Some kid lost a helium balloon at the mall yesterday. We saw it pasted to the ceiling as we walked out. My wife, bless her heart, pointed it out to our four year-old.
“Daddy, why is that balloon on the ceiling?”
Sonofabitch. Here we go.
“I don’t know honey. I guess somebody lost it.”
“Who lost it?”
“I don’t know.”
“Why did someone lose that balloon?”
Deep breath, “Yes?”
“Whose name lost the balloon?”
“Why did Steve lose the balloon daddy?”
“Because a mongoose ran in front of him and he got scared and let go of the string.”
“He wasn’t brave?”
“No. Ol’ Steve spooks easily. He is not brave like you. Anyway, he was walking out, minding his own business, when this goldang mongoose ran out from under a car and scared him. So then ol’ Steve, he lets out a squeal and lets go of the balloon and jumps about 6 feet in the air. Now of course this scared the mongoose so he cut out of there like his life depended on it (and maybe it did. Would you have wanted Steve to land on you when he came back down? No you would not!) So anyway, the mongoose made it to safety under a delivery truck. But he didn’t like being even that exposed so he crawled up and held on to the bottom of the truck. Now the truck driver didn’t know any of this was going on. He was finishing a sandwich and listening to Katy Perry on the radio. When he was done eating, he took off- with the poor mongoose clinging to the bottom of his truck! I think they went to Florida, but I can’t be sure, of course.”
Soon, I will reveal a shocking family secret! Stay tuned!
A few seconds later:
I do NOT have a half-sister (that I know of). You may now get on with your life. I promise that if anything changes, I'll let you know immediately!
P.S. I neither like nor dislike you, and I suppose no one can get as powerful as you without taking themselves too (in my opinion) seriously, but when I read that you considered yourself brave for leaving your show to start a new adventure on your own network, I nearly shit myself. Maybe a long time ago you took some brave chances, but now that you have billions of dollars to fall back on, no career move can ever be considered brave.
We all know that my strength is saying in a few words what others say in many, but I think I've outdone myself. I have improved one of the most famous speeches in our history. To wit: "Ask not WTF your country can do for you; ask WTF you can do for your country."
I have a pain in my neck. I hate going to the doctor because I don't trust him anymore (see previous letter to Smitty). I figured maybe it was time to give Web MD a try. Bad news: It seems my cancer's cancer has cancer.
It's -20 something degrees Fahrenheit outside this morning. That got me thinking about Eskimos, naturally; Eskimo sex, to be more specific. There is no way baby Eskimos are conceived in the winter. Think about it: Poor male Eskimos must have to wear five condoms just to prevent frostbite.
Today I have been thinking about Martin Luther King, Jr., of course, and Abraham Lincoln.And really this could probably be said about all people who accomplish great deeds:To attain greatness, they must very often act contradictorily to public opinion. They must struggle on, remaining faithful to the belief that they are right and damn near everyone else is wrong. History tends to forget that. We all love to think that we’d have been on their side. The reality is that many of us would have been the small-minded dolts that litter history, fighting greatness every step of the way. It feels like we are now living in an important time.Please choose sides wisely.
Most of you have been doing a great job of showering the word “snow” throughout our newscasts this record-setting season. While this does please me, I know that we can do better. Actually, I have been somewhat disappointed in the few puns I’ve heard.In case you are struggling to come up with them, here are some suggestions:
“SnowMG! Who’ll stop the snow?”
“I’ve stands all I can stand and I can’t stand snow more!”
“Snowrricane Jack Frost…”
“Snow really? More snow, uh?”
“Bo snows winter.”
Weather man- “For all I snow, the snow will never stop!”
“Stay tuned, folks, much more snow after these messages.”
“There’s snow business like snow business.”
“Will someone please put up the snow trespassing sign?”
“Snow shirt, snow shoes, snow service.”
“I am snow over this.”
“Snowbody snows the trouble I’ve seen.”
“Today it was, ‘Snow parking. All violators will be snowed,’ on the city’s east-west streets. ”
“The Director of the Transportation Department missed a public forum this afternoon because even he had to drive a plow. Yes, you could say he was a real Snow-where Man today. Which is to say, he was a Snow-show.”
“Shall we talk about the weather?”“There is snow time like the present.”
“The Purina Dog Show went on as planned today.I guess the winner was crowned Best in Snow.”
“Snow, snow, snow your car, gently down the road if you want to prevent a fender bender tonight.”
You are all professionals, so it should go without saying, but please remember to pause and smile after saying the word “snow” if you use one of the puns above. This will ensure that our viewers know we are being clever.
Usually my daughter’s dance class is a family affair. The four of us drive to town, attend her class and then go out for dinner. Tonight, because of the day I had, I sat out the class part of the family date; they dropped me off at a coffee shop. I had half of the store to myself. On the other side of the fireplace two guys who looked to be in their late 20’s sat in overstuffed chairs and talked about last weekend. My first impression of them was not kind. They looked like douche bags to be perfectly honest with you. By the time I left I had warmed up to them though. Yes they were young-ish partiers, and they considered chasing women a sport, but they were philosophical about the game. My warmer feelings were a result of my belief that these weren’t the kinds of guys who took advantage of anyone; every woman they met must know that she was a player in a game. And as I listened to them talk about their lack of success last weekend I thought about how little I wanted to be them. Check this out: No doubt they are good at what they do but, even considering their obvious charm and good looks, they must work their asses off to go to bed with a beautiful woman. And all I have to do is wink.
Something has been on my mind lately; a thought I just cannot shake. I don’t really want to put it in writing, published writing anyway, because I hate the thought of offending one of my precious few readers. But I’ve thought about this from every angle. I am right and if you disagree with me on this you are wrong. I’m sorry; it is that simple. So certain am I about this that if I find out that Obama does it, I will vote for Palin in 2012. So, without further ado, here it is: If you like orange marmalade on your toast, you are an asshole. You just are. And that is your problem, not mine.
My grandson was listening to the 90’s station on satellite radio the other day when I overheard a lyric I didn’t understand. I asked him about it and he said he didn’t know either, and he referred me to you. The song was about a girl, Mary Moe I think her name was. The lyric I couldn’t figure out was, “She don’t eat meat, but she sure likes the bone.” WTF (I believe is how you kids would put it)? What do you make of that? Is she not really a vegetarian? I’ve never heard of a vegetarian who would chew on a T-bone or rib, etc. At any rate, I like to give dinner parties and I’d like to ensure that I don’t offend any guests, even vegetarians. In fact, we’re having a party next weekend and one of the young ladies who will be attending is a vegetarian. We are serving steak to the other guests and were planning on fixing her a nice salad. Since she is a friend of my husband’s, should I have him phone her and ask if she would like his bone?
Hoping to be Hip Grandma
Dear Hoping to be Hip Grandma,
There are several ways to interpret that lyric. I assure you that all of them are perfectly clean, and only relate to food. So, yes, I absolutely do think you should have your husband make that call.And if it isn’t too much trouble, perhaps your grandson could somehow record it?
Most people have their thing- a thing they do out of charity or goodwill. Mine is helping stranded motorists. And not just any stranded motorist, either. I pretty much have it winnowed down to motorists who are stranded, alone, and in desperate need of human kindness. For most people a dead car battery is nothing more than an inconvenience. I’m pretty good at spotting them, and I ignore them. If someone is on a phone, or outside a coffee shop, or with a friend, I’m perfectly happy to leave him or her be. They don’t need a hug; they need a mechanic. And maybe that’s your thing. But take a person who more than anything needs a personal touch- someone to come to him or her and ask, “What’s wrong?”- my lifelong training in humanism, together with my Myers-Briggs personality type, make those people leap out to me like a light bulb in the darkness.
Last night my family had just finished having a nice meal out and had stopped for gas on our way to Target. As I stood beside our car, I heard the unmistakable sound of a dead car battery clicking from the car on the other side of the pump. My first reaction was to ignore it. I hardly ever wear a winter coat in the car- too damn uncomfortable. Usually, though, I have one with me, just in case. Last night I didn’t, and it was cold. Also, I reasoned, this is a well-lit gas station. The driver will have no trouble finding a jump. But I did look over. From where I stood, I could just see the driver’s left shoulder. I could tell that it was a woman. I saw that she was holding a mobile phone. Perfect. I was ready to let myself completely off the hook. But something wasn’t quite right. I looked more closely and could see that she was not using her phone; she was holding it against the steering wheel, staring at it. Then I saw it- her shoulder shuddered.
Ten feet away from me, in a dark and dead car, a woman sat and sobbed. This was now the sort of situation I couldn’t ignore. Cool guys who talk too much, suits embarrassed that they need help- these are the people I find loathsome. Breaking and broken people I can handle. I ducked my head into our car and told my wife that I needed to help the woman in the minivan next to us. And here I’ll cop to a bit of a flair for the dramatic. I suspected that this damsel in distress was going to prove to be a woman who was nearly at the end of her rope. Most people can fight a long time before they’ll break down like she had. Knowing that, I wanted our short interaction to feel monumental to her. Not for my sake, but for hers. I wanted her to feel like she had been visited by a guardian angel. I wanted it to feel magical. I guessed she was going to need it; hers were not problems that were going to be quickly solved. And, when the thrill of being helped wore off, and she was alone again, I hoped she wouldn’t feel alone. Therefore, I didn’t want her to see me walking up to her. I wanted to appear… So I walked quietly up the length of her minivan.
She looked up to find me standing, smiling, on the other side of her rapidly fogging window. When I looked into her eyes, I knew that I had been right about her. She was done. While she fumbled and struggled to lower the window, I surveyed her car. There were two preschool-aged girls in car seats in the back seat. The window moved slowly, the dash lights dimmed. Yes, this was a dead battery, which we would get to eventually.
“Hi. Do you need a jump or something?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t know, “ the woman whispered as she wiped away tears and tried to compose herself, “I’m sorry. I’m having a bad day.” She laughed at her understatement. “I think maybe I’m out of gas. I tried getting some just now, but my card was declined, and I don’t know why. I called my husband. He’s out of town but he’s going to call the place and see if he can work something out. He’s not really even my husband. I mean, we’re not together anymore. Anyway, I pulled in to get gas, my card was declined and when I tried to leave…”
“Oh! Well if you only need gas, let me help you.” Clearly that wasn’t the problem. What are the odds that she would run out of gas at the exact moment she pulled up to the pump? She may well have needed gas, but the car’s battery was obviously dead. Whatever. As I say, she was not in a problem-solving state of mind.
“No. My husband is…No. I’ll…”
“I’m just going to put in ten bucks. Look, I just saved ten bucks at dinner, so it’s practically free. Okay?”
“Okay,” she whispered. She was putting everything she had into not crying. “Thank you.” This she barely spoke. She looked at me and mouthed the words.
She got out of the car as I pumped gas. “Just put in five dollars to see if that’s the problem.”
“No, I’m doing a little more than that. Five won’t even get you out of the parking lot.” And, in fact, ten wasn’t much either. I went up to fifteen, hoping that would get her to work and back the next day.
“Thank you so much. I…”
“It’s fine. No problem at all. What are you ladies up to tonight?” This was the personal touch I had been waiting for. I wanted to ask about her. When do you think was the last time someone called her a lady?
“Oh, they had dance class. My other daughter is there right now. I’m on my way to pick her up and…” she sniffled, “I tried calling my brother-in-law, but…” She stopped to compose herself again. “I’m sorry. I’ll just try the car again.”
She climbed back into the driver’s seat. I watched as she turned the key. The needle on the gas gauge went up but nothing else happened. She began to cry.
I reached in and put my hand on her back. “It’s okay. I’m pretty sure it’s the battery. We’ll just jump it.” As I spoke, I rubbed her back, implicitly giving her permission to let go. And she did. For a minute or so neither of us spoke. I simply rubbed her back while she sobbed.
Then she caught her second wind. “Okay, okay. Wait… I don’t even have cables. Do you?”
“Yep. I’ll pull around. Don’t go anywhere!”
So desperate was she to stop sniffling, that she even chuckled at that.
I pulled up, popped the hoods and connected the cables. She tried to start her car right away, before it had any chance to charge. I went to her window and she smiled sheepishly. She knew we needed to let her battery charge a bit, but she felt so badly that she was being a burden and taking up too much of my time that she hoped to hurry up.
I wanted to slow her down. “Things will get better, you know. I promise. From here they have to.”
She smiled, “I know. I hope so.”
“Okay. Let’s try it. Fire this thing up!”
She turned the key; the engine turned over and started. I walked around and unhooked the cables. As I did, she got out of her car and walked up to me with her hand out. I turned down her offer of a handshake, and leaned in for a hug. If ever there was a woman who needed a hug, it was she. And to her great credit, she ignored the potential awkwardness of standing in the freezing cold, wedged between two vehicles and hugging a complete stranger in front of his wife. I was happy to feel some of her stress leave her body.
She took a piece of paper and a pen out of her pocket. “What’s your name?”
“Thank you so much, Tom. You don’t even know.”
“Can I have your address? I want to pay you back.”
She barely held back tears. “Please. I want to,” she whispered. She didn’t have enough energy to both hold back those tears and speak at full volume.
“No. I want to help. It does me at least as much good as you. Believe me.”
And that was true. Many people do much more for strangers. All told, I spent fifteen bucks and a couple minutes on her. And I got a post out of the deal. The truth is all I did for her was acknowledge her pain.
“Okay. Thank you again. Thank you so, so much.”
“You are welcome.”
And that was that. I did end up having one regret later. I wished I had told her about my blog. I bet she would have become a follower.
You know when you’re done using the bathroom in the middle of the night and you go from that bright room to your dark bedroom and immediately stub your toe on the wall, step on the cat, bang your head on the closet door you thought was closed and step on a Matchbox car? Same principle. Pirates spent their days alternating between the sun-drenched deck and the darkness below. You can imagine the perils a pirate might find if he couldn’t see in the darkness below decks. So he wore the patch when he was on deck and he’d take it off when he went below. The eye that had been shielded from the sun would be accustomed to the darkness, allowing him to see. Plus it looked cool.
Placing that "Donate" button on this blog was not easy for me to do. On the one hand, I do think that I write well enough to get paid to do it. On the other, I can't seem to convince anyone else of that. So, I put that button on my blog, reasoning that if someone wants to give a bit, it is silly not to let them (and if you want to give a lot, it is even sillier.) Anyway, I hope you aren't offended by that admittedly slightly obnoxious button over there. And, as always, I thank you for your time.