#280 – Don’t Do Me Any Favors!

While a Senior in college, I “punked” one of my apartment mates by switching out his dirty laundry for clean clothes and returning the used articles to their original drawers. The joke worked even better than expected, since he wore soiled items for five days before the truth dawned. Two days ago, I played the same prank. Except, this time the trick was purely unintentional, as was the victim.

My wife has been drowning at work lately. What with early morning meetings, afternoon conference calls, and nightly catch-up tasks, she hasn’t rested in days. I can tell the pressure’s getting to her, since she’s stopped obsessing over her daily wardrobe. Rather than undertaking her usual twenty minute, ten outfit selection procedure, Sophia’s been grabbing the first ensemble she comes across in the closet.

Sympathizing with her plight, I wanted to help make Sophia’s life easier. Although she’s strictly limited the clothing I can wash, I decided to check the laundry room and see if I could somehow assist there. The day before yesterday, I came across a situation which didn’t number among my prohibited activities. The washing machine contained a load of damp clothes. Realizing the Mrs. must’ve forgotten to toss them in the dryer after washing them, I took the liberty of doing so. I then folded and returned each item to its proper place in the closet.

Sophia worked late that night and arrived home after I’d already gone to sleep. Yesterday morning, she dressed and left the house before I awoke. By the time we finally met up again, last evening, I hadn’t seen or spoken to her in almost forty-eight hours! 

For a change, she came home before me. As glad as I was to see her, the feeling definitely wasn’t mutual. Her first words weren’t remotely along the lines of “Hi honey.” Instead, the moment I stepped into the kitchen, she held up one of her blouses and testily asked: “Richard, is this your doing?”

As I soon learned, the damp clothes I’d discovered in the washing machine hadn’t been washed already. And only one article had actually been wet: the blouse Sophia shoved in my face. Critically, its dampness drew solely from her rinsing it prior to washing … in an effort to remove the residue of dog food, carrots and liver treats Prometheus had regurgitated during an incident of car sickness.

While my wife headed upstairs to rewash nearly her entire wardrobe, I tried to explain my actions and apologize: “Honestly, I didn’t notice those bits of dog puke on your shirt before I tossed it in the dryer; I swear I didn’t smell that rancid odor when I hung it in your closet; and I’m very sorry you didn’t realize something was wrong until the meeting with your boss, instead of when you grabbed the blouse off the rack and put it on this morning.”

The blouse … after washing

#281 – When Peeves Collide

Pet peeves! Everyone has them, and I’m no exception. Alone, they’re annoying as hell. In combination? I’d always assumed that two nuisances at the same time mean double the aggravation. Yet surprisingly, one sometimes cancels out another, as I learned this morning.

One of my biggest personal irritants concerns pre-cleaner cleanup. As I’ve previously noted, my wife and I employ a maid service for our home. One morning, every two weeks, I’m tasked with tidying up the place before they get here. I’m supposed to remove clutter from countertops, stow away the dog’s toys, and empty the sink of dirty dishes, cutlery and glassware. Why, you ask? Not, as you might imagine, because my wife wants to make the cleaners’ jobs easier. Rather, because Sophia doesn’t want the crew to consider our house a pigsty.

Frankly, I could care less whether the cleaning service deems us slobs. I’m far more concerned with completing my own daily workload than I am with maintaining a reputation for cleanliness. For that reason, I detest tidying up for the maids, and I resent every minute spent in the process. I never bother to actually organize our crap so much as to simply rearrange the mess. For instance, I usually remove the mail pile from the kitchen counter and shove it in a drawer until the crew leaves. And when the dishwasher’s already filled, I temporarily store the soiled items under the sink. 

This leads me to another of my pet peeves: auto-renewals. Certain home service providers performing year round tasks automatically renew their contracts, unless they’ve previously received a written cancellation from the homeowner. That practice seems ass backwards, and it drives me nuts. In my opinion, without receiving a homeowner’s expressed authorization, a provider should have no right to presume its contract will continue from year to year. Take lawn treatment companies, for example. Though I contract with one of them for only a single year of weed-killing, the company never contacts me to ensure I want service for the next twelve months. Instead, I typically find an invoice tacked to our front door for the first cycle of a new year’s weed control, even though I haven’t requested it!

My exterminator also engages in the auto-renewal scam. Despite ordering only four quarters of pest control at a time, I’m always confronted by a technician’s unrequested fifth quarter of service, and bill! I’d grown so fed up with the practice that I planned to teach the company a lesson this year. When the exterminator arrived yesterday to perform the un-contracted fifth quarter of pest control, I intended to refuse payment. At least, that was my plan until the man informed me of our serious ant infestation … centered around the dirty dishes laying forgotten under the kitchen sink the past two weeks.

Pests treated annually … unless the homeowner cancels in writing

#282 – We’ll Need to Reschedule

I arrived early for my appointment this morning only to have the receptionist inform me it’d been cancelled. When I asked why, she said the doctor was “attending to a medical emergency” and would reschedule everyone once he got back to the office. She refused to elaborate on the medical emergency, however.

As I exited the building, a woman tapped me on the shoulder and said: “You want to know about the ‘emergency’? Cause I was there when it happened.”

I sure did.

“Well, the nurse brought me to a room for my exam, and when she opened the door, we saw the doctor standing inside kissing his patient. The nurse said to him: ‘What do you think you’re doing?’ — Let me tell you, she didn’t sound happy.”

“Anyway,” my informant continued, “the woman kissing the doctor spoke up before he could answer. She said: ‘Honey, I know you told me we have to keep our relationship secret because I’m your patient, but after a year seeing each other, don’t you think it’s time people knew?’”

I liked the story already, and it became even juicier as my confidante went on: “You should’ve seen the expression on the nurse’s face. She looked like someone said her mom died. She started yelling at the doctor: ‘I knew it! You lying sack of shit. All those times you told me you were playing poker with the guys, you must’ve been screwing her!’ She added a few more choice words, turned to the other woman and said: ‘FYI, I’ve been this cheating dog’s girlfriend for the past two years!’ Then she shouted ‘I quit!’ …”

Two questions immediately sprang to mind. Choosing the second one, I interrupted to ask: “The doctor cancelled all his appointments just because his nurse quit?”

“Nah, ’cause of his smarmy remark afterwards. When the nurse made her announcement, he told her: ‘you know I’m entitled to notice, don’t you?’ Well, she answered him alright. She said: ‘You want notice? Fine!’ Then she punched him in the nose. Decked him too! The guy’s face was a total mess.”

Wrapping up the tale, she concluded: “After that, the nurse stormed out and the doctor went to the emergency room to get his nose fixed.”

“Did the other woman drive him?” I inquired.

“Definitely not! While he was on the floor, she kicked him in the nuts and left too.”

Only after I’d thanked the gossip for her excellent story and reached my car did I remember my first question: Since when do Ophthalmologists have rules against dating their patients?

The contact lenses I currently wear

#283 – Smooth and Silky

Can too high a price be paid to solve a confounding puzzle? After this morning, having finally resolved the mystery concerning Mr. Tootles, I can answer that question with a resounding “yes.”

Ever since Prometheus became friends with our neighbor’s Yorkie, the wife and I have scratched our heads at the disparity in the two dogs’ appearance and personalities. Prometheus, who’s supposed to be part Shih-Tzu and part Yorkie, looks like a purebred Yorkie and sheds less than I do. He also exhibits the documented traits of the breed, including the big-dog-in-a-small-body mentality, and a love of chasing animals large and small.

In contrast, the alleged purebred, Mr. Tootles, sports a thicker, more easily tangled coat than the other Yorkies I’ve seen. Tootles also exhibits behaviors I haven’t heard generally defined for his breed, including a love of digging holes in the yard and over-possessiveness regarding toys.

For the second time, Sophia and I are hosting Tootles at our house while his owners enjoy another of their periodic camping trips. Last night thankfully proceeded without undue incident. Our guest, as usual, wanted whichever bone or plush toy Prometheus happened to hold. And in typical fashion, Tootles spent much of the evening wrestling with and trying to hump his host. On the plus side, at least, he didn’t maul Sophia’s face or puke on her — like he did on his last sleepover.

This morning didn’t progress nearly as smoothly. Despite a good night’s sleep, Prometheus seemed much less tolerant of his buddy’s rude behavior. A single hump and bone snatch so enraged him that he chased Tootles all over the house, barking the entire way. Upon finally tackling his prey, our boy commenced a thorough mauling. I caught up to the pair and separated them, but not before Prometheus apparently yanked out several clumps of his pal’s fur.

Although Tootles hadn’t yelped, and I didn’t see any blood, I knew Yorkie hair is supposed to stay on the animal. It’s not meant to lay strewn atop one’s carpet. Fearful of returning a damaged canine to our neighbors tonight, I rushed the dog to the nearest emergency clinic. I gave the Vet a complete rundown of the events leading to our houseguest’s injury, adding: “This dog sure is the strangest Yorkie I’ve ever seen.”

Much to my relief, upon completing his examination, the Vet informed me he’d found no evidence of bite marks on Mr. Tootles. Surprisingly, he went on to explain that the clumps of fur I’d seen were the result of spring shedding, not an injury.

Confused, I responded: “I thought Yorkies don’t shed.”

“That’s true,” he replied. “But this is a Silky Terrier, not a Yorkie; and Silkies shed twice a year. Incidentally, the behavior you described sounds perfectly normal for a Silky.”

Admittedly, it felt good to finally solve the mystery of Mr. Tootles … at least until the Vet handed me a $140 bill for the answer.

A typical Silky Terrier

#284 – Saving Daylight

I often feel sorry for my clients. And why not? By the time they reach me, they’ve usually suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Still, I can’t help but view some of them as masters of their own misfortune, with this morning’s subject being a prime case in point.

Thirty-five-year-old “Leonard” has lived alone in a small, one-bedroom apartment since his divorce two years ago. He’d love to get back together with his ex. If not, at the least, he dreams of acquiring a two-bedroom residence so he can regain joint custody of his daughter. He plans to do just that, once he wins his intended lawsuit against “the bastards who fired me.”

As he explained, until recently, he’d performed weed spraying for a lawn care company. His employer allegedly severed their ties because Leonard “used to be” a drug addict. “But I’ve been working my twelve-step program hard and been clean for a year now, so isn’t it discrimination to fire me?”

“Your boss told you that’s the reason for your termination?” I inquired.

“He said I’d sprayed the wrong properties four times in the past month, and he’d had enough. But I’m sure that was one of them … whaddya call ’em? … ‘Rejects?’”

“‘Pretexts’?” I offered.

“Yeah! So, whaddya think?”

What I thought was that he’d confirmed my suspicions from the earliest moments of our meeting: to wit, he’s the type of guy who’ll dive into an open septic tank to keep a single bird from crapping on him. When I’d found him waiting to see me this morning, he’d irately called me a number of uncomplimentary names before adding: “I’ve been waiting here an hour, and when you finally said you’d see me, you didn’t even apologize; it’s like nobody’s time but yours means anything!”

I’d finally gotten a word in edgewise and responded: “Slow down a minute. Didn’t we have a ten o’clock appointment?”

“Damn right we did!!!”

“It’s five to ten now,” I’d pointed out. “So don’t get mad at me when you’re the one who showed up an hour early!”

It turned out the mixup was easily explained, if unbelievable. Surprisingly, Leonard hadn’t set his clocks forward for daylight savings. Given his solitary lifestyle and current unemployment, all news of the annual event had somehow escaped him, for an entire week! His meeting with me served as merely the last in a series of events inciting rage at the consistent, hour-long delays perpetrated by others. Yet critically, the scathing barrage of words he’d reserved for me paled in comparison to those he’d leveled at his ex-wife over the weekend, after she too arrived an hour late for a custody exchange.

Leonard confided to me: “Crap. She’s the last person I want to make amends to right now, but I guess I have no choice.”

“Why’s that?” I asked.

“When I yelled at her for being late, she flipped me the bird and said ‘spring ahead, you idiot!’ I thought she was telling me we’d never get back together, and I didn’t realize she was talking about daylight savings. That’s why I answered her: ‘I have moved on, you fucking cunt!”

Daylight savings — fall back, spring ahead

#285 – The Bad Luck of the Non-Irish

At today’s mentoring session, Ernie informed me his mother grounded him again over the weekend, for a full month! The cause this time was: leprechauns?! Though Ernie hasn’t a speck of Irish blood to speak of, the mythical wee people from across the pond – and their pots of gold – figured prominently in his latest disciplinary measure.

When I first asked him why he’d been grounded, he tersely answered: “leprechauns.” Intrigued by the minimalist explanation, I commenced a suitably lawyerish interview. I learned that the third-grader without Irish ancestry strongly believes in the magical creatures from Eire. That faith became further buttressed by a “true” news story the lad heard last week, about a real live leprechaun being spotted in an Alabaman’s backyard. After hearing the tale, Ernie had decided that this St. Patrick’s Day, conveniently falling on a Saturday, would offer a perfect opportunity to capture one of the little folk for his very own. He’s had his eye on the new iPad, and he figured a leprechaun’s pot of gold could fund the purchase.

He initially thought to cut out the middleman altogether. According to reliable sources (certain fifth-graders, mainly), leprechauns commonly bury their valuable stashes in residential backyards. As Ernie reasoned, why bother with the gold’s owner when an industrious sort can locate the hidden treasure by himself? He felt confident he’d succeed, given enough time — and holes.

Armed with a garden shovel, Ernie spent Saturday afternoon digging behind his house. His endeavors failed to reveal a leprechaun’s trove though. Instead, he merely uncovered a dozen or more deposits of rock-strewn earth, which previously had been concealed beneath sod and his mom’s Rose bushes.

Go figure; Ernie’s mother did not joyfully greet her son’s archeological excavations. After testily informing him that leprechauns don’t exist, she grounded him a week in punishment for his vandalism.

Undaunted by his mother’s assertion or retribution, Ernie inwardly conceded that he’d have to catch himself an actual leprechaun in order to obtain the golden hoard. He asked his mother’s unwitting boyfriend to lend him a rabbit trap. Upon obtaining it, the intrepid hunter situated the trap in a likely spot at the edge of the woods. He didn’t have any actual gold to employ as a lure, so he used a couple of chocolate Easter eggs wrapped in gold foil instead.

While keeping watch at his bedroom window overnight, Ernie thought he heard rustling inside the trap. Flashlight in hand, he rushed outside to investigate. He did not encounter a green-clad sprite, however. Rather, what he came face to face with was an angry skunk. There followed a tomato bath, an additional week’s grounding, and another stern advisory from his mother that “leprechauns don’t exist, dammit!”

Interrupting him, I inquired: “Hold on. That brings you to two weeks of grounding, but you started out saying your mom grounded you for a whole month. What about the other two weeks?”

Frowning, Ernie answered: “I thought, if I couldn’t find my own leprechaun, I could ask that leprechaun in Alabama for his pot of gold. I would’ve too … if mom hadn’t seen me on the road trying to hitch a ride there, and grounded me another two weeks!”

Not only the Irish believe leprechauns actually exist

#286 – Husband Hunters

I had a classic day residue dream last night. I know exactly what prompted it too: a combination of discussions with my wife on the subjects of “House Hunters” and dating. I only wish the knowing made the experience itself easier to bear.

While watching an episode of “House Hunters” with Sophia last night, I once again expressed disbelief about the show’s basic premise. The idea of introducing prospective home buyers to three potential residences and requiring the participants to purchase one of those abodes strikes me as lunacy. Critically, none of the choices ever fits all the buyers’ needs or desires. Invariably, every house presents problems of insufficient size, space, layout, location or condition, or excessive price. Normal people won’t shell out several hundred thousand dollars for a home which falls short of their wants in significant respects; yet the buyers on “House Hunters” do just that every episode. And since I’ve found no evidence of the producers paying the whole purchase price or even a portion of it, I don’t understand why any sane individual would appear on the show and agree to its rules.

During a commercial break, Sophia and I veered into a discussion about dating nowadays. It wasn’t a terribly interesting exchange, so I won’t repeat it. Suffice it to say, the crop of lunatics, assholes and ne’er-do-wells a girlfriend of hers is encountering makes my wife happy she’s no longer trying to find a match.

Last night’s dream — well, nightmare — combined elements from both of the evening’s topics. In the all-too-real sequence, I found myself a participant in a reality TV show titled “Husband Hunters.” I was one of three men introduced to the episode’s primary player, Sophia, as a potential mate. As with “House Hunters,” my imaginary version required its featured woman to marry one of the men shown to her by a matchmaker. The bride-to-be lacked the luxury of extended relationships with the guys before making her decision too. In the style of “House Hunters,” the husband-seeker had to select her mate based on what amounted to a single speed date.

In the “episode” playing in my mind last night, Sophia’s prospects consisted of: 1) an uncouth, tremendously obese, obscenely wealthy gent, who spent most of his meet-and-greet searching for the television remote control (which he ultimately located in a fold of belly fat); 2) a suave, handsome, and well-to-do registered sex offender; and 3) me. 

Even while dreaming, I couldn’t believe I had to compete for the affections of a woman who’d already married me. Being her husband and all, I thought myself a shoe-in. Leave it to my treacherous subconscious though. Not only did I lose out … to the sex offender, but adding insult to injury, I drew last place!

Today, “House Hunters”; tomorrow … “Husband Hunters”?

#287 – Name that File

By and large, I’m a fan of technology in the courtroom. I think access to searchable briefs, documents, and deposition testimony can aid an attorney in all sorts of proceedings. Of course, the benefits gained from a handy laptop only apply when a lawyer employs the technology correctly, unlike this morning.

I recently agreed to help out another attorney in a lawsuit. My colleague, whom I’ll call “Bill,” normally handles transactional matters, not litigation. Consequently, when a client he represents on corporate issues was sued by her partner, he sought my assistance.

The case involves a dispute between the co-owners of a business. According to the plaintiff, Bill’s client locked him out of their offices and seized all personal property for herself, including goods belonging to the plaintiff. 

Yesterday, Bill asked me for a big favor. The plaintiff had filed an emergency application to regain access to the business premises and recover his alleged property. The Judge agreed to hear the application at 9:00 a.m. today, and Bill requested that I argue the motion. Knowing I’d have so little time to prepare, Bill said he’d act as my courtroom assistant. He also promised to store all the pleadings and exhibits on his laptop and pull them up as needed.

During the hearing, the plaintiff’s lawyer referred to certain disputed items on a spreadsheet Bill had submitted in opposition to the application. The lawyer referenced this property by the spreadsheet’s line numbers, rather than by name. He insisted those numbered items constituted his client’s personal possessions, rather than joint business property or the defendant’s goods. 

In order to respond, I asked Bill to call up the spreadsheet on his laptop, which he did. I turned the screen toward me and accessed the controverted lines. Noticing an obvious flaw in my adversary’s logic, I informed the Judge: “Your Honor, unless our male plaintiff wears women’s clothes, it seems highly unlikely that he, rather than the female defendant, owns ’17 skirts,’ ’57 blouses,’ and ’46 panties.’”

Inwardly smirking, I pulled my eyes from the laptop screen and glanced at the plaintiff’s lawyer and then the Judge, to gauge their reactions. Oddly, both of them seemed far more confused than blown away by my decisive observation. I learned why moments later, when Bill grabbed the laptop and took a closer look at the file he’d selected. Soon after, I found myself apologizing to the Judge and my adversary for “inadvertently referring to the wrong spreadsheet.”

The moral of the story, as Bill saw it, was: if you’re going to store personal and professional databases in the same directory on your laptop, make sure to give the files vastly different names. Otherwise, instead of the inventory of business property – titled “inv.xls” – you meant to access, you might mistakenly click on the similarly named “hinv.xls,” and call up a catalogue of your home’s contents, including the clothing in your wife’s closet.

Various items of personal property

#288 – Burned

Because Sophia doesn’t share my fascination with technology, I tend to underestimate her knowledge of electronics and computers. I rarely give her credit in those areas, even though she’s repeatedly demonstrated a grasp of the basic principles. Burning music CDs is just one example.

I don’t appreciate when my wife takes me for granted. Lately, she’s been riding my ass like I’m her pet pony, and ordering me about as if I’m her indentured servant. When I’m not hearing “Richard, will you put your books in the basement?,” I’m getting “Hang up your clothes in the closet already!” Earlier this week, she even pestered me to clean up the media room: my man cave! In my view, the fact that I let her watch TV there doesn’t give her license to whine about the cocktail table’s clutter!

I finally snapped after she appropriated my car for the week. Did she ask permission to use my vehicle? No, she did not! She simply commandeered the machine, after informing me she needed its four doors to accommodate the out-of-town business guests she’d be chauffeuring.

In typical Richard Stern fashion, I decided to take the low road and teach her a lesson. I went online Sunday and searched for certain thematically linked songs to download and burn to a CD. Upon completing my masterpiece, I popped the disc into my car’s player and cranked up the volume for Sophia’s listening pleasure.

She didn’t say a word about the CD after returning from work on Monday. Nonetheless, I felt sure she’d listened to it, since the cold shoulder she offered me left no better explanation. Her silent treatment didn’t bother me though, buoyed as I’d become by the success of my juvenile payback. Inwardly, I answered every frosty glare with a self-satisfied smirk at the song titles she’d played, in the collection I called “Nagger’s Revenge,” including these immortal tunes:

“Always Naggin’” by The Del Royals;

 “Shut Your Trap” by Living Legend – Certified D-Boy;

“(Kiss) my Southern Ass” by Mississippi;

and, in case the message hadn’t sunk in yet;

“Stick it Where the Sun Don’t Shine” by Nick Lowe

Sophia finished driving my car yesterday. This morning, I took it to run errands. The music greeting me when I turned on the ignition did not emanate from my newest disc, however, but from a single-song CD burned and inserted by my wife. 

I didn’t realize Sophia knew how to burn a CD. And judging by the tune she selected, I may have underestimated more than her technological savvy. Specifically, I fear she’s a tad more pissed at my prank than I’d expected. That assumption certainly seems justified, given the message conveyed by her song’s title:

 “Play with Yourself Until You Faint” by Regrets


An album with at least one colorful song title

#289 – To Hell With You!

I know a lot of lawyers, but I’m rarely cognizant of the firms at which they practice. Frankly, I never saw any benefit to memorizing a string of seemingly random last names … until today, that is.

Earlier this year, I donated a few bucks to a neighboring kid’s youth baseball team. I also volunteered to phone a lawyer acquaintance who once told me his firm regularly sponsors youth leagues. Most generously, “Dan” offered the firm’s resources to purchase all the boys’ uniforms. True to his word, he delivered a sizeable check made out to cash.

Excited at my success and anxious to assist even more, I volunteered to acquire the uniforms themselves. I obtained contact information for the custom outfitter which had supplied the team the past several years. I then asked my secretary to place the order and remit the law firm’s check.

Upon receiving payment, a representative of the vendor telephoned me to ask two follow-up questions, the first being: “Does the team want its logo on the backs of the jerseys again, like last year?” I’d never been told the team’s name, and I hadn’t a clue about its logo, but I couldn’t see why last year’s look wouldn’t serve equally well this year. So I answered affirmatively.

I had a more difficult time with the second question: “Some sponsors want their names printed on the jerseys, but the law firm’s name seems rather long. If they insist on the advertising, is there any way we can shorten what appears on the shirt?”

Dan hadn’t indicated his expectations regarding advertising. Rather than bother him again, I decided to go the safe route, but with a compromise. I instructed the vendor to print the firm’s initials beneath the team’s logo, rather than its entire name. Although the man’s response – “Are you sure about that?” – sounded dubious, he assured me he’d follow through with my request.

The name of Dan’s firm is “Hickam, Eckert, Lambert and Lilly.” As odd as it sounds, that information somehow escaped me throughout the sponsorship process. Compounding such omission, I’d never arranged to see the completed uniforms. I rectified both oversights today, commencing with a visit to the team’s home field. I looked up the law firm shortly after the coach apologetically corrected my mistaken assumption that the jerseys on display were the ones I’d ordered. As the man explained: “You have to understand; the boys on our team, ‘The Flames,’ belong to churchgoing families. And to be honest, a lot of the parents would’ve been outraged to see their sons wearing shirts printed with that law firm’s initials below our roaring fire logo.”

Makes an incendiary statement … though not necessarily suitable for all situations