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How the Interwebs ‘Mowed Down’ the Postal Service

10 May

by Roger White

 

My old friend Gary, whom I’ve been best buds with since the early days of the LBJ Administration, recently retired after almost 40 years with the US Postal Service. Forty years of doing just about anything is admirable in my book, but working 40 years for the post office—and staying as sane, calm, and level-headed as Gary’s always been—is cause for a bit of hoopla and commemoration. So I sent my pal a celebratory retirement package: a 1/24 scale Three Stooges work truck model ready for assembly. Gary always did like working on car models.

 

postman dudeThrough the years, Gary has been the consistent yin to my yang. I’m a bit of a prone-to-histrionics type. When I’d be crying my 12-year-old eyes out because the Cowboys lost in the playoffs, Gary would be the one to remind me that it was just a game, that we’d get ’em next year, and, hey, isn’t a good time to get on our bikes and ride to the DQ for a couple of ice cream cones. That’s surely one of the reasons we remained such good friends over the years. I was the wild-eyed schemer; Gary was the voice of reason. Gary’s even-handed demeanor, I would bet, is also one of the reasons he never “went postal” working 40 years for the postal people.

 

I bring up my friend because I was thinking the other day how Gary timed his retirement just about perfectly. The USPS, like so many other entities, has been dealt a real body blow by the internet. The number of people conducting their business by hand-delivered mail has declined precipitously in the era of e-mails, texts, and Facebook. Then again, the list of industries and career paths adversely affected by the rise of the interwebs is a long one. Think about it: jounaughty magrnalists, photographers, newspaper and magazine owners, authors, publishers, literary agents, press workers, encyclopedia salespeople, recording artists, record album designers, music store owners, phone book companies, map makers, taxi drivers, camera makers, processed film manufacturers, travel agents—and let’s not forget the print porn industry. OK, never mind about the print porn. Young men now have more closet and bottom drawer space. But anyway, the list goes on. We’re in the midst of an economic revolution of sorts. And we all can’t work as Walmart greeters.

 

So back to Gary. The notion that my friend retired at just the right moment came to me when I read an article the other day that the postal service of Finland—financially in dire straits as are postal services of just about every country around—has gone to drastic measures to try to stay afloat. Posti Group, which is what the state-owned Finnish mail service is called, has decided that to help make ends meet, they will, in addition to delivering the Finnish mail, offer to mow people’s lawns once a week for a tax-deductible fee of about $148.

 

“The idea for the lawn-mowing service came from mail delivery employees themselves,” said Anu Punola, the service’s director. “We believe many customers will be happy to outsource lawn mowing when we make it convenient for them to do so.”

 

Mmmyeah. That’s thinking way, way outside the post office box. Somehow, I just don’t see it flying here in the good ol’ US of A. My postal delivery guy is friendly enough, but I can’t picture him at my door like so:

 

“Hello, Mr. White, you need to sign for this package.”

 

“Oh, thankspostal mow.”

 

“And by the way, your driveway shrubs are looking really shabby. You want a trim and an edge for an extra fifty bucks?”

 

I could see them delivering pizza, though. That just might work. “Here you are, Mr. White, jury summons, five credit card offers, Victoria’s Secret catalog, utility bill, Pottery Barn flier, and double pepperoni with mushroom, hold the anchovy.”

 

In order to survive, I envision other such services embracing the concept of double duty. For example, I edit a magazine (yes, the print kind), and I write for a newspaper (yes, the print kind). How much longer these publications will remain the print kind is anyone’s guess, but I figure it might help keep subscriptions coming in if we could figure out a way for these periodicals to be made from material with the consistency of toilet paper. Talk about double dooty. That’s something that e-magazines and e-newspapers just couldn’t match, I do believe.

 

Yep, Gar, you retired at just the right time, old friend.

 

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

 

 

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.

 

Suburban Worldsick Blues

27 May

by Roger White

 

With a tip of the hat to a master chronicler of the American age, it must be noted that Bob Dylan never lived in a 3/2/2 with central heat/air and two and a half mortgages during a time when, by all appearances, our society is on the verge of utter decay—all viewable with the click of a mouse or touch of a pad.

 

So I give you “Suburban Worldsick Blues.”

 

Perry’s in the Capitol, railin’ against abortion,

I’m lookin’ at my taxes thinkin’ it’s extortion,

The man in the trench coat shootin’ up the school halls

Says he got bullied so everybody must fall.

 

Look out, dad, the economy is bad,

God knows what we did, but the country’s on the skids.

 

You better duck down, turn page, watch out for road rage,

Another mass swhyhooting, another senseless rampage,

Sterling’s on his cell phone reminiscin’ ’bout slavery,

Miley’s twerkin’ onstage, scandalous behavery.

 

Look out, mom, Gotta stay calm,

Soldiers in Kabul dodging roadside bombs.

 

Get sick, get well, they’re laying off again at Dell,

Are we winnin’ whatever war, it’s gettin’ kinda hard to tell,

Presidenidiotst says our healthcare system’s unfit,

All Congress says is where’s your birth certificate?

 

Well, Hormel, GM organizin’ recalls,

Bad meat, bad brakes, pickets down at town hall,

Daughter’s college fees call for medical sedation,

Building border walls to stifle immigration.

 

Look out, pop, no tellin’ where it stops,

Younger daughter’s boyfriend working at a head shop.

 

Mortgage underwater, excess beer consumption,

Viagra wants to help with that erectile dysfunction,

The factonoworkry just made a Chapter 11 declaration,

School board says it’s gonna teach divine creation.

 

Text tweet online, your selfie looking so fine,

Kids in Bosnia steppin’ on old land mines.

Icebergs meltin’, droughts killin’ all the wheat,

Just global warmin’ lies of the liberal elite.

 

Well, get dressed, get stressed, face the day’s traffic mess,

Oops, your job’s just been outsourced to Bangladesh.

Don’t follow leaders, take pills for all the cedars,

Find yourself a new position as a Walmart greeter.

 

Look out, mama, you’re dyin’ from the trauma,

Increase yer Prozac dosage, tune in the dalai lama.

 

Well, jump down a manhole, filibuster gun control,

thebardThink I saw a shadow up there beyond the grassy knoll,

Headin’ to the car, another day in the loony ward,

Shakin’ yer head ’cause the vandals keyed yer new Ford.

 

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.

143a.

 

The Curmudgeon Showeth His Crust. Again.

23 Jul

by Roger White

It has been brought to my attention recently by more than one loyal reader of TOS that yours truly is nothing more than a crust-covered curmudgeon completely lacking in human compassion and with all the warmth and fuzziness of a diarrhetic barracuda. And that was one of the more genteel comments. Let me just say in my defense that this is not crust. It’s a fine patina of earthbound experience. Tip: baby oil keeps it soft and supple.

Honestly, I have no problem with humanity; it’s the people I can’t stand. People are the worst. Don’t you just hate them?

As long as we’re on topic, and my curmudgeonly cockles have been stimulated, I figured you’d be tickled to be privy to my latest list of grouses and gripes. Yes, these are the things that brown my lettuce, the things that really grind my crankshaft. Curdle my half & half. Chap my — you get the idea.

Athletes and coaches who thank God for their victory.

It’s not so bad, I guess, when pious jocks praise the Almighty for their health and well-being, but seriously, do you really think The Omnipotent One, tasked with thankya Lordwatching over the vast infinity of the cosmos, gives a greasy rat’s behind whether your squad of performance-enhanced mutants scores more points than the other squad of gargantuan goons? If God gave the nod to your team, what does that say about the other guys? And what about when you lose? Is God a waffler? Did He miss that game?

Bicyclists who don those ridiculous faux-competition outfits and aerodynamic helmets.

Pleeeeeze. You’re not in the Tour; the little logos and patches all over your form-fitting body suit are fake and we all know it; and your $750 racing helmet makes you look like a special-needs case. Ya know what I wear when I ride my bike? Shorts and a t-shirt. Works great! Fortunately, with the fall from grace of our own Lancy Pants, some of these pretentious pedalers have ridden into the sunset. Just some of them, mind you.

Republicans AND Democrats.

I hate all politicians, truly. Our whole political system has devolved into entrenched, grandstanding ideologues determined only to curry favor with their followers so they can keep their posh digs and beltway “escorts.” They all preach to the lowest common denominator—mainly fear. Whatever happened to working together—to thoughtfully searching for the most workable compromise? Yes, compromise. Just how and when did that become a dirty word? Look up the definition. Compromise—especially today—is a good thing. It’s how we get along. Someone should read Webster’s definition of the word to members of Congress every day. And then start throwing pies.

Nancy Grace.

I am utterly sick of her fat face. Every time I see her on the tube, I want to slap the Nancethat self-righteous, smug smirk of hers right into next week. Nancy Grace is the reason I still have my foam brick handy to throw at the TV set. Well, her and the Cowboys.

Bureaucracy and all of its attendant inanities.

Here’s an example: Why do we have the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms? Who in their right mind thought of lumping these concerns together under one roof? I called up the ATF the other day to ask that very question, but the person who answered the phone referred me to the Department of Frontage Roads, ATF Inquiries and Dairy Products. And why does the Texas Railroad Commissioner oversee the state’s gas and oil concerns? I be befuddled.

Twitter.

I don’t care what’s “trending,” I have absolutely no interest in what Kanye West had for lunch; and I have no need to be apprised of every one of my old college chums’ whereabouts 24/7. Plus I’ve lost all human contact with my two teenage daughters, Lindsey and whatshername.

The Sunday comics.

Calvin and Hobbes is gone; so is Blondie, The Far Side, etc. I used to look forward to Sunday mainly for the funny pages. The words “funny” and “pages” don’t go uh yeahtogether when describing the drek being produced today. Alongside the dull-witted Ziggy and the predictably foul-tempered fat feline Garfield, we have Luann, Get Fuzzy, Candorville, Buckles, and a motley collection of amateur drivel that makes the comic strip that appeared in my college newspaper (whose main character was a cow patty) seem hilarious and incisive by comparison.

OK, that’s about it for now. I feel better. You?

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.

Well, Hit Me with an Anvil–It’s Contest Time Again

25 Jun

by Roger White

 

OK, OK, you don’t have to klonk the Spouseman over the head with an anvil. Speaking of, you don’t see too many anvils these days, do you? Think about it. When, in your daily comings and goings, have you come across a nice, sturdy yet aesthetically pleasing anvil recently? Critics of modern society may hold forth about how the increasingly technological, service-oriented nature of our economy today has killed such former life staples as record albums, newspapers, actual books, travel agencies, home phones, and the pleasure of becoming permanently out of touch with that behold the anvilglommy high school friend, but I say a true death knell for the world that was is the marked lack of anvils. There was once a time when every decent home needed a good anvil. Nowadays, I’ll bet you can go a whole year without even saying the word “anvil.” And this is so because we simply don’t make things anymore. We tweet. We blog. We text. We don’t plow and dig and forge things. Today’s kids may not even understand the term.

 

Old guy: “I need me a good anvil.”

 

Young guy: “What’s that? An Advil? Got a headache?”

 

Having said all that, however, I did find a reputable anvil supply house—on the internet, ironically enough. For all of your anvil needs, visit www.anvils4sale.com. A classic, German double-horn anvil will set you back about $2,700, but if you’re not fussy, you can land a decent, used church window anvil for right around a thousand bucks. I’m not exactly sure what a church window anvil is, but it sounds righteous.

 

I’ve been told by more than one Spouse reader that I tend to ramble. This may be true. Let me just say the word “anvil” one more time, and we can get to the meat of this column: Anvil. OK, I’m good.

 rambler guy

So, anyway, the whole reason I didn’t want to be klonked with a church window anvil is because you guys have been clamoring for another contest—namely the Movie Mashup. In retrospect, I realize it’s been since last December since we mashed up some good movies, so here we go. Father John Connor, you’re now eligible to participate again. And thanks for the rosary beads.

 

If you recall, what we have here, fellow catnip cosmonauts, is a collection of famous lines from movies. However, quotes from two different movies have been squished together to make one line. Here’s a for instance: “What we got here is failure to phone home.” This is, quite obviously, a collision of “Cool Hand Luke” and “ET: The Extra-Terrestrial.” Get it? No? Okay, here’s another one: “My precious goes all the way to eleven.” That’s a combo platter of “Lord of the Rings” and “This is Spinal Tap.” Or as I call it, “Lord of the Spinal Rings.”

 

So. Below (or above if you’re reading this upside down) are 10 Movie Mashups. Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to tell moi what two movies got cozy and had relations to make the mixed-up quote. The first 18,427 people to respond with any cinderfella storysemblance of an answer win a genuine “Jesus is Coming, Hide the Bong” bumper sticker. If you get pulled over by the cops for displaying said bumper sticker, I will not be held accountable. E-mail moi at rogdude@mail.com with your best guesses. Void in Maine, Oshkosh, and in that little gin joint over by 5th Street. Ready? Set? Bang.

 

  1. “You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been Mister Tibbs.”
  2. “Love means never having to round up the usual suspects.”
  3. “You’re gonna need a bigger damn dirty ape!”
  4. “Attica! Attica! Toga! Toga!”
  5. “Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become a martini. Shaken, not stirred.”
  6. “Say hello to my little wire hangers.”
  7. “Shane, you’re trying to seduce me. Aren’t you?”
  8. “As God as my witness, I’ll never see dead people again.”
  9. “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets a box of chocolates.”
  10. “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice elephant in my pajamas.”

BONUS: “I’m gonna get medieval on your pod bay doors, HAL.”

 

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.

 

Austin, I Love Ya–But Enough with the Festivals Already

12 Mar

by Roger White

 

Enough. I’m festivaled out. I can’t muster the strength to attach one more day-glo wristband to my tired, old wrist.

 

Don’t get me wrong—I love Austin. I really do. I love the laid-back jeans-and-sneakers milieu; I love the true Tex-Mex food and killer margaritas; I love the endless live-music yummmselections; I love the weather (except for the kiln-like days of July and August); and I do relish the fact that li’l ol’ Austin is the one blue-tinted bastion of rational thought and human compassion amid a red sea of fear mongering and “I got mine—git yers, dammit” mentality.

 

But Austin, enough with the festivals already. As I write this, we’re deep in the throes of South by Southwest (SXSW to you hipsters), an extended music party that runs pretty much all of March. It used to be mainly a music thing, but now SXSW includes films, speeches, hipster nerd gatherings, and all sorts of interactive events, whatever that really means. Seriously, what constitutes an “interactive event”? If I get up from my desk to get coffee, and I bump into Larry at the coffee machine, and Larry says “Hi, Rog, how ’bout them Cowboys? Ha, ha, ha,” and I tell Larry to clam up, doesn’t that qualify as an interactive event? Didn’t we just interact back there? I hate Larry.

 

Anyway, this here SXSIXWI thing sucks in about 18 million people from all over the planet, and it makes getting around town a royal pain in my interactive regions. There is no place to park; every downtown bar suddenly charges ten bucks for a beer; and there are some mighty weird-looking people roaming around. Lots of them. I’m talking weird for Austin. That, my friends, is nuclear weird.

 

The one thing I do enjoy about mega-fests such as XXSWXSIW is perusing the band names. Here are a few of the outfits performing this year, I kiddeth you not: The Airborne Death by Death or somethingToxic Event, BadBadNotGood, Bass Drum of Death, Bloody Knives, Bombay Show Pig, The Creepy Creeps, Diarrhea Planet, Flosstradamus, Gringo Star, Idiot Glee, Marijuana Deathsquads, Mutilation Rites, Thousand Foot Whale Claw, Two Cow Garage, Warm Soda, The Wet Nuns, and, of course, Zorch.

 

Somehow I envision Two Cow Garage and Diarrhea Planet on the same bill, don’t ask me why.

 

However, my gentle flock, I’m not here to rail merely against SXSKXIW, but the perplexing proliferation of all these pagan parties all over my picturesque place. Man, Austin is averaging almost a festival a week, I’m telling ya. In addition to SXSW, we have the Austin City Limits Festival, the Annual Kite Festival, Star of Texas Rodeo, Circuit of ACL Dudethe Americas Formula 1 Race, the Annual Bun Run, Austin Marathon, Eeyore’s Birthday Party, Pecan Street Festival, that X-rated Carnaval Skin Thing, the Fun Fun Fun Fest, Austin Film Festival, Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, and a ton of others I’m forgetting at the moment.

 

Call me old, call me fuddy, call me duddy even, but enough with the glow sticks and the turkey legs and roasted corn and too much cleavage all over the place and waiting in line for an hour to use a porta-potty that smells like a Two Cow Garage. Sheesh. Now, I know what you’re saying. You’re saying, “Well, if you don’t like the festivals, you don’t have to go, you old coot.” Right you are, but wifey and I have two teenage daughters—two teenage daughters who feel it is their duty to attend every single cotton-pickin’ happening that happens through town.

 

So guess who’s driving in the middle of all this mess, so these daughters don’t suffer the gobbler leglife-altering trauma of missing out on Diarrhea Planet or The Airborne Toxic Event, hmm? That’s right, my wife. Hey, honey, can you pick up a turkey leg while you’re there?

 

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.

 

Let’s Play the Blame Game

11 Dec

by Roger White  

 

Did you ever notice how a lot of bloggers and columnists these days start their blogs and columns with “Did you ever notice…”? Uh oh.

Actually, in all the 2,103 columns I’ve written over the past (censored) years, I don’t believe I’ve ever kicked off an installment with those four Seinfeldian words. So allow me this one:

Did you ever notice how there is always someone or something to blame for every cotton pickin’ thing these days? In this age of victims, nothing just happens by chance or circumstance anymore—someone must be blamed. Fault must be found. Perpetrators must be punished. And surely somewhere down the line, lawyers must be compensated.

I have resisted this mindset as long as I can, dragged my feet against the rushing tide of the times until my heels are raw. So I give in. I will now add my voice to the din; therefore, I give you my “blame” list for some of the odd quirks and tendencies that are endemic to li’l old me.

Scapegoat No. 1—Doorways. Ya know the age-old question of “what did I come in here for” that hits you when you walk into a room and then draw a complete blank? Well, at my age this happens just about every hour on the hour. I thought I was getting old and feeble-minded, but as it turns out, my door is to blame. Yep, psychologist types at the University duhhhhof Notre Dame have determined that walking through a doorway triggers something called an event boundary in your noggin. In other words, what you were thinking of in one room goes flying away when you go to another room, especially when the TV is on and the Cowboys have the ball. Okay, I made up that last part. But isn’t this great? I have a lawsuit in the works against Pella Doors and Windows. If you want to join me in a class action suit, dial 1-800-DUM-DOOR.

Scapegoat No. 2—Apple Maps. I get lost a lot; now, I’ve someone to blame. Did you hear about this? Seems that Apple Maps, in its rush to compete against Google and other major online map companies, goofed big time, putting many cities and landmarks in the wrong places.

In one grievous instance, Apple plopped some town called Mildura, Australia, more than 40 miles away from where it really is, and—believe it or not—some drivers actually ended up stuck in the rugged Australian outback and had to be rescued by police.

Can you picture this? The road sign reads “Mildura Straight Ahead” but the car’s Apple Map says “No, Ron, turn left.”

you are here, no here“Crikey!” says Ron and turns left against his better judgment. Ten hours later, as Ron scorches in the 110-degree heat of the outback, he decides to leave.

“NO!” orders Apple Map. “You are here. This is Mildura.”

“But…I’m thirsty.”

“I’m sorry, Ron, but I have shut off your motor.”

This is ripe for another juicy legal action, no?

“Uh, yeah, hello? Is this Apple Maps?”

“Yes.”

“Listen, I have Apple Maps on my iPhone, and it told me that to get to Dallas I had to drive straight ahead off the Galveston Sea Wall, and my car is now in 15 feet of water. Can I speak to your legal department?”

Scapegoat No. 3—Kitty litter. One of my duties around the homestead is waste management—and this includes changing that most toxic of entities, the kitty litter box. I have always thought that this lovely, touchy-feely euphemism—kitty litter—is one of the cruelest of domestic ironies. The term “kitty litter” sounds cute, harmless, even cuddly somehow. Have you ever changed a kitty litter box that hasn’t been touched by human hands in over a week? This is one of the foulest, nastiest, zombie apocalyptic-type things you’ll ever come in contact with. I honestly believe that you could arm the U.S. Marines meowuhohwith cats, turned back end toward the enemy, and you could send any opposing force running faster than Iraq’s elite Republican Guards.

Anyway, it turns out that, now stay with me here, some suicide attempts have actually been linked to kitty litter. I believe it. A study by a guy named Teodor Postolache (really, that’s his name) claims there’s a link between an infection called Toxoplasma gondii, which you get from handling kitty litter, and suicide attempts.

So there you have it, honey. I would change the box, but, man, I’m so down. What’s the use in living?

Side note to self: File suit against the Fresh Step company.

Now, this last part has nothing to do with anything, but I believe it carries a strong message for you and me. Seems that a Florida man remains in the hospital with severe injuries after the cops stopped him for DWHATSIYS.

What’s DWHATSIYS, you ask? That’s police lingo for Driving While Having A Traffic Sign In Your Skull. Duh. The Florida Highway Patrol pulled over one L.R. Newton after he smashed into a road sign and then kept on going. When they stopped the guy, they found that a big chunk of the traffic sign was sticking out of his headbone. Newton’s in stable condition, but the sign didn’t make it.

Stupid sign. I’d sue the sign makers.

 

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.

 

 

Rise of the Planet of the Apps

2 Oct

by Roger White

 

The other day I was reading, with mild interest, a story about an 11-year-old girl who beat all these teams of professional computer whizzes in a contest to see who could design and market the best app to reduce distracted driving. Sixth-grader Victoria Walker won this AT&T-sponsored contest held in Los Angeles by creating something she calls Rode Dog. Just from the name, I liked the idea right off the bat. It seems that Rode Dog allows users to create mini-social networks of family and friends—or “packs.” Each pack member is tracked by GPS at all times, and members are alerted whenever someone in the pack is using a phone and driving at the same time.

 

And here’s where it gets fun. When other pack members are made aware that one of their own is texting while driving, they then send barking sounds to the offending “dog” to make them knock it off. The app makes money by enabling users to download the sounds of different breeds for 99 cents. So you can be a yappy, obnoxious chihuahua; or you can scare the bejeezus out of the errant pack member with a deep basset hound woooof.

 

Second place went to an app called Safe Car Key, which shuts the car down if the user’s phone is removed from a loading dock built into the car. Drive Pledge, designed to reward drivers with points, games, and songs for miles accumulated without texting or using their phone, won third place.

 

Now, I noted that I read this story with mild interest, but that interest turned instantly keen when we caught our oldest daughter DWI recently. No, no, alcohol wasn’t involved. This was a case of Driving While Intexticated. Yep, she came home the other day with the right side of the car scraped and creased and looking not at all well. After a little interrogation, she confessed to fiddling with her phone while the car was in gear and moving. She says she thought she was stopped, but the big, metal bike rack at the neighborhood park where she was driving didn’t just jump out and attack our Honda.

 

I’m thinking now we should become Rode Dogs.

 

This new app idea also got me pondering about what folks might consider their ideal, fantasy app. So I conducted a highly unscientific poll of our family—er, pack—and came up with the following (allow plus or minus 3 percentage points of standard deviation in Iowa and Tennessee; not valid in New Jersey; 10 cent deposit in Michigan; void where prohibited):

 

Parents (that’s me and Mom): How about an app designed to prevent our offspring from secretly texting until their homework is done? This would require some linking with teachers through the Gradespeed service, whereby any of our kids’ texts to their friends during homework hours would be intercepted by the appropriate teacher. A sample:

Jamie (our youngest): “Yo yo yo GF wadup? Dont u h8 Span?”

Señor Moya: “Yo, yo, yo, yourself, Señorita Jamie. Have you conjugated your Spanish verb infinitives yet? And by the way, I love Spanish.”

Jamie: “O me2 adios!”

Mom: I would appreciate an app on Dad’s phone that monitors sound coming from the nearest TV set. If the app detects dialogue matching that from Top Gun, Casino, or Animal House, the app immediately shuts off the television and calls Dad with a friendly reminder about the catbox and the lawn.

 

Lindsey (our oldest): An app that taps into the long, long history of Dad’s driving record and displays on all family members’ phones all of Dad’s, um, lapses of judgment he’s experienced over the years behind the wheel. DAD!

 

Jamie (our youngest): An app that links to all the phones of my friends when they’re over at my house and, through this network, is able to pick up sour notes and off-key singing by Dad. The app then makes him cut it out with high-pitched sirens or electric shocks or something.

 

Dad: Well. In light of all the other apps requested by my loving pack, I envision a nuclear app that overrides all other apps in a 50-foot radius of Dad and gently beeps Dad when the mountains are blue on the side of his cans. Nyah.

 

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.

Sir Archie’s ‘Words for the Now’

10 Apr

by Roger White

 

All right, gang, I’m at a bit of a crossroads here. Don’t get me wrong. I’m as big a fan of poet Archie Ferndoodle as anyone, and I consider it an honor to present his unique musings in this forum. But ever since his mom passed away in February at the tender age of 109 (breast implant surgery complications, the poor dear), Sir Archie has taken it upon himself to live with me and my family. Mr. F has seven cats and a dyspeptic parrot that sings ’70s country songs in the dead middle of the night. If you’ve ever been awakened at 2 a.m. to the strangled strains of “Harper Valley PTA,” you may have an idea of the trauma. And that’s not the worst part. Apparently, Archie is on a strict diet consisting chiefly of pan-fried liver, steamed cabbage, large-curd cottage cheese, and Oreos (with double stuffing). The whole house smells like a marathon gastric bypass surgical procedure.

The wife and kids are calling for drastic action. But I can’t put the guy on the street, can I? He’s a living legend. In fact, just this morning as we were tidying up after Roscoe the Parrot’s . . . uh, indiscretions on my wife’s oriental rug, the Great One handed me his latest. Yes, the former poet laureate of the Greater Southwestern Scribes Society, which meets every third Thursday in the back of Sue’s Salon in Cement, Texas, has done it again. (And remember, if you mention this column at Sue’s Salon, you get a coupon for 7 percent off of her patented orange-mint hair removal paste. It really works, too. Sue’s upper lip looks fantastic!)    

As I’m sure you remember, the esteemed Fernie holds an associate’s degree in postmodern comparative limerick studies from the University of Southern Panama’s Correspondence College and has been featured five times in the American Anthology of Poetry. Just a few of his classics include “Oh, Staff Sergeant, My Staff Sergeant!,” “Why Is the Man Always from Nantucket?,” “The Squirrels Stopped Talking to Me Today,” and his latest, “Lenticular Haiku,” which was the inside-cover poem in the most recent edition of the Cement Area Greensheet.

Sir Archie has decided of late that many of our old standards—proverbs, parables, fables, and the like—are in desperate need of updating to more accurately reflect our life and times today. So the Great One has blessed us with his latest work: “Words for the Now.”

So without further ado, I give you Sir Archie Ferndoodle:

 

            “Words for the Now”

            by Archie Ferndoodle

 

            If at first you don’t succeed,

            Apply for a government bailout.

 

            Slow and steady never goes viral.

 

            One bad apple lands a reality television show.

 

            Two wrongs make a nifty presidential debate.

 

            Early to bed and early to rise requires Ambien and amphetamines.

 

            A Rolling Stone gathers retirement benefits by now, surely.

 

            Neither a borrower nor a lender be; now, regulatory agent, that’s where the safe money is.

 

            This above all: of thine own self promote like crazy.

 

            All that glitters isn’t gold, but all that’s gold can be sold 24 hours a day at Achmed’s Gold Emporium & Pawn.

 

            A penny saved is a colossal waste of time.

 

            What’s good for the goose probably doesn’t contain enough artificial growth hormone.

 

            A bird in the hand is worth a couple rounds of Avian Flu H5N1 vaccinations.

 

            It’s always darkest before the energy companies invest in their infrastructure.

 

            A friend in need is everybody not in the “5 percent.”

 

            A man’s home is his castle until it becomes the bank’s castle.

 

            Speak softly and carry a stun gun.

 

            Practice makes perfect, but it still can’t beat steroids.

 

            Laughter is the best medicine unless you can afford real medicine.

 

            Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, and I’ll sue your butt for everything you’ve got, including mental distress and anguish.

 

            Sticks and stones may break my bones, but defriending me on Facebook? Now, that really hurts.

 

            Actions speak louder than words, but rumors are even louder.

 

            A stitch in time is not as easy as Velcro.

 

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.

 

 

Welcome to the ER, 21st-Century Style

20 Mar

by Roger White

 

I get nervous simply approaching the building. The bright lights, the important sounds of rushing people and vehicles—the very feel of emergencies in progress—unsettle my stomach and quicken my pulse.

The evening air is cool, excited by gusts and breezes swirling from the north. A front is moving in, but circumstances give me the impression that even the night is stirred by these critical moments. I’m suddenly covered in goose bumps as I usher my wife and daughter into the reception area.

We accompany our daughter to sign in, and it’s obvious from first glance that our situation is not nearly as serious as some of those around us. We are only a minor emergency, so we’ll have to wait.

The waiting is interminable. Our daughter bravely holds back the tears.

“It happened to me, too, honey,” my wife says, putting a reassuring hand on our daughter’s shoulder. “Don’t worry. They’ll fix it up.”

Inside the inner sanctum now, the hushed urgency of myriad conversations and vital tone of learned, caring consult and somber consideration of options and ramifications, mixed with a few cries of desperate pleading against the inevitable, impress upon me that I am without a doubt in a place where decisions, skills, timing, and training mean everything.

We comfort our daughter in the interim, soothing her, trying our best to let her know that everything will be all right. Most of the conversations around us we can’t help but hear, picked up only in snippets and instances of outburst and intervals of silence.

“Tell me again what happened exactly.”

“He fell, and something just cracked…”

“This is pretty bad.”

One solemn couple in the corner is told frankly that there was nothing that could be done. They are escorted into another room. My wife and I exchange glances, slowly shaking our heads.

“Dad…” my daughter begins.

“It’s OK, honey, it’s not as bad as it looks. I’m sure it’s going to be just fine.”

One man ahead of us reacts angrily to his diagnosis. He doesn’t seem to care who hears him.

“This can’t be! There’s no way to fix it?!”

“I’m sorry, sir, there’s just too much damage.”

And finally it’s our turn.

“What happened here?”

Our daughter is too caught up in her emotions to speak, so I do it for her.

“She…dropped her baby.”

“I see.”

Our daughter holds out her shattered, lifeless iPhone, its little face disfigured into a spider web of cracks.

“You can repair that, right?” I ask, suggesting with my optimistic expression that all is well.

“Unfortunately, no, sir. When the screen is cracked like this, there’s really nothing you can do.”

“It was so young,” I offer, gazing wistfully at the dead doohickey.

“It’s a phone, dear,” my wife says flatly, and I’m suddenly pulled out of my living analogy.

You think I’m joking, you who haven’t dropped your baby yet. Just you wait. The Sprint Store (or insert your brand here store) is the new ER, the trauma center of the New Age. Specialists and technicians here are the new doctors and surgeons, making life-and-death decisions on your dropped, drowned, squashed, mashed, or chicken-fried doodad. It’s serious business.

I thought my daughter was going to suffer a nervous breakdown while we waited the—oh, God, three days!!—for the replacement doohickey to arrive.

I will admit, I eventually did get a cell phone myself, at my wife’s insistence. But I use it as a phone. Imagine that? I have never texted. I don’t know how to text, and if it rings while I’m driving, I just let it rumble away in my pants. There is some satisfaction in that.

It is beyond me, and will likely remain far beyond me until I’m a dead doohickey myself, how our kids live and breathe life through their iPhones. I was at a concert not long ago, and I actually saw a girl in the audience watching the concert on her doodad, streaming on the internet. You following me here? The band is RIGHT THERE, live and in spitting distance—and she’s looking down at her doodad!

I was tempted to pluck the foul thing from her hands and stomp it into the ground. But then I would have had to accompany her to the ER and start the process all over again.

“What happened here?”

“I squashed her baby.”

“I see…”

 

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.