Vomitoriums Smell Better Than You Do!

stinkyCalling all inventors! Boy, do I have a project for you!

No, it’s not a broom that doesn’t become dislodged from its handle with every use — the one that I’ve been carrying on about for years. It is something, if you can believe it, even more useful and, dare I say, far more marketable than the Super Broom. After all, everyone has a nose. (Even Danish astronomer Tyco Brahe, who lost his in a duel, had a tin one!) For the purposes of a prototype and, fingers crossed, funding opportunities, let’s call it “The Smellometer”. You don’t have to call it that. Call it whatever you want, I don’t care, just get on it already. We needed this thing yesterday!

More and more I am convinced that people cannot smell themselves or that they are afraid of soap and water. While even I will grudgingly admit that there is not much an invention can do to address the latter — although I hear behavior modification techniques can work wonders for these types of maladies — I have to optimistically wonder if there isn’t someone out there who could develop a device to combat the former.

When I worked in an office there was always one person who would stink up the joint with their unpleasant bodily odors or, in what I can only assume was an attempt to cover up those same odors without employing the usual methodology — bathing and/or showering with something as simple as a bar of soap — he or she, mostly this person was a “she”, would douse themselves in some type of cheap perfume (or cologne).

For those of you unfamiliar with these products, they are the ones that are very likely sold in industrial-sized bottles at the convenience store. They are the ones that, before you have registered the first whiff, but once you get within ten feet of the person wearing them, you find that your eyes have begun to water, your throat seems to be clamping up, and you’ve started to itch (from head to toe!). As an added bonus, you may be afflicted with hot, red welts following the most cursory contact with this stuff.

Still, when I encounter someone whose scent sends me running for an antihistamine, I have to give them points for trying. I remind myself that the sweet, cloying smell of their perfume is likely far better than the alternative. How, I often wonder, would they smell without it?

Like ass, that’s how. Sadly, because I work with the public, I know what that smells like. Some days I long for a return to those halcyon days when my olfactory senses were assaulted by only the one co-worker who, I was convinced, fancied themselves a descendent of The Wicked Witch of the West, so fearful were they of being covered with water that they eschewed showering.

At least back then I could gird myself for interactions with this person or devise creative ways to avoid him or her while fantasizing about taking a hose and some cleanser to their armpits. Now I can’t do any of those things (outside of the fantasizing) because I have to wait on them or, at the very least, walk past them on my way through the dining room. My fantasies have changed, though. Rather than dragging them out back, I often toy with the idea of leaving little hotel-sized bar soaps or hair products (you don’t think these people have clean hair, do you?) atop the check presenter at the end of the meal.

That’s why the world needs this invention. To stop people like myself from losing their jobs as a result of one too many attacks on our senses. Sure, I could go around wearing nose plugs if my employer would allow such a thing. (They most certainly will not! I checked.) I’ve often wondered, if I pretended to be germ-phobic or if I produced a doctor’s note claiming to be suffering from a diminished immune system, if they could stop me from wearing one of those snazzy face masks — you know, like surgeons do! At the end of the day, I’ve decided, solutions such as these are a long way to go, plus they would require a fair bit of subterfuge on my part — and I’m no good at subterfuge, obfuscation, yes, but subterfuge, not so much. And, really, why should I have to engage in lying to combat a problem that when you come right down to it, isn’t my problem at all.

If I worked where the outside temperatures regularly topped out at over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, I could understand how even the best deodorant might fail a person. If my place of employment was situated next to a coal mine, I would have to be compassionate toward the smelly mine workers. Of course if I did work aside of some sort of mine, I think I could make my case for the face mask — secondary mine dust being what it is.

Unfortunately, I live in a fairly temperate part of the country with an appalling lack of mines. This is why I need to beg for an invention that will allow people to smell themselves or, barring that, a handheld gauge (like a gas meter?) — “The Smellometer” — that could indicate whether or not a person should, in their current state of smelliness, be allowed to interact with other humans.

I have taken the time, in an effort to jump start the research, to develop a rudimentary method of measurement for “The Smellometer”. Here is a sample of what the read-outs might look like.

Smellometer Reading: 1

Congratulations! Not only have you showered, brushed your teeth, and put on clean clothes, but you have also applied precisely the correct amount of perfume or cologne. You, my friend, are fit to go to a movie theater and sit next to a stranger. You smell so delightful that people want to emulate you! I wouldn’t be surprised if you were stopped on the street (or at the movies) and asked “What’s that you’re wearing? It smells fantastic!” I would highly recommend that you alert the local department and drug stores to stock up on your brand of scent. No doubt there will be a large demand for it once you go out into the world today!

Smellometer Reading: 5

It seems that perhaps you’ve had a hard day. It is entirely possible that you are one of those people whose bodies cannot process hard cheeses, such as provolone or parmigiana reggiano. May I suggest a breath mint and, just to be safe, a ghetto shower in the nearest loo? Barring this, you may want to just go ahead and “air out” prior to having anything resembling intimate contact with the rest of humanity. I understand this may sound harsh, but trust me, you’ll thank me for it later.

Smellometer Reading: 10

I think that you may have just killed the cat or reduced the number of lives he has left to eight. Under no circumstances should you even consider coming within a hundred yards of another person — that’s the length of a football field, my friend — even one you know well, even your own mother. Vomitoriums smell better than you do! What did you have for lunch, anyway? A dead person?

Take Your Belongings With You!

paperbagwithwordsSimply by virtue of the fact that I am a restaurant worker, I have, on any number of occasions over the years, found myself in the unenviable position of being called  a thief. People leave all sorts of things in restaurants. I could open up my own optical shop with all of the eyeglasses folks have left behind. I’m surprised I’ve never found some forgetful parent’s sleeping toddler curled up in a booth at the end of a busy night. It’s shocking the valuable things people leave behind at restaurants — cash, jewelry, wallets, purses, and all sorts of computer-y things — in what I can only assume is their haste to make it home for the latest episode of “Dancing With the Stars”.

My all-time favorite boneheaded move occurred many years ago at a different place of employment. Still, I sincerely doubt that it will ever be matched. A Secret Service agent left his gun and his credentials at one of my tables. I’ve always been relieved that he wasn’t assigned to guard me! Ask me if he was happy that we called the police to report our findings? He was not. I’m sure there was no end to the hot water he found himself in following that lapse in judgment.

Having had that particular experience — and it was an experience — all of the other things folks have subsequently left behind pale in comparison. That’s why I didn’t get all worked up when I received a message from a coworker while I was enjoying a day off asking me to call the restaurant because management wanted to ask me a few questions regarding some guy’s missing iPad — an iPad that had, apparently, been left at one of my bar tables. He was so attached to it that it took him three days to notice it was missing and, of course, jump to the conclusion that the bartender swiped it. I was excited to discover that not only did he think me a thief, but that he also had the idea that I was a technologically ignorant one, too. The iPad he supposedly left at my table? It was an iPad 1.

Even I have a newer iPad than that.

Just in case his assault upon my character and my honest nature were not enough, he also managed to insult me further by stating that I was “old and tired”. That’s how he described me to one of my managers. (To be fair, I’m not the only Jackie at my job — to further confuse the issue,  on the night in question we were both working the bar. Still, I think he could have used descriptors other than “old” and “tired”.) Frankly, I thought I looked alright that night. Clearly, I was mistaken in my assessment of my own appearance. Alas, there’s only so much an old, tired woman can do to make herself presentable.

His attack on my appearance notwithstanding, I was not too pleased to discover that he told the manager that “she”, meaning me, “had to have taken it”. Really? In the three days that had elapsed since his antiquated gadget disappeared, had he no occasion to miss his beloved iPad 1? Was he stricken with a weekend case of Ebola virus from which he experienced a miraculous recovery? Was he reenacting a Civil War battle where anachronistic toys, including his flip phone and his Atari, were prohibited? Perhaps he was just holed up in his house all weekend using his Tandy computer to catch up on the latest Apple products. I think he’s about five years behind. I hope that’s how he used his leisure time.

I hope he had our phone number saved on his Rolodex. I hope he didn’t have to dial “411” or search his Yellow Pages to obtain it.

Maybe he set this weekend aside to organize his VHS tapes or to make mix tapes for his Walkman.

When he ventures out to upgrade his iPad 1, I’ll bet that he will be pleasantly surprised at the turn technology has taken since he last had a reason to upgrade his tablet. Or, perhaps he found it underneath the seat of his Yugo or beneath his Members Only jacket in his entryway where he carelessly tossed it.

Hopefully this information will make those of you whose behavior resembles that of Hansel and Gretel — leaving trails of belongings in your wake — to think twice before you race toward home to enjoy the season premier of “Duck Dynasty”. Double check your area. Take your belongings with you. And don’t assume, if something goes missing, that the waitress took it. Chances are, she didn’t.


My coworkers enjoy poking fun at me — I decided to beat them to it by commemorating this, the latest in what I like to think of as “Adventures in the Food Service Industry”, with an appropriate graphic. They got a kick out of it. I hope you do, too.






Lip Balm is NOT a “drug”!

lipsI’m all for teaching children not to share things that go in or near their mouths — lollipops, candy canes, and, yes, even lip balm. Still, I have to wonder what the hell a Board of Education was doing (or not doing) in Craigsville, Virginia to waste it’s time passing a resolution in which, in order to pass this resolution that banned the sharing of drugs (can’t believe they didn’t have that one before!), they found it necessary and prudent to define lip balm as a “drug”. Color me a drug addict. Send me to rehab. I have a lip balm (or gloss or stick) in every purse and pocket! “Hello! My name is Jackie and I’m a lip balm addict!”

It started off, as all addictions do, innocently enough. I am prone to chapped lips, have been since childhood. It may or not be genetic. Who can know? I will tell you this, though — my father ruined more than one load of laundry with that little black stick filled with a certain petroleum-based product that was, more often than not, hiding in the change pocket of his jeans. It used to drive my mother crazy. Crazy, I tell you.

I could also blame the media for fueling my own addiction. That Suzy Chaffee was something else, wasn’t she? Who wouldn’t want her lips? So identified was this world-class skier with a certain lip balm that she came to be known as “Suzy Chapstick”. I was an impressionable youth who longed to be a blonde, leggy, beautiful skier with healthy lips. If Suzy Chaffee was selling Chapstick, I was buying it.

By the time I was in middle school I had moved past this product and began to hit the hard stuff . I discovered the sticky, flavored, glosses that kept my lips from burning and peeling while making them shine like the top of the Chrysler building in the noonday sun. These glass bottles filled with lip goo were the equivalent of a good gin and tonic in comparison to the bland domestic beer of your average lip balm. And the rollerball applicator? Who could resist that? Not me.

As I grew older I began to favor the tinted varieties. They were, looking back, my gateway to the more sophisticated, more glamorous, the martini, if you will, of lip cosmetics — the lipstick. Oh, yes. I love a nice lipstick. In my youth I favored the nudes and the browns, as I’ve aged, though, I am more and more, drawn to the raspberries and, yes, even I’ve even been known to sport a splashy red now and again. I’ve become fairly brazen in my old age — flaunting my drug addiction with every pass of the stick or the gloss across my dry lips.

Let’s get real, people. Lip balms and other beauty products are not addictions. I have a real addiction and so I know a thing or three about addiction. If someone stopped making lipstick, hospital emergency rooms would not be filled with folks suffering from withdrawl. There might be a whole lot of women wandering about with wan or, worse, bleeding lips, but not one of them would die. Not one of them would be counting the days since they came off the lip shit.

I don’t know what’s next for those folks on that Virginia Board of Education, but I hope that they concentrate on more education-based policies at their next meeting. Although it might be fun to wait and see what their next boneheaded move is, whether they deem the wearing of different colored socks a precursor to anarchy, say. Still, I think they should get back to the business of education and leave the definition of drugs to the professionals. Let’s worry less about the possible demonization of Suzy Chapstick and concentrate our energies on someone who is pushing a real drug, like “The Most Interesting Man in the World”.




Just Another Saturday Night…

calendar-saturdayWhat little I know about people can fit on the head of a pin. Admittedly, since I have garnered this miniscule amount of knowledge from thirty-odd  years in the restaurant business, my outlook on humanity may be somewhat skewered and, to be frank, not all that rosy. Still, I soldier on — hoping against hope that someone, some day will prove me wrong, make me rethink my pessimistic view of human nature, change my whole zeitgeist, even! Sadly, last Saturday would not prove to be that day.

While I shouldn’t be shocked by the gluttonous masses who are, more often than not, desirous of a “freebie” — given my experience with the public in general and the restaurant going public in particular — still it never ceases to amaze me how many budding fiction writers I run into in the course of one shift. Many of them, it often seems, have gone out and about with the sole purpose of testing their storytelling skills.

If you couple this with a manager who not only appears to believe everything she hears — I’m shocked that she hasn’t yet boarded a plane to meet that Nigerian Prince whose email has promised her millions — but, in a plot twist that even our nascent novelists could not have anticipated, also labors under the delusion that she is a behavioral therapist, you may understand what I was up against yesterday. On the off chance that you have little to no experience with this combination of idiocy, and, really, I hope that you do not, let me weave for you my own tale of sorrow and woe.

I strolled into work at 4 PM on Saturday afternoon. I had my wine key, my computer access card, and, because I had geared myself up for my Saturday night bar shift, an affable and positive attitude. Because there is almost nothing worse than a Saturday night bar shift — except, of course, a Sunday night bar shift. Unlike Sunday nights, which have an impatient, “I just want to eat and get the hell out of here” quality to them, Saturday nights are filled with folks whose entire existences, whose delicate and tenuous grip on reality — remember, they’re storytellers — can be destroyed by something as simple as the appearance of an unwanted lemon in their water.

I was greeted with a restaurant that looked like a bomb had hit it. Lunch, it appeared, had been somewhat busier than expected. No problem. I proceeded to put my head down and work — to restock, to clean, to set up for the onslaught that was coming. I wanted nothing more than a successful and profitable shift, and I was willing to do the work on the front end to insure that this would be the case. If we crashed and burned it wouldn’t be my fault!

Within minutes I knew that our resident psychologist was in “therapy” mode. She had cornered one of our servers, one of our elite servers, let me just add, in the back and was “discussing” with him how, in future, he should go about doing his job — a job at which, let me just mention, he excels. We shared a smirk and an eye roll, he and I, as I blew by in my attempt to gather the supplies I would need to go about my own business — knowing, as I did so, that it could just have easily been me leaning up against the bread cases, steeling myself against the always enjoyable “you should have done it this way” lecture.

It was at this juncture that I realized that she was the only manager scheduled to work that evening — an evening that, by the way, had been projected to be busy, an evening that in all other areas had been fully staffed. I wasn’t all that surprised, as she is the type of manager who thinks that she can do everything and be everywhere. As for the rest of us? We’re a bunch of incompetent nincompoops. Thus, the need to take time out of her busy shift to “coach” an employee who normally has a pretty good handle on his job. Okay!

I took a deep, cleansing breath and hoped for the best. I honestly should have known better.

I hadn’t even been in the building for an hour when it was my turn to be “counseled”. (That’s what she calls it — “counseling”.) Apparently I had been overheard at the service bar having a conversation with a fellow employee (or with myself, it was never made clear to me) concerning a gratuity that had been, let’s just call it, underwhelming. Fortunately I am a reasonable person who can actually understand the need to be counseled for such an egregious show of unprofessionalism and, in my opinion, lack of character. Except, it never happened.

Not only had I not had THAT conversation, I had had NO conversation with anyone anywhere in the building AT ALL. I found it important to make this ABUNDANTLY CLEAR to my counselor. It was a point of honor, a point of pride. I know. I know. Pride goeth before the fall. Still, it was important to me that she understood this. Not only because it was true in this particular instance, but because it would be true in any instance. Why? Because I do not suffer from a lack of class. And, because it matters to me what someone — even her — thinks of me.

She has worked with me for almost a year — a  year in which I’m certain I’ve gotten a bad tip, or two. It is not my policy to announce when this happens. I may shake my head and tsk. I may even show a coworker as I look skyward while whispering “not even close”. Usually, my trusted colleague and I will share a hearty laugh at the eight bucks on two hundred that someone was brazen enough or mathematically-challenged enough to leave me for the excellent service which was provided to them, but I don’t carry on about it. And I never do any of these things anywhere near a customer — not in their sightline and not within earshot — I can guarantee you that!

I stood my ground, which I often do in these makeshift behavior modification sessions that she is so fond of engaging in.

Still, I walked away with the distinct impression that she did not believe me. Whatever. At least I had gotten my counseling session out of the way. Or, so I thought.

As luck would have it, I thought wrong. Of course I did.

Later in the evening I picked up a check off of the bar, not only was there no tip, there was not enough money to pay out the check. I found this surprising because these particular guests did not strike me as the type of folks who would do such a thing. Also, they were waiting for a table and were, as a result, still in the restaurant. Here is what sometimes happens in these situations — and it’s happened to me more times than I can count — some customers think they can transfer their bar check to their table check. When they are alerted that their table is ready, they leave a tip, but they don’t pay the whole check.

That is only one of the things that can happen. Sometimes the money blows away behind the bar — we have a mighty powerful fan back there, which raises the comfort level, but can also send little papery things — like checks and twenty dollar bills — into odd and unlikely places. I got down on my hands and knees and looked for the money. I even enlisted my bar partner to double-check my work. Neither of us could find it. We found an errant coupon or two, but no $20 bill.

Because I was working with the control freak manager, I decided to find her and have her look for the money. If she couldn’t find it either, someone would have to go to the table and launch a further investigation. I was hoping that someone would be her. These situations can, for various reasons, be tricky. They require tact. And time. I can often employ the former, but have very little of the latter on a busy Saturday night.

I made two turns around the entire restaurant in a vain attempt to locate her. As I was in the middle of my third turn, the customer in question spotted me wandering around with a check. I decided at this point, as time was of the essence, to just go ahead and throw caution to the wind, to use my formidable diplomatic skills and simply ask him if he had meant to transfer the drinks tab to the table.

He assured me that he had left a twenty along with the few singles that I was clutching, along with the check, in my hand. I believed him. I apologized for any inconvenience that I may have caused him and assured him that I did not think for a minute that he was the type of person who did not pay his bills. I explained about the fan. We had a good laugh about that and about the fact that I would have to crawl on the ground some more. I asked him if he had a miner’s helmet in the car, as I could use some more light back there. Again, we laughed.

When I got back to the bar I told my bar partner that the missing money had to be back there somewhere. I asked him to help me look again. As he did so, he noticed that the bill was stuck to the bottom of my shoe. Seriously, in the thirty-odd years I have been doing this job that has NEVER happened. I blame the agave syrup that I must have stepped in. This sticky substance, when it dries, has, as I now know, an epoxy-like quality to it.

As I grabbed it from the bottom of my shoe and shouted “EUREKA!”, I looked up to see the gentleman whose money it was, gaping and laughing at the oddity of the situation. We shared a good chuckle about the rarity of such an occurrence. I was satisfied that all was well between us. Still, I wanted to inform my manager about what had transpired, only I still couldn’t find her. And, I had no time at that moment to engage in another futile search.

At this point I found myself, unhappily, expending my time and energy on other annoying things, which included how to avoid overserving the drunk guy who had wandered in to assuage his hankering for, what I suspected and which was confirmed to me by his buddy, yet another scotch on the rocks. Even though his companion assured me that ” Glenfiddich Guy” wasn’t driving, the last thing I needed was a drunk guy falling off of one of my barstools or finding himself in the wrong rest room. I’m sure you can well imagine the type of counseling session I would be in for if either of those things happened.

While I was finishing up with “Glenfiddich Guy”, SHE found ME. She appeared before me shaking her head back and forth while saying, “Jackie, Jackie, Jackie” in a tone that indicated that I was in the doghouse once again. “What the hell did I do now?”, I thought to myself. I wondered if she was on to “Glenfiddich Guy”. Just as I was about to explain to her that the only reason he had a drink in front of him was because his friend and I had struck a bargain (ONE DRINK ONLY and they had to order some food!), she began to counsel me about “accusing” people of not paying their checks.

So, it wasn’t “Glendfiddich Guy” who was on her radar. It was the customer who had been yukking it up with me less than an hour before, the one who I thought I had bonded with over the missing $20. He had NOT enjoyed his dining experience, which, fortunately, was no fault of mine. The food was subpar, the service spotty, blah, blah, blah. Unfortunately, in order to bolster his case for a “freebie”, he felt the need to drag me into his story. He told the manager that in addition to all else that had gone wrong, the bartender had offended him greatly by accusing him of shorting her on the check.

And I thought we were friends. Just goes to show you the lengths to which people will go, the stories they will tell, to get another six bucks off their check. It is regrettable that “$20 Dude” could not have behaved more admirably, more honestly. If he had, my lack of faith in human nature may have been flipped on its side. Oh, and one more thing, I will NOT be reading his novel, not even if the plot features a lying, no-good bartender who causes his main character no end of misery, but who, because of his experience with this horrible person, gains insight and new perspective. It goes without saying that he will also get the girl, doesn’t it? Still, I will not be reading it. Clearly, I get enough fiction in my daily life.



























The 12 Things Fangette Needs For College


If I were the type of mother who tucked handwritten notes into her kid’s lunch box or if my daughter, the delightful Fangette, was the type of kid who would read such a thing, I’d pack the following list into the suitcase that’s sitting on her bed — the one that’s bound, in just a few short days, for her new digs on a college campus six hours away. I’m not that mother, she’s not that kid. As there is a much better chance that she’ll read the list if I post it here than if I stuff it in with her winter socks, I’ve compiled what I’m calling “The 12 Things Fangette Needs For College”. Feel free to substitute any name for “Fangette” if you find that this list appeals to your “Ashley”, your “Sara” or, horror of horrors and shame on you!, your “Gertrude”. Perhaps, if you have the kind of kid that will appreciate such a thing, stick it in with her mittens, let her run across it as she’s heading to class one cold, snowy morning.

And then, go ahead and have a nice cup of coffee and a good cry. I know that’s what I’m going to do.


1. Big Girl Panties
You may need two pairs of these, they tend to get hole-y when they get in a bunch. And they will get in a bunch, possibly as a result of the roommate who doesn’t understand that you need an open window in order to sleep or who does not share your love of the HBO dramedy “Girls”, or the professors who think theirs is the only damn class you’re taking, or even the realization that dining halls do not stock an endless supply of romaine lettuce. Put them on every day and go out into the world and behave like the adult that we have raised you to be. You’ll be fine. Call me if you’re not. I’m always awake.

2. Common Sense
If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. There are no shortcuts in life. You can shave a few minutes off a task here and there, but life, unlike traffic, is about going through, not skirting around. Don’t get frustrated. Enjoy the ride.

3. Wariness
You are very good at sizing people up. You have surrounded yourself with good friends here at home — friends that love you, friends that look out for you (and vice versa) — continue this practice while you are away. It will serve you well.

4. Time Management Skills
There will always be a party. Conversely, there will also always be a test that you should be studying for or a paper you should have gotten cracking on yesterday. Strike a balance here.

5. Sense of Humor
You’ve got a wicked one. Use it. Don’t take everything so seriously. Again, it’s about balance here, kiddo.

6. Selfishness
This one will be difficult, as it is antithetical to who you are. You are always the first person your friends call when they’re in a bind. I’m not saying NOT to help people, but keep in mind that your time and your energies will be important to your success. Keep your guard up for people who will look to squander those things. They won’t have your best interests at heart.

7. Moral Compass
You have on more than one occasion demonstrated that you know right from wrong. Always choose to do right. If doing so has consequences, so be it. Hopefully you’ll be wearing your big girl panties when and if you find yourself in a moral quandary.

8. Emergency $20
In cash. Always, and I mean, ALWAYS have this with you. You never know when or in what circumstances you may need it. If you use it, replace it. Always have it, though. Always. Tow truck drivers and cabbies always appreciate a nice cash tip.

9. Self-Respect
Do not leave home without this. Do not surrender who you are or forget why you are where you are or, more importantly, what got you there because some cute “love ‘em and leave ‘em” type gives you the old heave-ho or you bomb a big test. Heartbreak happens. Failure is a given. They’re both part of life. Don’t go running after some loser. Study harder next time. Don’t despair. Move along. Someone better will come along. If you work hard, you’ll pass the next exam. Keep your eyes on the prize. Use the Emergency $20 and buy yourself some good quality ice cream.

10. Mental Trampoline
Keep in mind that a chick flick, a good cry, and pint of chocolate chip mint will, in moderation, solve a whole host of problems. Setbacks are bound to occur. You’ll rebound. Your mental trampoline is in good condition. Know that it’s perfectly acceptable, once in a while, to take a couple of hours, retreat from the world, and indulge in this passive, but worthwhile, activity. It may be just what you need to face the world tomorrow. Wild parties, binge drinking, and sexual escapades might sound like a cure for what ails you, but they won’t be. (I’m fairly certain that you know this already.) Stick to the ice cream and the movie. Watch “The Notebook”, I know you love that one. Or, if you’re feeling nostalgic, pop in “The Sound of Music”. We always enjoyed watching that one together. Comfort food and a good movie never left anybody hung over — or worse. You can always run off the ice cream pounds. Pregnancy weight and beer guts are much harder to shed. So, too, is that image you’ll have of yourself standing half-clothed on a frat house table with a lampshade on your head.

11. Fearlessness
You have a tendency toward reticence. This is a time to try new things. Not all of these things need to involve tequila. Although I’m sure there will be a few margaritas in your future, go easy on the tequila. It’s a hallucinogen, not to mention that it is, by far, the nastiest hangover you will ever experience. That being said, I would encourage you to seek out opportunities for fulfillment. Don’t stand on the sidelines making snarky comments — make the snarky comments while participating in the activities — safe activities like Quidditch or syrup-making come to mind. Or quilting. Quilting can be loads of fun. Quilting circles are known far and wide for their riotous banter.

If these things don’t appeal to you, keep in mind that you’ll be in a place where the cows outnumber the people. (Remember that fun fact?) Do something with animals — and not just the animals that live in the frat houses — real animals, the four-legged kind that you enjoy so very much. Just a word of caution on the cows, though — I read yesterday that there are more people (over 100!) killed every year in unfortunate bovine accidents than there are folks who perish as a result of shark attacks. Lake Champlain is probably free of sharks, but do keep your wits about you where the cows are concerned. Stay in front of them if you can.

12. The Knowledge That Your Parents Love You — No Matter What
I would hope that you have always known this, but it bears repeating. Win or lose, succeed or fail, through thick and through thin — we have survived. We’ve done so partly because that’s just what we do. It is who we, as a family, are. Mainly, though, we’ve managed to tackle life’s challenges together because we love each other. We are, all of us, flawed, imperfect creatures. Still, we’ve never given up on each other. I cannot imagine that we ever will.

Nor can I think of a single thing, not one single thing, that you could ever do that would cause either your father or me to stop loving you. Not one single thing. Not ever. While living with you has not always been a picnic, particularly during these last few years of adolescence, you have never failed to make us proud — of your academic success, of your athletic prowess, and of your social graces. As you’ve gone out into the world we’ve always gotten, as Grammy Rose used to say, “good reports” — about the qualities that make you “you” — your kindness, your intelligence, your generosity, and, of course, your quick wit. I have witnessed the joy that your laughter and your radiant smile brings to others. That’s a rare gift that you have there. Keep using it. Keep smiling. Keep laughing. Keep on being you. You’ll be just fine.

If you’re not fine, tell us. We’ll help you through it. Really. We will. You know we will. Remember, I’m always awake.

Projects That Demand Our Scientific Attention!


I saw this headline FART SMELLS HAVE HEALTH BENEFITS and thought, “Great. More money spent on ‘scientific’ research — research that helps no one.” And then I read the article. I was wrong about this research, in that it may actually serve a purpose — a purpose that could benefit humankind.

The article didn’t indicate how these scientists had arrived at the idea to study fart smells. (The ingestion of too much bean salad in the break room, perhaps?) To be fair, they didn’t call them fart smells, either. Instead, they referred to these smells as the byproducts of the hydrogen sulfide our bodies produce which are released during flatulence — but, we all know what that means. If a rose by any other name is still a rose it follows that a fart by any other name is still a fart.

HYDROGEN SULFIDE HAS HEALTH BENEFITS doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, though, as the headline they ultimately went with, does it? I’m assuming the “FART SMELLS” spin was the work of a team of very bright marketing professionals — or one average 9-year-old boy.

I was relieved to discover that their findings may indeed lead to breakthroughs in the way that we treat conditions that adversely affect millions of people — conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and senility, to name but a few. This news came as a relief to me — nothing irritates me more than seeing money being spent and talent being wasted on scientific studies that, ultimately, won’t do anyone a damn bit of good.

Yes. I’m talking about dinosaurs.

While it’s certainly fun to visit The Museum of Natural History and be met, upon your arrival, with the ginormous skeleton of a massive dinosaur and, further, to know that this creature actually walked the Earth some millions of years ago, but that’s about all it is — fun. It’s slightly more interesting to learn of the theories that abound regarding the extinction of the dinosaurs.

These theories are myriad and range from the outrageous (Aliens!) to the more plausible (Asteroids!). My money’s on the asteroid theory.

The Alien Theory, while certainly entertaining, makes little to no sense. It’s more than slightly problematic from a logistical perspective. First, one has to believe that aliens got here in the first place. Then, one has to assume that they came equipped with several very large spaceships in which, after rounding up untold numbers of these giant beasts and their smaller contemporaries, skedaddled back to their home planet. Even if you were to buy into this demented line of thinking, the ultimate question would be “Why?”

Frankly, I just don’t think that extraterrestrials, even IF millions of years ago they had the technology to travel here (and back!), would have wasted their time transporting the entire dinosaur population of Earth back to Planet MX-1283 or wherever it was they hailed from. I’m fairly certain that they would have just taken the few they needed for research and reproductive purposes. One would imagine that this is the method any self-respecting MX-1283ers would have employed.

That a massive asteroid plummeted to Earth and set off an ice age — an ice age that most dinosaurs could not survive — is a far more believable hypothesis, in that we know that there was an ice age and we also know, through the fossil record, that dinosaurs didn’t come out of it alive. I think this is all the research the world needs concerning dinosaurs.

Instead of wasting our time digging up their bones and putting their skeletons together for schoolchildren to gawk at in museums, how about we concentrate our scientific energies on how to avoid being victims ourselves of the asteroid that killed them in the first place? How about that?

To this end, I move that we gather the world’s second greatest science minds together and fund a little project I like to call “The Asteroid Blaster”. The best geeks should, of course, be hard at work developing a broom that doesn’t become separated from its handle while one is sweeping up the coffee grounds which, inevitably, wind up on the floor while being banged loose from the reusable K-cup filter. If, during the course of this important research they should discover why regular K-cups come with such an enormous price tag, well, goody for them!

The less renowned men and women of the scientific community can carry on with things like disease prevention, ecological sustainability, and how to build a bridge to Europe. Those of us who fear flying would be much obliged. After all, we, too, would like the opportunity to see Paris.

None of these science-y types should be allowed to even so much as think about digging up and putting back together anything that was once a dinosaur or is in any way dinosaur or fossil-related until all of this other very important work has been completed. So say I.

Let’s stop wasting valuable time — time that could be better spent in saving this planet and its inhabitants from being obliterated by a giant asteroid — on hypotheses that involve what color a triceratops might have been. Seriously, there’s a guy who has spent his life doing just that. He has dedicated himself AND, let me just add, made a living while doing so, essentially coloring in the lines for a living! And, there is every possibility that he’s gotten it all wrong. That’s fine. Really, it is. Why? Because it does NOT matter what color dinosaurs were.

Can you even imagine if, years ago, we’d put HIM on the broom thing? He seems to be just the kind of imaginative thinker the broom team needs. If we had, it is very possible that we — all of us — may very well be, instead of sitting around reading about it or, in my case, writing about it, doing something far more productive right now — something like sweeping the kitchen. I should add that there is no doubt in my mind that we would be doing so with a chartreuse-colored broom.

At the very least, if this guy doesn’t make it on to the broom team, I’m hoping for an Asteroid Blaster in a lovely shade of puce. These, my friends, are projects that demand our scientific attention. Can I get a second?

Thanks to Mindy Klapper Trotta at Better After 50 for sharing the original story that sparked this post.

Nailing Jell-O To a Tree

weird mojoHow ever she meant them, I take very seriously the pearls of parental wisdom given to us from the late, great Erma Bombeck. My current mantra is “Raising teenagers is like nailing Jell-O to a tree”. That Erma, she sure had a way with words. Even with her tongue planted firmly in her cheek she was spot on. Spot. On. Baby.

Today’s lunacy here at the hovel involves struggling with my 18-year-old, the always delightful Fangette, to get the hell out of bed and keep the appointment that I made for her at the car dealership — an appointment that SHE needs in order to have her electronic key programmed. Why the need for the electronic key? Oh, just because it’s fancier and cost more money than a regular key.

Her used car only came with one key. Anyone wise to the ways of teenagers knows this to be a recipe for disaster. Disaster.

As it turns out, the electronic key may not have been such a bad purchase after all. Very recently, the door handle on the passenger side stopped working from the inside. This requires the passenger to roll down the window and open the door from the outside. And, no, we’re not having it fixed. The car is eleven years old. It’s cost us enough money, thankyouverymuch! I told her father, the long-suffering Fang, that Fangette and members of her posse will just have to deal with it.

I did, however, point out that the deluxe electronic key will, no doubt, come in handier now. It will not, however, do a God-blessed thing, other than look sexy, if it’s not programmed. This must be done at the dealership, which requires an appointment and, of course, a charge for thirty minutes of labor — they get ya coming and going, I tell ya, coming and going.

Under protest (because I want my daughter to do things for herself!), I made the damn appointment. I even agreed to fund the project. Mostly I did these things because I don’t want to hear it when the only key she has goes missing — falls into the black hole with all of the other shit that she loses. I don’t want the key thing to become an emergent situation. I’m big on proactivity. And, by that I mean, I don’t relish the whining, crying, and carrying on that will accompany the lost key. Basically, I don’t want to hear it.

I sucked it up and made the appointment — an appointment that she promised to keep. An appointment that she slept through this morning no matter how much shaking, cajoling, and yelling was being done by yours truly. Why did she sleep through this very important appointment? Because she rolled in at 1:30 AM last night. No, she wasn’t out partying. She was just at the diner with friends. Still, it was late. I reminded her several times throughout the evening via text message — the only form of communication currently available to teenagers and their parents — that she HAD TO get up early and get to the car dealership by 9:00 AM.

Am I pissed that she didn’t? You betcha!

A crazier and far more energetic parent than me would probably have gone into her room and dragged her out of bed by her hair. Believe me, I fantasized about it for a fleeting moment. And then my mind, as it often does, went elsewhere.

I succumbed to a case of the “what ifs”. “What if” I drag her out of bed and she gets into a car accident on the way there or the way home? Maybe, I rationalized, like people who miss planes that later crash, she’s not supposed to be on that highway this morning. Perhaps everything really does happen for a reason. Like it or not, I told myself, Fangette’s innate laziness just may have saved her life. Tragedy averted.

Or, “what if” we engaged in a knock-down, drag-out this morning and she left the house in a tizzy wearing those sandals that she loves, but that have those very slippery bottoms and, let me just add, NO support, and she goes ass over teakettle on the driveway, breaks her leg, can’t start college, and I’m stuck with Limpy, her seventeen cats, and fifteen hedgehogs (I just KNOW there’ll be hedgehogs in this horror story!) until the day I die? How about that for a tragic scenario?

On the other hand, a better, more resourceful parent than I — one with the wherewithal to drag an 18-year-old fully-formed person out of a very high full-size bed — an act that would have required the use of a stepladder and some pretty good wrestling moves — may have fetched the ladder, scrambled onto the bed, put her child into a half-Nelson, and forced the issue. I daresay that the element of surprise alone, the shock and awe of the whole act, may have been all that was necessary to insure a fully awake and functional human being.

Still, I balked at such a thing so early on a Monday morning. Having not yet had a cup of coffee, engaging in measures so extreme was out of the question. Not for a key, for heaven’s sakes. For a million dollars, maybe, but not for a key.

While I think Erma may have enjoyed a story that involved me belly crawling on my daughter’s bedroom floor and launching myself onto her bed, I think that she would have agreed with my final decision to do nothing. Just like you can’t nail Jell-O to a tree, you can’t always make your children do what you want them to do — even if it’s in their best interests.

I hope she enjoys walking, though. Because if she loses her key, that’s exactly what she’ll be doing. I may be resigned to her decision not to keep her appointment, but I am smart enough to allow her to suffer the consequences of her actions.

Justice often being poetic, I can only hope that WHEN she loses her key she has to walk to work — in the pouring rain. I wonder how in love with those sandals she’ll be then? I’m guessing she’ll regret sleeping in this morning when she’s slogging through a deluge without her umbrella — an umbrella that will, no doubt, be in her car — a car that she will not be able to get into without the key!