BY DOROTHY ROSBY The reason people who litter are called litterbugs is because they bug me. Okay, maybe that’s...
BY JILL PERTLER My husband has the most exciting dreams. They are action adventures like something out of a Ja...
BY DOROTHY ROSBY I always get my milk last at the grocery store because I don’t want it to curdle while I try...
BY DOROTHY ROSBY A co-worker once asked me if I grew up during the Depression. “No, I did not,” I snapped. “If...
BY DOROTHY ROSBY Every generation since Adam and Eve has criticized the next one for their music, fashion, wor...
By JILL PERTLER The English language is a formidable beast, even for those of us who learned it as our first l...
BY DOROTHY ROSBY I used to keep the partners of every sock my family ever lost on the off chance that someday...
BY DOROTHY ROSBY I’m trudging across a slushy parking lot when an acquaintance hurries by and says, “Hi! How a...
BY JILL PERTLER I used to worry. About a lot of things. I used to worry about what other people had and what I...
BY DOROTHY ROSBY My year is off to a good start and I hope the same for you. My New Year’s tradition is to bid...
BY DOROTHY ROSBY
The reason people who litter are called litterbugs is because they bug me. Okay, maybe that’s not the reason. But they do bug me. Litter ends up in waterways. It makes road ditches and parks look like an episode of Hoarders. And it attracts critters no one wants hanging around, like flies, rats and bad-tempered walkers—like me.
For reasons I can’t explain, I feel compelled to pick up litter when I see it. It’s odd really, because I don’t always feel the need to pick it up in my own home. Early one morning, I cleaned up what remained of someone’s supper off a picnic table at the park. Then I picked up a gum wrapper, a beer can, a Styrofoam cup and a five-foot long grocery receipt. But when I noticed that someone had hauled in a beat-up recliner and left it at the baseball field, I couldn’t take it anymore. I’d had it with picking up other people’s trash. And not just because I couldn’t lift the recliner.
I was out for a walk. This was supposed to be my happy time and it was being spoiled by other people’s bad manners, so I quit. Just like that. I walked by a fast food bag without slowing down. I hurried past an aluminum can and a half-empty plastic bottle. I was in no mood to consider it half full.
But then, I spotted an empty plastic grocery bag. I couldn’t help myself. I picked it up and filled it with trash by the time I got home.
I’ve got to come clean here, so to speak. I’ve littered a few times myself. But I swear, it was an accident and I’ve always gone to great lengths to pick up after myself. I once chased an empty tin can all the way down the hill by my house, and I live on a big hill.
One time I littered during a girl’s day out with a friend. My fingernails were still wet with polish after my first and only manicure. I pushed the door of the salon open with my hip and walked across the parking lot with my hands up and my fingers splayed. I looked like I was being robbed. As I gingerly opened the door, a gust of wind swept a paper off the floorboards and out the door of my friend’s car. I thought it might be something important, like the deed to her house, so I chased it across the parking lot and retrieved it from behind the wheel of a parked car. Then I surveyed the damage: Two scraped nails and a tread mark up my arm—and all to save a furniture store flyer. My friend said that, while she appreciated the effort, she normally doesn’t keep the deed to her house on her floorboards.
Another time, I wasn’t so successful. As I got out of my car, a gust of wind blew a paper off my dashboard, onto the parking lot, and under my car. I closed the door, and set my purse, briefcase, and giant jug of iced tea on the ground while I reached under my car for the paper. That’s when I realized that my car was still running, and that at some point, I’d apparently locked my doors. Uh-oh. Fortunately, I keep a spare key in my purse. As I reached for the key, I knocked over my drink, and a puddle formed under me and my belongings. Now my knees were muddy. My briefcase was wet. My iced tea was gone. My car was running with the doors locked. And the paper that had started it all was airborne on its way to somebody else’s parking lot. It’s okay though. I probably picked it up the next time I was in the neighborhood.
BY JILL PERTLER
My husband has the most exciting dreams. They are action adventures like something out of a James Bond or Tarzan movie – oftentimes both. They involve racecars and roller coasters and swinging on vines throughout a rainforest. He’ll often describe them in detail the next morning.
Sometimes I can tell he’s in the middle of one of his dreams because he moves slightly in his sleep. His feet twitch or his hands wiggle. I wonder what sort of adventure he is on. I know I shouldn’t wake him; that would be mean. But sometimes I can’t help myself. My curiosity gets the best of me.
I tap him ever so gently on the shoulder, whisper his name and ask, “What are you dreaming about?”
His answers are brief. Things like “biking,” or “climbing a mountain,” or “flying.”
He’s brief because he is sleeping – still engaged in his adventuresome dream. I imagine he has quite an imagination. I suppose we all do when uninhibited by the factor of sleep.
My dreams are much less exciting than my husband’s. I still dream about school sometimes. Many of us have experienced the proverbial school dream/nightmare. I’m there on the first or second day and I don’t have my schedule or locker combination or maybe both. It’s discombobulating. I try to find the office to get another copy, but I keep getting lost. The hallways are an empty labyrinth of lockers and tile.
And the people who show up in my dreams! In a word? Random. Someone I once knew in a history class back in high school might have a starring role in a dream, never to be seen or heard from ever again. Often, I have strangers in my dreams, or at least I think they are strangers. They could be some random co-worker from my first job at the Dairy Queen who I’ve forgotten everywhere but in the subconscious. Dreams are weird that way.
You don’t have to be an adult to dream. Experts theorize babies dream beginning at birth. Of course, their course material is limited due to the limited scope of their earthly experiences. Still, they dream about something; we just don’t know what.
When he was just an itty bit, son No. 2 experienced some of the scariest of dreams: night terrors. He’d sit up in bed, eyes wide-open, sometimes screaming, sometimes crying out but always afraid and always asleep – wide eyes and all. We learned not to try to wake him, but to hold him gently and keep him safe. Not to shout his name but to repeat it quietly. Usually he’d wake up, remembering nothing of his terrifying experience.
He outgrew his sleep terrors. Thank goodness for that. But he still dreams. We all do. It’s part of the human condition. It’s our way of fleshing out and sorting through the experiences we encounter while awake. We relive and rehash and reimagine the real and not so real. The rules of everyday logic and life don’t exist in the land of dreams – where six-foot tall men, like my husband, can fly.
At my house we are experiencing a new generation of dreamers.
My granddaughter dreams. I’ve watched her. I wonder what her brain ponders during the blanket of sleep. I always assumed she dreams about the things she knows, the things experts would agree upon: hunger, warmth, kindness, pacifiers and wet diapers. But this week, when she was here and napping, her little feet were twittering. Her tiny hands were moving – just like someone else I’ve observed sleeping. As I contemplated her movements, I came to the logical conclusion: maybe she is flying.
How cool would that be?
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.
BY DOROTHY ROSBY
I always get my milk last at the grocery store because I don’t want it to curdle while I try to choose between whole wheat, crushed wheat, honey wheat, honey bran, sunflower or 12 grain bread.
Shopping for groceries — and everything else — is challenging for the indecisive. I finally choose 12 grain and head to the most difficult grocery aisle of all: Personal Care.
Before me lies toothpaste as far as the eye can see. I prefer gel to paste, but what do I need more? Enamel care, tarter control, cavity protection, extra whitening or breath freshening? Don’t answer that.
Do I want lotion that firms skin, hydrates hands, protects from the sun or provides advanced therapy? I pick the last one because therapy is just what I need after choosing bread and toothpaste.
I’m paralyzed by so many choices. Fortunately, I have some coping mechanisms. Unfortunately, none of them help.
I put off grocery shopping until all that’s left to eat in our home is flour and ketchup.
When I can’t decide between two items, I buy them both. I have two sweaters that look exactly alike, except one is purple and one is blue. And I have another set of duplicate sweaters, one blue and one pink, for the same reason. My closet looks like I share it with an identical twin.
I choose the cheapest one, and not because I’m thrifty. No one who buys sweaters two at a time is thrifty. It’s just that when I can’t decide between oxygenated cleansing action, degreasing or gentle-on-hands dish soap, I have to base my decision on something.
Faced with too many decisions, I choose nothing. And I’m not alone. In one study of the so-called paradox of choice, two psychologists found that customers presented with six varieties of jam were more likely to buy one than those who were offered 24 varieties. The latter were more likely to run screaming from the store.
I’ve made it to laundry soap. Do I want liquid or powder? Do I need it with bleach, without bleach or with bleach alternative? Do I want it to dissolve fast, deep clean or fight odors? And if I choose deep cleaning, will my clean clothes smell bad?
I’ve been at the grocery store an hour, and with the exception of a loaf of bread, I still don’t have any food.
I pick up my pace. I hurry past the baking aisle; I don’t bake. I skip the dog food; I don’t have a dog. I dash past baby food; I don’t have a baby either.
But then…I round the corner at canned soups. There is a cream-of-something soup for every day of the year and almost that many pasta choices: rotelle, farfalle, fusilli, mostaccioli, penne, rigatoni, ziti. Huh?
And Mother Nature can’t be beat for variety. I want apples, I’m just not sure if I want Gala, McIntosh, Red Delicious or Granny Smith. I need lettuce, but do I want Romaine, Red Leaf, Bibb or Iceberg. I haven’t been this overwhelmed since toothpaste.
Finally, exhausted and confused, I head to the dairy aisle for milk (skim, 1 percent, 2 percent, whole, lactose free, chocolate or soy), butter (salted, unsalted, low-fat or regular) and cheese (too many to name.)
I have just spent more time choosing groceries than I spent buying my car. By the time I get to the checkout line, my defenses are worn down like a dieter’s resistance in a doughnut shop. The only thing saving me from grabbing a handful of comfort candy bars in the checkout aisle is that I can’t decide which ones I want.
Uh-oh. I forgot one thing. God help me; I need a birthday card.
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of the humor book, I Didn’t Know You Could Make Birthday Cake from Scratch: Parenting Blunders from Cradle to Empty Nest. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)
A co-worker once asked me if I grew up during the Depression. “No, I did not,” I snapped. “If I’d grown up during the Depression, don’t you think I’d be retired by now?”
I might have been a little defensive. But she was teasing me about my ancient radio, and she wasn’t the first person to do it. The radio was a hand-me-down from my husband who got it before we met, and we met a long time ago. He was going to toss it, but I rescued it and took it to my office because it still worked—usually.
Sometimes it didn’t come on when I turned it on. And sometimes it came on when I didn’t turn it on. It was like magic, but that’s not why I kept it.
I didn’t keep it for sentimental reasons either. When it quit working altogether, I disposed of it and took my son’s castoff radio/CD player to work, and it’s been there ever since.
And I didn’t keep the radio because I’m too cheap to buy a new one. I’m not cheap. I might not even qualify as thrifty. I rarely shop sales and I eat avocados—a lot. Nobody who buys as many avocados as I do could be called thrifty. Those are green because they’re made of money. The only reason I can afford them is because I’ve saved so much on radios.
I’ve saved a lot not replacing other things too. My bathrobe and my sheepskin bedroom slippers are both at least 20 years old. They’re still in good shape though—at least by my standards, which may not be that high if my radio is any indication.
The travel case I used for more than 30 years to carry my toothbrush and travel shampoo wasn’t in good shape by anybody’s standards. Looking at it, you’d think I travel a lot more than I do. But it still did the job, so I used it until my sister, who travels with me occasionally, got tired of looking at it and gave me a new one. I love it! It’s got a place for everything. It’s purple and it’s built to last. I bet it lasts longer than the old one did.
I appreciate durable products. It’s touchy subject for me right now because my dishwasher has started leaving food behind. That means I have to wash the dishes before it washes the dishes or risk having to wash them after it washes them. That’s much harder because the heat-dry part of the cycle works just fine.
When I find something that holds up—be it a bathrobe or a radio—I keep it because so many things don’t hold up. My stove, computer, printer, vacuum cleaner and garage door opener are all relatively new. No, we didn’t win big on The Price is Right. Everything in my house is practically new because a short time ago, everything was old, and it all quit working at the same time.
Appliances just don’t last as long as they used to. I read it on the internet, so it must be true. I don’t know about electronics because they’re obsolete long before they quit working and sometimes before I’ve figured out how to use them.
I’m not sure how old my dishwasher is, but I do know it’s still sticky where the price tag used to be. Or maybe that’s not why it’s sticky. At any rate, I’ve had avocados that lasted longer.
I’m exaggerating. But if I have to replace my dishwasher, I will have loaded and unloaded four dishwashers while wearing the same bathrobe. Is it any wonder I’ve kept the robe? We’ve been through a lot together.
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of several humor books, including I Used to Think I Was Not That Bad and Then I Got to Know Me Better. Contact email@example.com.)
Every generation since Adam and Eve has criticized the next one for their music, fashion, work ethic and inexperience, forgetting that all those same criticisms were once leveled against them. Also forgetting they raised the next generation.
And every generation since Cain and Abel has criticized the last one for being out of touch, as though they alone are “cool” and will be the first and only generation to remain that way forever.
And so it goes, generation after generation, young people forgetting they stand on the shoulders of the geezers who came before them and older people forgetting the whippersnappers will someday be running things, possibly better than they did, but certainly no worse.
That’s why I wasn’t surprised to see the following article in my internet news feed recently: “25 tragically uncool things Baby Boomers won’t let die.”
I was surprised though when I found there were actually 65 items on the list, which suggests that proofreading might be one of the things the authors find tragically uncool.
They don’t mention their names, maybe fearing their grandmothers will stop sending them birthday money. Nor did they say what generation they belong to—X, Y or Z. I’m sure in their minds that goes without saying. It’s the cool one.
To call Mrs. Dash and throw pillows “tragically uncool” seems a little overdramatic to me. And the authors are also prone to sweeping generalizations. As I read their “list of things that baby boomers think are cool, but they SO aren’t,” I realized I, an actual baby boomer, don’t find most of them cool at all—or tragically uncool for that matter.
I’m a live-and-let-live kind of person myself, which I think is one of my cooler qualities. And while I don’t own them myself, if someone wants to wear an air-brushed T-shirt, denim shorts and Crocs, I’m blissfully neutral about it, as I am about golf, scripted wall art and Yahoo.
I don’t even own a tragically uncool landline anymore, though I wish I did every time I misplace my cellphone.
I don’t play racquetball either, but I think anyone who puts their smartphone down long enough to exercise is pretty cool.
And not only do I not “jump for joy” when I see a Reader’s Digest, as the authors claim baby boomers do, I don’t even subscribe to it. But if you do, more power to you. At least you’re reading something besides social media posts.
I have been known to iron, but not because I think it’s cool. I only do it when my clothes look like I slept in them, which is not cool at all.
Off all 65 items on the list of 25 tragically uncool things Baby Boomers won’t let die, there were only a few I’d call cool. My husband and I celebrated our 30th anniversary with a cruise this past summer, and I say don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Anyone who doesn’t think meatloaf is cool never ate my mom’s. And I enjoy an episode of NCIS now and then; it gives me something to watch while I iron.
Somewhere between tragically uncool juice from concentrate and paying bills the old fashioned way, the authors managed to blame Baby Boomers for the Social Security predicament, though we don’t find that any cooler than they do.
I’d advise them to start saving for retirement, because whether they believe it nor not, they’ll be older someday. But the cool part about getting older is you no longer worry so much about being cool. That’s a good thing because there’s an entire generation coming up behind you, ready to tell just how uncool you are—exactly like you once did to someone else.
By JILL PERTLER
The English language is a formidable beast, even for those of us who learned it as our first language. Language is all about meaning – communication. And sometimes context and inflection can completely change the meaning of a word or phrase. Add to this the overall goofiness of English. Why is it that bird, heard and word rhyme all the time but love, stove and move do not? Add to this the dove duality – when you see the word does it refer to the bird or the past tense of dive? None of it makes sense and yet I’ve dedicated my career (and life practically) to words and the English language.
The intricacies and subtleties can cause communication gaffes – most often between people who are married. But it can happen with anyone.
It’s a wonder we ever get our message across.
Let’s start at the top, with the word head. Dictionary.com lists 66 entries just for this one word – some of which are rather racy in nature, but I’ll stay away from the R-rated heads. I try to keep this a PG-13 column. Still, how many ways can going to the head be interpreted? Are we talking about a line, the class or bathroom? Those are three completely different actions, unless you are standing in line to get into the bathroom before math class. Then you are going to the head in more ways than one.
A racket is an implement used to play tennis or it is a loud and rather disturbing noise, which you do not want to make if you are watching tennis (said in a hushed tennis-watching tone).
We often make things more complicated than they need to be. When you are patiently waiting for your turn on a theme park ride why is it called a queue when it could be simply Q? All those extra letters. I’ve written plays and am a playwright. Why not playwrite or playright? Every time I use the word, I have to look it up. No kidding.
There’s a whole list of words that can mean one thing, unless they mean the opposite. They are officially called auto-antonyms, or in layperson terms car-opposites.
Here’s one actual dictionary definition: Egregious: adj. 1. Outstandingly bad; shocking. 2. Remarkably good.
I’m not making this up. If you tell someone they are egregious what are you saying, exactly? Exactly.
By definition, a bomb is an explosive device. Unless, of course, you are referring to the theater (or theatre). Then a bomb is anything but explosive; it is lackluster. A bad thing. Adversely, if someone’s performance is the bomb, it is inspired and exceedingly good. A bombshell is an overwhelming surprise or disappointment (bad thing), unless it is an extremely attractive woman (good thing).
For all of you who are keeping track of the inconsistencies, bomb does not rhyme with tomb or comb. But we already knew that.
When you strike something, you hit it. Unless you are playing baseball, where a strike means you didn’t hit anything.
Often voice tone lets us know what meaning we intend.
The word bad is obviously bad as in not good. Unless, of course, it is good. In that case, bad is said with attitude to convey the goodness of the badness. “Look at that baaaad convertible!”
Equally opposite is perfect, which is wonderful, superb and flawless unless it is spoken with a certain under-your-breath intonation that makes it anything but wonderful. “I got an F on my test. Perfect.” The same goes for great, which is usually great unless it is ungreat (or maybe ingrate – I can never keep it straight). In this case it is used in a sentence to describe something negative, “Oh great, another flat tire.”
Right is always right, unless it is wrong, which would not be right but logically left. I think.
And left is just as confusing. If someone left the building, they are gone. If three cookies are left on the plate they remain on the plate and are far from gone. Yet.
But they will be soon. I think I’ve confused myself enough for one day and am in need of a snack. There are those three cookies waiting, after all. They’ll be great! (As in positive regarding taste or as negative for my diet.)
Take your pick.
I used to keep the partners of every sock my family ever lost on the off chance that someday their sole mates would return. It was wishful thinking, considering some of them probably went missing while we were living in our last house, and we left there more than 20 years ago.
Then an acquaintance needed socks for a craft project, so I gave her some and tossed the rest, and it felt good to be rid of them. But it’s a law of the universe, as reliable as gravity that shortly after you finally dispose of something, even something you haven’t used in years, you’ll suddenly wish you had it.
I had foot surgery in December. It wasn’t serious. I did start getting…uh…cold feet right before the procedure but it turned out to be fairly easy. In fact, I slept right through it.
Recovery was harder—especially for my husband. I needed to keep my foot up for a few days and yelling for help every time I needed something was inconvenient—for him.
But it wasn’t an easy time for me either. Showering was a challenge. Several times, while I was maneuvering in an out of the shower trying to keep my bandaged foot dry, I almost broke my leg.
And getting a pant leg over the bandages was so hard that I was tempted to wear pajamas my first day back to work.
Naturally, I also needed socks. Fortunately, I have some sleep socks that are big enough to fit over the bandages and into my surgical shoe. Unfortunately, they’re too big to fit into my other shoe. And that’s when my bag of widowed, separated and divorced socks would have come in handy. You’re probably wondering why I didn’t just wear a sock one day and its partner the next. How naïve. Anyone who thinks it’s that simple probably also thinks socks only go missing in the dryer.
Those of us who have studied the phenomenon of missing socks know that the minute a sock is left alone, it’s in danger. I’ve had socks go missing from the laundry basket and from the heap of dirty clothes beside the laundry basket. I’ve had them wander away from the pile of clean, unfolded laundry on the couch. I’ve even had them go missing while I’ve been sitting on my bed, putting on their partner.
And now, they’re disappearing off the top of my dresser, which is where I’ve been keeping them while I wear their mate and they wait their turn. At least I thought that’s where I was keeping them.
Eventually, I got my bandages off. You have to be pretty impressed by medical staff who can remove bandages from a foot that hasn’t been washed in weeks. I was so excited about washing it again that I thought about having a little celebration, maybe inviting some people over to watch. I didn’t, but I thought about it. They could have helped me look for my socks.
I’d hoped that once I got the bandages off, life would return to normal for me and my sock drawer. But my foot isn’t quite ready to jam into a real shoe yet, so I’m still wearing my surgical shoe and mismatched socks. And once again, I have a big collection of single socks. Not only that; I’m missing a shoe.
I’m trudging across a slushy parking lot when an
acquaintance hurries by and says, “Hi! How are you?” I say, “Great! How are you,” like I just won the lottery. Except I’m not fine.
I had minor foot surgery in December, so I’ve been wearing a surgical shoe for a month. It’s black, open-toed and very attractive. (I’m kidding.) My foot hurts. The medical bills are starting to roll in and an opened-toed shoe isn’t ideal for tromping through ice and snow. So no, I’m not fine. Nor do I particularly care how she is at the moment.
She’s also fine. Or at least she says she is, and then she hurries by. We could have just said hello. That’s what we meant. But I can’t just say hello. In fact, when I greet someone, what I usually say is, “Hey, how are ya,” except it’s one long word—heyhowareya, like a lake in Hawaii.
Almost everyone I know greets other people with some version of how are you—how’s it goin’, how ya doin’, how the heck are you—whether they want to know or not.
And almost everyone I know has a pat response: Fine. Good. Great! A few people have more creative answers: “I’m so good, it should be illegal.” Or, “If I were any better, I could be arrested.” I want to smack them, then they definitely wouldn’t be fine.
The whole ritual is so automatic that I can envision me coming across someone who’s just fallen off a ladder and saying, “Heyhowareya.” Worse, I can see them answering, “Fine. Could you call an ambulance please?”
I guess there’s no real harm in the practice. We can safely assume that most of the time “how are you” is the equivalent of saying “hello” and that “fine” is just another way to say “hi” back. Most of us are aren’t expecting honesty when we ask someone how they are, nor are we always honest when we’re asked. If we were, our response might be something like, “You really want to know how I am? You don’t have that kind of time.”
I suppose we could be more honest on both sides of the question. “I don’t have time to talk, so I’m not going to ask how you are, but I really do care.”
“No problem. I’ll call you later.”
Or, if we do have time, we might say, “How are you—really?”
“I’d be better if my shoulder wasn’t acting up, my kids behaved and I had more money in my bank account.
“Tell me more. Let’s start with your shoulder.”
You do see this kind of honesty occasionally. Once at the grocery store, I greeted a man I barely know with my standard, “Heyhowareya?” And he said, “Not well. Not well at all.” And by the time I finally left him, neither was I.
Maybe more than honesty, we need awareness. If he’d been more aware, the man at the grocery store might have noticed that my ice cream was melting, my perishables were perishing and my eyes were glazing over while he was filling me in.
I recently saw an acquaintance who I’d heard has been quite ill. If I’d been paying more attention, I might have asked, “How are you doing?” in a gentle way like a friend instead of “Heyhowareya,” with all the enthusiasm of a game show host.
I really do want to know how you are when I have the time to listen and, if it’s not well, I want to know exactly why. I’m snoopy that way.
And as for me, I’m okay, but I’ll be better when I can wear my regular shoe again. And yes, I realize you didn’t ask. But I know you will the next time I see you.
2018 All Rights Reserved. Villager Publishing |