Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2019

Archive for the month “January, 2019”

Throwback Thursday from January 2016 – “Am I Religious?”

Throwback Thursday from January 2016

Am I Religious?

WHAT KIND OF A QUESTION IS THAT TO ASK? Before I’ve had my coffee even? After all, what makes a person “religious?”

If there was to be a survey taken I couldn’t accurately predict the outcome. Yeah, well, maybe I could, but it wouldn’t really matter.

You see – God and I have this arrangement. Actually, it’s the same arrangement He’s made with all of us. All that God asks of me is that I give Him a respectful nod for who He is and what He has accomplished and that I try to get along with the guy who lives next door. I mean, is that too much to ask? I think not. It is simply worded without any “whereases,” “wherefores,” and “party of the first part” stuff to gum up the works. Neat. Clean. To the point. No trap doors. I think it all boils down to, “Don’t be a jackass.”

I do go to church on Sunday, although that is really just a one day a week expression of an everyday thing – but with music and lunch afterward.

Another thing that is part of my “Arrangement” is that I try not to make too many demands on God. After all, I am not the only person who has His personal number.

There have been times when I have said, “God, please let that guy score from third base. It is really important.” It is at times like that when I am reminded of the meaning of the word “Important.” It will be three days later when that guy on third base finally scores, when the score is already 17 – 0.

It is then that I look up and say quietly, “God, I don’t want to complain, but why couldn’t you have helped out three days ago when I asked?” And God says to me, “Three days ago? I was busy, and besides, your batter can’t hit a slider to save his life. Some things are beyond even Me.”

So much for that.

The world being what it is, I’m sure that there are some people out there who will complain that I refer to God as “Him” or “He.” Why do I do that? Because that is what I have done all my life and God has not told me to change it. Also, it is less cumbersome that saying, “He, She, It,” each time I refer to Him. See? There, I did it again. If you are offended, outraged, or miffed that I do that – all I can say is, “Is that the biggest fish frying in your pan? Get over it. If you want to call God, “She” or “It,” – go right ahead. It’s no big thing to me. Take your complaint upstairs.

Marvin the Martian

If there are beings living on some other planet I’m sure that God has made His presence known in one form or another. He may have even helped that guy score from third on their world.

So, am I religious? I think so, sort of. There are a lot of people who would disagree, but that is their problem, not mine. Some of them I would not want living next door. I have my arrangement with God, and, so far, He seems to be OK with it too. I try to give Him that nod of appreciation and recognition, and I try to get along with my fellow humans. It’s not always easy. Can we agree on that?

All in all, I think my biggest challenge in keeping up my end of the Arrangement is this: “Don’t be a jackass.” God help me.

Icy Roads And Hot Soup

OH, SWEET JESUS IT IS GETTING UGLY. Last weekend that was a phrase I said several times. I said it usually right after I looked out of the window. Weather conditions were deteriorating at a rapid pace.

I did not like that.

It was Friday evening and the predictions from the various weather networks, websites, and TV Weather Dudes told us to expect snow and ice – anywhere from one inch to two feet. Don’t you just love such precision?

These predictions of doom and gloom had been coming all week. The forecasts were all over the place. One person would say that it was going to be nasty in northern Maine, but not bad at all in Indiana where we are. The next person would say that Indiana was going to be wiped from the face of the earth. The third source was saying…Somewhere in between.

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Oh, Deer Me!

WINTERTIME IN INDIANA – ICY COLD, SNOW UP TO YOUR VASECTOMY SCARS, AND DEER EVERYWHERE. You can’t do much about the cold temperatures and it is pointless to worry about the snow. It is all of those deer that make things scary. They are everywhere and they all seem to be part of a suicide pact.

Maybe all of the 87 million deer within the Terre Haute (That’s French for “Look out, here they come!”) city limits have reached their own personal breaking point and have decided to end it all by leaping into traffic.

The number of deer/motor vehicle collisions around here is just plain ridiculous. The result is measured in bent metal insurance claims and venison hot links.

Zero wins – Two losses.

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…Everyone Would Be In Love With Me.

HOT DOG! HOT DIGGITY DOG EVEN!

Don’t tell anyone, but I am seriously considering coming out of Retirement. Why you ask? Because the job of my dreams has opened up and I think that I am the ideal candidate! If I work things right and put my best foot forward I, your friend and charming as all get out dude, might just be the next “Hotdogger” driver of the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile! Oh, yeah!

Eat your heart out.

The official job title for the lucky person chosen to drive the Weinermobile is “Hotdogger” and it is not a term to be taken lightly – at least not in my world. You can call me “Mister Hotdogger.”

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Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Twelve

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Twelve

If it wasn’t for Salt Lake I can truly say that I kind of liked my job, but going out there was torture. I made up my mind to tell those FBI characters that I’d had it and, like it or not, I was leaving. Let them lock me up. Even Alcatraz would be a better class of people than in that windowless box out on the Salt Flats.

When I got back from the Texas plant I had a two day break in San Francisco. After finally picking up my back pay from Uncle Sam, I had to go to the Federal Building for that, I went from the second floor up to the FBI on Five. They had a better view from up there and maybe they felt a little closer to heaven than the rest of us.

“I don’t care what you want, Tim. You have a patriotic duty to stay in there for us.”

I’ve heard that line before.

“I’ve already done my ‘Patriotic Duty’ – for three years at forty bucks a month. Now that I’ve finally got my money I want to go spend some of it and that ain’t gonna happen in Salt Lake City.”

I had reached my limit with them, with the Russians, with the whole dang thing. I was ready to just walk and I told them in my best GI curse words. It felt good to let it all out.

The G-Men sat there and took it – and then it became their turn.

“Listen to me, you trench foot hero. I don’t care how long you were in uniform. I was in mine longer and I outranked you. I still do. Your cussing doesn’t impress me or intimidate me. I have a seven year old niece who can cuss better than you. So- shut up and listen and you might just come out on the other end of this mess smelling like a rose rather than like the frightened pussy cat you do right now.” He stopped for a breath and I tried to jump in.

“I want you guys to know…” He cut me off.

“Shut up, Soldier. I don’t care what you want. You think the war is over? It’s not – we’ve just switched partners. So, shut and pay attention to what to what I have to tell you.”

I staged a dramatic “Advance to the rear” as the Japanese called a Retreat. I was heavily outnumbered and even though he was about twenty years older than me he looked like he could hog-tie me in a heartbeat. I sat back in my chair and tried to look like this was all my idea. When it became obvious that I was not going anywhere he started to talk, not yell. He spoke in that calm and secure voice that I had only heard come from Generals.

“Your weekly reports are valuable. Keep it up. What is going to happen next is Top Secret. I don’t want you to even talk about it to your pillow.” He paused and took a breath. I thought he was being a bit dramatic, overboard even, like one of those Barrymores.

He wasn’t.

“The Van Swearingin plant in Utah is making some new kind of Radar systems. It has been infiltrated by the Reds. We are not completely sure how deeply Van Swearingin himself is part of it. We suspect that he might be forced into going along with the Russians. He has one son, Phillip, whose whereabouts are unknown. There is some talk that he is being held as a hostage. His other son, Charlie is out at the plant with you. Van Swearingin wanted him there, close by, where he could see him and protect him.

“We have managed to get a couple of our agents in there as well, as part of your Security Detail.”

I held up my hand like I was in the third grade. I had a question.

“What? You have to go pee or something?” He didn’t like interruptions.

“No,” I said, “But who are your men there?”

He shook his head. “There’s no need for you to know at this point. I tell you, you blab it to somebody else, and the next thing you know there are two dead highly skilled agents in shallow graves. You’ll know when you need to know.”

“You don’t trust me?” I asked him.

“No, I don’t.”

XXX

 

“Mistakes were made. What more can I say?”

My weekly check-ins with Van Swearingin usually lasted fifteen minutes with me doing most of the talking. Not today. The minute I sat down he started talking, rambling. It was like he was going to confession or something.

“It all started back in about 1940, before the war, or at least our active part in it. The President made a deal with our allies at the time. We were to help them beat back the Nazis. I and other manufacturers all over the country had to retool to make weapons and ships and all sorts of things. My Salt Lake City plant was ordered to make Russian rifles. That’s how they got inside that facility to begin with. I guess I was naïve.”

I just sat there and listened. He paced back and forth talking and wringing his hands. I was glad that his windows didn’t open or he might have jumped. I’ve seen that look before when a guy couldn’t take the pressure anymore. He would just stand up and let the Germans shoot him. That was his way out.

“It was in ’43 or early ’44 when the Russian “Observer” in the plant began to make threats. They knew everything about me. They knew things that I’d forgotten years ago and they twisted things to make me look like I was a spy or something. They threatened my family, my children. I had no choice.”

He went on like that for forty-five minutes. Russians, The War, Threats on his family. It was scary and kinda sad in a way. Van Swearingin was one tough and powerful man, but for those forty-five minutes it was like he was “Shell-Shocked.” I felt sorry for him.

I knew that I had to let the FBI know about this. I wasn’t sure what to make of it all, but I knew that some things were going to change.

 To Be Continued –

Siss – Boom – Baaaa

HERE WE ARE IN LATE JANUARY and, strictly by coincidence, I have not seen any football – College, Pro, or local High School, this year. Some people might interpret that in terms of over-extended Socio-Economic-Historic-Politico-Religious opining.

Nah.

I’ve just been either sick or busy. Mainly sick. Sick of being busy too. I don’t mix Sports and any Politico-Etc. ideas I may harbor. The Sports part is much too important.

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Throwback Thursday from January 2016 – “Some Days I Wonder”

Throwback Thursday from January 2016

 

Some Days I Wonder

FB_IMG_1444318071823SO FAR JANUARY HAS HAD MORE THAN IT’S SHARE OF ODD.

The other day, in the illustrious Tribune-Star newspaper, there was a story about a fellow being sentenced to 69 years in the slammer for shooting and killing his “Buddy,” as the story called him.

It was said that both of these lads had been out drinking and were approaching a flammable state when the “Buddy” started feeling blue. He turned to his friend and said, “Just shoot me and put me out of my misery.”

So he did.

There’s not a lot I could add to that, except that it did appear in the Trib-Star, a newspaper not known for the accuracy/spelling/grammar/anything else one would expect. So, I suppose that it is possible that they’ve made a few errors and this story is actually about a meeting of the Garden Club’s Petunia Sub-committee.

In other January news flashes there was a story about my favorite baseball team – The San Francisco Giants – signing up a new outfielder.

Denard Span, aside from having an interesting name, is a good player and should be an asset to the team. The fly in this ointment surfaced during an interview after the contract was signed and Span was paraded before the media. It turns out that the new Giants outfielder has a serious phobia: Birds.

This could be a problem. Having been to many ballgames in San Francisco I can verify that, starting in about the 7th inning, the seagulls arrive at the stadium. They are there looking for a free meal among the dropped hotdogs, peanuts, pizza, and other leftovers. They arrive by the hundreds and take over the bleachers and even land in the outfield. I’m afraid that Mr. Span is going to be increasing his dosage of Anti-Anxiety meds.

These seagulls are big, bold and not afraid of anything. I saw one snatch an ice cream sandwich from the hands of an infant in a stroller. Swoop! Snatch! Gulp!

I wonder if the Giants will pay for his therapist? He’s going to need one or he will turn into Jimmy Piersall right before our eyes. (Look up “Fear Strikes Out”)

Terre Haute (That’s French for, “Biscuits and Gravy – Breakfast of Champions.”) got its first real taste of winter with snow and bitter cold. There’s nothing truly unusual about that, but the NBC affiliate TV station saw things a little differently than the rest of us.

 I really hate it when we have to deal with “Blowing Snot” on the roads. I was afraid that my windshield would never be the same – until I replaced the Window Washer Fluid with Mucinex.

I guess that the BIG story of the month has been the Power Ball Lottery jackpot going over a billion dollars. It is a serious amount of money and provides easy stories for the media.

I was watching the Today Show when they did a puff piece about “what if” the prize was paid out in one dollar bills. (Can NBC do hard news, or what?) In singles, the prize would stack up X number of miles. If laid end to end, blah, blah, blah. It was pretty easy to ignore until he said, “It would weigh…” At that point my caffeine dependent mind leapt ahead of him and finished his sentence.

“It would weigh” – “slightly less than Rosie O’Donnell after six months on the Atkins Diet.”

I should talk. I once brought up the idea of having my stomach stapled. My doctor suggested, “That in your case, I would recommend spot welding.”

The odds of winning the billion-plus dollar prize are beyond astronomical, but it will happen (if it hasn’t already by the time this posts.) and someone will gain more previously unknown relatives than anyone in history.

Sudden wealth can present problems, but I’ve dealt with the problems of not so sudden poverty most of my life. I’d like a crack at the other end of that financial Mobius strip.

If you notice that I start writing about the goings-on of Tahiti instead of Terre Haute you’ll know that something big has happened. Tahiti (That’s French for, “Guess what happened to me.”)

Reblog from The Whirly Girl – “look, they’re not extinct”

Today I have the pleasure of presenting a Reblog of a recent posting from the clever and creative mind of:

the whirly girl

: look, they’re not extinct :


Quite the contrary. The trusty old thesaurus ¹ is alive and well and a popular fixture on bookshelves the world over.

Sadly, the same can’t be said for Peter Roget, creator of this masterwork, he died (perished, croaked, met his maker) in 1869. A compiler, sorter, and compulsive list maker, Roget titled the 1852 edition of his classic reference book Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases Classified and Arranged so as to Facilitate the Expression of Ideas and Assist in Literary Composition.

Yikes, well, what can you say? The guy was wordy (long-winded, verbose, a gasbag). And we celebrate his yattering brilliance yet today, January 18th, known now and forevermore as Thesaurus Day. Get out the pointy party hats, my huckleberry friends, and let’s blow the roof off this dump.

Yay, words!

copyright © 2019 the whirly girl


¹ Yes, in answer to the age-old question, there is a synonym for thesaurus: wordfinder.

NOTE: This is a revised and updated reblog from some time ago. I don’t remember exactly when and I’m too lazy to check, so we’ll never know for sure. I adore the thesaurus, though, and get trapped in its pages regularly, dashing from word to word to word for hours on end, like a hummingbird on speed. It deserves a day of glory and, as I’ve already alluded, I’m shiftless — a reblog is effortless.

We Are Thrilled…But.

 

I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU, but I’m getting really tired of looking at Wayne Brady. Every twelve seconds, no matter what TV channel I am watching, Wayne Brady is popping up shilling for the Publisher’s Clearinghouse and their “$5000 a week – FOR LIFE!

Yeah, right. I’ll start planning our new vacation mansion…right after breakfast.

It’s not that I have anything against Wayne Brady. I’m sure that he is a nice guy, is kind to animals and children, and has good table manners. He is already the host of the resuscitated “Let’s Make A Deal” game show and he was the real star of Drew Carey’s program, “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” I know a couple of comedians who have been on that show and they have nothing but kind words to say about him…but – I don’t need to be seeing those Publisher’s Clearinghouse ads every time I turn around.

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I’ll Be There

 

IT’S NICE TO BE WANTED – unless of course it is Law Enforcement that wants you. It is like the difference between being an interesting person and a “person of interest.”

About a week ago I finally crawled out of my sickbed after a three week bout of something nasty. I had reached a point where I was feeling better, not good by any stretch, but well enough to feel the need to get out of the house. I went for coffee. I wanted coffee. I lusted for coffee.

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Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Eleven

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Eleven

For a few weeks everything went along smoothly. I had no more run-ins with the Russians, both them and Van Swearingin left me pretty much alone. I called in to the FBI every Saturday from a payphone and Charlie kept his nose clean. Then one day while I was at the California plant I got a phone call from Salt Lake.

Every so often I’d been getting complaints that someone was breaking into the employee lockers and stealing stuff. Nothing big was being lifted and I figured it was either one of the production workers or some Russian who felt he could get away with it. Then I got that phone call. It was from Van Swearingin’s office. Charlie was in the hospital in Salt Lake City. One of the loading dock workers had caught Charlie jimmying open a locker and beat the ever-loving snot out of him. He would survive but it was a sure thing that he wasn’t going to mess with those lockers again. And from the look of his face when I saw him he wasn’t going to be eating corn on the cob for a while either. Of course Charlie denied it all. He said that he’d noticed the jimmied lock and was just looking it over. Nobody bought that.

Charlie’s antics turned Salt Lake into a beehive for me. I was his Boss and everybody was mad at me when he came back to work. I couldn’t fire him. I hadn’t hired him so how could I fire him? Everybody was ticked off. Now everyone was watching everyone else and blaming me. I tried explaining that he was Van Swearingin’s kid and as far as I was concerned they could all take him out onto the Salt Flats and bury him up to his neck.

I complained to my FBI phone contact and all he told me was to shut up and keep listening. He said that Charlie was innocent of the locker business – that they had hired one of the truck drivers to break in to the lockers to stir things up. It sure did that I complained.

“Look, Pal,” the FBI guy told me, “Things are coming to a head there before long” and that I should be ready to “Take action.” He didn’t explain what that meant, but I started carrying my pistol again.

XXX

After he recovered from his beating and realized that he wasn’t going to be allowed to go back to San Francisco Charlie settled into the groove of his new life. He did his job and go around giving everybody a piece of his lip. I don’t think he enjoyed being there, but everyone there looked tougher and meaner than him – especially the Russians. If Charlie tried any of his tough guy nonsense on them, even the three women in their crew, they would have pounded him into the ground like a tent peg.

I met with each of my Security Unit people once a week just to check in and see if there were any problems, Charlie included. Most of the gripes had to do with wanting a raise and petty junk. “Co worker ‘So and So’ is mean to me.” or “Telling people I’m queer.” All of it the same stuff I used to hear in the Army. There were always a couple of complaints about the Russians that they laughed at them and that they smoked on the plant floor when that was “verboten” to everybody else. I passed those problems on to Van Swearingin each week like clockwork – and each week he shrugged and ignored them – and me. It was beginning to feel like my only real function was to keep an eye on Charlie and that was only for the eight hours that he was at the plant. For the other sixteen hours in the day he was on his own.

He drove himself to and from the plant in an old Buick that his father gave him. He lived in an apartment owned by the company in Salt Lake City. I doubt that he could get into too much trouble. Those Mormons run a tight ship and if Charlie tried any of his tricks on them he’d be wishing they were the Russians. At least that was what I was hoping.

XXX

Each week I made my call to the FBI office in San Francisco – always from a different pay phone. I didn’t have much new to report to them. It was usually just Russians, Russians, and Russians. Beyond that I kept telling them that, in my opinion, Van Swearingin was on his way to a breakdown. I think that the Russians were getting to him. His name might be on the letterhead, but, more and more every month, the Russians seemed to be calling the shots. Some of my men who had the most gripes with the Russians disappeared and were replaced without clearing it through me. They were replaced with some thugs who spoke only broken English.

“Everything OK, Mr. Boss You betcha, Da.”

That was the extent of their weekly check-in report with me.

I wanted out of there. I checked with the Army and they had my back pay – a nice tidy sum of almost $600. With that plus what I’d been able to bank from Van Swearingin I could go to some cheaper city than San Fran and have it made. Maybe get some education or open a small business of my own.

Whenever I said anything about that to the FBI they told me to sit tight for just a little longer. They’d been telling me that for almost a year.

Even though Salt Lake was a real thorn in my side I had two other Van Swearingin plants that I had to deal with. Going to them was a relief. The California plant was retooling back to making washing machines just like before the war. There were no Russians there, just a bunch of farm boys and returning G.I.s who were anxious to get back into the civilian life. The Van Swearingin plant in Texas was not much different, except that the flight in that DC-3 was a lot longer. That facility was also going back to pre-war manufacturing too. They were starting to make electric clothes dryers there. I guess that backyard clothes lines were going to be going the way of buggy whips.

To Be Continued –

Coming Of (Middle) Age

WHILE I DID MISS OUT ON SEEING THE NEW MARY POPPINS MOVIE while down in Texas recently I did manage to catch one of my all-time favorite films just the other night. Some people classify it as a “Chick Flick,” but I think that it is better thought of as a “Human Flick.”

“Shirley Valentine” was released in 1989 to less than raving reviews. Well, you can’t please everyone. The reviews may have been rather tepid, but Pauline Collins got an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, along with a number of other awards. I guess that it was liked only by the people who saw it without any preconceived ideas.

Shirley (Played by Pauline Collins) is a British housewife mired in middle-age, and wondering where everything she hoped for has gone.

“I’ve led a very little life.”

— Shirley Valentine

Shirley feels that she has disappeared into a mind and soul numbing routine. Her husband is caught in

his own rut that has isolated them from each other. They share their house, but are living separate and unsatisfying lives.

Shirley’s life takes a remarkable twist when one of her “lady friends” wins a contest that offer a two week vacation trip to Greece and she asks Shirley to accompany her.

And now you need to download the movie.

Every year there are countless movies made that are “Coming of Age” films about the difficult and awkward transition from childhood through adolescence to adulthood. There is a big market for those. Less frequently does one find a different kind of “Coming of Age “ film – one about the transition from our prime adult years into “Middle-Age” when we begin to look back on our lives. We look at where we have been and where we are now, and what do we have ahead of us. And what are we going to do about it?

While the basic story is light and entertaining with other characters adding to Shirley’s mountain of things to think about there is an undertone that hits home easily. Life is a serious business.

I don’t often recommend movies – mainly because I don’t think most of them warrant any kind of recommendation. “Shirley Valentine” is thirty years old now, but it doesn’t look it or feel it. It has a freshness that makes it as pertinent as today.

That’s it. Short. Sweet and to the point today. Go get a snack.

Throwback Thursday from January 2016 – “Cereal Killer On The Loose”

Throwback Thursday from January 2016

Cereal Killer On The Loose

TOO MUCH EDUCATION CAN BE A DANGEROUS THING.

I know a person with a graduate degree in finance from an Ivy League school. He can squeeze so much value out of a dime that it makes FDR get up and walk.

Now, I like saving money as much as the next guy – maybe a bit more even. I grew up poor with cardboard in my shoes to cover the holes. Even today, at an overripe old age, I still wince whenever I spend money. But, the fellow of whom I speak has elevated money-saving to an Art.

Coupons 1

Earlier this week he told me of his latest trip to Kroger’s to buy some breakfast cereal. He had some coupons in his hand.

When he got to the Cereal Aisle he saw that the object of his hunt was also being discounted. He smiled I’m sure, bordering on a leer.

Many of the “discounts” on the store shelves are as phony as a politician’s promise – The item sells regularly for $1.49, they change it to $1.79 and slap on another tag reading, “Marked Down to $1.49!” Instant Non-Discount.

Sometimes the discounts are real – usually because a buyer screwed up and they are stuck with ten truckloads of the stuff. Of course, some discounts arise after a news report says that the product can make your kids grow extra thumbs or decide to go to college and major in “Organic Bongs of Medieval Japan.”

Back to my tale of Nuclear Couponing in the Cereal Aisle.

In addition to your garden variety discount was another tag offering even bigger markdowns if you bought the cereal boxes 10 at a time. The buyer must have really screwed up. My Friend The Shopper felt like he had just found the Lost Dutchman Mine. He made a trip to chat with the store manager to verify that everything, as he saw it, was kosher. The Manager said that he was entitled to all of the posted discounts – plus – another “Instant Coupon” that would be given to him upon checkout. The coupons he walked in with were those super-duper double coupons and all of this back and forth with the store manager meant that he was getting into some serious high finance negotiations with Kroger’s. For a guy with a degree from Columbia University and a resume that includes a lengthy stint on Wall Street, this was heaven.

Cutting to the chase!

This man, who just wanted to buy some breakfast cereal for himself and his daughter, ended up walking back to his

triple

car with 48 boxes of Post and Kellogg cereals – and a bottle of cranberry juice.

He hadn’t really wanted the cranberry juice, but after the dust settled at the checkout cash register, the store owed him $1.79.

The Manager was concerned that the Home Office in Cincinnati might pop an aneurism if the transaction showed up as a negative cash flow. To circumvent this he grabbed a bottle of cranberry juice off the shelf that cost $1.79 and they called the whole deal a push.

When I heard him tell this story my first thought was, “I hope you and your daughter really like cereal, because you’re going to be eating it every day for a year.

As he told this story I could see a fire in his eyes. This experience has spawned a monster. He said that he has found a cable TV show all about serious “couponing” and “It’s really interesting.”

I told him that I thought it all seemed like something that ended up with a very cult-like fanaticism.

If he keeps up with this “couponing”, I half expect him to shave his head, move to Battle Creek, and start banging a tambourine at the airport.

“Om, mane pay me coupon om.”

It Could Have Been Worse…No, That’s Not True.

TWO WEEKS IN TEXAS. LET ME TELL YOU. It is a lot like two weeks inside a cement mixer filled with marbles…and the odd brisket…and every microbe in the known universe.

For the entire two weeks my sinuses were in a war of attrition. There were no survivors. My head geysered more extraneous fluid than the Johnstown Flood. I predict that the stock in the company that makes Kleenex will soar like a rocket.

Two weeks in any one location can be a challenge, but spend those weeks in close illness sharing proximity with a couple dozen other people can be a true purgatory experience.

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What Kind Of Class Is This

 

UH OH, HERE IT COMES AGAIN. It seems like it was just last week or maybe five years ago. I’m starting to get ticklers about another High School Class Reunion. Aren’t these people satisfied that I show up once every fifty years?

I do admit that I sort of skipped over the first forty nine years worth of reunions, but I had a good excuse: I didn’t want to go. I broke down when it came to number fifty and I admit that it was a pleasure seeing some of the kids (now Geezers) that I went through grade school with. The thing is that I don’t remember them from High School all that well. Either I was in a fog or they were. They looked a lot different than I remembered them from 1952-1960.

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Bum Voyage!

I CHECKED TWICE TO MAKE SURE that I was reading it correctly. Unfortunately I was.

“Frenchman to float across the Atlantic – in a barrel.”

Me: “Geezer to get up and to not spill coffee.”

That Frenchman has his challenges. I have mine.

Some people just have more ambition I guess, but some of those people also have more in the way of daily medications.

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Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Ten

Fiction Saturday – “Mistakes Were Made” – Part Ten

 

When you can’t trust anyone what are you supposed to do? I couldn’t trust Van Swearingin or any of the other people who worked for him. I didn’t feel that I could trust the FBI either. One of the first things they said to me was that they could lock me up for years – and why – because I was giving them the heads up on what looked like a bunch of Spies. It wasn’t like I was one of the bad guys. I had on a white hat here.

I wanted to get out of town and disappear, but they sent me back into the middle of it all. Those Russians had already taken my skull for a ride. I don’t doubt that they’d bury me out there in the Salt Flats just for laughs. I was walking on tip toes around that plant. I was there, but trying to be invisible. And then van Swearingin asks me to be the babysitter for his kid who pulled a knife on me. I was starting to feel nostalgic for the peace and quiet of the Battle of the Bulge.

Even though I felt trapped I knew that I still had to show up if I wanted to get paid – and the money was good, very good. For the first time in my life I had a bank account that wasn’t an embarrassment. I put most of my pay envelope in the bank, but I still pushed some of it under my mattress – just in case.

My next trip to Salt Lake was one I was not looking forward to. Monday morning was supposed to be young Charlie’s first day with me. Doing what I wasn’t quite sure. The only sure thing was that I was going to be his Boss.

That Monday morning I was doing my usual routine in Salt Lake: check to see who showed up for work; stay away from any Russians that might be around; and meet up with any new people who were being pushed on me. And then there was Charlie.

It was a little after half past nine. I’d been onsite for two hours already when Van Swearingin walked into my little office next to the employee locker room. He had Charlie with him and neither of them looked too happy. When the kid saw me he tried to leave the room.

“Oh, no! No! I’m not gonna work for this cheap cop of yours. No way!”

His father grabbed him by the arm and pushed him into the chair by my desk.

“Sit down and shut up. You’re here and you’re going to stay here until those characters in San Francisco forget about you. So, shut up. You’re going to work here, earn a pay envelope every Friday and stay out of trouble for as long as I tell you.”

Charlie looked up at his father with a mixture of hate and resignation. It was not respect, but more like he knew that his father was calling the shots and that was that. I just sat there with my mouth shut. The Boss was the Boss.

In that morning’s mail I’d gotten a memo from Van Swearingin telling me what to do with Charlie. I was to train him to become part of my Security force – the lowest part. He was still only 17, had no legitimate job experience, and was there against his will. I didn’t have much hope that this was going to anything but a disaster.

Van Swearingin wanted me to work him nights and keep him exhausted so he wouldn’t have the energy to get into any trouble – not that there was a lot of opportunity for that in Salt Lake City. That was the start of my Monday morning, as if I didn’t have other things on my mind.

“Tim, I’m going to leave my son with you now. I have other business to see to.”

He looked down at Charlie slumped in the chair like a ten year old.

“Get him started, paperwork, uniform…”

“I ain’t wearing no uniform,” muttered Charlie. His father slapped the back of the kid’s head.

“Shut up” That was directed at Charlie and then his words were for me again. “…paperwork, uniform, and start his training. As long as I have to hide him here he is going to help pay his way.” He turned and left the room without another word or even a glance at his son.

It was just the two of us sitting there staring at each other. Neither of us was happy with the situation, but there was nothing we could do about it.

“Well, Charlie, here we are. Your Old Man brought you here. It wasn’t my idea. You’re no baby and I’m not going to be your babysitter no matter what he thinks. We’ve had a run-in, you and me, but that’s history as far as I’m concerned. We’re out here in the middle of nowhere so you had better forget our past and try to make the best of it.”

Charlie sat up straighter in his chair and glared at me.

“You’re right about not wanting to be here and I’m not too keen about being stuck with you.”

You’ll survive it – which doesn’t sound like your prospects back in San Francisco.”

The kid grinned. That was the first time I’d seen him do that.

“Yeah, well, there was this girl…”

“I don’t really care, Charlie. I’ve got my own problems. All I want to do today is get you set up so your father won’t be barking at either of us. Is that fair enough? I’m willing to deal with you like anybody else if you’ll let me.”

He shrugged. Maybe he wasn’t as dumb as he looked sitting there.

“So what am I gonna have to do?”

“It’s not a complicated job, Charlie – just keep your eyes open and your mouth shut.”

Charlie surprised me. I was prepared for a battle every step of the way and I hadn’t forgotten that he liked to carry a knife. After the first few days of sulking and his tough guy attitude toward me he resigned himself to the reality. He was stranded out there in Utah a long way from anybody he could push around. He was also a long way from anybody who wanted to take him apart. And I was his Boss.

He hated the uniform that he was forced to wear. I really couldn’t blame him on that point. He was skinny and liked to swagger and in that uniform he looked like a cartoon scarecrow.

As far as the other employees at the plant were concerned – they ignored him, just like they did any of the Security Unit including me. They took their orders from Van Swearingin directly or from a couple of the Russians who spoke passable English. The Russians were like a bunch of mosquitoes hovering everywhere, watching everyone, and becoming bolder every day. They usually talked only to each other or Van Swearingin, but I saw them yelling in Russian at some of the line workers as if they could be understood.

I started out putting Charlie on the overnight shift. It was quieter with fewer opportunities for him to get into trouble. He just had to walk his rounds, punch the clocks, and report any problems in his log book. The plant operated twenty-four hours a day, but at night it was mainly shipping and receiving. Trucks came and went.

When he first arrived I’d told him that he really only had one job – to keep his eyes open and his mouth shut. Being a sneaky little punk made that easy for him and it wasn’t long before he became all but invisible to everyone in the plant. He became my eyes and ears after dark.

 

– To Be Continued –

Putting On The Ritz Or Something Like That

I’M NOT SAYING THAT I AM A BUSYBODY, well, not full time anyway. Let’s just say that I have prehensile ears that can pick up snatches of conversations all by themselves without any effort on my part. I think that skill is a remnant of some prehistoric survival thingy where I could be hunting that big Mastodon, but my ears pick up the purring of a Sabertooth Tiger in the weeds. That can certainly come in handy.

These days in the middle of Indiana there are few Sabertooth Tigers around, just a few Insurance Salesmen and the odd Blogger. I think I did actually see a Mastodon by the Deli Counter at the Kroger last week. It was buying some Pastrami.

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Throwback Thursday from January 2016 – “The Last Biscuit Protocol”

Throwback Thursday from January 2016

 

“The Last Biscuit Protocol”

BY AND LARGE we are a polite society. Of course, the exceptions to that are loud, obnoxious, and to be avoided at all costs – particularly around dinner time.last biscuit

Whenever the family gathers, like at Christmastime, or other major events, we can have a considerable number around the table. And, for the most part, they are members of that polite society. But that politeness can lead to some interesting observations. Let me explain.

Around our table food can vanish quickly. Platters are moving clockwise at a dizzying speed and serving forks and tablespoons are dueling. But, when that part of the action stops and the serious eating begins, one observation can be made – nobody has taken the last biscuit. Sitting all by itself is one solitary biscuit, probably feeling like the last kid to be selected for the touch football game.

It might be that biscuit, or a slice of bacon, or last spoonful of that green bean casserole, but no one will finish it off. Why, I ask myself? Does everyone think that they have been playing Russian Roulette with the food and they have lucked out, leaving the loaded biscuit behind?

Perhaps they are so self-conscious, not wanting to be seen as being so hungry that they would actually snatch that last biscuit away from someone else.

I can’t believe that everyone’s appetites have been completely sated just one bite shy of an empty casserole dish.

Come on! I’ve seen this group go through a potluck supper like Sherman’s Army through Georgia. I have seen people around the table looking longingly at the last slice of pie, resisting the urge to pounce on it like a leopard on a wounded gazelle. If eyes could drool the tablecloth would be wet, but “The Last Biscuit Protocol” takes precedent and the pie remains, alone and abandoned.

I do know that before the evening is over that last slice will miraculously vanish from the refrigerator, leaving an empty pan behind. I’m thinking we should set up one of those cameras that zoologists use to count wolves or Yetis in the wild. Then we would be able to find out who scarfs down that remaining pie, or sausage link or biscuit.

All in the name of science, of course.

I’m sure that this phenomenon happens in other families, around other tables, and around the world. I’m sure that in Sweden there is “The Last Lutefisk Protocol,” and “The Last Monkey Brain Protocol,” holds forth in some remote Asian or African village. I do doubt, however, that there is a “Last Taco Bell Breakfast Menu Item Protocol,” anywhere, at any time. I have no proof of that. It is just a gut feeling – that feeling being a cramping sensation tinged with a need to escape.

I’m sure that we will continue to be polite and that the last biscuit will continue to die a lonely death on the plate. There is nothing I can do about it, and don’t expect me to be the culture-buster who reaches out and snatches it away with everyone else watching in horror. They already look at me funny as it is. I don’t need the pressure – and I sure don’t need the biscuit.

 

There’s No Place Like Home After The Holidays

 

We are just back from Texas and our Annual Christmas Extravaganza and Food Riot. Everything went well. There were about 28 people around that tree – just like last year. Next year we anticipate the number to be at least one baby higher. The little ones from last year are a year older, bigger, and more frantically active. Two Twin Two-Year Olds in Non-Stop Motion. Picture a crowded room and in the middle of it is a Perpetual Motion Machine on Overdrive.

Katie, bar the door!

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