Huzzah for Hard Line on Hardheads with Handhelds! …Huh?

16 Sep

by Roger White

 

Normally, I’m not one to send out hearty huzzahs to governmental entities for actions they’ve taken, and this is likely because governmental entities these days rarely take any action at all (unless it involves evasive action from pursuing police cars, gaggles of reporters, or issues of real import). But I must say that I feel a robust huzzah coming on for the gallant move the Austin City Council made in August. The council types put their pointed noggins together and approved an ordinance banning cellphone use while driving within the Weird City Limits. So here goes. Let’s hear it: Huzzah!

 

Carl, I didn’t see you huzzah-ing.

 

I imagine that this new law, which goes into effect January 1, 2015, will be called by some shorthand name like the DWP law. Driving While Phoning. Or maybe DWT—Driving While Texting. Or we could simply stick with the term DWI and call it Driving While Intexticated. distracted dudeRegardless, label me a cappy hamper. It’s about time we put these handheld monsters in their place. I mean, crikey, time was when you saw a car weaving all over the road and sideswiping lampposts it was usually 2:30 in the morning and the driver had a handful of cheap hooch. Now, any time of day or night you can easily spy a meandering motorist, but these days he’s got his head down, engrossed in his handful of high-tech hosannas. Holy high-speed highjinks!

 

Alas, too, in the olden days, the term “distracted driving” meant that a guy was accidentally steering onto the sidewalk on Guadalupe Street because he was ogling a crowd of college coeds walking down the drag. Nowadays, it usually means somebody put his Dodge in a ditch because he was watching a Vietnamese potbellied pig play the harpsichord on Youtube. It’s insanity, man.

 

So I not only applaud the council for standing up to the mobile madness, I say we take it a few steps further. I vote we enact stiff fines, public shaming rituals, and/or jail time for the following:

  • WWT: Walking While Texting
  • WMWT: Watching a Movie While Texting
  • IYPWT: Ignoring Your Parents While Texting

And, of course:

  • CWRLPWT: Conversing With a Real Live Person While Texting

 

WWTYou’ve surely seen the videos out there of those unfortunate saps who’ve strolled into mall fountains or off sheer cliffs because of their single-minded attention to their devices. And I suppose some of the yahoos in these videos were actually watching videos of other yahoos walking into fountains or off cliffs. Gads. It’s a glimpse of infinity—the fractal geometry of the absurd. Don’t you see? Where was I?

 

Oh. Get this. The Chinese, recognizing the inherent dangers of WWT, have actually devised an urban solution. The city of Chongqing has decided to parse its sidewalks into normal human walking lanes and cellphone user lanes. Apparently, the cellphone lanes have warnings painted onto the pavement about such things as the fact that the sidewalk is ending soon, there’s a naked lady walking right next to you, and your neck could stay permanently frozen in that position if you don’t stop gawking at your phone.

 

I would guess that such walking lanes might need rumble strips or warning buzzers for the hardcore cellphone addicts who refuse to tear themselves away. Such measures may have saved WWT2the tourist in Melbourne, Australia, who walked right off a pier into the frigid waters of Port Phillip Bay recently. According to news reports, the woman thrashed about in the sea for about 20 minutes before being rescued. “There will be no need for a lost property report as the woman kept hold of her mobile phone throughout the entire ordeal,” said a local police officer. The woman’s child and two dogs, unfortunately, were never found. OK, I made that part up.

 

So, anyhow, here’s to our intrepid city council for taking a swipe at all the app-addled addicts out there. I’m with ya, pointy-noggin council types. Is it so hard for people to PUT THE PHONE DOWN? My hope is that once we move into the second phase of our fair burg’s sanctions—the laws against WWT, WMWT, and the like—that eventually we’ll develop edicts against the more grievous mobile device offenses. Such as SWT. You know. Nudge, nudge.

SWT

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

My Wife’s Haunted Car and Other Things

9 Sep

by Roger White

 

Let me get this out of the way right here and now: For all the times I’ve been a smartass to any of you out there in reader-land, I convey my sincere apologies. I used to think that just about anything is fair game in the name of humor. I was not above smartassery if it garnered some hearty yuks. But lo, being on the receiving end of a smartass barb recently made me understand. Funny is in the eye of the bee holder. Or something. So there, I’m sorry. Long-winded explanation to follow.

 

The preceding paragraph came about because my wife and I recently became thoroughly convinced that her car is haunted. True! It’s all true. The old Honda makes a strange humming noise—using ok not wifeys carDave Barry caps now—WHEN IT’S NOT EVEN ON! I thought wifey had been hitting the cooking vodka a bit when she unloaded this on me, especially after I pulled up a chair on two occasions and sat next to her car in the garage and heard: absolutely nothing. But the other night, as I was emptying the trash in the garage, it happened. The old rattletrap hummed at me. It was kind of a pleasant hum, nothing menacing. But it was a hum nonetheless—coming from a vehicle that had been sitting dormant for hours. What’s even weirder is that it doesn’t seem to emanate from the engine. It’s an overall, ethereal sort of tune, as if the entire car just decides to hum. Lasts a while, then stops. Somewhere near B flat, I think.

 

Unnerved, and after a dip into the cooking vodka, I called up our mechanic. I asked him, after catching my breath and pouring myself another helping of cooking sauce, what in the world would make a car, that hasn’t been driven in hours, mind you, hum? (If you know where this is going because you have a smartass mechanic, don’t ruin it for the others.)

 

And Mr. Mechanic said: “Maybe it doesn’t know the words.”

 

Rimshot. Applause, applause. Another helping of vooking vokda all around. After he stopped laughing, which was a good long while, he switched into mechanic gobbledygook mode: “Could be your ABS relay switch stuck in regenerate mode or perhaps your evaporator coils releasing pressure. Have you checked that?”

 

“Uh, yeah. No.”

 

“Or it could be haunted,” he concluded. Again with the laughing. “Bring it in, we’ll check it out.”

 

Funny guy. He has a point, though. It truly could be haunted. The wife and I used to scoff and pooh-pooh such notions, but through our long, strange trips together, we have both become convinced that there are — well, let’s just say there are things beyond our knowledge as mere humans trudging about on this little planet. Another schot of kooking sschvodka, please.

 

Two very peculiar examples come to mind: (1) a photo of Edgar Allan Poe’s grave and (2) a spooky stay in Santa Fe, New Mexico. So, pull up a log. Some years back, Sue and I were visiting Baltimore. EAs graveWe had one of those old cameras that actually used film, the kind you gave to the drugstore clerk for developing. Before the age of nude selfies and all that crap. We had taken all the usual tourist photos: the Inner Harbor, Maryland blue crabs, a downtown mugging, and a shot of the grave of E.A. Poe. Yes, the original Stephen King. When we got the photos back from the drugstore, all was pretty much normal—ya know, some fuzzy, some out of focus, some pretty decent shots. But the shot of Poe’s grave was truly bizarre. The picture appeared to have flames coming up the bottom and sides, as if surrounding the gravesite. Hand on heart here. We know we still have it somewhere, but we cannot find it. It’s the only photo of the rolls that was out of the ordinary. Way out of the ordinary. It looked like it was on fire.

 

No. 2 is even stranger. If you’ve ever stayed in Santa Fe, you’ve probably heard how it is purported to be one of the most haunted places in North America. Old Indian burial grounds, the site of extremely ancient civilizations, the works. In the dead of winter one year (no pun intended), our vacation stay there was extended because we were snowed in. Inches and inches of deep, beautiful snow. Our girls were tiny, and they loved it. Sue and I were perturbed at the cost of our unintended extension, and our dog, Ralph, hated every minute of it. Something about the room we were in, at the Las Palomas Inn, gave our fat daschund an extreme case of the willies. He would whine and mommyhesitate every time we entered the room. He would piddle nervously on the front step. Then Sue woke up in the wee hours one night convinced that one of the girls was calling her. She heard a distinctive little voice calling out, “Mommy.” But our girls were sound asleep. When Sue told me the story, as we sat on our hotel bed, I decided to call our ghost’s bluff. “OK,” I called out. “If there is something or someone here, give us a sign. Now.” At that precise moment, one of the two sconce lights on the wall surrounding the bed came on. Came on, mind you. If a light had gone off, I could explain that one away. Bulb went bad, that’s all. No. One of the lights came on. Wifey’s my witness. I still shiver about that one. We changed rooms, then hightailed it back home as soon as the snow cleared.

 

Who’s up for more cookling vkoda? Whew. Seriously, do you have a story like this? One that makes you think, hmmm, there is more going on here than we know. E-mail me at roger.white@tasb.org. I wanna hear them. I’ll post the truly creepy ones. It’s almost Halloween, ya know. Right now I gotta go, I think the wife’s car’s humming at me again.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

Fly High, Young One, But Visit the Ol’ Nest Please

27 Aug

by Roger White

 

“…the eyes of Texas are upon you,

’Til Gabriel blows his horn.”

 

The wife and I recently experienced the hopeful heartbreak of helping our firstborn bird to fly the nest. Somebody should have prepped us for this one. Jokes and tender clichés aside, this was a much more difficult task than we ever imagined. We pitched in as Lindsey gathered necessities and knickknacks from her room—the only room she’s ever called her own in her lifetime—and moved into her dorm at The University of Texas at Austin. Now, it is true that we live in Austin, and it is true that Linz is only about 11 minutes away, but to her emotionally fragile parents, she may as well have enrolled at the University of Guam. Our baby’s gone! The dingoes have eaten our baby! Wait, that’s different.

Linz in her dorm

The days that have passed since our lovely Longhorn’s departure have been filled with little melancholy milestones, and they have come upon us at odd and unexpected times. You veteran parents know what I mean: the first quiet night it hits you that she’s really not around; the first time you start to call her down for supper and realize there’s no need; the first time you walk into her darkened room to empty her wastebasket, only to see that there’s no trash to empty. I don’t think my eyes have been this stubbornly moist since the last time I watched “Brian’s Song.”

 

Funny, but one of the things we found that we miss most is Linz’s morning call, that melodious rumbling din we’ve all become quite accustomed to around our household. Every family member always knew when our oldest offspring was up and at ’em when Linz blew her nose in that unique honk of hers.

 

“Linz, you up? Almost time for school.”

 

“WHAWNNNK!!”

 

“She’s up.”

 

How I miss that whawnnnk.

 

young bird old birdOf course, from our daughter’s point of view, she may be regretting the fact that she didn’t look into the University of Guam. It’s only been a matter of days, and yet the wife and I have found dozens of reasons (excuses) to drop in on our undergrad at the Forty Acres. “Hi, sweetie, I figured you could use some more highlighters.” “I’m at the front desk, Linz, I thought you might need another blanket.” “It’s us again, Linz. We have a rutabaga.” “Linz, the front desk people are giving us dirty looks again.” You get the idea. We lobbied to have our own dorm key made, but the UT people frowned upon that notion.

 

It’s an exciting time for the young bird, full of nervous anticipation, hard work, new people, grand adventure, as she flies on her way. Kind of tough on us old birds, though, back in the old nest. We still have one fledgling not quite ready to take wing. When that baby flies in a couple of years, we may be ready for the old bird asylum.

 

Hook ’em, Linz. We know you’ll do wondrous things. And we hope you remember where the old nest is. We have fresh fruit and Ramen!

 

“…The eyes of your folks are upon you,

So Lindsey blow your horn!”

 

P.S. It was close, but Mr. R.L. Mitchell of Baton Rouge beat Bob Kolar of Austin to win the “Find the Fib Follies” contest from our last episode. They both correctly guessed that the weeeinventor of the “para-shirt” story was about as factual as a three-dollar bill—but R.L. wins the big bucks by beating Bob to the “send” button. A bunch of other folks got it right, too, but they were too slow. You know who you are. I gotta make up better whoppers. Thanks for the kind words, guys. You like me! You really, really like me! Oh!

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

Commence Ye Festivities, Followers: It’s Find the Fib

15 Aug

by Roger White

 

Ah, yes. It’s just about that time again, my anthrax-addled adherents. No, I’m not referring to Be An Angel Day—although August 22 is official Be An Angel Day. If you’re unfamiliar with BAAD, it was created by Jayne Howard Feldman, author of Driving Under the Influence of Angels, who insists that she was inspired by said angels to devise this special day to encourage being kind to others and participating in all-around do-goodery. This is not to bidareyae confused with BAHAD—Bean A Hell’s Angels Day—which involves smacking a motorcycle gang member upside the head and then running like hell.

 

Anyway, that isn’t what I’m talking about, so just leave it alone.

 

No, troops, it’s time once again to play Find the Fib. Yes, I know that NPR Radio has its backward version of this shtick, but as I said before, I’ve been doing it for 33 years now, so if anyone has a case against anybody, it’s me. Against them. About this. But I love NPR, and only lawyers win when you sue, and who needs wealthier lawyers?

 

Which reminds me of another lawyer joke:

Q: Why is attending a bar association meeting like going into a bait shop?

A: Because of the abundance of suckers, leeches, maggots, and nightcrawlers.

 

God, I love that. Anyway, faithful gawkers of my quasi-regular epistles know that every 18 years, rain or shine, I present Find the Fib. How it works is this: I give you, dear readers, several news reports from around the globe. However, one of them is total bunk. Sheer hokum. Your job is to determine which one. First one to e-mail me the correct answer at roger.white@tasb.org wins three real U.S. dollars. No pennies, real bills. Second place wins two bucks; third place, one genuine American dollar. Fourth through sixth place wins a nifty “Jesus Is Coming, Hide the Bong” bumper sticker; seventh through ninth earns a hearty “Thanks for Playing Our Stupid Game!” e-mail from yours truly. Taxes on winnings are sole responsibility of individual winners. Void where prohibited. Prohibit where voided. Violators will be prosecuted. Prosecutors will be etc. etc.

 

If you don’t want to play this time around, worry not. You’ll get another opportunity in August of 2032. So here goes. Find the Fib:

ohboy

Story No. 1: Overly germaphobic types in South Korea have invented something they call the Finger Nap. Finger Naps are tiny plastic sanitary gloves that fit over one’s digits—basically finger condoms—to be used by over-the-wall neat freaks to eat pizza, hamburgers, donuts, and such. Some restaurants in South Korea have caught on to the trend by installing Finger Nap dispensaries. Now if they could only invent Nose Naps for eating kimchi.

 

Story No. 2: Boeing is teaming up with South African Airways to develop jet fuel made from tobacco. The fuel, concocted from a hybrid tobacco plant, is part of an effort to cut carbon emissions and promote green energy in South Africa. Test-farming of the plants is under way, with biofuel output expected in the “next few years,” a company spokesperson said. The spokesperson did not say whether fuels would be available in menthol and ultra-light.

 

Story No. 3: Authorities in New Jersey are investigating the explosion of a giant vat of eggnog, which damaged a pharmaceutical plant and caused minor injuries to two workers. Employees were mixing artificial eggnog flavorings in a laboratory in Totowo, New Jersey, when the explosion occurred, the town’s fire marshal told local news reporters. The company was trying out a new eggnog recipe, the marshal said, adding that the cause of the blast was undetermined. There’s been no word from officials about why a giant vat of whiskey was parked next to the giant vat of eggnog.

 

Story No. 4: In a tragic twist, a Wisconsin man was killed accidentally by an invention he envisioned to save lives. The inventor was wearing his “para-shirt” invention, created weeeto be worn as a dress shirt that could be used as a parachute in the event of a high-rise office fire, when the parachute deployed while the man was driving on a Madison freeway. With his view obstructed, the man drove off a downtown overpass, dropping thirty feet to his demise. Now if he’d only invented the “car-a-chute.”

 

Story No. 5: A South African animal rights group is planning to sue those responsible for the death of a giraffe that smashed its head on a bridge as it was transported in a trailer on one of the country’s busiest freeways. Eyewitnesses reported seeing two giraffes in an open trailer being driven along Johannesburg’s N1 motorway before one hit its head on the bridge. “Look how low that bridge is and how tall the giraffes are,” one witness cried. “Who thought this one through?” South Africa’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SANSPCA) said they would be seeking to prosecute the giraffe relocators. Meanwhile, SASORSP—the South African Society Of Really Stupid People—is also seeking the drivers to award them the organization’s highest honor.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

Episode XXIL: In Which I’m Overwhelmed by a Moving Experience

6 Aug

by Roger White                                                                              

 

So last week I was scrabbling along, no major curves along the path, no sudden obstacles, no tremendous forks or other life-altering cutlery in the road. Then PLANG, it happened. (I feel it necessary to interrupt myself here, apologies to my train of thought—that’s quite all right, don’t worry about it—why, thank you—don’t mention it—you’re too kind—get on with it already—that the overused onomatopoetic term “BOOM” is not only overused but doesn’t actually apply to me. I don’t hear BOOM when a seismic event wobbles my world. I hear more of a metallic PLANG, not unlike being smacked in the mug with a long piece of aluminum siding.)

 

So anyway, PLANG, it happened.

PLANG

I was asked to help a friend move.

 

Now, don’t be mistaken—the experience itself was not traumatic. Just tedious. The process of gathering, wrapping, and boxing every single solitary item of your earthly existence and carting the whole mess to another location is unadulterated first-world hell, but that wasn’t what PLANGed me.

Side note: One comes to understand who one’s true compadres are come moving time. Only real buddies will show up to devote an entire weekend helping you tote your box springs, fold-out sectional, appliances, underthings, attic crap, and shot glass collection from hither to yon. The old “a friend in need” adage, yah? Yah. I’m thinking of pitching these nifty sayings to U-Haul for display on their trucks across our fair land:
igotit igotit

A friend moving out is a friend no doubt.

A friend relocating is a friend ingratiating.

A friend moving furniture is a friend who’s been earnedfersure.

Or something.

 

End of side note.

 

No, what smacked my visage into a flattened cartoon face shaped like a long piece of aluminum siding was the flashback. Travel with me, won’t you, way back to 1973. Your vision’s getting wavy as harp strings carry you away to plaid polyester land. Don’t look down. Damn it, I told you not to look down! YAPR 67es, those are saddle shoes you’re wearing, with heels the size of an 8-track tape player. Take a gander around. Spiro Agnew has just resigned from the Veep’s Office. On TV, William Conrad is nabbing crooks, usually by sitting on them, as Detective Frank Cannon; Tony Orlando and Dawn top the charts with, yech, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon.” And out of nowhere, Mom and Dad have called it quits, meaning that little eighth-grade you must bury all your possessions in cardboard coffins and follow the parental unit of your choosing to every apartment, trailer park, and government-subsidized housing complex this side of Tulsa. And you have to say goodbye to your dog, Cricket, because it’s been determined that she’s too much to care for in all the hubbub.

 

Oh, the horror.

 

Yeah, I recall those times as the Years of Living Transiently (YLT). Never did I feel unloved or hungry or victim of any of the true terrors that so many youngsters must endure. After about the third move in less than a year, however, I learned not to unpack fully but to simply shift my more immediate necessities to the tops of my boxes. I’m sure that kids of military parents share a similar memory of quicksilver logistics. My wife’s gypsy-like youth was comparable. You live like a MASH unit, always on alert for immediate evac.

 

Through all the moves uncounted during my YLT era, though, I also learned that no matter how many times you move, you never get it quite right. Every time you pull up stakes, you say to yourself this is going to be the one where I’m uber-organized. Socks here, books in this box, bowls over there. Then you end up throwing everything anywhere it fits. When you get to your new abode, you open a box and find it has a can of motor oil, floss, and toilet paper. Another box has detergent, silverware, three bags of old Doritos, and your high school copy of To Kill a Mockingbird.

 

Martha The ManSame goes with your moving-in process at the new place. As you’re unpacking, you determine that you will be the epitome of efficiency, the Martha Stewart of domestic organization (except for the jail time). So you organize your cereal boxes by bran content, your CDs alpha by artist, your spices as they appear in the song Scarborough Fair, and so on. And, of course, this all goes out the window the minute you eat your first bowl of Trix.

 

So this, my being PLANGed by a YLT flashback, made me realize this is likely why the wife and I haven’t moved since 1992. My daughters say it’s boring never to have relocated once during their lifetimes—to which I say, “travel with me now waaay back…”

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

…Only to Find Gideons’ Flatscreen

23 Jul

by Roger White                                                                              

 

Well, I’m back, my fellow existential exam-takers. Just flew in from the far reaches of my psyche, and, boy, are my neural dendrites tired. Actually, I’ve been in Baltimore, but it’s about the same.

 

Although I was encamped in the city’s trendy Inner Harbor for bidness purposes, I did partake of some of the local tourist fare, which involved, in various proportions, many images of Fort Wipken WayMcHenry, the grave of Edgar Allan Poe, mounds of Maryland blue crabs (and all the accompanying crab hammers and pliers and crab-innard removers and bibs and things), and thousands upon thousands of orange-clad Orioles fans. Note: Every third street, boulevard, and/or quasi-large building in Baltimore proper is named for Cal Ripken, Jr. There’s Cal Ripken Road, Cal Ripken Way, Cal Ripken Hair Restoration Clinic, you name it.

 

For those of you non-baseballites, Ripken, nicknamed the “Iron Man,” played for the O’s for something like 173 years, and he holds the major league record for consecutive games played. He Call Calsuited up and took the field for—seriously, now—2,632 games without so much as a potty break, or something like that. Anyway, the folks of Baltimore worship the guy. There’s even an Our Lady of the Shortstop Catholic Church near Camden Yard, where parishioners bless themselves with the sign of the 8 and refer to themselves as Cal-tholics. OK, not really. I kid.

 

Anyhow, the city its own self wasn’t nearly as crime-infested as I had pictured it. For many years, Baltimore carried a not-so-savory reputation with regard to one’s personal safety. The pro basketball team wasn’t called the Baltimore Bullets for nothing. They were going to be called the Baltimore Brick Upside the Heads, but they couldn’t fit it all on the team jerseys. However, I must say that during my brief stay near the Chesapeake, I was accosted not once—unless you count the very large, very moist man with the Phil Spector hair and leopard-print thong singing Paul Anka’s “Having My Baby” at the top of his lungs. I wasn’t sure if he was panhandling, making some sort of pro-life statement, or on the run from the Cal Ripken Clinic for Mood Disorders, but I ponied up a fast fiver and got the hell out of there.

 

A bit off topic from Baltimore per se, but I have to report—the Spouseman not having lodged at the finer inns on my own dime for a good while—that I was thoroughly gobsmacked with regard to one particular aspect of my accommodations. Hotels, I have come to conclude, are absolutely convinced that their guests cannot go one fraction of a second without access to a television. Gads, man. There was a TV in the bathroom—built into the mirror, mind you—a TV in the elevator, a tiny telly on each treadmill in the fitness room, a TV on every wall of the lobby, several in the bar, TVs in the restaurant, etc., etc., etc. CNN, Fox News, and General Hospital were everywhere. Live with Kelly and Michael was practically ubiquitous. I didn’t really need that last sentence to make my point, but I enjoy using the word “ubiquitous” whenever possible. I can be obsequious, dare I say insouciant, like that sometimes.

gotta have

With the preponderance of boob tubes, I found it a tad ironic when I read the little sign in the john that instructed me to please reuse my towels. The hotel explained on its quaint recycled-paper missive that it was trying to help the planet and save money—which would, of course, keep their rates lower—by asking that visitors gently reuse their towels during their stay. I kinda figured they could save a bit more if they gently stopped cramming high-dollar television sets into every conceivable space they could find. I, for one, do not require a flatscreen, high-definition TV built into my toilet paper dispenser.

 

On the plane ride home, I actually considered writing to the hotel manager about my concerns, but the tiny little TV in the seatback in front of me was gently playing an Andy Griffith Show rerun. So I got sidetracked. It was a really good one, though. The one where Aunt Bee enters her kerosene-flavored pickles in the county fair…

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

Pondering Life’s Little Scams, Schemes, and Swindles

7 Jul

by Roger White                                                                              

 

So I was standing in the shower attempting to loofah my stretch marks when one of wifey’s standing army of haircare products amassed on the shower shelf caught my eye. It was a shiny, dazzling thing, the color of polished gold. The container’s meant to grab your attention, you see, designed to stand apart from the plethora of shampoos and such that crowd the grocery shelves. Marketers never cease to amuse. Gold equals value, see, so this shampoo must be head and shoulders above the rest. Ouch, that was unintentional. So now that the golden suds caught my eye, I looked closer. I had to laugh—more superlatives and blatant hyperbole were crowded onto this little bottle of bubbles than a Barnum & Bailey circus poster.

photo

“Advanced,” “NEW,” “Total Repair,” “EXTREME,” “Emergency,” “Recovery,” “RAPID FIBER RENEWAL” (whatever that is)…and on and on. It’s as if the company’s advertising guys looked up every glowing adjective in the dictionary and simply pasted them all on the bottle. I snickered again, but then I realized, hey, it worked. It’s in my shower, ain’t it?

 

I pointed out all the grandiose gobbledygook to my wife when I exited the reading room and asked her if it was indeed the best haircare product she’d ever used. “Eh,” she said with a shrug. “It’s not that great.”

 

Ah, yes. This revelation got me pondering all the little cons and exaggerations and out-and-out flimflammery that we deal with on a daily basis. I believe we first got the idea that the scam was on as we moved from adolescence into young adulthood. This was about the time we witnessed the gradual, ever-so-subtle phenomenon known as the incredible shrinking product. Remember? Food staples such as hamburgers and candy bars slowly lost their heft over time, almost like magic.

 

gadzooksThe Big Macs and Hersheys of our youth didn’t merely appear larger back then because we were tykes; they’ve been carefully trimmed over the years. Picture your Hershey bar on a fulcrum, like a teeter-totter of corporate trickery; price goes up, product size goes down. Eventually, I suppose we’ll be shelling out $19.99 for a chocolate nibble the size of an unwell raisin. In that vein, corporate candy minds have already given us the “fun size” bar. Fun size. That’s marketing speak for “you pay us regular-size price, and we’ll give you tiny crumbs in a colorful, exciting package. Yay! Fun!”

 

The Mars Company did some more snipping just recently, shaving the size of its Snickers and Mars bars—merely for health reasons, mind you. “Having taken product reformulation as far as we can for now without compromising the great taste,” a company spokeslizard said, “we have reduced the portion size of Mars and Snickers to bring down the calories.” Right.

 

The soft drink guys did it, too, long ago—under the guise of moving to the metric system. If you’re old enough to recall, family-size cokes once came in one-gallon containers. Touting their shift to the sleek three-liter size bottle as a consumer-friendly move to a more efficient, easier-to-tote container—at the same price!—the cola industry failed to mention that customers were now getting precisely .793 of a gallon of coke for the gallon price. But what’s .207 of a gallon between friends?

 

It isn’t just at the grocery store, though. The scam is everywhere. Corporate lizards abound. If you don’t pay close attention to your wireless service bill, for example, you’ve probably been crammed. We were crammed recently, but thank goodness the wife caught it before it went on too long. In fact, T-Mobile just got slammed by the Federal Trade Commission for cramming. Sounds physically painful, I know, but cramming hits you only in the pocketbook. It’s the practice of stuffing hidden fees into your bill for services you didn’t request—hence the ugly terminology. It’s often difficult to spot the hidden fees because the wireless companies will not itemize them; rather, they’ll show up as “Use Charges” or some other ridiculous, nebulous category.

 

The list goes on. Premium gas, college textbooks, bottled water, anything and everything that movie popcorn manshows up on your hospital bill, automotive cabin air filters, shipping and handling (what the hell is handling, anyway?), hotel taxes, cable activation fees, time shares, movie snacks. It’s a mine field out there, people. It’s a dirty, slimy mine field full of lizards, to mix a metaphor or three.

 

I think I need another shower. Hey, this shampoo looks good…

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,793 other followers