Friday, October 30, 2015

Friday Fiction: The Curse of the Nurse Costumes

Jessie had never been fond of Halloween.

She wasn't sure why. It's possible it started that year her mom made her dress up as a Skittle and she had to spend the whole night explaining to people that she was a Skittle, not an M&M. "See," she would say as she pointed to her chest, "It's an 'S,' not an 'M.'"

She pulled up to the Costume-A-Rama store and found a parking spot. She'd seen their billboard and heard their ad on the radio. She'd also already been to Walmart and Target, and their costume sections were pretty well picked through. It was the day before Halloween, so if she couldn't find a costume at Costume-A-Rama, she probably couldn't find one anywhere.

She stepped into the store. It was bigger than it looked. And, yes, they did still have quite a selection of costumes. She started to look down each aisle to see if she could find what she wanted. She was startled when the voice over her shoulder said, "Welcome to Costume-A-Rama! Can I help you find anything?"

"Yes," Jessie replied. "I'm looking for the nurse costumes." Gary had suggested that they go to the party as a doctor and a nurse. They'd only been going out for about three weeks, so she thought it a little odd that he try to dictate to her what costume she wear. But, a nurse costume seemed simple enough, and she really didn't want to put the effort into something more creative.

"The nurse costumes are down Aisle D, over on the left," said the helpful employee.

"Thanks," Jessie said. The employee gave her a nod of acknowledgement, then walked away. Jessie watched as he then snuck up behind another customer and startled them with his offer to help.

Jessie walked down Aisle D and found the nurse costumes. She pulled the first one off the rack. "Sexy Nurse," it said on the tag. There was a picture of a woman in the costume, to show the consumer what the product looked like. The woman in the picture was wearing a short, white "nurse" skirt with a low cut neck. About 90% of the woman's legs were exposed below the skirt, and about 60% of her breasts were showing above it.

Jessie shook her head and put the costume back on the rack. She picked out the next costume. It was labelled as "Slutty Nurse," and it was even skimpier than the first one. Disgusted, she browsed through the entire nurse-costume section. They were labelled "Sexy Nurse," "Slutty Nurse," "Attractive Nurse," "Adult Nurse," "Naughty Nurse," and "Hot Nurse." She did find one costume that was labelled just plain old "Nurse," but upon examination it was the exact same costume as the "Hot Nurse," just with a different picture on the front.

The next night, Jessie arrived at the party feeling pretty good about herself. Everyone was in costume. She knew a lot of the people there, but she could only recognize a few of them. She was looking for Gary, but couldn't see him yet. She did see Sheldon and Suzanne, and she said her hellos to them. They had told her earlier that they were coming as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. They both looked fantastic, although Jessie wasn't quite sure which one was dressed as Trump and which one was dressed as Hillary.

Finally, she saw Gary at the back of the room. He was dressed in doctor's scrubs, with a stethoscope around his neck. "Well, hello there, Dr. Gary," she said enthusiastically.

Gary smiled as he heard her voice, but the smile faded as he looked her over. "That's what you're wearing?" he asked with more than a hint of disdain in his voice.

Jessie was confused. "Yes," she said. "Is there a problem with it?"

"Umm," Gary muttered, "I thought you were going to dress as a nurse."

"I am dressed as a nurse," Jessie replied. "My sister Janice is a nurse, so I borrowed some of her scrubs." She threw her arms into the air, as if to present herself. "What do you think?"

"Umm, well, I thought you were going to wear a nurse costume," Gary said.

"This is a nurse costume," Jessie replied. "This is a costume worn by an actual nurse."

"But I was thinking something more, I don't know, sexy," Gary said.

"Really?" Jessie replied. "I'm not sexy enough for you?"

"No, that's not what I meant," Gary sputtered. "I just thought that your costume would, you know, show a little more."

"A little more what?" Jessie was starting to show a little more. A little more of her disgust.

"Oh, you know," Gary continued, "a little more of you. You're so hot that I thought I'd like to see a little more of your body. It's a great body." Gary added that last sentence in an attempt to get himself out of the hole he had been digging. Instead, he only dug himself a little deeper.

Jessie thought for a moment. "What about your costume? You've got a great body, too. Why can't I see some more of it?"

"Well that's just stupid," Gary said. "I'm dressed as a doctor."

"Yes, I see that," Jessie said. "But why couldn't you be a bit more of a sexy doctor?"

"Oh, come on," Gary retorted. "This is how doctors dress!"

"And this," Jessie said as she waved her hand from head to toe to show off her costume, "is how nurses dress!"

Gary looked flummoxed. Jessie stepped a little closer to him and patted him on the shoulder. "Gary," she said, "I'll be seeing you around. I'm going to go and enjoy what's left of this party. And the next time you see me, no matter what I'm wearing, I'll be dressed as your ex-girlfriend."

Gary stood with his jaw agape as Jessie walked away. She had a satisfied smile on her face as she wandered through the crowd. She saw Donald Trump and stopped to talk to him. (Or was it Hillary?)


Now choose a title that best fits this story.

O A. Sexy Nurse
O B. Naughty Nurse
O C. Drama at the Costume-A-Rama
O D. The Nice Nurse and the Naughty Doctor
O E. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Have a Nice, Cold Beverage

Progress is nice. Except when it slows things down.

One of my favorite things is a cold, refreshing soda pop. Of course, depending on where you are in the country you might call it a soda, or you might call it a pop, or you might call it a soda pop, or you might call it a fountain drink, or you might call it a fizzy drink, or you might call it a carbonated beverage. Whatever you happen to call it, I like it.

The way we get our soda pops has changed greatly over the years. I'm old enough (barely) to remember going to the soda fountain at the drug store. We'd sit up at the counter on one of the twirly stools and order our preferred drink. (I usually chose root beer or red cream soda.) The person behind the counter would put the cup (or mug!) under the magical machine, pull a lever, and the delectable beverage would flow. When the cup (or mug!) was full, they would place it on the counter in front of us for our consumption. It was a beautiful arrangement.

A new "old" soda fountain counter.
Most of those drug store counters are gone now, except for a select few of the old shops that are still open, and some new ones attempting to capitalize on the nostalgia of the old ones. And, how we get our beverages has changed, too.

I think it started with the gas stations and convenience stores. At some point, many years ago, someone decided that, instead of the person behind the counter filling all of the drinks, it would be okay for the general population to get their own beverages. This arrangement seemed to work, because it let the customer get whatever drink they wanted, and it freed up the person behind the counter so they could spend more time on their phone.

Before long, fast food restaurants also adopted the get-your-own-drink philosophy. And no one really complained. For the customer it meant unlimited refills! Also, you could mix flavors and choose how much (if any) ice you wanted. It was good news for beverage lovers.

And so it went for several years. There were no advancements in beverage dispersement, but no one seemed to care. But then, suddenly, a new innovation appeared. I first noticed it a couple of years ago when I ventured into a local Burger King. Instead of the usual soda machine with dispensers for six or eight different flavors, they had a machine with a single dispenser, but a seemingly unlimited variety of flavors from which to choose!

The machine is called "Coca Cola Freestyle."
This was exciting news! Simply by pushing the touch screen, almost any flavor of beverage is available. According to Wikipedia (which is correct at least 63% of the time) there are over 125 possible drink and flavor combinations.

At a nearby Wendy's, this man chooses between Coke, Diet Coke, Vanilla Coke, Cherry Coke, Lime Coke, and, quite possibly, Guava Coke.
I like soda pop. I like different flavors. I really like these machines! I could think of absolutely no problem with these machines. In my mind they were perfect beverage dispensers. Until, one day, I experienced the problem first hand.

The Wife, the kids, and I went to a Wendy's during the lunch hour rush. Before we could order our food, we had to figure out which was the line to order the food and which was the line for the beverage machine. We ordered our food and we were given our cups to fill at the wonderful drink dispenser. That's when the trouble began.

There was one machine with only one dispenser. And there was a long line. When some people approached the machine, they didn't know how to use it. (A very confused little old lady, who probably still has a corded phone at home, was eventually helped by the impatient youngster behind her in line.)

And then there were the people who felt the need to browse. Despite the fact that they could see the dozen people in line behind them, some folks just couldn't quite decide on which flavor to choose.

So many choices! I need to consider each and every one very carefully.
The old soda machines had limited flavors, but they did have six or eight places from which soda was dispensed. Sometimes two or even three people could be getting beverages at the same time! Not so with these new machines. 

By the time I got drinks for myself and my family, my food was cold and not as enjoyable. (It's a proven fact: warm french fries are better than cold french fries.) At one point I was about ready to take my cup up to the counter and ask them to just get me root beer from the machine they have back there for the drive-thru.

And refills? Forget refills. No one wants to stand in line for fifteen minutes to get a refill.

So, the way we get our beverages has changed a lot over the years. These new soda machines are great, if you go out to eat during non-peak hours. Still, I think I prefer sitting on the twirly red stools at the soda fountain counter, waiting for someone to hand me my mug full of root beer. (With foam on the top.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Who Do You Want To Be For Halloween?

My son wants to be a doctor.

That's a good thing, right? I would be very happy if my son were to become a doctor. Unfortunately, he's only talking about his Halloween costume.

A doctor? That shouldn't be too hard. We should be able to make him a nice doctor costume out of stuff we have around the house. (And when I say "we" I mean "The Wife.") he says he wants to be Captain America. That should be fine. I like Captain America and what he stands for. I’ve seen some Captain America costumes at the store. In fact, I wouldn’t mind having one of those cool Captain America shields myself.

Wait…now he says he wants to be Spider-Man. I guess that’s okay, too. Spider-Man’s not as patriotic as Captain America, but he’s still heroic.

Wait…now he wants to be an astronaut.

Wait…now he wants to be Anna from “Frozen” because his big sister wants to be Elsa. Umm, I’m not sure how I feel about this one. It definitely wouldn’t be my first choice for him. I don’t want to discourage it too much, because then he might show his stubborn streak and try to hold his ground. It’s probably best if I just give it a few days until he changes his mind again.

(A couple of years ago his older sister spent four months declaring she wanted to be Shaggy from “Scooby-Doo” for Halloween. Fortunately for us, those four months were between December and March, so by the time October rolled around she had long forgotten it.)(No father has ever aspired for his daughter to look like Shaggy from “Scooby-Doo.”)

And now…still Anna. On the plus side he’s listened to the “Frozen” soundtrack enough that he knows all of the songs.

Wait…now he wants to be Olaf the snowman from “Frozen.” That’s better! A snowman costume shouldn’t be too hard (for The Wife) to figure out.

Wait…now he wants to be Jar Jar Binks! He’s never even seen any of the “Star Wars” movies, so how does he even know who that is? And there definitely won’t be any Jar Jar Binks costumes at the local store, so that means we’ll have to search the internets.

Wait…now he wants to be Iron Man. Good! But he was Iron Man two years ago, and that costume doesn’t fit anymore. We’ll have to get a new one.

Wait…now he wants to be a fire fighter. Even better! He can dress up like a REAL hero!

(Of course, there’s still some time between now and Halloween, so he MIGHT change his mind another 17 times.)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Friday Fiction: The Green Glowing Rocks of Home

"Karl, is there anything else on the agenda before we turn over time to the general population?" The lines behind the microphones in each aisle were already about six or seven people deep.

"Yes, Ted, there is," Karl answered, looking down at his notes. "When people come to pick up their kids, they've been parking in the bus zone again. That one day last week Helen couldn't get the bus to where she usually parks it for the kids to get on because some car was in the way. And since the bus wasn't parked where it usually is, the Anderson kids missed it. So then Janie had to come all the way into town to pick up her kids, and she wasn't very happy about it." Janie Anderson had written a terse note about the incident, and everyone on the school board had seen it.

Ted nodded. "Okay, so this is a problem. What can we do about it?" Ted, Karl, and Pam all turned and looked at Bernie, because he was the one in charge of the buses.

"Well," Bernie said, "we'll have to re-paint the lines. And we'll have to make sure nobody parks in the red zone. And it'd probably be a good idea to have a teacher posted out there for the next couple of weeks to make sure everybody's complying. Is that good enough, Janie?" The members of the school board looked to where Janie Anderson was sitting on the third row. She nodded her head in agreement.

"Okay," Ted said, "Was that the last of it?" Karl gave him the "thumb's up" sign. "Then," Ted continued, "I guess it's time to open things up for any concerns you all might have. Martha, it looks like you're up first."

"Thanks, Ted," said Martha, speaking into the mic a bit nervously. "Well, it's about my son, Clark. You know those green rocks that everyone has been finding lately?" Several people in the room nodded. "It seems that whenever he's in the same room with some of those rocks he gets really dizzy and weak and sick. So, I was wondering if we could make some rule to keep those green rocks out of his classroom."

"That sounds reasonable," Ted said from his spot behind the table at the front of the room. "We'll see if we can work something out."

"What?!" shouted Kaitlin from the audience. "No way! My son Bryan loves those green rocks! Why shouldn't he get to play with them just because they make one kid a little sick?"

"Well," Martha replied, "actually he gets more that just a little sick. We took Clark to see the doctor and he told us that not only does Clark get really sick if he's in the same room as the green rocks, but that if he touches them it might cause a reaction which could kill him. So we want to be very careful about those green rocks."

Kaitlin was standing now, and she had taken over the second microphone. "If? Might? Could? It sound to me like a lot of guess work. You don't even know for certain what would happen if your boy touches those green rocks, do you?"

Martha tried to calm herself so she didn't seem to angry when she answered. "No, I don't know for certain. But, if there's a significant chance these rocks could kill my son, I don't want them anywhere around him."

"But Bryan loves to play with those rocks," Kaitlin continued. "If Bryan can't play with his green rocks, it might make him sad and depressed. Why should the concerns about your son's health outweigh the concerns about my son's health?"

"Well," said Martha, "there's a big difference between your son maybe being a little sad and my son maybe dying. I'm not saying your son can't play with the rocks. He can play with them before and after school all he wants. I just don't want him bringing them into the classroom where they might kill my son!"

"I don't understand why I should be responsible for the well-being of your son," Kaitlin sneered. "It sounds to me like he needs to learn for himself to stay away from the green rocks. I don't know why my son has to suffer because your son has a problem."

"We are trying to teach Clark to stay away from the green rocks," Martha responded. "But, he's only in second grade. There's only so much he can control right now. That's why I'm asking for everyone to be reasonable and not send any of the green rocks to school."

"Reasonable?" Kaitlin was apoplectic. "Reasonable? What is my Bryan supposed to bring to class for his next Show and Tell? Rocks that don't have a green glow to them? Do you know how absurd that sounds?"

"There are lots of things your son can take for Show and Tell besides the green rocks," Martha sighed.

"Oh, and what if he brings something else and it makes some other kid sneeze?" Kaitlin asked. "Will we have to ban kids from bringing anything to class?"

"The only reason I'm asking for this is because it can make my Clark deathly ill. There's a big difference between someone sneezing and someone possibly dying."

Kaitlin snorted. "If you're so worried about this, why don't you just keep your boy home and home-school him?"

Martha's face turned red with anger as she replied. "I am not going to lock my son away in some fortress of solitude just because he is different! I don't think it's asking too much to have your son not play with the green rocks while he's at school. My son's life is at stake here. This shouldn't be so difficult."

"Fine!" Kaitlin said sarcastically. "We'll just kowtow to your son's every whim. He'll grow up with such a sense of entitlement because everyone has always had to bend their will for him. Is that what you want?"

"No, it's not. I wish my son wasn't different. I wish the green rocks didn't make him sick. But they do. He doesn't have any choice in the matter. I..."

Kaitlin interrupted. "What happens when he's an adult? There won't be any school board to go crying to. No one to bully other kids into not playing with the green rocks around your precious boy. Don't you want to teach him responsibility now?"

"It's not a matter of responsibility," Martha replied. "We can teach him to avoid the green rocks all day long, but there's no way for him to know if your kid has some in his pockets. It's not like he has x-ray vision." She turned to Ted and the rest of the school board at the front of the room. "Isn't there anything you can do to help protect my son?"

Ted took in a deep breath. "Martha, Kaitlin, you've both made some strong points. We'll have to take this under advisement as a board." Neither woman looked satisfied, but they both stepped away from their microphones and headed for their seats. "It looks like you're up next, Lisa," Ted said.

"I'm here to talk about homework," the woman said. "I send my daughter to school to do school work. Why do these teachers feel the need to send school work home with them? Can't they do it all there? Isn't that what school is for? They've got all day to do it!" About half of the people in attendance began to applaud. The other half rolled their eyes.


 Now choose a title that best fits this story.

O A. School Board Blues
O B. The Allegory of the Allergies
O C. The Fortress of Solitude
O D. The Green Glowing Rocks of Home
O E. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

[Author's Note: My seven year-old daughter has an allergy to peanuts and tree nuts. The doctor told us that as little as one-eighth of a peanut could cause a reaction that could kill her. Thankfully, she can be in the same room as the nuts, she just can't touch or eat them. So, it's not necessary for her school to ban all nuts. My daughter sits at a separate table during lunch time, one that is designated as "nut free." The school administration, the students, and the parents of the students have all been very helpful and accommodating. and for that we are very grateful.]


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

7 Life Hacks to Help You Be Happy

I remember when hacks were bad. Now they're all the rage.

The word "hack" has a lot of definitions, and most of them aren't very favorable. It could be a foul in basketball. ("He hacked the shooter across the arms, forcing the ref to call a two-shot foul.") It could be a writer or artist who does inferior work with the sole intent of getting paid. ("He was a hack whose best work was a poor imitation of Stephen King.) It could be something you do to a slab of meat. ("She grabbed the cleaver and took a hack at the steak.")

But lately, hacks have been getting a better reputation. Now a hack can be a shortcut; a better, quicker way of doing something productive. Life-hacks, especially, are very popular today. Life-hacks are ways to make life in general easier, more convenient, and better.

And really, I wouldn't be much of a hack writer if I didn't take a hack at writing up some life-hacks to ease your burdens and make your life more plush. So, here are my 7 Life-Hacks to Help You Be Happy!

1. Be nice to people who are nice to you.
It sounds pretty simple, doesn't it? If people are nice to you, you should be nice back to them. A long time ago a great* man once said, "It's nice to be nice to the nice." It's wonderful advice by which we should all live.

(*Okay, so this is a quote from Frank Burns, a character on the television show M*A*S*H. And no, Frank Burns wasn't a great man, but he was a great television character.)

2. Be nice to people who are mean to you.
One day, when The Girl (my seven year-old) and The Boy (my five year-old) weren't getting along very well, I lectured them and used the "It's nice to be nice to the nice" quote. A few minutes later The Girl turned to me and said, "Dad, you know what? It's mean to be mean to the mean." I laughed, and because I laughed she plugged a few more words into the formula. Such as, "It's silly to be silly to the silly," "It's wrong to be wrong to the wrong," and "It's stupid to be stupid to the stupid."

I learned a few things from this, including that The Girl is smart and silly. But, it was the first thing she said, "It's mean to be mean to the mean," that really got me thinking. It doesn't do any good to be mean to people who are mean to you; if anything this will just keep the cycle of meanness chugging along until somebody gets hurt. But, if you change things up and be nice to the people who are mean to you, they might actually stop being mean.

3. Wear clean underwear.
Mom used to always say, "Wear clean underwear. What if you were to get in an accident?" I never really understood this because 1) if you get in an accident, you might end up dirtying your underwear anyway; and B) I'm sure the doctors and nurses have more important things to do than check out the cleanliness level of your boxer shorts.

That being said, "wear clean underwear" is still good advice. You will feel better with clean underwear next to your skin. And, you'll be less likely to be stinky.

4. Don't grow a mustache and a mullet.
And if you do, don't take a photo of it. And if you did take a photo of it, don't post it on the internets. (The internets are forever.)

Should you take advice from this man?
(It's okay, I don't have the mustache anymore.)

5. Stay calm when driving.
There are a lot of idiots our on the roads. A lot of idiots. But, if we spend all of our time getting mad at the idiot drivers, we'll be angry drivers ourselves. And angry drivers are usually idiots, too.

I don't think anyone has ever flipped somebody off and then had that person track them down and say, "Thank you so much for showing me your middle finger! It helped me realize the mistakes I had been making while driving, and as a result I am a much better driver and a much better person!"

6. Don't watch reality television.
We can use our time in many different ways. We can work. We can play. We can read. We can help others. We can enjoy hobbies. We can better ourselves. Or, we can watch reality television.

Has anyone ever stepped away from the television after spending a few hours keeping up with the Kardashians and thought, "I'm a better person now than I was when I started watching this show?" I ask this because I don't know. I've never actually kept up with any Kardashians. (I usually keep away from the Kardashians.)

Now, I will say that I do differentiate between "reality" shows and "talent" shows. I think "talent" shows (like The Voice, and America's Got Talent) are acceptable to watch, because sometimes it's enjoyable and uplifting to see people display their actual talents. What I'm saying to avoid are the "reality" shows featuring untalented people blab on about themselves, like the Kardashians and the Real Housewives of Some City You Don't Care About. (By the way, those are not real housewives.)

7. Spend time with your family and friends.
Think back to the best memories you have. Your friends are there with you, aren't they? Or your family. Or both. The best, most fun, and most wonderful times of our lives are spent with the people we care about.

You'll never remember that night you stayed up until two in the morning watching Shootfighter II starring Billy Zabka. Unless you watched it with some of your friends and you spent the whole time laughing and having fun with it.

Family and friends can turn good times into great times. I could have fun at Disneyland by myself, but the lasting memories I have are of the sheer joy on my daughter's face as she met her first princess and the sense of awe on my son's face as he looked down from the top of the ferris wheel.

It's always better to share than be selfish.

So, there you have it! Go ahead and take a hack at trying my life-hacks. I think you'll find that they'll help you be happier. (Especially that one about the mullet. You do not want to be that guy!)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday Fiction: It's Expensive to Eat Out

The whole thing started because it was my night to cook. Maggie set up a thing about a year or so ago that I would be the one to cook two nights a week. It started out being Monday and Thursday nights, but we quickly realized those were NFL nights, so she changed it to Tuesday and Friday nights. It didn't bother me any; I don't mind to cook. And it gives her a chance to have a night off every now and then. Besides, my meatloaf is better than Maggie's, anyway.

But, that particular Tuesday night I was late getting home from work. Winchester and Pierce had really botched things up with the Honeycutt account, and I had to stay late to get things fixed. By the time I got home I just wasn't in the mood or the mindset to cook anything. So, I decided to take the whole family out for dinner.

My next mistake was going to IHOP. Personally, I wanted to go to Chili's, because I love those honey-chipotle chicken fingers they have, but smiley-faced pancakes outvoted honey-chipotle. They showed us to a booth, and Maggie got in on one side in between Timmy and Tammy, while I got on the other side with Tommy. And then we set up Cassandra in her high chair at the end of the table. Since it was my night to cook, I was in charge of feeding the baby.

I thought the evening went pretty well. Tammy and Tommy enjoyed their smiley-faced pancakes. Timmy, of course, had to have the macaroni and cheese. Cassandra didn't cry the whole time we were there. Sure, she knocked half of her food to the floor, but it was mostly big pieces and we picked most of it up before we left. Maggie had the chicken fried steak breakfast meal for dinner, and I had the "Rooty-Tooty Fresh 'N Fruity" pancakes. (Hey, don't judge me! A man can have fruity pancakes if a man wants fruity pancakes!)

We packed up, paid, and left, and not a single word was said to us by them. I barely even noticed them at all, since they were sitting behind me. Later, Maggie said that she saw them come in and definitely noticed them, because she wondered what people dressed so nice were doing at an IHOP. But, we didn't hear so much as a peep from them that night.

We did, however, hear from them five days later. That's when we got the letter.

At first, I thought it was junk mail. It looked bigger and more official than all the other mail, but I still thought it was junk mail. Because, you know, how the junk mail people sometimes try to make their mail look more official so that you actually open it. That's what it looked like. Like someone was trying extra hard to get you to open their junk mail.

Well, Maggie did open it. It was from the law firm of Geller & Green. That's when we found out we were being sued. $1,000 for actual damages, plus $17,000 for emotional distress. I would have thought it was some kind of weird joke except they had pictures from the restaurant. Pictures of our table, pictures of Timmy's bowl, and pictures of a lone cheese-covered macaroni noodle on the shoulder of a $1,000 dress.

I still think it's all some kind of set-up. Timmy likes his mac and cheese way too much to fling a noodle over the table. He eats every last noodle! Besides, either Maggie or I would have seen him if he had flung a noodle, wouldn't we?

Still, we had no choice but to defend ourselves. We had to get a lawyer. All I could think of was the jingle:

Someone sued you for no reason?
Give a call to Gary Gleason!

So, I called Gary Gleason. At first, he said all the right things. "They have no case," and "We'll have this taken care of quickly." That was four years ago. In that time we've spent over $42,000 on legal fees to Gary Gleason to resolve an $18,000 law suit. And we're not even close to being done with it yet! They finally have a court date set for next March, but that will just add more fees. The only ones who have benefitted at all from this law suit are the firms of Geller & Green and Gary Gleason.

Never trust a smiling lawyer.
That, of course, is grinning Gary Gleason on the left, next to Geller and Green.*

In the meantime, in order to pay for all of this Maggie has had to go back to work, and I've had to pick up a second job. The days of going out to "fancy" places like IHOP are over. In fact, about all we can afford to eat anymore is macaroni and cheese. We've eaten it so often that I think even Timmy might get sick of it. Maybe.


Please choose a title that best fits this story.
O A. Dinner and Litigation
O B. Never Trust a Smiling Lawyer
O C. The IHOP Shuffle
O D. It's Expensive to Eat Out
O E. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

*Note: I have no idea who these guys are in the picture. I got the photo from the free photo website Pixabay. I went to Pixabay, did a search for "lawyers," and found this picture of these three smiling fellows. My apologies if I have offended any of the gentlemen. Please don't sue me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Bus Stops Here

We're lucky. The bus stop is directly across the street from our house.

Partly because of this fact, our kids have never been late for the bus. (Yet.) I can look out the window and see when the other kids are lining up at the bus stop and know that it's time to get my kids out the door.

It's fun to watch all of the kids from the neighborhood gathered together and playing as they wait for the bus. They'll chase each other and play catch and stomp all over my neighbor's lawn.
Another one rides the bus.

When I was a kid I had to walk all the way across town to get to the bus stop. Of course, Arimo was such a small town that "all the way across town" was basically about four or five blocks.

Actually, for first and second grades I didn't have to ride the bus at all. For those two years I just walked to the school itself. But, after I finished second grade they decided that Arimo was too small to have an elementary school on its own, so they started to bus us to the nearby town of McCammon. (McCammon was about twice as big as Arimo, with about twice as many stop signs, but the same number of traffic lights.) (Zero is a number.)

So, every morning I would start out for my long trek to the bus stop. On the way I'd have to walk past the house with the mean dog. It was usually on a leash, but not always. It was a big relief when I saw that Blue wasn't roaming free. (Yes, I knew the dog's name. In Arimo you knew the name of every person, all of the dogs, most of the horses, some of the cats, and even a few of the pet rocks.)

Once I made it past Blue it was free and clear to the bus stop. A lot happened at that bus stop. There were games of tag and hide and go seek. Every once in a while we would even get in a game of red rover. There were snowball fights. And, quite often, there were real fights. The real fights were usually about what place in the line you were to get on the bus.

Looking back, I don't know why it was always such a big deal. There was always plenty of room on the bus, and you never had to sit with someone you didn't want to sit with. As adults we get all concerned with taxes and mortgages and politics, but as kids there was nothing more important than what order you were in when you got on the bus.

The earlier you got on the bus, the better the chances were that you could sit where you wanted. The cool kids sat at the back of the bus. The not-quite-as-cool kids sat at the front of the bus. And all of the rest of us sat in the middle.

I look out across the street these days and it doesn't look like what order they get on the bus is quite as big of a deal to the kids today as it was back then. Oh, they'll run to get to the bus stop first, and they'll put their backpacks in their place at the line so they can go off and play, but I have yet to see any fistfights or pushing and shoving when it comes time to actually get on the bus.

So yes, I'm glad the bus stop is right across the street. And I'm glad all of the kids at the bus stop seem to get along with each other. I'm glad my kids have made friends with their bus stop mates. But mostly I'm glad that I don't have to take the kids to school myself. I prefer being in my pajamas at 8:30 in the morning.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Friday Fiction: Waiting For My Number

[Note: For those of you who are my regular readers (all seven of you), I'm trying something a bit different today. When I started writing full-time back in May, the idea was to do two humor blog-columns a week, and then also work on a fiction book. Well, the book hasn't been going very well, and I think part of the problem is that I've been focusing so much on writing these humor columns for the blog. So, in order to get my mind in more of a fiction mode, I've decided to change things up a little and try my hand at writing some short fiction occasionally on Fridays. I hope you enjoy it, and please let me know what you think.]

Jimmy looked down once again at his number. 423.

The now familiar buzzing sound went off again, followed by the unenthusiastic voice over the intercom saying, "Number 318. Will number 318 please move to the counter." The red LED light that hung from the ceiling flashed the number 318 on and off for seven seconds before settling in to its standard dull glow.

Jimmy looked down once again at his number. 423. He was going to be here for a while.

Jimmy sighed and looked around the room. It was pretty full, just as it had been when he arrived an hour and forty minutes ago. Oh, there were a few empty chairs here and there, but never more than two or three in a row, except for the four-chair buffer zone that surrounded the large smelly man wearing a Captain America t-shirt about two sizes too small. In his mind, Jimmy called him "Captain Stinky."

Jimmy had two open seats to his left. They had previously been occupied by Lady 309 and her two year-old son. She had been one of the most normal-looking, semi-attractive people in the room, which is why Jimmy had chosen to sit where he did. He hadn't said anything to her, other than, "This seat taken?" but he had enjoyed sitting next to her. (As much as you can "enjoy" anything in a place like this.) He had liked how she played toy cars with her son, and the way her cheekbone rose slightly when she smiled at him.

To his right was the old lady knitting. Jimmy didn't know what her number was. He tried to glance at it, but the lady had it hidden under the thing she was knitting. At first, Jimmy thought it was a scarf, but they had both been here long enough that it was looking more like a blanket. She hadn't said a word, she just sat there knitting. Was it knitting or crocheting? One of those. Jimmy didn't know the difference.

As Jimmy watched the lady working the yarn there was a tap on his shoulder. "Is it okay if I sit here?" Jimmy turned and was disappointed to see a small, well-dressed man with an inquisitive look on his face as he awaited Jimmy's reply. Jimmy nodded his head and grunted in affirmation. He didn't want to. He had hoped that someone cute, like Lady 309, would sit next to him. This guy was not nearly as cute as Lady 309. But, at least he wasn't Captain Stinky.

The man sat down and shuffled his papers in his lap, the white tag with "503" in big, black numbers on top. "Well," the man said, "I'm certainly glad they are doing this, even though I don't really want to spend a lot of time here."

Oh great, a yapper, thought Jimmy. Even though the large room was full of people, there wasn't a whole lot of talking going on. Most people kept to themselves, quietly planting their faces in their phones. It had been eerily quiet for that many people. Until Yappy 503 started yapping.

"I see you are number 423," said Yappy 503. "You're probably up pretty soon." As if on cue, the buzzing sounded and the intercom droned, "Number 319. Will number 319 please move to the counter." Jimmy pointed at the blinking red number, shook his head, and gave Yappy 503 a discouraging look.

"Oh," Yappy 503 said, disappointingly. "Still," he said, trying to show a little enthusiasm, "I'm willing to wait a bit, because I think this is for a good cause."

"Good cause? Are you out of your mind?!" It was the first sound Jimmy had heard from Granny Knitty, and she was very fiery as she spoke. "This whole thing is ridiculous, and the biggest waste of time I've ever seen! Even a bigger waste of time than that Titanic movie! I mean, everyone knew the dang thing was going to sink!"

"Really?" Yappy 503 was showing a hint of indignation. "A waste of time? Tell that to the people of Wyoming! Do you really want another Wyoming Incident?"

"Good grief!" Granny Knitty, apparently a fan of Charles Shultz, shouted in reply. "What happened in Wyoming wasn't an 'incident,' it was one crazy person who went a little too far."

"A little too far?!" Yappy 503's face was getting red with anger now. "Four people were killed! Six more were injured! That's more than just a 'little too far' in my book!" Jimmy sat, his head turning back and forth between the two like a cartoon character watching a tennis match.

Suddenly, another voice broke into the conversation. "Yes, what happened in Wyoming was tragic," said Big Hair 399, "but I still don't understand how all those people died and got hurt. All he had was a butter knife." The lady in front of Jimmy had turned around and joined in. She was holding number 399. And she had big hair.

"Exactly my point," said Yappy 503. "It may have 'only' been a butter knife, but he still managed to inflict a lot of damage!"

"Only because they were idiots," said Granny Knitty. "How stupid do you have to be to let a guy kill you with a butter knife?"

"Sounds like victim blaming to me," said Yappy 503.

"It probably is," said Granny Knitty. "Their stupidity is the reason why I have to sit here all day and listen to idiots like you."

Yappy 503 clenched his fist and his jaw. Big Hair 399 broke in again. "It does seem stupid that because four people got killed in Wyoming that I have to sit here for four hours just to register all of my butter knives. I've never hurt anyone with a butter knife in my entire life!" (This was a lie. When she was 13 years old she had thrown her butter knife at her little brother when he had eaten the last bowl of Cap'n Crunch, which she had been saving for herself. The knife struck him in the shoulder, handle-side first. It didn't break the flesh, but it did leave a pretty good bruise for a couple of weeks.)

Jimmy looked down at the paperwork in his lap. He was there to register his 12 butter knives and 18 forks with the government. It did all seem rather silly.

"Maybe not," said Yappy 503 to Big Hair 399, "but once you've registered those knives, we can be sure you won't ever hurt anyone with them."

"That's so dunderheaded!" shouted Granny Knitty. "Just because they're registered doesn't mean you still can't hurt someone with them! I mean, if they actually were dangerous. All registering them does is mean they can track down who owned the butter knife after it's been used."

"Well, isn't that good information to have?" asked Yappy 503.

"That wasn't really a problem in Wyoming," said Granny Knitty. "They didn't have any problem finding the guy who killed those people with a butter knife. This whole thing is just stupid. And so are you," she added, pointing in the direction of Yappy 503.

"Oh, shut up, you old hag!" shouted Yappy 503. That's when Granny Knitty took her knitting needle and swung it in the direction of Yappy 503. Yappy was surprised, but he reacted quickly and deflected the blow.

That's how the knitting needle came to rest in Jimmy's thigh, several inches into his flesh, and several inches out.

And it's why, six months later, Jimmy was sitting on a bench in the big hallway, awaiting his turn to testify in front of Congress concerning the Knitting Needle Registration Act.


Now please choose a title that best fits this story.

O A. Waiting For My Number
O B. Yappy 503 vs. Granny Knitty
O C. The Wyoming Incident Revisited
O D. Butter Knife Rebellion
O E. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Birthdays Are the Best (Usually)

What do you get the woman who means everything?

Today is my wife's birthday. I never really know what to get her for her birthday. She's not really into possessions. She doesn't really like "stuff." Oh, she'll buy "stuff" fairly often, but when she does, it's almost always stuff for our kids, or the kids she teaches, or me. She hardly ever buys stuff for herself.

She can always use clothes, but it's awkward for a guy to get clothes for a woman. Guys are guys, and we never really know what size to get. If we get the size too small, the clothing won't be of any use. If we get the size too big, we've horribly insulted our wife.

And, even if clothing did come in "one size fits all" so there would be no size-guessing snafus, there is no such thing as "one style fits all." So, if you manage to navigate the size dilemma, you still might end up with an outfit that "looks like something your mom might wear." And you don't want that. (Sorry, Mom.)

She likes shoes. Unfortunately, shoes have all the same problems attached to them that clothes do. Still, one year I decided to go for it anyway. I triple-checked her shoe size and I studied the styles of shoes she already owned and liked. When I found a pair that I thought for sure she would like, I bought them for her. But, unbeknownst to me, that was the year that her mom also happened to buy her two pair of shoes as well, making it The Birthday of Six Shoes.

I've gotten my wife a lot of useless junk for her birthday over the years. I've gotten her cookie sheets and other equally lame kitchen stuff. I've gotten her books that I thought she might like. (I've also gotten her books that I thought I might like. Oops.)

Sometimes I do okay. On the first birthday that we knew each other, shortly after we were engaged, I got her a couple of framed pictures that I took on our hike at Mount Timpanogas on our second date. They still hang on our wall.

A couple of years ago I thought I'd get some points by getting her something totally unexpected. I got her a welcome mat for the front door. My wife never uses the front door. She usually does a pretty good job of feigning excitement for what I get her, but that day, despite her best efforts, all I could see on her face was, "What is this? And why did you give it to me?" It turns out "totally unexpected" won't get you any points if the gift is totally useless.

Having said all of this, it's not really as difficult as it sounds. My wife doesn't ask for much on her birthday. She doesn't need fancy gifts, or big hoopla and falderal. Mostly she just wants a birthday cake and to spend some time with her kids. They get her things from the dollar store, and she loves it! Sometimes those dollar store gifts are the best because they come with love.

We'll go out to dinner tonight as a family to celebrate her birthday. And she'll love that the kids are happy and excited for her birthday. And she'll be happy with whatever I get her for her birthday. (As long as it's not a welcome mat.)

Friday, October 2, 2015

We Held Hands, and Then There Were Fireworks

The fact that there even was a third date was huge.

I was not very good at dating. First dates weren't very common. Second dates were rare. But third dates were almost completely unheard of. I was 40 years old, and up to that point I think I had only been on a third date with the same girl twice, and in both of those cases it was because I was either desperate or delusional. (Or both.)

This was different. I was neither desperate nor delusional. I was interested in her, and it felt like she was interested in me. Things were going to happen on this third date! (I previously wrote here about our first date, and our second date.)

For the date, we planned to go to the Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City. We were going to go to the planetarium and watch one of their movies. On our first date, my Not-Yet-Wife had placed her hand perilously close to my knee, as if offering it up for some hand holding. I wasn't ready for it then, but as I got ready for this third date, I was a bit giddy in the anticipation that I was going to get to hold her hand. (Remember, there is a reason they call me "Slow Joe.")

So, we met up and went to the planetarium. I don't remember what the movie was, just that it was something about space and that it was narrated by Harrison Ford. What I do remember is that the Not-Yet-Wife once again put her hand perilously close to my knee, but this time I reached down with my own hand and soon we had interlocking fingers resting on our legs. As Han Solo told us about the possibility of life on other planets, I was finally discovering life on this planet!

We're holding hands!!!

After the movie ended, we wandered around the planetarium for a few minutes and made a couple of jokes about the planet Uranus. Then we left, looking for a place to eat. As we walked, I reached again for her hand. It's one thing to hold hands in a darkened theater. It's another thing altogether to do so in public in front of other people.

I was a bit giddy. Walking hand in hand, I turned to her and said, "So, does this mean I have a girlfriend?" She replied, "I don't know. Do you want a girlfriend?"

"Yes. Yes, I do."

We walked to Applebee's, because nothing says romance like Applebee's. I successfully made it through dinner without burping, farting, or spilling much of my orange chicken on my shirt. (Don't underestimate how improbable that was.)

Then, it was time to go back to my place. Since we lived about 45 miles away from each other, she had driven up and met me at my house for the start of our evening. So, that's where we were headed now. But, on the way I drove her past an old apartment of mine, and while there I pointed out an apartment complex across the street that had a big sign on the side of it that said, "The Harvey." (I did this as a bit of a test, because if she didn't laugh at the fact that there was an apartment complex named "The Harvey," I would highly question her sense of humor.)

When we got to my house it was time for some dessert. It had been an enjoyable date to this point, so I got the good stuff out of the freezer; she was worthy of the Haagen-Dazs. The ice cream I had was a limited-time flavor called "Sticky Toffee Pudding." It was the best ice cream I have ever eaten! (In the years since, every time I walk down the ice cream aisle at the store I glance at the Haagen-Dazs section in hopes that they bring that flavor back. No luck yet.)

As we were eating our ice cream we started to hear some explosions in the distance. At the time I lived about a half a mile away from the Olympic speed skating oval in the Salt Lake suburb of Kearns. Every August, Kearns has a community celebration called "Fire, Water, and Ice Days." It just so happened that our third date coincided with the fireworks show.

We left our ice cream and went outside into my backyard. From there we had a pretty good view of the fireworks. It was quite a scene. We held hands, and then there were fireworks! I even got so bold as to take things beyond hand-holding: I put my arm around her shoulder!

We stood there in my back yard, shoulder to shoulder, watching fireworks explode in the night sky. If I had had any brains or guts or whatever other innards most people have, I would have kissed her right there and then. But, alas, I am Slow Joe for a reason. I was still too giddy from holding hands and having my arm around her to think of anything beyond that.

We held hands, and there were fireworks!

Still, it was a glorious and wonderful night! And, even to this day, whenever I hear the voice of Harrison Ford I want to hold hands with my honey. And whenever I see fireworks I want to put my arm around her. (And maybe even be so bold as to kiss her!)