vegetable by a confused Oklahoma state senate, that it is hollowed out and used as a football helmet by fans of football’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, that it can now be grown in square and pyramid shapes — do little to mitigate its status on my list of the most loathsome things in the world.

Ever see David Letterman pitch a truckload of watermelons off the seventh floor of his New York studio? I’m with Dave.

I hate Black Oak Arkansas

I arrived back at the office after lunch Friday, and was honored to have my position as the King of Music Trivia once again confirmed. A debate had arisen in my absence about who recorded the seventies hit “Jim Dandy,” also known as “Jim Dandy to the Rescue.”

“I bet Davis will know,” said Donna and, regrettably, I did. It was the Southern rock band known as Black Oak Arkansas.

I then proceeded to internally hum the timeless chorus — Jim Dandy to the rescue/Jim Dandy to the rescue/Jim Dandy to the rescue/Go Jim Dandy, go — for the rest of the afternoon.

If you’ve never heard this band’s distinctive growling, whining, falsetto style, it may be simply enough to know a little about the group. They formed in 1965 in Black Oak, Ark., and promptly stole their first amplifier system from the local high school. Convicted of grand larceny and sentenced in absentia to 26 years in prison, they fled to the hills to “refine” their musical style, doubtless influenced by the baying hounds that continued searching for them.

By 1969, they had moved on to Memphis, Tenn., and signed a deal with Stax Records. Their debut album, which fortunately is almost impossible to find, is described as representative of their interests in psychedelia, Eastern spiritualism and the Southern Baptist church. They eventually ended up in Los Angeles and toured extensively, gaining a reputation as an impressive live act despite questionable grooming habits.

The year 1973 was a rough one for this country. The last American troops staggered out of Vietnam. The Watergate scandal began to unfold. Lon Cheney, Lyndon Johnson and “Dagwood and Blondie” creator Chic Young died. And a song so upbeat you’d think the singer was meth-addled reached number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Jim Dandy” had arrived, and he was urgently in need of someone to rescue.

Fortunately, less-than-stellar subsequent releases combined with the nation’s return to relative sobriety to rob “BOA” of its momentum. They faded into obscurity for the next ten years. For their obligatory eighties revival, they were kind enough to record a song called “I Want a Woman with Big Titties,” which quickly sent them back to their deserved place in the shadows.

I hate the immigration officials at Colombo airport in Sri Lanka

In 2007, I made my first visit to the beautiful nation of Sri Lanka (nickname: “India Lite”). I was to spend three weeks training employees of an outsourcing firm my company had hired. Except for a pesky civil war that required armed soldiers to be stationed everywhere except inside my hotel bathroom, it was a wonderful visit.

I should mention that the civil war was in the country, not at the outsourcing company. The workers there were wonderful people, at least the ones who weren’t out sick with Dengue Fever.

Anyway, I found out just before leaving the U.S. that I should’ve had a “working visa” if I intended to do business there. Instead, I had something cryptically called a “landing visa,” which meant they’d let you on the ground at the airport, but only long enough to determine if you were a tourist, who required no further documentation. If you were found to have come for work, I guess they’d make you spend the rest of your life in a small anteroom behind the luggage carousel, jumping up and down so that you were constantly “landing” on Sri Lankan soil.

After I landed in Colombo, I was directed to immigration and customs for “processing,” something I thought was done only to meat. I found the right line, and waited for what seemed like an eternity to learn my fate. Members of the military stood at the ready to dispatch anyone fooling with the rules including, I assumed, the law described on several signs warning that drug trafficking carried an automatic death penalty. I thought about the Ambien I had been prescribed for jet lag, and got even more nervous.

I sidled up to the pasty, shorts-wearing Germans in front of me on the chance I’d be mistaken for one of their group. I thought about my extremely limited German vocabulary, hoping someone would either sneeze (“Gezunheidt”) or invade the Netherlands (“blitzkrieg”) so I could prove myself.

When I got to the official who was to review my passport, he spoke not at all, choosing instead to quietly scroll through his ancient computer screen. He summoned an associate to show him something, and they chatted briefly in Tamil, either about how cool a YouTube video was, or that I might be an enemy insurgent or drug smuggler. More humorless glances in my direction eventually gave way to about a dozen stomps from his official stamper, and I appeared to survive admission to the island nation. But not after a suspenseful interlude that made me more scared than I’d ever been in my life.

Revisited: Saturday musings

July 31, 2010

At least they have a job

While it might be hard to feel sorry for anybody who still has a job these days, I can’t resist pitying the poor individuals whose duty it is to promote a business by holding a sign or wearing a costume while standing by the side of the road.

Both variations come with intrinsic humiliations. If you’re only holding a placard – usually on the corner near a store that’s going out of business – it may not be as stifling hot, but you’re open to the taunts of anyone you’ve ever known who happens to be driving by. If you’re wearing a cow costume outside a Chick-fil-A or a Little Caesar’s suit at the pizza shop, at least no one will be able to identify you, or the lifeless heap you leave behind after the heatstroke. You can’t even pass the time by checking your text messages without betraying your role (whoever heard of a first century Roman tyrant, much less a cow, carrying a cell phone?).

I saw the worst example yet the other day outside a bedding store near my home. Someone had cut three holes into a mattress and then paid an innocent teenager to stick his head and two forearms through the holes so he could wave and smile at oncoming traffic. He had become a profusely sweating Mr. Mattress, eager to publicize up to 40% off select bed sets. Store owners had provided a barstool to give him some measure of comfort, and to convince motorists he wasn’t being pilloried.

I stopped by later to take a picture of the unfortunate kid (don’t worry, I would’ve shot it from behind; I’m not that insensitive), but all that was left was the stool. Still photography wouldn’t have done the barbaric scene justice anyway. Only video could’ve shown how the urgent arm-waving made it appear less like he was a welcoming mascot, and more like he was being consumed by a pillow-top inner spring.

Probably not what he had in mind when he considered a career in advertising.

New Olympic event?

I’d like to propose a new track-and-field event for the 2012 Olympics: a 100-yard race in which you’re not allowed to move your arms. Tests would need to be conducted to determine whether rules should require runners to willfully hold their own upper limbs in check tight by their sides, or whether strong elastic strapping was permitted. I’m flexible on the subject, as long as they don’t move their arms.

Needling the wife

Jogging on the edge of a rough neighborhood recently, I looked down to see a discarded hypodermic needle lying in the road. Feeling like I needed to do something about it, I poked at it with my shoe. It seemed, though, that this wasn’t enough, that I needed also to inform an authority. But who?

When I arrived home a few minutes later, I told me wife about the hazard. We both agreed that calling 911 or even the police office was a bit of an over-reaction. She contended that the same city officials who cart off animal carcasses could deal with used drug paraphernalia, while I thought it would require somebody wearing a hazmat suit. This led to a spirited discussion of which would be worse – touching a dead possum or risking exposure to hepatitis.

We’ve been married for almost 27 years now, and I’m proud to say we still haven’t run out of things to talk about.

When roaming free may not be good

The health food supermarket where I occasionally do my blogging has a very nice specialty meat section, complete with signs pointing out the advantages of eating humanely-raised animals. One of the items they sell is “free-roaming lamb.” While I’ve heard of free-range chicken and pasture-raised cattle, I have a little trouble imagining how allowing young sheep to wander the countryside would improve their flavor. Seems like a lot of them would just end up tasting like whatever kind of pickup truck they were hit by.

Robotic gratitude

I drove my Honda Civic through the automated car wash not too long ago and was pleased to discover that they had improved the instructions for drivers using the service. After you enter your number on a keypad, you pull forward into the bay, positioning your vehicle precisely so that the pipes and spray hoses can work properly.

There’s a large digital sign containing four phrases, each with a bright red light bulb next to them. The top one says “pull forward,” the middle one reads “stop” and the third one says “back up.” Sensors detect if you’re in the right spot, and then you can inch forward or back to make the proper adjustment. Skilled driver that I am, I hit it right on the nose, then sat back and enjoyed the soothing pelt of water on the windows.

When I was done, the light next to the fourth phrase lit up. “Thank you,” it said. This was apparently my cue to leave, as well as the robot’s way of showing its gratitude for my patronage. I thought we hit a new low in business transactions when the dot-matrix “THANK YOU” at the bottom of your receipt served as your appreciation. I should’ve known that American enterprise could always go lower.

It takes a genius

Readers of the “Ask Marilyn” column in yesterday’s Parade Magazine witnessed further evidence that American’s general level of intelligence has sunk even further.

For those unfamiliar with the piece (typically, I wouldn’t admit reading Parade Magazine either), Marilyn Vos Savant parlayed her fame as holder of the world record for highest IQ into a weekly column answering readers’ most difficult question. Common queries are along the lines of “what is truth?” or “could the sun burn out tomorrow?”

Yesterday’s question was a little less challenging: “What makes islands float?”

Abusing the kindness of others

Anybody familiar with the Panera bakery chain knows how generous they are with their facilities. The free wi-fi, roomy tables and intense air-conditioning are a magnet to both people looking to conduct informal business meetings and those just interested in checking their Facebook pages.

Some of the business people, however, seem to be getting a little out of control. Hooking up your laptop for hours is one thing, but conducting job interviews, offering sales presentations and bringing a portable printer to set up at the adjoining table are simply taking unfair advantage. The shop nearest my work recently had their entire back room taken over for a sales meeting, complete with projection equipment and loud, annoying pep talks.

I fear it won’t be long before we encounter the human resources manager who chooses to take his downsizing announcement offsite. “I’m sorry to inform everyone that your positions have been eliminated effective this coming Friday,” he might announce. “Please accept this cinnamon crunch bagel as a sign of my condolence.”

Math 101 — no, make that 165

Spent $165 this weekend for two introductory mathematics books my son will be using during his freshman year at college this fall. While I’m confident he’ll do well in the course, I can’t help but have the feeling that I just failed some kind of basic math.

Just a quick couple of errands

July 12, 2010

My wife and I had a few errands to run the other afternoon. She cracked me up several times with the casual banter that goes on between two people who’ve been together so long, and I realized how little credit I give both her and my son for suggesting funny ideas for me to blog about.

I started scribbling notes for multiple topics when we got home, then realized perhaps a raw transcript would give a more accurate flavor of what happens on just an average day, doing and talking about average things.

+++

We were allegedly ready to leave five minutes ago, but Beth is still rounding up stuff for the journey. I’m slightly annoyed, though we husbands rarely think this common annoyance through. We’ve got our keys, our wallet, maybe a cellphone, maybe some clothing, and we’re ready to go. Wives have to anticipate anything else that might be needed, and be sure to bring that along.  

We complain about the delay, yet when we need a tissue, a lozenge, a piece of paper, a nail clipper, an egg crate or a copy of the Articles of Confederation, we turn to them and they’re prepared.  

+++  

Where do we go first? Arby’s is farther away and open till late, Earth Fare is much closer but they sometimes close down the hot bar early.  

Nearly 30 years of marriage yields a quick consensus: Arby’s first, then Earth Fare.  

It’s easy to be on the same page with this one. Arby’s food might lose its heat faster, yet the taste and nutritional value will be the same as it would be a year from today. Earth Fare carries organic food, which everyone knows has to be consumed within 30 minutes of whenever the animal or vegetable involved has been killed and/or uprooted.  

+++  

“Have you noticed how the squirrels seem to have taken over the neighborhood this year?” I observe as we pull out of the driveway, narrowly avoiding squishing one.  

Beth postulates that it’s because we adopted Tom. We lured the hulking, scar-faced tabby in from his outdoor existence about a year ago and successfully converted him to the domestic faith. Perhaps it’s no coincidence then that the ecology of the subdivision has since been transformed. The red-tailed hawks have been unable to keep up sufficient air power without the ground support that Tom had provided, and now we’re overrun with squirrels.  

“You’re probably right,” I say. “We removed an ‘apex predator’ from Brookshadow food chain.”  

Now Tom has a new nickname (“A.P.”) and my son Daniel has a name for his rock band, should he ever choose to form one.  

Tom now lives with Man, the ultimate apex predator

+++  

I get a chance to ruminate about the new effort I’ve been asked to take on at work. I’m heading up a project team that will look at our internal processes and suggest improvements that will both cut production time and improve quality. I’m supposed to solicit ideas from all 54 people in our office, synthesize them into coherent action plans, and then take responsibility when none of them work. I’m kind of like a walking suggestion box, except I prefer to be stuffed with Baked Lays sour cream and onion flavor chips than slips of paper containing illegible rants against management.  

We’ve been told the “blue sky” is the limit for what we might propose, and after only two weeks I’m already trying to think how I can get my boss on the next space shuttle.  

The problem is that we can only suggest process changes, not people changes, despite the fact that there is a core group of incompetents who are always screwing everything up.  

“How do you come up with a step-by-step process that everyone can do the same, when not everybody has the same mental capacity?” I wonder aloud.  

“Maybe you have two separate flowcharts with a decision point right at the beginning that asks ‘are you a moron?'” Beth suggests. “If you answer ‘yes,’ you take one path, and if you answer ‘no,’ you take another.”  

“Nah, that won’t work,” I answer. “We just had mandatory sensitivity training a few weeks back, and we’re not allowed to think people are morons anymore.”  

+++  

We drive past a Blockbuster store about halfway to Arby’s. They’re “open” — if by open, you mean they will theoretically still serve people willing to drive halfway across town rather than get their movies from Netflix, Redbox or the Internet. However, there’s not a single car in the parking lot.  

+++  

We pull into the Arby’s drive-thru line. There’s only one car ordering in front of us, usually a good sign that we’ll be in and out quickly. However, there are four people in the car, and the person placing the order is doing so from the back seat.  

“They can’t do that,” I protest to Beth. “It’s the driver that has to order. This is going to take forever.”  

“You forget,” Beth notes, “that we live in the freedom-loving state of South Carolina. No helmet laws for motorcycle riders, legal fireworks sold on every other corner, and pay-day loan franchises everywhere. Our forefathers died at Fort Sumter so that people could order fast food from the back seat.”  

“But you were born in Massachusetts,” I remind Beth.  

“Oh,” she answers. “Right.”  

+++  

We finally get up to the speakerbox to place our order: a three-piece chicken strips combo and two junior roast beefs (just for once, I’d love to use the proper plural and ask for “junior roast beeves,” but I’m afraid what they would give me).  

“Mmmph rmphh phmmph arumm,” comes the distorted reply. Beth and I look at each other, not quite knowing how to respond.  

“I think he said ‘will there be anything else?'” Beth guesses.  

“I’m thinking it was ‘would you like a drink with that,'” I tell her.  

So I try to phrase my reply in a way that would answer both questions.  

“Just the chicken and the sandwiches, that’ll be all,” I say.  

“Mmmph rmphh,” he answers, which in this context we think means pull ahead to the pickup window.  

+++  

The guy takes our money and hands us a receipt, but there’ll be a brief delay in delivering the food. I once drove away in a similar situation without getting my order. This was at a Taco Bell, so I was out only $2.17. When I realized my error, I was not about to go back and make the case to a manager that, while I might be stupid enough to order a beef soft taco, I am not yet not so mentally challenged that I would pay them money to keep it.  

+++  

We get the bag of food and drive away. Though the combo is for my son, I’m quick to exact our family’s “baggler tax.” This is our policy that allows the person picking up the food to eat any french fries that have fallen from their cardboard sleeve and into the bag (hence, the name “baggler”), delivering a slightly diminished collection of potato tubes to whoever is waiting at home.  

Might this practice be adopted as a government tax policy? Any income you earn that is fried or greasy and drops out of your pocket on the way home from work goes toward federal revenues, and you get to keep the rest.  

+++  

Now we’re headed off toward Earth Fare, and Beth tells me about her visit earlier that afternoon to Books-A-Million.  

“They have a whole aisle and end-cap devoted to nothing but Bible covers,” Beth marvels. “Some are psychedelic, for the teens; some are camouflaged for hunters; some are all lacey, for elderly women, I guess.”  

“Why would a hunter want to camouflage his Bible?” I wonder. “Wouldn’t he want the deer and wild turkey to know how the Living Word of God could save them? Not from the hunter, maybe, but at least from the fires of Hell.”  

“You should write about that in your blog,” Beth suggests, and so I have.  

(L-R) Football Bible cover, girly Bible cover, camouflage Bible cover

+++  

We pull into the Earth Fare parking lot. It’s hot, so we’re on the prowl for the spot closest to the door. We see one that’s empty, then realize it’s being reserved for the employee of the month.  

“That space is always empty,” notes Beth, a frequent patron of this store. “I think their employee of the month quit.”  

+++  

Inside the store, there’s a well-dressed young woman just standing in the deli. Just standing there. She’s obviously not shopping, she’s just shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot while a group of young children wait for their free “Family Night” meal.  

A new family walks into the area, a little confused at how this free meal promotion works, and the woman steps forward to offer assistance. She’s been employed to be standing by in case anyone needs help filling out a cartoon order form using a variety of crayons made available for that purpose.  

“I saw her here earlier and wondered if she was a living mannequin or something,” I told Beth. “I’m glad to see she’s a professional loiterer. That seems so much more respectable.”  

+++  

Regular readers of this column might remember the debate Beth and I had recently on the subject of bringing your own re-usable bag to the grocery store. She asserted I was “anti-bag” and therefore “pro-environmental degradation,” while I countered that I simply forgot half the time and, besides, it kept me from buying more than I could carry in two hands.  

Now, on this particular visit, as we’re checking out, I notice that Beth has forgotten her bag. Aha! Just the chance husbands watch for — exposing inconsistency or even hypocrisy in their wives’ arguments.  

“But all I bought was a container of soup and a sandwich, and I’m taking it with me directly to work from here,” she said. “I didn’t need a bag.”  

“So you will admit, then, that there are scenarios where it is acceptable, even appropriate, to not bring your own bag?” I countered.  

I thought I had her on the ropes of logic when she reached deep into the voluminous body of case law that exists to address minor domestic disputes such as these.  

“Just shut up,” she suggested good-naturedly.  

I couldn’t argue with that.  

+++  

Apparently, I need to remember to change the cat litter when we get home. Or so I’m told.  

I should never have brought up the whole bag thing.

Feeling a little pained today

April 21, 2010

Today, I got nothing.    

More accurately, I got a head full of Vicodin, courtesy of my personal physician, to treat my ailing spine. I’ve had another flare-up of lower back muscle spasming, just like I seem to have every six months or so. I recited the same symptoms I experienced from last October to Dr. Jackson as he helped me onto his exquisitely tissued examining table. He moved my legs up and down and pronounced the diagnosis. I could’ve done this myself (the pronouncing, not the leg-moving) but I don’t own a prescription pad with all the fancy DEA numbers he has. He threw in a side order of diclofenac sodium just to make sure I’d be sufficiently immobilized. A few days of rest, he predicts, and I’ll be back on my feet again.    

Here’s a link to the post I wrote last time this happened, if you’re really that interested in the details: https://davisw.wordpress.com/2009/10/07/back-to-the-future/    

In the meantime, I’m having trouble focusing, which doesn’t hinder blog production in most people, but is giving me some trouble. Still, I haven’t failed for over a year now to produce an original piece each and every weekday, and I’m not about to allow a little blinding agony stop me. It’s just that I may be a little scattered. Just like that Rolling Stones song: “I’ve been scattered … What does it matter? … Scattered.”    

I also like that song by Paul Young, from the eighties, I think it was: “Every time you go away/You take a piece of meat with you.”    

Some day soon I’m going to write a piece about how much I enjoy typing. I’m pretty fast, pretty accurate, and have always gotten a thrill all out of proportion to the routine act as I bang away at keys on a computer keyboard. My favorite word to type is “management.” Something about how you have to use fingers from alternate hands for just about each letter. Management. Management. The last half I do really fast. You should see me. I need to learn how to embed video into a blog post some day. Management.    

Several observations about my trip to the doctor’s office. They’ve installed one of those palm-reading devices at the reception desk, not the scarf-bedecked dark-haired lady with the mole on her cheek, but a high-tech machine to prove you are who you say you are. They don’t want just anyone walking in off the street and picking up their diclofenac sodium. This isn’t a Burger King, you know. That’s next door.    

Anyway, I noticed that they now ask patients if they mind having their privacy invaded by letting a scanner look at their hand whorls. This being South Carolina, I imagine a few of the older folks are afraid that Obama wants the information so he can send the black helicopter to pick you up and take you to the internment camp as soon as you’re done dropping off your stool sample. Once, the guy in front of me expressed concern the mechanism would mess with his pacemaker. Me, I’ll show my hand to anybody who’s interested. It looks sort of like this (Ψ) but I have five fingers instead of three.    

Why does every medical office I’ve been to lately have the Home and Garden Channel showing on the television? “DO NOT CHANGE THE CHANNEL” warns the sign, so we all comply meekly and admire the two-story fixer-upper a young couple much healthier than any of us is considering in the San Fernando Valley. I guess it’s the most innocuous network offering out there. News channels might provoke fistfights and heated debates, soap operas on the major networks at this time of day are too depressing (people sicker than us yet inexplicably much better looking) and animated kids’ programs might provoke fistfights and heated debates.    

When you approach the front desk to sign in, they always asks “how are you?” and everybody automatically responds “fine,” even though you know they’re not or why else would they be at the doctor? I too say I’m fine, but I mean it in the sense that I’m extremely physically attractive. “He’s so fine,” say my friends. They’re right.    

At the checkout, there’s a “WOW!” card, which allows you to officially recognize employees of the Carolinas Health System for caring, commitment, integrity, teamwork, communication, safety or service recovery. I think I officially recognize one of the physician assistants from the YMCA, though there’s no box for that. A nice lady said words in my direction as I was being weighed. I’d count that as an attempt at communication if I knew her name.    

My son asked me to stop at the Sonic drive-in restaurant on the way home to get him french toast sticks. Sonic is one of those old-timey franchises where roller-skate-wearing carhops bring your meal on a tray and attach it to your car window. As I pulled into a parking space, one of the workers had her back to me, standing halfway in the parking space and engaged in earnest conversation with what look liked a manager. She was near tears as I edged closer and closer, trying to keep my rear-end out of traffic. I think I almost touched her as I finally settled tightly into the space. Would a mere nudge from my bumper constitute hitting her with my car? They are called carhops, you know.    

Maybe this is the day I finally turn to the Bible to find solace and direction for my life. I lift the heavy volume from the shelf in our library — forsaken too long in my search for earthly delights — and turn to a random passage. “For then the king of Babylon’s army besieged Jerusalem, and Jeremiah was shut up in the court of the prison, which was in the king of Judah’s house.” Sorry, can’t relate to that one. Let’s try another. “Mephibosheth had a young son whose name was Mica. And all who dwelt in the house of Ziba were servants of Mephibosheth.” (Lots of housing references here. Wonder if they had the Home and Garden Channel back then.)    

Okay, one more try, then it’s back to agnosticism: “And after they had passed through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia.” Now we’re getting somewhere.    

I’ll finish up today’s post with a few photographs from my family collection, and apologize again for the questionable unity of this post.    

Some relatives on my wife's side, I think

  

My niece, and a house.

  

Me, standing next to some kind of pagoda thing, in Sri Lanka

Thoughts for a springtime Monday

March 29, 2010

We recently completed a three-month long “waist reduction challenge” at my work, designed to encourage employees to lose weight and get healthy for the new year. I didn’t participate, but I’m hearing some good results reported by several of my coworkers: one of them lost a pound while another gained only two.    

I declined to be involved, primarily because I don’t care to have my weight reported on a bi-weekly basis to my supervisor. My upcoming performance review is going to be bad enough as it is without me having to hear “You’re not quite the team player we’d like you to be and, in addition, you’re a tubby.”    

The whole office celebrated the end of the challenge period on Friday with Peppermint Patty brownies and big boxes of donuts.     

+++    

I posted a piece a few months back about the variety of periodicals available on top of the commode tank in the men’s room at my office. (See https://davisw.wordpress.com/2009/11/23/people-who-need-people/ if you give a crap). These are generally a mix of popular culture magazines with a few higher-brow offerings like National Geographic and Mental Floss thrown in, fairly reflective of what you might expect in the white-collar workplace.    

A week or so back, this bathroom was closed for cleaning, so I had to venture into the warehouse and use the blue-collar facilities. They’re equally clean, differing little from my usual haunt except for the curious framed sign next to the mirror warning associates not to put their feet on the wall. (Such a move would never even occur to me, so of course I had to try it. Wanted to get the full working-class experience during my visit).    

The magazine I found in this part of the building was something called Dirt Sports. At first, I thought it was about Extreme Gardening, but then read the subhead describing it as “the voice of off-road motorsports.” Apparently, driving car-like vehicles through the woods and swamps can be an intentional thing, and it’s been picked up by rural folk after the high-society crowd failed to show interest in Ted Kennedy’s seminal rally at Chappaquiddick in 1969.    

This holiday edition of the magazine featured a section on finding the “perfect holiday gift for your favorite member of the dirt sports nation.” I don’t have a favorite member of this group, unless you count the earthworm I declined to run over with my lawn mower last week, but I was still curious about some of the suggestions.    

At the top of the line was the Dunkel Ultimate Luxury Hauler, a modified Ford F750 truck with a 300 HP diesel engine and a remote-controlled tilting flatbed that can haul 8,000 pounds of “off-road exotica.” It sleeps six, seats 10, and could probably crush dozens. 

For the more economy-minded shopper, there was the Miller Arcstation, a blue metal worktable described as perfect for home welders. 

This last offering actually holds some appeal to me. I’m not exactly handy around the house, so when I have to fix a loose hinge or replace a hard-to-reach light bulb, I’d like the work to stay done for a while, and welding just might be the option for me. Maybe it’d also work on this lose crown I’ve been meaning to see the dentist about.    

Thank you, Dirt Sports magazine.    

+++    

Ever since coming off the Ambien a few weeks back, I’m able to remember my dreams again. I had a curious one the other night I thought was worth recounting.    

My mother and I were taking her car to a car wash, and planned to wait at a coffee shop while the work was done. We couldn’t find the cafe, so decided instead to go to Winn-Dixie, a now-bankrupt grocery store that used to be popular in the South. When we went for the car, the place had burned down, destroying our vehicle in the process. I don’t know how she planned to get home, but suddenly there was my father, atop a motorcycle and offering me a ride.    

“But I don’t have a helmet,” I said. He pointed out that equally effective for safety purposes was wearing a plain, old-fashioned hand-saw on your head. You simply bend the metallic part to the curvature of your skull and tape it to your cheeks.    

I wasn’t too sure about this but, since he was my father, I trusted him. We roared off down a beachfront road with me hanging on for dear life, the saw attached to my head.    

A few nights later, I also had a dream about boils.    

+++    

Someone in the lunchroom the other day said they’d finally learned how to get “screaming video” onto their desktop computer. Arrghh!    

I can't believe they meant STREAMING video

+++    

The temps I trained a few months ago are still working on third shift. However, there seems to be a topic I forgot to cover: I neglected to tell them they aren’t supposed to sleep at their desks.    

I shudder to think of the other things I didn’t cover that they shouldn’t be doing — plotting insurrection against foreign governments, developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD), painting their nails, using distributed denial-of-service attacks to bring down Pentagon computers, etc.    

I’ve gone back through all the training material I covered, as approved by our central office, and nowhere in the various processes and procedures so otherwise thoroughly documented could I find anything about staying awake while you’re collecting your paycheck. So since it wasn’t covered, the ladies are making up their own rules. One has even brought along a blanket and pillow, and seems thoroughly comfortable sprawled in the office chair in front of her terminal for several hours a night.    

I think, though, we’re going to draw the line when she pulls out the sleep mask.    

+++    

As I write this on a dreary Sunday afternoon, I’m starting to believe that the ancient Christians who made this day the weekly sabbath chose Sunday so they could fervently pray that the next day wouldn’t be Monday.    

They’d spent their one day of rest celebrating the glory of God, praising his righteous Kingdom to come here on earth, and thanking Him for sending His only son Jesus Christ to be our Savior and Lord. And they probably threw in occasional requests that, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble, could tomorrow possibly dawn as Saturday or even Friday? “We’d even take Judgment Day rather than going back to the fields and the mines on a Monday,” I imagine some of them implored. And yet it never happened.    

But these were people of supreme faith, so they’d try again every week, and now we have Sunday as our traditional day of prayer and worship.

Christ, I can’t believe it’s Monday already.

Monday thoughts (some in italic)

March 22, 2010

I can understand being too lazy to read a necessarily large and thorough health care reform bill, or to dim-witted to understand summaries of it. But for opponents of the effort to carry signs reading “NO to health care” — I hope their own personal physicians don’t take them literally.

+++

The sign at the Arby’s drive-thru reads “We gladly accept bills up to $20.” I believe they’ll also accept larger bills, but won’t be able to use quite as positive an adverb about it. My research reveals that they’ll reluctantly accept fifties, wistfully accept hundreds, skeptically accept two-hundred-dollar bills (good thing, since that denomination doesn’t exist), hypothetically accept $500 bills, impishly accept thousands and ironically accept the rare $5,000 bill. That’s what I like: a multinational corporation with attitude.

+++

“KSM” is both the federal government’s shorthand name for terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and the name of a power pop all-girl teen rock group from Los Angeles. See if you can tell the difference between the Man …

and the Band…

Lead singer is Shelby Cobra (The Man or The Band?)

Principal architect of the 9/11 attacks (The Man or The Band?)

Waterboarded over 70 times (The Man or The Band?) Remember: answer what actually happened, not what should’ve happened.

Mentored by the Go-Gos (The Man or The Band?)

Opening act for American Idol winner David Archuletta (The Man or The Band?)

Involved in the Bali nightclub bombings (The Man or The Band?) Careful — could be a trick question.

Pleaded guilty to mass murder (The Man or The Band?)

Described by critics as “spunky” and leading examples of “girl-ska-punk”. (The Man or The Band?)

+++

I always feel that if I’d been just a little gentler flipping the on-switch that the light bulb on the lamp would not have burned out. Is it possible to feel too responsible for your actions in life?

+++

Fun phrases and their possible definitions from the world of corporate news releases:

“Expansion of our footprint” — We’re starting to put on a little weight.

“We leverage multi-shore outsourcing expertise” — We own see-saws and other playground equipment at beaches around the world.

“We employ a suite of internet-based capabilities” — We have a whole room-full of workers shopping on eBay.

“As an integrated provider of solutions, we drive innovation” — We use both African-American and Caucasian employees to blend dangerous chemicals. Many of them own hybrid cars.

“Customer-facing applications” — We’ve learned to look at our clients.

“A 24-7 360-degree resource” — The football game had to be called in the third quarter when it got too hot.

+++

I drove up to the ATM at my bank the other day and confronted two separate lines of cars — one row had three vehicles, the other had a single auto from which a man my age (late fifties) had stepped out. He was hunched over, peering into the machine, with a card in his hand and a quizzical look on his face.

My instincts told me to choose the longer line, since those people had remained in their cars and appeared ready to make smooth and quick transactions at their machine. But I thought, no, that’s being prejudicial toward my own kind, and I shouldn’t assume a lack of hair corresponds to a lack of ability to interact with modern technology.

I pulled into the line only to regret it immediately; a woman had now emerged from the passenger seat of the older man’s car and was also looking at the ATM. The older couple was apparently trying to figure out how to apply for a modified home equity loan using a secondary residence as collateral, and couldn’t tell which slot they were to yell their questions into. Meanwhile, the other line proceeded nicely.

The man soon returned to the driver’s seat while the woman began rifling through her purse. When the car’s brake lights came on, I had hope that he was going to drive off without her, allowing me to nudge forward — not actually striking her with my vehicle, but offering a helpful bit of direction on how she should get the hell out of the line. The man pulled about a foot forward, then again climbed out of the car. Apparently, they needed a little more elbow room to transact their business. The man removed his jacket.

He looked pretty handy and I half-expected him to pull out a tool kit to try and force access to his passbook account. Neither of them looked in my direction, which was a good thing, as this was about the time I started shaking my fist. I pulled into reverse, moved across to the now-vacant other lane, and quickly finished my withdrawal.

Stupid people like me!

+++

The Methodist church near my home advertised the topic of Sunday’s sermon on the sign out front: “Jesus and the Smiley Face.”

At first, I figured the message would be predictable: Jesus recognized that life was difficult, that it wasn’t always easy to do the right thing, that doing things which make you happy may not be in the interest of God’s greater glory. There was no place on Calvary’s Cross for a round yellow head grinning ear to ear.

But then, I realized how the Lord’s message is frequently a nuanced one, and there are many layers of meaning in various commandments. (For example, “love thy neighbor” means not only to care for their souls and their well-being, but also to loan them your leaf blower and occasionally engage in secret sex with their wife). Maybe this is in line with that gospel of prosperity and joy I’ve been hearing about. Maybe Jesus does want us to be happy, and display that glee through a big, sloppy smirk.

Not that I’m going to spend a Sunday in church to find out.