What? This Is Black Friday?

Google images: heavy.com

Google images: heavy.com

It was Thanksgiving Day and we had just finished dinner at Aunt Turilla’s house. As we helped to clean the kitchen and put away leftover food, Aunt Turilla said, “Gee, I need someone to fix my divan.”

“What hardware do you need for it?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I think I just need a screw and a nut.”

I looked at the settee and said, “You’re right. I’ll run to the store and get what you need. Substance Mart should be open.”

I wanted to get out of the house anyway, as too much family time exhausts me.

When I got to Substance Mart, I was surprised at the traffic jam. Silly me, I thought. I didn’t realize Black Friday has already begun.

I had to park by the elementary school down the road because of the crowd in the Substance Mart lot.

I walked for 20 minutes in the cold rain to the store.

Inside I was directed by police tape and laser guns toward the end of a giant line of people at the rear of the store.

“But,” I said to the cop who was sending me to the back of the line, “I haven’t even found my products yet.”

“There’s another line you have to go through after this line. The other line leads to the line where you can finally pick up your product and/or products. We do this to avoid a repeat of last year when 19 people kicked me.”

“I just want a screw and a butterfly toggle thing.”

But the cop was already walking away. “Move along,” he called to customers. “Nothing to see here.”

I debated. Should I wait here and then stand in two more lines just to get a flathead? I don’t need a 360-degree TV. My Good Samaritan quest is unrelated to holiday greed. I just want to fix some furniture so my aunt doesn’t fall on her fanny! 

The lady with the Rainbow Brite coupon behind me said that the cash registers didn’t even open for another 2 hours.

I kept debating. The line was moving, albeit slowly. Because of indecision and inertia, I continued waiting, following the crowd along the taped arrows and footprints on the store floor.

By the end of the night, I was completely caught up in Black Friday hype and frenzy. I called Aunt Turilla’s house.

“You’ve got to come to Substance Mart right away! They’re giving away bunny socks and Star Wars can-openers! Bring me a slice of pumpkin pie and a sleeping bag. Tomorrow they’re selling kaleidoscopic scuba masks!”


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Helpful Internal Vacuum Service

Google images: danscartoons.com

Google images: danscartoons.com

I stopped at the palatial new government offices of the Internal Vacuum Service to pick up a tax form. I walked up to the entrance and heard “Bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark!” An angry, large, black, frothing dog by the door lunged at me repeatedly on his chain.

I’m not generally afraid of dogs. The chain looked strong, so I walked around the animal to the door. I touched the handle.

An electric shock went through me, and I jerked my hand away.

“Beep! beep! beep! whoop! whoop! whoop! buzz! buzz! buzz!” I heard.

I backed away from the door, carefully avoiding the still-barking dog. A woman officer in combat gear emerged with a hand on her gun belt.

“Halt or I’ll audit!” she cried. “Identify!”

I put up my hands. “My name is Blair,” I said waveringly.

“State your business!” she shouted.

“I just want to pick up a Schedule-C so I can complete my taxes and give the government all my money.”

“You can’t pick up that form here any longer,” she said.

“But I was just passing by, and I need that printout… Isn’t this the Internal Vacuum Service building? Don’t you still have those revolving kiosks of free forms and instructions?”

She tensed and squinted. “You can’t pick up any forms here. We no longer provide gratis documents to proletarians. To obtain tax forms from the government you must relinquish your social security number and your credit card data. You are then required to arrange for an appointment.”

“Okay,” I mumbled. “Can I make an appointment?”

“NO!” she shouted. “To make an appointment you must call the Internal Vacuum Service at 1-666-COUGH-UP. It’s a toll call. Now please leave the premises before your clunker leaks oil in our new, elite, governmental parking area.

“But…” I said.

“Don’t make me unchain Dogmatic on you! He loves leg bones! Vacate!”

At the sound of his name, Dogmatic began to bark again. “Bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark!”

As I drove away I noticed that many cameras were trained on me. I smiled weakly and waved at one to exhibit my nonthreatening compliance to authority.

I went home and sat on hold on the phone for an hour and 17 minutes so I could make an appointment to drive to Philadelphia to pick up a Schedule-C.

Paying everything to the government should be easier, I thought as I drove. And the term “Service” in “Internal Vacuum Service” should be replaced with a different descriptor.


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That Bugger Didn’t Even Write a Prayer

Google images: awkwardfamilyphotos.com

Ah, Christmastime.

Being a righteous person, I decided to lead my family in a religious devotional reading on Christmas Eve in advance of the gift-ripping event the next day.

“Sit down,” I yelled at my adult kids. “We’re having a family homily time before dinner. So if you don’t listen with your mouths shut, you can’t eat.”

“How can we eat with our mouths shut?” asked Biff.

“You can open your mouths to eat, but only after I read this family devotional booklet that I picked up at the Substance Mart checkout line.”

“Are we allowed to breathe?” asked Rhonda.

“Funny,” I growled. “Now pipe down while I read this inspiring biblical story.”

I glanced at the date on the page. December 24. I had previously noted that many of the devotional messages were written about famous holy people, such as Saint Augustine, Papa John, and Louie Louie. “Darn,” I said as I looked at the Christmas Eve page. “The bugger who wrote this one didn’t even include a prayer!”

My daughter Lisa made a suggestion. “Why don’t you say your own prayer?” she asked.

“Okay,” I retorted defiantly. “I just might do that. Just watch me. So now you all have to bow your heads.”

I bowed my head but kept my eyes open to see if the other heads were bowed. “Dear God,” I said. “Thank you for Christmas, and thank you that we can read this devotional booklet from the Substance Mart express lane. And thank you that when we are knocked down by life’s troubles we can pop back up like inflatable, Bozo-the-Clown punching-bag toys. Amen.”

Bart snorted, “What? Bozo? Are you kidding? That’s a prayer?” Lisa, Biff, and Rhonda looked at each other and snickered.

“That’s enough guffawing out of you all! We’re reading this over my dead body! And it’s a serious story! Not funny!”

My wife got up to turn off the beeper on the stove, because the toast casserole was done. Biff, Bart, Rhonda, and Lisa continued chuckling and chatting during the temporary distraction. I realized I had lost control of the family Bible-reading fellowship time, but I plowed ahead anyway.

“Lena Horne had trials in her life,” I read. “But because of her cheekbones, she pressed on.”

My wife brought the toast casserole to the table. Everyone started eating. I gave up and started eating, too.

Maybe next year family devotional time will go better. I can always pray.


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R U Liss Ning?

Google images: teluguone.com

Google images: teluguone.com

“Okay, Blair,” said my wife. “I’m going out and I won’t be back until late this evening. I have to run to the store, to the dentist, to the police station to pick up my fingerprints, to the car repair shop to get a cup of onions, to the insurance office for my glasses adjustment, and then to the beauty parlor to put air in our tires.”

“Mmm hmm,” I said as I tried to compose an email to an employment agency.

“So while I’m gone, it’s very important while I’m gone that you do a couple of things for me while I’m gone.”

“Okay,” I said mechanically, my eyes intent on editing my email.

“Are you listening?”

I glanced at her. “What?” I said. “Are you kidding? Of course I ate lunch.”

“You’re not. Listen, I have to tell you some important things,” she said.

I made eye contact. That convinced her I was listening.

But I wasn’t.

She continued. “So first, I need you to complete and scan the medical form from the doctor that I picked up and… blah… blur…  mumble… jumble… words… words… noises… yiminy… yamina…”

“Okay,” I said to my wife as I reread my email for the third time:

Dear Human Sources,

Thank you for rejecting me as a semi-tractor trailer truck washer. I appreciate your time in bothering to respond…

My wife continued, “…and after you’ve scanned that document I gave you… adda… babba… rhubarb… soliloquy… potsdam…”

“Yeah. Mmm, hmmpf,” I said, not looking up, still rereading my email.

“I need you to such… but… so… and… zither… lather… saucer… dish soap…” she continued.

“Mmm. Umm. Hmm? Zmm,” I said.

“Bye,” said my wife as she shut the door behind her.

I looked up. “Bye,” I said. “Wait, what did you say? What am I supposed to do with the horse pump?”

But she was gone.

On my desk I saw her documents and a cryptic note she had left me. So I did the best I could with her instructions.

I sent her private medical records to my son’s college newspaper.

I glued three of my wife’s decorative teacups to a bookshelf.

I put a five-pound bag of flour in the oven at 400 degrees.

When my wife came home and saw what I did, she was not happy.

“I tried!” I pleaded.

“You didn’t listen!” she cried. ” Now I have to spend extra time undoing all of your mistakes.”

“Can you forgive me?” I asked, surreptitiously glancing back at my computer.

She said, “I honestly… wallaby… pakistan… salvo… mystic… spatula…”

I wasn’t listening, but I did hear her final few words as she left the room. “Oh well,” she sighed. “I still love you.”

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Wow, Am I Glad I’m Not Stuck Alone in a Cold Car in a Dark, Freezing Forest!

Google images: lehighvalleywithlove.com

Google images: lehighvalleywithlove.com

I was driving on a lonely, snowy back road when my car fishtailed. I spun and landed at a 45-degree angle in a snowy woodsy gully. Saplings wedged my doors shut.

No problem, I thought jauntily. In this day and era of gadgety and computerized automobility, I’ll have no trouble connecting with someone to help me escape from this misshapen Chevy.

I scrounged my pockets for my portable Commodore phone, but I discovered I had left it in my other phone holster.

No problem, I thought in a lively and cheerful manner. After I push aside this cumbersome and intrusively deployed airbag, I’ll easily access assistance via our car’s handy-brandy, blueberry-tooth, space-aged, drone-like, satellitistic messaging system. Hmm, now where did I put the recipe for that digital wigga-whammy?

I couldn’t find the digital wigga-whammy nor the recipe. I think both are in my other glove box.

Well, I thought with confident optimism. This is not like the olden days when people fishtailed on ice and ended up alone in a snow-filled woodsy gully ditch in the middle of nowhere because their car slipped off the road after spinning. In those days there was no way to communicate! Those days are over! Finished! Kaput!

Google images: autofocus.ca

All I have to do is punch in my friend Ed’s number into my conveniently portable dashboard–slash–windshield-washer roboticizer, and Ed will pick up one of his sundry devices and will jiffy pop over here to rescue me from this ever-darkening and ever-creepier woods where it is now starting to snow again harder this time.

I stuck the suction cup to the window and plugged the wire into the e-cigarette porthole. I pressed the Search key. Nothing happened.

Hmm, I thought. Electronical system not working. Probably a short in the trunk.

I attempted to maintain my sprightly mood.

When I finally managed to access Ed’s voicemail, night had fallen. I left a message for Ed. Ed returned my call three days later as I recovered in the hospital from frostbite.

“Hey, Blair,” Ed said. “I just saw your message. What’s up?”

“Thanks, Ed.” I said. “I almost died in a terrible car accident, and I called you for help. Where were you?”

“How do I know where I was?” said Ed. “That was three days ago. I don’t even know where I am today, ha ha ha!”

“Ha ha ha” I muttered. “Some friend. Thanks a lot for rescuing me.”

After saying goodbye to Ed, I hit the nurse’s call button to request additional jauntiness medication, but instead I mistakenly activated the hospital’s sprinkler system.

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A Nightmarish Pop Quiz

Google images: themetapicture.com

Google images: themetapicture.com

I signed up for an animal education course at our local community college. I thought I was going to learn how to train Blackie the dog not to poop in the bedroom. I was wrong. It was some kind of animal anatomy and physiology class.

The first evening, Professor Grinwoe circulated a pop quiz for all students to complete. “This is to assess your knowledge before commencing the seminar,” he intoned.

The complexity of the test questions was overwhelming:

  1. Ethmoturbinates form the ventral margin a horse’s nostrils.  True? Or False?
  2. A zebra’s gastrocnemius flexes the stifle and extends the hock.  True? Or False?
  3. The gizzard of a squash is distal to the proventriculus.  False? Or True?
  4. Flamingos have several pancreases.  Yes? Or No?
  5. The life span of a chinchilla is longer than the half-life of a dill pickle.  False? Or False?
  6. Rabbits are monogastric hindgut fermenters.  Si? O No?
  7. The digital flexor tendon is responsible for bringing about the perching reflex so that ostriches can land on twigs without falling to the ground.  Oui? Ou Non?
  8. The hallux is the foot of a gerbil.  Sim? Ou Não?
  9. The average litter size of a rat is 80 every month.  Yell? Or Scream?
  10. The triceps is responsible for the extension of the Ankole-Watusi cow elbow.  Ja? Oder Nein?
  11.  The infraspinatus asparagus abducts and rotates the forelimb.  Ee-Mah? Ah-High? Ooot Ah-High-La?
  12. The bronchitis muscle protracts and retracts the forelimb and abducts the catfish ear.  כן או ?לא?
  13. The female rabbit develops a large fold of skin under the left whisker known as a dewlap flap.  Да? или нет?
  14. The upper lip is divided into philtrum, which aids in getting people by the short hairs.  What? Or Who?
  15. Jackals are unable to vomit because of the arrangement of the cardia in relation to their knuckles.  Flea? Fly? Or Flue?
  16. The foreleg of the pig has 5 toes?  Or Not?
  17. Essay Question: When did you stop kicking your neighbor’s groundhog?

The quiz was not easy for me, but I passed with walking colors. I know you think I’m smart, but I’m not, because I cheated.

Next week we’re going to learn about painting the lips of ladybugs for Valentine’s Day. I better start studying.

Meanwhile, I have to clean the bedroom floor.

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Student Driver Teaches Driving Teacher to Drive

Google images: citypaper.com

Google images: citypaper.com

“Look out!” I screamed. “On the curb! That grey-haired lady with the walker might dart out!”

“Dad,” said my daughter Rhonda. “She’s sitting in a Plexiglas bus shelter. I don’t think she’s going to jump in front of our moving car any time in the predictable future.”

“Maybe you’re right,” I said.

“You’re going to have to learn to stop screaming at me. It doesn’t make my stick-shift driving lessons any easier,” said Rhonda.

It was my second day on the road with Rhonda in our little brown compact. Rhonda wasn’t doing too badly, but I was a nervous wrecking ball.

“Watch this upcoming intersection! This intersection! It’s an intersection! You have to stop and then go again after the intersection!” I yelled.

“Yes, Dad. I know. You’re continuing to provoke anxiety.”

“Okay, okay. Now slow down. You can downshift, but you don’t have to if you don’t feel comfortable, but you must apply your clutch eventually, gradually, slowly, RIGHT NOW, with your left foot. That’s the foot on your left side with the masking tape on your shoe. I put masking tape on your shoe to remind you it’s the left. Push the middle pedal! NO! I’M WRONG!” I cried. “IT’S THE LEFT PEDAL, I THINK! AM I RIGHT? Yes! The middle’s the brake. Right? No, I said LEFT! It’s the LEFT, LEFT, LEFT!”

“Yes, Dad,” said Rhonda. “I know my left.”

I tried to speak a little more softly. “I’m sorry. This is wearing me out. After driving for years, it’s second nature and I can’t even explain it correctly. Left shoe, middle pedal, up, down, back, forth, tube sock, cake mix… Whatever.”

Rhonda suggested gently, “Maybe you should just… How can I say it? …Shut up?” She eased to a stop at the intersection.

Suddenly my adrenaline flow increased again. “Stop! Stay stopped here!” I screamed. “Don’t go! I think you won’t be able to accelerate here at this intersection because we’re going up a hill, and you’ll probably pop the clutch, peel out, and blow a hole in the muffler. Plus there’s gravel on the road here, and I don’t think you’re ready for this!”

Rhonda and I hopped out of the car. I ran sweating to the driver’s seat. She got in the passenger side.

I put the car in gear, popped the clutch, peeled out, and threw gravel all over the car behind me. Minutes later I realized I blew a hole in the muffler.

When we got home, I called Joe’s Stick-Shift Training School. My first class is Tuesday.

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