Monthly Archives: September 2014

Lend Me Your Faces


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Our church was holding an outdoor street fair for the community, and I looked at the list of volunteer opportunities. “Hmm,” I said. “Face painting. I never did that before. I’ll give it a try.”

I thought I’d just have to stick stickers on kids’ faces. But no. There was more to it than that. It involved paint and talent.

“What do you want on your face?” I asked the first little boy.

“I want a three-dimensional Optimus Autobot Transformer.”

I paused, paintbrush in midair. “Uh, no. You don’t want that,” I said.

“Yes I do.”

“No you don’t.”

“Oh, yes I do!” he said, his voice rising. “I see it in the facial-art catalogue on the table here.”

“Who put that there?” I muttered to myself. Aloud I said, “No, no, no. Sit back down. You don’t want a three-dimensional Optimus Autobot Transformer. I’m going to paint something very special on you. I have learned how to paint a carrot. You’re getting a carrot.”

“I don’t want a carrot,” he said.

“Well, you have to take a carrot. That’s all I practiced. Now sit down and give me your face.”

The boy began to cry and emit other shrill sounds of dissatisfaction, accompanied by transparent eye fluid. He ran to complain to his mother.

“Next!” I called.

A small girl walked up to me. “And what would you like, little girl?”

“I want my name. In cursive. Pink, purple, and white, with dark beige shading plus silver and gold sparklies.”

“Right,” I said.

“On my cheek,” she said.

“Un-huh. Your cheek is very small. What is your name, anyway?”

“Onomatopoeia-Lucille Johnson.”

“Hmm. Right. That name is long. You’ll take a carrot. Hold still. This will only hurt for a second.”

Onomatopoeia-Lucille screamed and ran away to complain to her mother.

“Next!” I shouted.

The next kid didn’t want a carrot either, so I offered him a black spot. “Like Billy Bones in Treasure Island,” I said, figuring a black spot would be about as easy to make as a carrot. But this kid wasn’t impressed. He never heard of Billy Bones or Treasure Island. No black dot for this kid. No carrot either. He stomped away and complained to his mother.

By this time, all the mothers were angry with me, and they all took their kids to the spin-art booth, the bouncy house, or the suspender-snapping contest. So I was alone with my brushes and hand sanitizer. I sat there for several moments, wondering what I’d do for the remaining three hours of the fair.

I stood up and walked to the nearby convenience store. I bought some kiddie stickers. When I got back to my booth, I changed the sign from “Face Painting” to “Face Stickering.” The children, gradually and cautiously, returned, and each received a sticker or two on the cheek or forehead. Smiley faces. Birds. Flowers. Spiderman villains. Grateful Dead logos. Things like that. The kids began to smile instead of cry.

Flipping through the pages, I saw that I also had some Bugs Bunny stickers. “Yes!” I cried. Bugs was holding a carrot.


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Emailer’s Digest


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Everyone receives too many emails. As a service to my readers, I have compiled a sample list of email subject lines (in quotes) with a brief synopsis of each email’s text (in italics). If the emails in your Inbox include subject lines similar to those on my list, you can save time by reading my summaries instead of the entire text of each email you receive:

  • “Welcome back from Detroit! Special Offer Inside.” — Buy something.
  • “Incredibly close.”— Be afraid. Your political party’s going to lose. Send money.
  •  “98 Healthcare job openings selected for you in Sarasota.” — Your job is nowheresville, but if you take one of these jobs, we can probably get money from you somehow.
  •  “Headline: Breaking News.” — Something depressing happened, which should soften you up to give money.
  •  “Will you be tuning in?” — We want your money.
  •  “Notice of Late Renewal.” — Where’s your money?
  •  “Emergency Action.” — There’s a crisis. Send money.
  •  “A Megaworthy Deal: Get Another Website!” — You want this. Give us money.
  •  “We’ll triple match you.” — Send a lot of money and you’ll feel better.
  •  “Join these 4 groups we’ve recommended for you.” — Maybe we’ll get your money somehow out of this.
  •  “3 Reasons to Register: Virtual Symposium.” — Primary reason is to get some of your money.
  •  “We can win with you.” — Be scared because your party’s losing, but if you send money your party still may lose.
  •  “Job Alert: These companies are hiring near you.” — Get a new job and give us some money.
  •  “Bob Patrilli has fallen behind: please help.” — Help equals money.
  •  “Your wireless phone bill is ready to view.” — Cough it up, big talker.
  •  “Please check your MyHealth account.” — You owe us.
  •  “Weekly Legislative Update from Representative Seersucker.” — I’m good. Support me with money.
  •  “Outreach Committee Meeting.” — Come to the meeting where we will outreach your pocket.
  •  “Jobs you may be interested in: Restaurant General Manager.” — Click on a job and we’ll get money somehow.
  •  “U.S. Chamber Backs the Other Party.” — Be fearful and donate.
  •  “New Foundation to Support Parental Rights.” — We could use some cash.
  •  “Are many of the challenges in publishing outsourcing an issue of the different ways that the East and the West think?” — Who cares? Buy something from our advertiser and we’ll get moolah.
  •  “We’ll triple match you.” — You forgot to send money the last time we emailed you.
  •  “Get your name in print for a worthy cause! Volunteers are needed!” — Volunteers do not receive payment, however volunteers can still contribute money while maintaining “volunteer” status.
  •  “We haven’t heard from you yet.” — We spent all the money everybody else sent, and we need some of yours. Don’t make me use ALL CAPS!
  •  “Take Action: Contribute.” — If you don’t, you’re a sloth.
  •  “Underfunded.” — Overspending.
  •  “Looking for a Recruitment Blogger: Can someone refer any name?” — I want money.
  •  “Final Reminder! Webinar on Purity Analysis of Bispecific Antibodies by Capillary Electrophoresis.” — Send money and we’ll throw in a periodic-table-of-the-elements beach towel for eighteen bucks.
  •  “Important Message from Gotcha City Bank” — You bounced a few checks.

The cost for reading this list is just $1 per summary. I’ll email you an invoice.

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Mr. Big


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Many people are unaware that I am a big shot. As such, it is irksome when I must perform routine little-shot tasks. Magnanimously, however, I agreed to buy groceries for the family at Substance-Mart. I wheeled my Saturn into the lot and alighted.

Glancing around at the little people, I strode purposefully toward the store. I had no time for sauntering. I needed to move past the banality of endcaps and coupon kiosks to the more important work of, for example, searching for the funniest home videos on YouTube.

I looked good that day and I knew it. I was wearing my contacts and my James Bond nonprescription sunglasses. Black leather shoes. My newly shaved head projected edginess rather than male-pattern baldness.

My body lingo said: “Too busy for this! Out of my way! A pound of sliced salami, and make it snappy!”

I grabbed a cart and glanced at my list. “Milk, bread, toilet paper, multicolored cake sprinkles… How mundane is this?”

I searched the aisles, selected my products, beeped through self-checkout, and beelined the exit. Plastic bags in hand, I looked at the lot filled with swarming people and vehicles. I set out.

I had momentarily forgotten where I had parked the car, but I knew it couldn’t be far. I proceeded quickly between the rows, constantly aware of maintaining the cool image. Didn’t see it on the left. Didn’t see it on the right. I continued walking single-mindedly to the end of the row.

At the row’s end, I hesitated, but I knew if I stopped walking decisively, people might suspect that I wasn’t a big shot. Nevertheless, I had to turn around and walk back down the next row of cars toward the store.

Not finding the car, I found myself walking through the third row of autos. Many of the customers loading their cars had observed me walking first one way, and then the other. My impressive shoes were beginning to blister my heels. I lifted my sunglasses to wipe sweat from my eyes and my contact fell out.

“I think I parked it by a tree. Or was that yesterday when I stopped at Dairy Jester for a ring-pop? Maybe I parked it by that flock of marigolds. No, that might have been last week when I was buying rubber elbow pads at Dollar Land…”

I noticed my frozen pizza was bending.

Suddenly my expensive leather loafers slipped on a snow-cone wrapper, and I fell on my white bread. My ankle was twisted. I tried to stand and gather my muffins and self-respect. But it was too late. My proud Elvis swagger became a Walter Brennan hobble. I limped as I continued searching for my compact car with the peeling brown paint.

Behind me I heard a voice. “Do you want to ride on my battery-operated cart-pusher hand truck?” said a Substance-Mart employee.

“Sure,” I whimpered, as I slumped into the last cart of his train.

Thirty-eight minutes later, we found my car. It was in a different lot on the opposite side of the store. I had entered one door of the store and mistakenly exited another—thus my confusion. I unlocked the car, threw the wilted groceries in the back, and drove home.

Next time I go to Substance-Mart, I’ll wear my sunglasses again, but I’ll also wear my Sonny Bono wig and fake mustache. And it won’t be because I’m cool…

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