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I Give You the Cheetoh’s “Beltway to Heaven”

27 Jan

by Roger White

 

Oh, my dear discombobulated disciples. Oh, my concerned cosmic cadets. Oh. Oh. … and another oh. If you’re of my ilk and persuasion, these last few days have been nothing short of the Rod Serling variety. Real life transpiring before our very peepers in the Washington of D.C. vicinity has been so unbelievably medulla-twisting that my hand shakes too much to even give you an offering. So I’m typing this with my feet.

trump_angry

It is at times such as this (the last time being about the McCarthy era) that I find I can only express myself through song or poem. Since I have absolutely no ability to write an original song or poem, I will kidnap one. So, seeing as how I am so utterly gobsmacked that I can only send my missives to you through song, here, then, is my rendition of “Beltway to Heaven,” penned to the tune of Zeppelin’s classic, “Stairway to Same.”

 

Note: If you can’t play “Stairway” in your head as you read on, then this will make no sense to you whatsoever and you will become convinced that my brain has been pecked by pigeons. The latter may be true, of course, but proceed, if you will:

 

There’s a man in D.C., as crude as he can be,

And his massive ego rules his obsession.

 

When he can’t get what he wants, then he whines and he taunts,

And his mind swims with revenge and oppression.

 

Oooh, oooo-oooh, and his lunacy may send us all to heaven.

 

The story we know by rote; he lost the popular vote,

’Cause all the Mexican rapists voted against him.

mean-don

Tho his reasoning is cracked, he cites alternative facts

To convince us all how bigly we will win.

 

Oooh, oooo-ooh, and the Doomsday Clock is long past eleven.

 

There’s a feeling we get, that our nation’s trade debt

Will soon be the largest in history.

 

Yes, he’s gonna build the wall, so huge and bigly tall,

And how Mexico will pay is still a mystery.

dons-wall

Oooh, oooo-ooh, and his lunacy may send us all to heaven.

 

And it’s whispered that soon, that this faux-tanned orange goon

Will steal the oil from all Middle East nations.

 

And a new day will dawn, yes, World War III he will spawn,

And the world will fall into desolation.

 

Oooh, oooo-ooh, and I doubt this clown will make it to heaven.

 

(picking up the tempo now)

 

If there’s an immigrant in your way,

Hey, torture’s OK,

Just call the Feds and he’s long gone.

 

Yes, there are two paths you can go by,

But Cheetoh’s our guy,

Who needs brains when you have brawn?

 

Oooooh, but it makes me wonder.

 

His head’s inflated, his life is cushy,

He grabs your p—y,

David Duke and Putin are his friends.

the-grab

Dear Donnie, can you hear the marchers?

Call forth your archers

To defend your kingdom from the women.

 

(kicking it in!)

 

And as we wind on down the road

Through his narcissistic episodes,

Our world standing soon erodes,

Our health care flushed down the commode,

 

He promised work for the common man,

But where’s his great master jobs plan?

Please tell us so we’ll understand,

You hold us all in your small hands.

Don’t be a rock if you can’t roollllll………..

 

And he’s pushing us all to Armageddon.

 

Roger White is a freelance something-or-other living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a morbidly obese but mannered dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr Syndrome. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

Dreaming of Better Days–Or Reasonable Canadian Real Estate

24 Oct

by Roger White

 

Sometimes dreams are just dreams—simple brain-dumps of the day’s events, snippets of the recent odd encounter, short reels of hazy memories, a sweeping up of the mental flotsam bobbing betwixt the lobes, all stirred together, jumbled and spiced by the bit of bad pork tenderloin you had that day. So if you’re spending a great deal of your waking hours trying to affix deep meaning to the fact that in your dreamscape the night before you were a naked submarine commander delivering the eulogy at Edith a-dreamBunker’s funeral while stray dogs with marshmallow fur licked your bare feet, you may be wasting your time. Just a silly dream. A bit disturbing, but just silly, nonetheless.

 

But other times, I do lend credence to the notion that our dreams are really trying to tell us something. Case in point, the other night. I’d resigned myself to slumber after attempting to digest as much of the national news as I could stomach. As with 99.79 percent of Americans today, I went to bed somewhat emotionally dyspeptic. How did we get here? How has this country’s public discourse plummeted so far as to be steered by intellectual quayleknuckle-draggers and emotional toddlers? I drifted off utterly dismayed by the realization that today’s political arena makes the likes of Dan Quayle and George Dubya look like cerebral giants.

 

In my dream that night, I was walking up a hill, in an urban setting. Much of the cityscape was in the distance, and the pavement was steep and difficult. Suddenly, a disabled person whizzed by me, in a motorized wheelchair built for speed. The young man yelled at me to get on, so I climbed aboard and off we went. I could barely hang on; this guy was motoring. The next thing I knew, we were in a college classroom. Students were milling about, reading the campus newspaper, waiting for the professor to appear. The guy who’d given me the wild ride invited me to stay, so I did.

 

When the professor walked in, he immediately challenged the students reading the paper. “Do you think what you’re reading there is the truth?” he asked. “How would you know?” From there the conversation sparked, a lively discussion ranging from ethics, motives, and circumstantial morality to the varying definitions of truth and self-preservation to the power of mob mentality. The concept of meaningful compromise was entertained, and it was then that the discussion landed and remained on politics. “Compromise,” the professor said, “has become a dirty word among politicians now—and, sadly, it should be their most powerful, useful word.” Especially, he added, when in many cases we’re talking about means, not ends. For example, everyone wants to be safe, to live in a safe society, he pointed out, no matter what color your state is. Some see the proliferation of firearms as a threat to our safety, he noted, while others see those guns as the very protectors of life and liberty. The fact is, we want the same thing—we just don’t agree on how to get there. There are many real differences among political factions, but in so many cases, the professor said, if you climb past the rancor and attempt a horizon view of the issue at hand, you see that we’re aiming for an equivalent or surprisingly similar end result.

 

Students freely joined the conversation, and the debate, though at times heated, was thoughtful, the level of dialogue reaching higher, connections of reason and belief growing deeper. The classroom veritably glowed, I saw, with meaning. It was thoroughly inspirational to me, and refreshing. I awoke feeling uplifted, hopeful. By God, we can work together. We can reverse this course.

 

Then I turned on the TV.

lord

“You’re the puppet.”

 

“No, you’re the puppet.”

 

“Racist womanizer.”

 

“Wrong. Nasty woman.”

 

Hmmm. I hear time-shares in Vancouver are pretty reasonable, pre-election.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, an obese but mannered dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr Syndrome. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com. Or not.

Are We Not Men? We Are Creatures! (Of Habit)

12 Sep

by Roger White

 

I sometimes wonder when I’m in private places—like making my choice-of-urinal decision in the men’s room at work or standing buck nekkid in my closet pondering the day’s wardrobe selection—if I’m being secretly spied upon by sociologist types through two-way mirrors or microscopically sized drones or what have they. I sometimes wonder this not because I’m of the mind that sociologist types are pervs necessarily (though they very well may be), but because I believe sociologist types could glean much human behavior information from observing everyday folks in their solitary moments.

We are creatures of habit, and nowhere are these habits more noticeable than when no one is noticing. Wait. Did that make sense? (writer breathes into cupped hands here, smells no whisky, continues on)

Take, for example, the urinal selection process. At my workplace, there are three urinals in the bathroom. Whenever I heed nature’s call at work and I see that nobody else is in the can at the moment, I instinctively go for Urinal #1 or Urinal #3. Urinal #2—the one in the middle—is never an option, unless

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

urinals 1 and 3 are caked in hideousness and chewed gum and random bits of human effluence. This natural selection process takes place on a subconscious level, I believe, for 91.73 percent of males because the great majority of males do not prefer to stand directly next to other males when doing their business. It’s a personal space issue.

My theory on this matter seems to be verified whenever I am Guy #2 in the john because Guy #1 is almost always at Urinal #1 or Urinal #3, leaving the other end urinal open so his personal space is not violated, either. The 8.27 percent of males who blatantly flout this societal convention and unashamedly bare their wares at Urinal #2 are for the most part raging extroverts or adamant alternative lifestyle proponents. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I have a PowerPoint presentation on this theory available for viewing if you’re interested. I wonder if women experience a similar phenomenon with stall selection?

The buck-nekkid-in-my-closet-pondering-the-day’s-wardrobe procedure also bears out my creatures-of-habit theorem. Try as I might to vary up my workaday wardrobe, it’s always the same: Monday is my dour brown checkered shirt/black slacks; Tuesday is the infinitesimally cheerier light brown checkered shirt/black slacks; Wednesday is humpday blue and gray decisions-decisionswith the faux cashmere socks; and so on. It can’t be helped. And truth be told, there is a bit of comfort in the consistency. Somehow, I feel that all is right with the world when it’s Wednesday and I’m standing at Urinal #3 in my faux cashmere socks and Fred is at Urinal #1 intentionally avoiding eye contact with me and my wares, as I am with him and his boys.

Now, the problem arises when one is contentedly minding one’s business, following creature-of-habit protocol, and someone else—no matter how unintentionally—ignores or outright runs roughshod over one’s creature-of-habit comportment. Hall passings are a good example. At work, we have these inordinately long hallways. They’re a pain when trying to get from place to place—say, when you’re making your way urgently to what you hope is open Urinal #1—but in reality, these extraordinarily lengthy halls are conducive to maintaining creature-of-habit equilibrium. When all are cooperating, mind you. We all know that everyone walks on the right, with opposing traffic passing on the left. If, for some reason (e.g., texting one’s daughter to get the hell up and get to class; looking down to double-check proper fly closure; etc.), you find yourself walking on the left, these long, long hallways give you plenty of advance notice to get back to the right before oncoming traffic on-the-rightcreates confusion. The difficulty arises when an opposing hallwalker is not observing the stay-to-the-right covenant. When clearing of the throat or dropping one’s keys fails to alert this wrong-way yahoo, options immediately become either (a) zipping to the left, which usually causes the wrong-way walker to parry your move and results in an awkward dance; or (b) walking so far to the right in an attempt to protect your lane that you actually begin generating heat and friction against the wall.

My habit in this situation was almost always to hug the wall—until in one instance the terrible friction actually caused my faux cashmere socks to catch fire. What I do nowadays is pretend to forget something and beat an immediate retreat.

Is it just me, or are these things universal?

Oh, btw (which, for you dinosaurs unfamiliar with social media, doesn’t mean “bob tickles wimmen”—it means “by the way,” I think), grand prize winner in our semi-quarterly Quizzical Quotes contest last edition was Mr. Greer Tedford. Or maybe it was Ted Greerford. I forget. Congrats, anyway. Greer won some wonderful parting gifts and a lifetime supply of Aunt Mildred’s Dehydrated Water in Cans.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a morbidly obese dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr Syndrome. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com. Or not.

 

 

 

Prine Was Right: Blow Up Your TV

4 Jan

by Roger White

 

“Blow up your TV, throw away your paper,

Go to the country, build you a home…”

—from “Spanish Pipedream,” by John Prine

 

I work for an education association, whose ebb and flow of timelines, lull seasons, and get-it-done-yesterday crunch times generally follows the public schools calendar. This does not mean I get the whole summer off or that I have to take some sort of final exams every semester. But it does mean I get a nice chunk of time off during the Christmas break. Or should I say Holiday Break, or Winter Break, to be properly PC. But if I say “Winter Break,” then I’m accused of waging war on Christmas—whatever that is—by the anti-war-on-Christmas people, whoever they are. Seems there are an inordinate number of highly sensitive, easily offended, extremely angry subgroups of people out there these days, and almost any topic—from eating a hamburger to wearing a headscarf to saying “bless you” when somebody sneezes—is now an emotional mine field of potential hurt feelings and mob-mentality retribution.

reallyFor example, overheard at a local Wal-Mart recently:

“Dammit, Zebulon, these friggin’ Moslems is takin’ over the place. Look over thar, in home improvement. Dang scarf-wearin’ terrurist jee-haddys…”

“Yeah, I here ya, Jebediah. Hey, Zeke! Lee Roy! We got us a … wait, that’s my mom in the scarf. She didn’t want nobody to see her curlers.”

“Oh. Well. That’s awright, I guess.”

But while we’re on the subject, wouldn’t the term “Winter Break” be considered offensive to those folks who deem autumn as their favorite season? We have Spring Break; we have Summer Break; and now with the newly christened “Winter Break” we are kicking poor, unloved autumn to the curb, aren’t we? We have no “Fall Break.” I’m pissed off! This is War on Fall! Anti-Autumn Armageddon! I’m organizing a protest! Where’s Fox News?

OK, wait. Once again, I digress. Anyway, yes, so this lovely fortnight of vacation I get every, uh, late December allows me the blessed opportunity to back away from the grind. To sit in the backyard with a fire in the fire pit, a warm drink in hand, and nothing on my mind but determining how to get the (insert your preferred holiday here) boxes down from the attic without upsetting the raccoon family that has taken up permanent residence up there.

I have found that during this heavenly lull I tend to watch less news on TV and scarcely come near the computer, which is where I usually receive my daily dose of terror, misery, innuendo, and fear-mongering via CNN and other websites.

And despite the season’s family dramas, gift-hunting mayhem, and traffic gridlock gnashing of teeth—not to mention the annual overdose of turkey, libations, and too much party silliness—I find that my anxiety level and blood pressure go way down. Two weeks without Trump, Cruz, Clinton, terrorist plots for world overthrow, Planned Parenthood bombings, Dow Jones doom and gloom, the affluenza teen, Bill Cosby revelations, and viral cat-in-the-microwave stories tend to hit me like a soft pillow in the face. The crap the media spews at us 24/7 isn’t our world.

And all you have to do is turn it off. You can blow it up, if you’ve a mind, but just hitting the “off” button will suffice. Aaah. That’s nice.

So why take only a (insert your preferred holiday here) break from the muck and the madness? I was never much on New Year’s resolutions, but I believe I have one for 2016: Less CNN, Trump, Hannity, msnbc, Fox, and all those “World’s Most Extreme Terrible Things” shows—and more backyard reflection. More walks, more friends, more board games. If you still have the old Aggravation board game gathering cobwebs in the closet, pull it out, dust it off, and get the kids around. It’s fun.

Don’t have Aggravation? OK, Monopoly then. Just try to ignore the fact that Monopoly is based on properties in Atlantic City, New Jersey, a town practically owned by…you know who. I’m tellin’ ya, if that candy-haired blowhard gets anywhere near the White House, I’m moving the family to…

Time out. Breathe. Forget Monopoly. Stick with Aggravation. Or the backyard fire pit. Aaah, there we go.

aggravation

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious offspring, a very obese but mannerful dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com. Or not.

 

I Would Shake Your Hand, But . . . Ebola, You Understand

21 Oct

by Roger White

Dear Diary: Day 37 of my quarantine finds me gazing out at the swath of graceful oaks and maples that crowd the greenbelt beyond my back yard. Two slender brown squirrels skitter and climb among the lower branches of the trees with effortless agility. They chatter excitedly as they chase each other and run from the marauding blue jays. The jays can’t stand the squirrels. They see them as interlopers who invade their got itfeeders and scavenge the seeds and nuts on the ground before they can harvest them. Jays are natural bullies, and the squirrels are their foils, carefree clowns both aloof and contemptuous of the great birds’ status as authority figures of the suburban greenery. You can see in his eye as the large male jay tracks the movement of the squirrels bounding below him: “Why, I oughta…”

I wonder if the jays and squirrels worry about ebola.

And there it is. I realize now I can’t do one thing, engage in one activity, carry one thought in my mind, for more than three minutes without being drawn magnetically back to the dreaded “e” word. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeebola. (Picture here the Swiss dude in lederhosen and Swiss hat blowing on an outrageously long alphorn in that cough drop commercial.) Out of an abundance of caution, I’ve been sentenced to weeks of isolation because of my tangential exposure to the deadly virus du jour. You see, I was in the nuff saidDallas area recently to visit my mom, and I happened to stop in for a soft drink at a south Fort Worth gas station. Come to find out that the cashier at this gas station had recently been in the same movie theater as a guy whose son played on the same soccer team as another kid whose mother had been in the same Walmart as a woman who’d washed her car at the same car wash as a man who had been on the same airplane as the father of a girl who attended the same high school as a kid whose grandmother’s hairdresser rode on the same bus as the accountant of a guy who had changed a tire for a woman who’d played canasta with the aunt of a guy whose sister drove past the hospital where the whole ebola thing started here in Texas. So, yike. I’m practically at death’s door here.

Har. Don’t get me wrong. Ebola be bad. Lord knows we have to panic about something, so it might as well be a nasty virus from across the Big Pond. Better than the usual hyped tripe from the cesspool of politics. HOWDY, coughBut I do believe we’re taking it just a tad too seriously, no? I saw a Facebook post that summed it up nicely: More people in the United States have been married to Kim Kardashian than have died from ebola.

And yes, I kid on the quarantine. In actuality, I was gazing out my rear window watching the squirrels tease the jays in a conscious effort to avoid my TV. I’m a television junkie, I freely admit, which creates a twisting cognitive dissonance in me wee cranium due to the fact that I truly and completely loathe the media. If today’s media aren’t the cause of all things evil, then they’re most definitely exacerbators of it. Members of the media foment more distress, disharmony, and dyspepsia than any other group of humans on the planet other than politicians.

Case in point: ebola. As a test, the other night I got out a lovely, unopened bottle of Jack black and decided to play an updated version of an old fraternity game. I sat in front of the tube with a shot glass, the bottle of Jack, and the remote. The game: Roam among the cable news channels, stopping for just a few minutes at a time on each channel, and guzzle down a shot at each utterance of the word ebola. I started the game at approximately 7:15 p.m. By 7:41, I was schnockered. I was so hammered that I somehow found myself standing inches from the TV, watching the halftime of a football game, though I wasn’t sure how I got to that channel. Vision was fuzzy, so I can’t be sure, but I swear the halftime band marching around the field had formed itself into a giant ebola virus. There’s no escaping.

Ah, for the good ol’ days, when all we had to worry about was ISIS and gun control and the president’s secret socialist agenda. Sigh.

 

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.

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.

 

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.