#170 – Who You Calling an Idiot?

The wife and I had intended to tour parts of southern Georgia this weekend. We planned to use the municipality of Columbus as our base and travel to various regional sites between Friday and Sunday. As it turned out, we made it to Columbus but no further, thanks to me.

We arrived at noon yesterday and stopped for a bite to eat. Stupidly, while stepping from the driver’s seat, I began perusing geographical materials I’d printed from the internet. I never saw the curb and consequently tripped headfirst onto the sidewalk.  Boy did I see stars! My nose throbbed madly, my front teeth felt loose, and blood poured from both regions.

Sophia hurriedly carted me to the nearest medical clinic. After an hour’s wait, a physician diagnosed a probable concussion, a definite broken nose, and a shredded upper lip. He gave me an injection for the pain, packed my nose with gauze, and stitched my lip. He also advised against any strenuous activity for the next several days.

By the time we exited the clinic, my face had swollen like a misshapen beach ball. Add a hump and I could’ve doubled for Quasimodo. Compounding the physical damage, a combination of Novocain-induced drool and concussion-glazed eyes lent me the slackjawed air of the mentally challenged.

In a daze, I walked to the driver’s side of Sophia’s car with keys in hand while she finished the paperwork at the clinic. She knew I shouldn’t drive and could see I wasn’t thinking clearly. Understandably fearing for my safety, she ran out of the building yelling at the top of her lungs. She doesn’t recall her exact words, but they were something along the lines of: “You idiot! If you don’t want your face broken even more, get away from that car immediately!”

Neither while shouting nor while yanking me from the driver’s side did Sophia note the police officer patrolling nearby. He certainly spotted her though. Alleged spousal relationship or not, before allowing her to plop me in the passenger seat and drive us home, he issued her a municipal citation … for abusing an idiot. I researched the surprising law on the internet today. The ordinance reads:

It shall be unlawful and disorderly conduct for any person to tease or harass, either by words, signs or acts, on the streets or public places in the city any simple minded, idiotic, or crazy person, or any cripple, or other unfortunate person, and it is hereby made the especial duty of the police department to enforce the terms of this section.

From the moment I awoke this morning, Sophia’s been yammering about the injustice of the charges against her and vowing to fight them, even if doing so means schlepping all the way to Columbus. At least, that was her position until I scanned the law and raised a question: “What if we have to prove I’m not an idiot?” I haven’t heard a peep from her since.


Columbus, Georgia – Where all visitors are welcomed and protected, especially idiots!

#171 – Threesomes

My reading habits often cause minor annoyances and occasionally lead to absurd results. Take the trilogy I concluded last night.

I read a lot of books, most of them in the realm of fantasy. After thirty years wading through the genre, the titles and themes I’ve digested have begun to blend. As a result, there’ve been times where I scanned half of a newly-purchased novel before realizing I’d not only finished it in the past, but already held a copy on my bookshelf! I’ve also bought items based on their enticing jacket descriptions, only to recognize after completing them that I’d perused them before and hated them just as much the first time.

Still, those mental lapses pale in comparison to my latest farce. A couple of months ago, I acquired an older trilogy written by a fantasy author named Melanie Rawn. The series is titled DRAGON PRINCE. In the first two books – Dragon Prince and The Star Scroll – young Prince Rohan and his beautiful sorceress wife fight against a villainous High Prince and his heirs. I expected the engrossing story line to continue in a rousing climax to the trilogy.

Instead, it seemed as if the author suddenly lost interest in her subject. The third book began with Prince Rohan already dead, of old age no less. His son, a small boy at the close of the second installment, had grown up, and he and his peers were now the featured players. They didn’t battle against the High Prince’s kin either, but rather against an invasion by mysterious barbarians from afar. Perhaps most bizarrely, the tale opened in the middle of the invasion, leaving incomprehensible gaps in the storyline. The lunatic author even mentioned significant deaths and events for the first time, as if the reader already knew of them!

Last night, I finished the disappointing drivel and immediately headed for the nearest trash can to “shelve” the work where it belonged. On the way, I silently hissed at the paperback’s cover page and its bold title: DRAGON STAR: BOOK III” – SKYBOWL. Then, I flipped it over and disdainfully began speaking aloud the opening line of the back jacket, which I hadn’t previously bothered to scan: “With her widely acclaimed fantasy trilogy, DRAGON PRINCE …”

Wait a minute, I thought. Dragon Prince? Dragon Star? I hurried to my bookshelf and found the first two titles in the series … DRAGON PRINCE. Leave it to me. Who else but Richard Stern could read the first two books of a trilogy and then accidentally skip to the third installment of an entirely separate series?

I suppose I’ll go back and read the three novels I missed. Too bad I know how the second trilogy ends already, and have a pretty good idea how the first one concluded as well.

A less careful reader might not realize that Skybowl belongs to an entirely different trilogy than the others.

#172 – Just Passing Through

I’m no fan of drive-thru windows. I don’t frequent them, and whenever I’m with my wife I refuse to let her use them. Unfortunately, I see no sign of their numbers or scope diminishing. If anything, their applications seem to be escalating!

Sure, I’ve heard all the justifications. People are in a rush, and the windows offer needed convenience. But America’s fat enough as it is, and drive-thru windows encourage laziness. Also, all those idling vehicles pollute the environment.

I can’t speak for the entire country, but I can safely say drive-thru windows have run amok here in Georgia. In addition to the usual suspects – banks and fast food restaurants – we have drive-thru pharmacies, coffee shops and even dry cleaners. As far as I can tell, the citizens of this State hold a deep-seated aversion to their feet touching pavement.

Some years ago, I witnessed my first express lane at a dry cleaner. In disgust, I jotted down a list of additional drive-thru applications conceivably looming on the horizon. I believed laziness would reach its pinnacle if and when any of those ideas saw the light of day. Here’s my list:

          • Emergency rooms
          • Gun shops
          • Funeral parlors
          • Strip clubs
          • Government offices
          • Churches
          • Liquor stores

As I’ve learned in recent years, drive-thru services in just about every one of my theoretical categories have come to fruition somewhere in this country. Government offices have been the sole exception, as far as I know. Until today, I’d never heard of drive-thru county or municipal services. But this morning I happened to read how certain Georgia counties offer drive-thru windows in their tax commissioners’ offices! As a result, residents can now forego a fifty foot trek from their cars when paying property taxes or renewing their vehicle registrations.

After hearing the unwanted news, I immediately telephoned my wife. I vented for a minute or two, and she expressed condolences for my loss. Sophia said she wholeheartedly agreed with my views on the subject too, which I felt glad to hear.

Having wound down a bit, I asked her what she was doing. She replied: “Oh; I’m at Starbucks getting a pick me up.”

I was about to say goodbye when I heard the telltale sound of a car’s horn echoing from my headset. Sighing theatrically, I offered my best Julius Caesar: “You’re in the drive-thru lane, aren’t you? Et tu, Sophia?”

A drive-thru window in the works at one Georgia Tax Commissioner’s office

#173 – The Wordsmith

Thanksgiving break and Ernie’s Pig Latin punishment have both ended, so our mentoring sessions resumed today. When I picked him up, his teacher mentioned his continuing struggles with math. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses though, as I reminded her. Perhaps the lad’s numerical deficiencies represent his Achilles heel. By the same token, after today’s time together, I’m beginning to think his impressive skill with words must elevate him well above his third grade peers, more or less.

Ernie surprised me with the range of his vocabulary. After we worked on Rockem Sockem Teachers for a while, we started talking movies. I told him about the Blue Ray discs I’d purchased over the weekend, and he said he wasn’t familiar with any of the titles, “probably because they’re R-rated, and mom doesn’t let me watch those movies.”

When I then asked whether his mom allowed him to see PG-13 movies, he hit me with a word I didn’t expect to hear from a child his age, replying: “I seldom get to see those either.”

“You ‘seldom’ get to see them? What does that mean?”

Ernie thought for a moment before responding: “Sometimes, mom lets me watch them; sometimes she doesn’t.”

I asked him which PG-13 movies he’d viewed. He named a couple, including Thor.

“Oh, so you must’ve seen Captain America too.”

Ernie shook his head: “Nope. Mom wouldn’t let me see that one.”

“Your mom let you see Thor but not Captain America? Why one but not the other?”

Adopting a puzzled expression, Ernie replied: “I don’t know. It’s inexplicable!”

Inexplicable? Though inwardly impressed, this time I refrained from commenting on his verbal artillery. Instead, I continued the conversation: “You mean to tell me you’ve never seen an R-rated movie?”

Ernie shrugged before answering: “Well, I saw part of one once, but it was inappropriate, so mom made me turn it off.”

Inappropriate? “Do tell. Exactly what made the film ‘inappropriate?’ I couldn’t wait to hear which five-syllable doozy the kid’d pull out of his ass next.

After glancing round to ensure no one else could hear, he leaned over and whispered in my ear: “I saw boobies!”

Why Ernie’s mom deems one okay but not the other is simply inexplicable!

#174 – Da Nile

There’s an old saying: “Denial’s not just a river in Egypt.” This afternoon, I’m pretty sure I witnessed the principle in action.

I won’t say where exactly, but there’s a family in our neighborhood with a fifteen-year-old daughter, whom I’ll call “Katrina.” Through conversations with her mother, whom I’ll refer to as “Ginger,” I’ve learned two important details: 1) on an almost daily basis, the girl absentmindedly leaves behind needed items; and 2) her mother always saves the day, dropping whatever she’s doing to retrieve those objects for her scatterbrained child. This same scenario has repeated itself all the years I’ve known the family.

Personally, I think Katrina’s forgetfulness stems from her less than sterling intellect. To paraphrase another old adage: “She’s not the sharpest tool in the shed.” I’d ordinarily keep that opinion to myself, but it bears on today’s events.

While walking Prometheus this afternoon, I ran into Ginger as she prepared once again to save her daughter’s bacon. I asked what the forsaken object de jure was, and she replied: “You’ll never believe what that girl of mine forgot today: her underwear!”

I thought this latest orphaned item unusual enough to warrant further inquiry, so I asked Ginger for the particulars. As she explained, her daughter had phoned from school claiming she’d neglected to wear panties this morning. Katrina said she needs underwear for cheerleading practice this afternoon and wants her mother to deliver a pair, posthaste.

I’m fairly absentminded myself, but I’ve never forgotten to don briefs while dressing in the morning. Nor do I believe anyone else could do so, even a certain “dumb as a stone” teenage girl. In addition, until this afternoon, I would’ve scoffed at the idea of a parent accepting her kid’s story of “forgotten” panties. Denial’s a powerful tool, however.

Last weekend, Prometheus and I happened upon Katrina and her boyfriend as they walked through a deserted stretch of road in our subdivision. They had their arms wrapped around each other when we spotted them. More precisely, while Katrina’s arm draped across her boyfriend’s back, his arm hovered over her backside caressing one butt-cheek in a manner which bespoke long familiarity. Knowing Katrina, I’m willing to concede that the absentminded girl inadvertently left her panties somewhere … just not in the dresser drawer where her in-denial mother “found” them.

Panties – Don’t leave home without them!

#175 – Open Up

Bob has gone missing and Ellen blames Frank – so my brother reported during our phone call this morning. As I’ve mentioned before, Bob is their parrot. He is, or perhaps was, a very smart bird; maybe too smart. Ellen may hold Frank responsible, but my brother points to his feathered friend’s impressive brainpower as the primary culprit. More specifically, Frank sees the vast divergence between Bob’s mental faculties and those of Ellen’s nephew as the principal cause for the disappearance.

Ellen doesn’t believe her nephew’s boneheaded conduct absolves Frank of liability. In her mind, if her husband hadn’t taught the catalytic words which led to Bob’s escape, the bird would still be preening himself on his comfy perch, rather than freezing his tail feathers off somewhere in the inhospitable wilds of suburban New Jersey.

Like most of his words learned from Frank, Bob picked up the phrase at issue while watching football games.  I’ve previously talked about my brother’s passionate viewing habits: namely, his tendency to yell at the screen when viewing his beloved New York Giants. Other than riding Eli Manning’s ass, Frank shouts loudest when stupid turnovers allow the opposing team a chance to snatch victory from the certain jaws of defeat. At such times, he likes to say that the team committing the blunder has “opened the door” for the other side. He made that particular comment so many times in Bob’s presence that the parrot eventually mastered it. In recent years, whenever Frank has offered his patented view on a critical mistake, Bob has echoed the sentiment, reciting: “Open the door.” There also have been occasions where Bob trotted out the phrase without any prompting from his master — last night for instance.

For the past several days, Frank and Ellen have hosted a trio of visitors at their abode. Ellen’s sister and brother-in-law, and their sixteen-year-old son Kenneth, traveled from Chicago for their annual pilgrimage to New Jersey. Although sixteen, Kenneth is still a tenth grader, after being held back a year. I’ve never met Kenneth, but Frank told me the “imbecile” should’ve been held back a few more years. “He would’ve been too, if his parents hadn’t blackmailed the school board’s superintendent,” so Frank informed me.

After dinner yesterday, Frank let Bob out of his cage to stretch his wings, while Ellen and her sister chatted in the kitchen. Kenneth was also there, seated at the table digging into his third helping of dessert. In typical fashion, the parrot flew into the kitchen to check up on everyone. He alighted on the back of a chair beside Kenneth. Unsolicited, Bob voiced his master’s favored football expression, telling anyone and everyone: “Open the door.”

When Frank later asked the teenager why he’d opened the back door and allowed Bob to fly away, never to be seen since, the “imbecile” simply replied: “Because he told me to.”

By now, Bob’s probably in as poor a shape as this unfortunate specimen.

#176 – Status is Everything

My wife and I squabble occasionally, and like every other couple we have our issues. On the whole though, I’ve always considered our marriage a strong one. I’ve also thought the people who know us best believed the same. But after my latest Facebook snafu, I’m beginning to wonder.

Sophia joined Facebook only a few weeks ago, and she’s already disenchanted. Last night, she told me she’s tired of the endless sniping and insipid posts from her so-called friends. She summed up a fairly extensive diatribe with: “Richard, do I look like a give a shit about Kathy’s shopping list, or any of the other minutiae on her daily itinerary?” Sophia may or may not get around to formally canceling her account, yet she doesn’t plan to log on again in the foreseeable future.

When the Mrs. joined up, I’d assigned myself the “married” status for my Facebook profile, and I’d also listed her as my wife. Last night, however, in the course of sharing her overall disgust with the social networking site, she informed me that she doesn’t want people knowing her business. She asked me to remove all references to her from my profile. Knowing as little as I do about the nuances of Facebook operation, I thought I needed to change my status from “married” to “single” in order to comply with her request.

I had no idea an alteration of my relationship status would automatically post to my wall and be broadcast to all my Facebook friends. Because I shut down my computer immediately after making the modifications last night, I didn’t learn of the curious operational feature until this morning … when I saw the “news” post stating that I’d gone from married to single, and the dozen comments which followed. All of the well-wishers seemed to think my marriage had fallen apart. Oddly, while my “friends” offered their condolences, none of them asked what happened, and no one expressed shock at the dissolution of my relationship.

As if the Facebook comments didn’t impart a sufficient slap to the face, Sophia and I both received a number of voicemail messages from those closest to us who’d heard about the “split.” All the messages for me echoed the backhanded words of solace offered by my brother: “Richard, sorry to hear your marriage is on the rocks. But it was only a matter of time, right?”

Sophia’s messages expressed an equal lack of astonishment at our breakup, and sounded even less complimentary. Setting the bar was her mother, whose words of encouragement to her daughter included the memorable: “Praise Jesus! I knew you’d come to your senses eventually!” and “Someday, I’m sure you’ll meet a nice, normal man to spend the rest of your life with.”

Neither of us much appreciated the kind words from our friends and kin. Even so, all those messages left me wondering: What do these people know that I don’t?

Judging by the comments from our friends and family, 
I might need the services of this company sooner than I’d thought.

#177 – Observations on Attitude

While watching Prometheus and his canine buddy play last night, I pointed out to my wife that dogs unthinkingly live their lives practicing the same attitudes which humans espouse but rarely follow. Sophia typically disagrees with my observations on human nature, so her sarcastic response didn’t surprise me. “Oh, this I’ve got to hear. Do tell, Richard.”

“Take Mr. Tootles,” I began. “He’s still too young to be neutered, and he obviously doesn’t know what his equipment’s for. Nor does he realize where he’s supposed to put it or even the appropriate gender to target. Even so, none of those piddling details prevent him from mounting Prometheus, humping away for all he’s worth, and being happy as a clam in the process.”

“Yes, I can see what Tootles is doing, but what lesson is that supposed to teach, Richard?”

“You may have shortcomings, and almost nothing in life will turn out exactly as it should. But you still have to challenge yourself; and you should always take joy in the doing, regardless of the outcome.”

“Hmm.” All of sudden, Sophia didn’t sound so dismissive. “You have any other gems to share, husband?”

“As a matter of fact, I do. Let’s move on to Prometheus. Though he may be neutered, he’s still male and, as far as we know, not gay. Yet there he is, pinned to the ground by another guy who’s pounding his ass like a jackhammer. And what’s our boy doing in the face of this assault? He’s completely ignoring the indignity, contentedly chewing on a bone while Tootles does his business.”

“Yes, Richard. I can see that too. So, what attitude is it supposed to represent?”

“When life screws you, don’t get depressed. Find some simple pleasure you still possess and focus on it.”

Just then, having at last finished humping Prometheus, Mr. Tootles added robbery to assault by snatching the bone from our puppy’s mouth. Prometheus apparently drew a line at the theft of his property and chose not to ignore the crime. Instead, he bit his pal squarely on the organ that’d been assaulting his backside moments earlier.”

After watching the display, Sophia said: “Okay Dr. Freud? What do you make of that behavior?”

“Another easy one, Sophia. Every man has his breaking point. And when it’s reached, even the meekest of souls will bite his assailant on the balls.”

Two pals at play

#178 – Game On

My wife hosted her second “lia Sophia” jewelry party last night. Just because I accidentally embarrassed her at the last one — by mounting, on the kitchen wall, a custom “fathead” of her in curlers and a revitalizing mask — she’d given me strict orders to stay away from the shindig. “It’s for women only, anyway,” she added. “And you know what they say, Richard: ‘Out of sight, out of mind!’”

As I’ve said before, I hate taking orders, including (if not especially) from my wife. Though agreeing to quarantine myself in the upstairs media room for the evening, I determined to rebel. Sophia had neglected to forbid company of my own, so I invited a few guys over to play Madden football. Sure, I displayed the “tit for tat” attitude of a four-year-old, but I figured: Screw your women’s party! The guys and I’ll have a grand old time playing Madden and scarfing down chips and beer.

I invited Ron, Jimmy and Jimmy’s friend, Matt. When the doorbell rang and the quantity of penises in the house increased threefold, Sophia threw a conniption. But I smugly responded to her complaint: “Don’t get your panties in a twist! You and the other hens have the entire downstairs to yourselves. We’ll be locked in the media room for the night, out of sight and out of mind, just like you demanded.” With that, I escorted the guys upstairs, wearing my self-satisfied smile and thinking: look who has the last laugh now!

Whoever had the last laugh, by the end of the night he certainly wasn’t me. I quickly learned that I’d failed to stock the media room with a bottle opener. Since I couldn’t show my face in the kitchen, Jimmy volunteered to brave the estrogen front and retrieve the implement. 

From then on, matters proceeded like the plot from a B horror movie, where a killer picks off the cast one by one. Jimmy hadn’t returned within several minutes, so Matt went to discover his whereabouts. When another five minutes passed without sight of either, Ron vowed to “bring ’em back, dead or alive.” That was the last I saw of Ron.

Stubbornly, I refused to chase after them. I didn’t see the guys again until my wife’s party ended, when the three turncoats sheepishly stuck their heads into the media room to apologize and say goodbye. Incredibly, Sophia seemed peeved that they’d crashed her soiree. I felt neither sympathy nor remorse though. As I pointed out: “What’re you complaining about? Ron and Jimmy both bought a bunch of jewelry for their wives, and one of your girlfriends now has a date for next weekend with Matt! In the meantime, while my friends helped make your party a rousing success, I sat upstairs all night playing with myself and staring forlornly at the six cold bottles of beer I couldn’t open!”

A great game, and even better when played head-to-head against one’s friends

#179 – Bloody Hell!

I finally got my pesky bleeder taken care of today. My leaky nostril that is. After weeks suffering involuntary bloodlettings, I bit the bullet and asked my doctor to cauterize the defective nasal vessel. I had no choice, however. As the Mrs. had proclaimed, my nose and I would have to sleep elsewhere if we didn’t resolve our problem, pronto.

I can’t say I blame Sophia either. Almost all my nosebleeds have occurred in the middle of the night, in our bed. Typically, when the episodes take place, I awake believing either I drooled on my pillowcase or my nose was running. My usual remedy for drooling entails flipping my pillow over to the dry side. For a nighttime runny nose, laziness precludes any action other than wiping it with the back of my hand and then rubbing the bottom sheet. Of course, when it’s actually blood oozing from my nasal cavity, rather than a more innocuous fluid, the pillowcase and sheets on my side of the bed end up resembling a crime scene.

Before today, Sophia hadn’t excessively nagged me to rectify the issue. She’s a whiz with the laundry, and she’s always managed to remove the stains from our bedding. Thus, the “no harm, no foul” rule kept her shy of ultimatums … until now.

Apparently, I suffered a doozy of a nosebleed in my sleep last night. It must’ve stopped shortly before my alarm went off this morning, because I didn’t realize I’d suffered another leak while I slept. I’m not surprised by my failure to notice the problem though. I had to wake up much earlier than usual to make an early morning court date south of Atlanta. After stumbling in the dark directly to the shower, I’d dressed and sped from the house without ever examining my side of the bed.

Shortly after 8:00 a.m., I received a call from Sophia, from the Vet’s office. As she explained, minutes after I left the house, Prometheus began whining to go outside. Bleary-eyed, she’d let him out to do his business. He promptly chased something into our bushes and disappeared from sight for a minute. While rooting about, he apparently cut his head on the sharp edge of a broken branch. Or so Sophia concluded, when he emerged from the bushes sporting a blood-matted scalp.

Panic stricken, she’d rushed him to the Vet. The doctor finished tending him only minutes before she phoned me. After a thorough examination, he’d failed to discover even the tiniest scratch on the dog’s noggin. Though conceding that clotted blood covered the area, the doc assured Sophia that none of the substance was the dog’s own.

Listening to Sophia jogged my memory. At the moment my alarm went off, I was laying on my stomach, head turned to the side, with Prometheus snuggled under my chin. “Funny story, Sophia,” I began.  That’s when I received her ultimatum.