You know. . .

. . .you’re in a Podunk town when the tallest structure is a Ferris wheel.

Lesson Learned

Years ago I had a couple of roommates. Nice guys. Got along with them. But one of them had a troubling habit. He worked an early shift so got home around 3PM. What would happen is he would sit in front of the TV, eat then go to bed. I know that doesn’t sound like a big problem, pretty much a perfect roommate you think. And it’s true, I barely saw him and when I would it was always pleasant.

But his habit was troubling. At first we just took care of it. He worked a ton of hours, it’s the least we could do. But then pissed off took over. So we mentioned it to him and he said he’d do better but that never happened. So I started doing things. Little things but, trust me, annoying things. I’d siphon gas out of his car, hide a shoe, I put the batteries on the remote in backwards. All kinds of little annoying things but I have to say that last one was my most enjoyable. Because I got to sit next to him while he pounded on the remote, pressed it like he was squishing a bug, slap it, he must have opened it a dozen times. All the while I sat there saying,

“Maybe the batteries are dead.” He knew they couldn’t be. I waited until he put in new batteries to do this.

“Maybe the remote is broken.” By the way he was slapping it he could have dislodged something.

“Why don’t you just walk to the TV and turn it on?” He wouldn’t do that, as he said, as a matter of principle. Funny how often the word principle gets mixed up with lazy.

“Maybe the batteries are in backwards.” This one I did to end his distress. And because seeing an innocent remote tortured made me almost call Sarah McLachlan.

So he opened the remote, looked at it, took both batteries out and put them back in. I figured he’d open it discover that the batteries were in backwards, swear at me then we’d both be able to get on with our lives. But nope. He just swapped them around and went back to remote bashing. I wished him luck and went on my way. When I got back many hours later I picked up the remote and opened it. The batteries were still in backwards. I laughed while putting them in the proper way envisioning him sullenly eating dinner while staring at a blank TV. That was almost torture enough for the piss poor habit he had.


When he’d eat his dinner in the living room in front of a usually working TV when he was done he’d put the plate under the table so he could put his feet there with no worries. And that wasn’t even the bad habit. The bad habit is he’d leave the dishes under the table. One, two, one may not even notice it. Six, nine, you have no choice but to notice it. All my pranks, talks, notes, once grabbing him and sticking his head under the table to see what others did had no effect. Oh sure, the physically putting his face in a dish had an effect for a while but soon he was back to his old habit.

So I had to find a way to make this go away. The other roommate had been his friend for years so wanted nothing to do with the actual event but he sure liked hearing about it. For that he was a pussy. So I had no alternative but to sign him up for free samples of feminine hygiene products and many woman related mailing lists. When he moved I made sure to update his address so he’d keep getting them for years to come.

One day the offending roommate was at work so I sprang in to action. First I pulled down the sheets of his perfectly made bed. For as sloppy he was in the common areas his room was hotel neat. Then I went back to get some dishes. And place one on every inch of his bed and under his pillows. Then I remade the bed (not as neatly but I had two weeks of dishes under there) and went about my day.

When he came in from work he went right into his routine. Kitchen for plate, empty out whatever food he’d purchased, leave the bag on the counter then wanders off into the living room. He walks past me sitting at the computer working. We exchange pleasantries and chat easily. He tells me he’s going to eat while his food is hot so I tell him to get right on that and go back to writing.

I hear the sounds of eating and the TV. After an hour or so I hear the TV shut off. Sounds of movement followed by him walking down the hall. He stops at my desk and we chat for a couple of minutes. When he’s done he bids me adieu and heads off to his room. A few minutes later I hear,

“What the fuck!”

Followed by my laughing myself into a stomach ache.

Naked and with food stuck to his body my roommate storms to where I’m sitting and asks a question I’ve heard so many times,

“What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“The dishes were piling up, I figured you didn’t see them so made sure you’d see them.”

He’s looking at me and doesn’t know what to do. I know the desire to hit me crossed his mind but that was fleeting at best. So he stood there, still naked with food falling off him, and tried to think of what to say. So he told me what happened.

You see, because he didn’t think he’d come home to a bed full of plates, he didn’t bother to check as he pulled down his blanket, sheets and tumbled into bed. If he thought that vision would cause me to rethink my sick and depraved behavior he was wrong. It only made me laugh harder and harder as I explained to him that, as sick and depraved as he finds me, I’m not the one standing there naked with pieces of veal cutlet sliding down my thigh.

I got up and walked up to him. I patted him on the shoulder and said,

“Don’t leave dishes out.” I started to walk away then stopped and turned to face him. “Because you know I have other ideas.”

He never even left a dish in the sink after that.

Being Alone

I was sitting alone in a den making some notes in a notebook. I often have a notebook out jotting down observations, snippets of conversation, story ideas. I can do it in a roomful of people but, if I can, I like to do it away from them. I’ve received some weird looks after whipping out a notebook. People have come up to me and startled me by asking what I’m doing. I mean, even in this phone notes and tablet typing a notebook isn’t that weird. Is it?

I know what the person really wants. They want to know if I’m writing about them. It seems paranoid but it’s true. And they never believe me when I say,

“Don’t worry, it’s not about you.”

Maybe that’s not the best line to use to assuage a paranoiac but it is the truth. Not once has the person approaching me been the subject of my notes. Just the other day I’m sitting in a bar with my pad on the bar writing. I’d write for a bit, look off at the TV or around the bar. I’m not paying attention to anyone or thing. I’m just thinking. But I can see this one guy is very interested in what I’m doing. He leaned over to a friend and whispered to him. The friend looked over to check out my mysterious activity. It didn’t take long for the friend to get up and come over. I guess some paranoids have protection.

“Hey.” I nod at him closing my notebook. Not because I’m afraid he’ll read it (my handwriting makes that an impossibility) but it’s a weird protection thing. I’m not done with it so it’s not for consumption. That may be it’s own level of weird but I don’t come to your job and peek over your shoulder. “What are you writing?”

“Greeting cards.” The guy looks at me as if I’m daft. But, once again, it is the truth.

“Greeting cards?”

“Yeah, you know, birthday, anniversary, get well cards.”

“I know what greeting cards are.” He says obviously perturbed that I question his lack of celebration gifting. He looks at me oddly. I know what he’s thinking. He’s thinking about birthday cards he’s given to his mother. Then he’s looking at me and can’t wrap his head around the fact that they could come from me. They couldn’t but it’s blowing his mind.

“I write comedy greeting cards. Not the frilly type.” He breathes a sigh of relief. I have righted his world.

“Oh, oh, I see.” He thinks for a second. Again, I’ve done this long enough to know what’s coming next. “Is there, ah good money in that?” Told you.

“Not bad. Depends on the company.” He stands and nods at me. I know from having this exact conversation countless times over the years we are at the close of conversation.

“Oh, oh, good good. Ah, good luck.” He wanders off and gives his friend this information. His friend isn’t convinced but at least he has his answer.

But now, because I’m sitting alone, I don’t have this issue. Or should I say yet. I’m calmly making notations when three golf type people walk into the den and sit on the couch. They’re loud in dress and manner and I know the potential for writing is over. They’re talking about golf as one of them grabs the remote and puts on the golf channel. I was not consulted about this change. But that’s a golfer for you. They can’t believe everyone doesn’t golf.

They sit there discussing birdies and chips and nibblets and scratch and all I can think is, “Are they talking about cooking?” It’s a world I have seen but one I know nothing about. The only thing I know about golf is one day I was working at a tennis magazine and a call got transferred to my desk. I picked up the phone and the gentleman on the other line said,

“Hi, it’s Chi Chi Rodriguez. Is Skip there?”

I tried my best to control myself but all I could think of was this scene in WKRP In Cincinnati:

For the entire conversation you cannot imagine the self-control it took not to call him Chi Chi. I transferred him to the right guy, am still chuckling about the event all these years later and that’s all I know about golf.

I’m listening to these men talk and I think I could enjoy it but these guys are just too damn serious about it. Are they playing this game for fun or are they trying to cause one of those strokes they’re always talking about?

Then it hits a weird level of pretension. One of the men jumped up from the couch and said, “I’m going to get us more drinks. What would you like?” One of the guys gives it some thought then, to him, a brilliant ideas forges in his head.

“I’ll have an Arnold Palmer.” You would have thought this guy won the Nobel Prize for putting the way the other two reacted. They all decide that’s a capital idea and the guy turns to exit the room. He stops for a moment and asks if I need anything.

“Oh, sure thanks.”

“What would you like?”

“A Chris Zell.”

“A Chris Zell?”

“Never heard of it. What is it?”

“It’s a Heineken with a Prozac dropped in. If I’m going to have to listen to all this golf talk I’d better be in the mood for it.”

I was talking. . .

. . .to someone who is trying to be a vegetarian and whining about falling out of the vegetable patch. So I say,

“Stop trying so hard to be a vegetarian. Maybe you should try for vegetari. . .ish.”


The weather’s starting to get a little cool so that sets off a new wave of people complaining about the weather.

“Uragh! Summer’s over and that sucks!”

“Yea! Summer’s over and that’s super!”

I know people feel the need to say something but why? It’s called meaningless small talk for a reason. It’s like an air-filled candy
ball. You think something’s there but the moment you bite in you knows it’s worthless. Maybe they don’t think I’m aware of the current climate. Maybe that’s it. They’re trying to school me. Maybe they think my office is hermetically sealed so weather is an unknown commodity to me. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

I just hope they don’t think they’re the only person on this planet to disseminate that information to me that day. Because that first person, shockingly, would be me the moment I get up. Hot, cool, cold. Sunny, cloudy, gray. Wet, dry, humid. I gather that information in a split second moments before I open my eyes. But still the information from outside sources continues unabated. I’m told I’m missing a beautiful day. That I’m lucky I’m not outside on a shitty day. I often wonder how they think I get here? In one of those vacuum tubes at bank drive-ups? I get sucked in to work each day in a little tube? After they’ve laid this bit of knowledge on me I often want to say,

“Shut up you blathering dolt. I want to stick pens in both your eyes and stretch out your head until it collapses due to the insipid emptiness that lives up there.”

But I can’t because my boss frowns on my screaming at customers. So I stand there nodding while thinking,

“Yeah, the twenty-second person on my weather related murder list today. Six more and I’ll break the old record.”

If you’re one of those people who feels the need, no, the pull to talk about the weather while in the middle of a transaction let me give you some friendly advice, stop, think twice then shut the fuck up. The person on the receiving end knows what the weather is. They don’t live in the store, toll booth or coal mine. They got there by slogging through the weather no matter how awesome or crappy it is and, in a few hours, they’re going to be out in it again knowing, with the utmost confidence, what the weather is.

So remember, stop, think twice then shut the fuck up.

And you don’t even have to thank me.

I farted.

Everyone looked at me so I said,

“Don’t pay attention to me. I’m just talking out of my ass.”

My girlfriend is talking. . .

. . .to another cat person and says,

“I’ve always said that one day I’m going to have a cat for every room.” I but in and say,

“That’s why next time we move we’re moving into a studio apartment.”