Tag Archives: Humor

Reading With Fakename: All Creatures Great and Small

It’s hard to believe that next year will mark the 40th anniversary of this book’s publication.  I remember vividly when it first came out, for several reasons. 

First, it was a complete sensation.  Everyone who was anyone read it.  Reason enough for me not to read it, since I was at the time at the height of my Intellectual Snobbery Period (feel free to enclose the word “intellectual” with your own air quotes).

I was, at the time, not a reader of popular fiction at all.  I would not read anything written before about 1940.  It was like, I didn’t want to waste my time on a book that might be just a flash in the pan.  I wanted it to have been “vetted”, to have withstood the test of time, to be declared good literature by people before me.  I felt a greater kinship with them than with people of my own age.  My, how things change. 

The other thing was that I didn’t have time.  I remember thinking around that time that I was losing my ability to read, something that had always defined me.  I was a year away from graduating from college, and everything seemed to sort of narrow to a tiny little dot.  I did not have any other focus beyond the dot.  When I did have the time to read, summers for example, I still couldn’t get beyond the dot.  If I read something, it had to teach me something.  The concept of reading for pleasure never even crossed my mind. 

But it never had.  When I was a teenager, we lived next door to the library, which is a little like a fat kid living next door to the candy store.  I read so much fiction that I was about to run out of books.  I picked books by their titles.  Which is a similar method to the one Fakesister and I used when we attended our one and only horse race.  Let’s put $2 on this horse–it has a great name.

But my method began to get old, so then I decided I would read everything by any writer whose last name began with “A”.  Next week’s plan:  Read everything by any writer whose last name begins with “B”.  This system turned out to be a disaster, since I read a lot of very bad books.  Finally I was driven to the non-fiction section, a territory that previously was Terra Incognita.  I started by reading biographies, and became just as obsessed with them as I had ever been with fiction.  These days, I’d say my ratio of fiction to non-fiction is about 70-3o.  An improvement. 

Now let’s get back to All Creatures Great and Small.  I’m glad I’ve waited until now to read it.  One of the other reasons I wouldn’t read it when it came out is that I was suspicious of it, because the title comes from a hymn, to wit: 

All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.  I was not about to be preached to.  “James Herriot” is a pseudonym–oh wait.  That makes it a fake name.  I’m in good company.  If only I could write as well as he did, and be half so evocative of his time and place. 

I’m really glad I got over myself, because this is a truly great book.  I’m now on chapter 25, and it’s horse-castrating season.    Which he hates with a passion, because he’s scared of horses.  It may surprise you to learn that a vet is scared of a particular animal, but it shouldn’t.  I recall a story Fakesister tells about her once-upon-a-time vet, who was scared of Scottish Terriers.  Because he had once been bitten by one.  This is a similar situation:  Herriot has seen plenty of horse disasters and does not care to become a victim. 

So his boss assigns him to remove a tumor from a horse’s belly.  Herriot has imagined that it will be a sweet little colt with big brown eyes, but when he gets there it turns out to be a stallion who is huge and is over six years old.  The stallion is crashing around the walls of his stall, and on sight of Herriot, he lays his ears back and rolls his eyes back into his head.  Gulp, says Herriot.  It turns out he’s spared that day, because there is no one there to help him by holding the horse.  He does get a good look at the tumor, which is really not a big deal.  It appears to be benign and very common, and it’s hanging by a sort of string of tissue.  All Herriot has to do is inject the little “string” with anesthetic and snip off the tumor.  So the procedure itself is not problematic.  The problem is that the horse is in the way. 

He leaves the farm with great relief, but knowing he will still have to do it eventually, he starts to dream about it.  Normally he says he has removed that tumor about 20 times before breakfast.  The horse also begins to loom larger and larger, and more dangerous, in his memory. 

I’m sure that it turns out well (since Herriot lived to tell about it), but I haven’t yet gotten to the end of that story.

As I said, I’m just glad I got over myself.  Reading the book makes me wonder what else I deprived myself of during my Intellectual Superiority Period.  But, you know, that’s fruitless. Back in the ISP days, I also didn’t have much of a sense of humor, if any.  Everything was deadly serious and life or death.  How completely tiresome I was.  But I did get over it.  This book is hilarious, and only now can I really appreciate it.

Computer Wisdom

Oh, would you look at that.  Fakename has just made up her own oxymoron. 

Fakename has had a very active week–in fact, a very active month, in which one woman rushed into her office claiming to have been poisoned by a bottle of Evian.  You think I’m kidding.  But I digress.

Fakename has previously mentioned that she is digitally challenged, but normally is able to follow directions fairly well and get by.  (You know–“Insert Tab A into Slot B”, or “To Continue, Press F8”).   

So, due to recent changes in personnel, which we will euphemistically refer to as “turnover”, Fakename has been pressed into Worker Bee mode. 

This week’s Worker Bee activity involved emailing several hundred invoices out.  Which is supposed to occur with one click.  However, Fakename watched in horror as it apparently attempted to send out three times the number of invoices necessary, and finally gave her two error codes. 

Fakename took the only logical step:  she called the Corporate IT department.  “Hmmmm”, said Mark,the head of the department, who answered the phone.  “I don’t really know how to fix this.  Can you wait ’til Kristin comes back from lunch?”  Of course I could.  What choice did I have anyway?  Plus you have to have some sympathy for Mark.  He’s a manager, like me.  What the hell do we know? 

So when Kristin called me back, she explained that the Accounts Receivable program is in an unhappy marriage with Outlook Expresss, it was all sort of cobbled together, and oh, never mind.  (She could see my eyes glazing over via the telephone?)  So in practical terms, here’s what happens:  When Outlook encounters a bad email address, it stops it in its tracks.  It then starts over and tries to resend everything.  It does that, I guess, three times before it gives you an error code. 

Not to mention that I tried several more times anyway, and probably had about 8,000 unsent emails in the outbox before Kristin called me back and fixed it all. 

The important thing here, however, is the error codes themselves.  About the third time it happened I decided to write them down so as to be a good reporter once Kristin called me back.  The first error (whose number code I forget) said Error:  invalid email address. 

The second error said Error 421:  Too many errors.  You think I’m kidding.  I guess that came from it repeatedly trying to send.  Here is my question.  Why wouldn’t it go ahead and send to the GOOD addresses and only deny or “error” the bad ones? 

It must have something to do with that cobbled together issue.  The funny part was that Kristin had never heard of Error 421, and we had a good laugh about it.  I now fully intend to use it as shorthand to comment about all sorts of issues.  Such as the Republican Party.  If it’s good enough for Microsoft, it’s good enough for me.

Aging Gracefully

Having turned 60 just four days ago, I’ve been contemplating the idea of aging gracefully.  In order to figure out how one goes about that, I’ve been discreetly watching old people. 

Here in Florida, we have no shortage of specimens to study.  Granted, the supply is far greater in South Florida than here in North Florida, where it generally gets too cold for the species.  In South Florida, old people are like one of the greatest hazards you face.  It’s like living in an earthquake zone, except you can’t buy insurance for it. 

Fortunately, old people in South Florida are easily recognizable even from a distance, because they are all driving Chrysler Sebring convertibles.  And no one else does.  When driving on I-95–which in and of itself is about as safe as hang-gliding–there are only two things you need to watch out for.  Semi trucks, whose drivers will remember to apply the brakes mere seconds after running over you and the four cars in front of you from behind, and Chrysler Sebring convertibles. 

The typical Chrysler Sebring convertible on I-95 will at first glance appear to be unoccupied, since the driver will be too short to see over the dashboard, and in some cases, will be too short to be visible through the driver’s-side window.  The driver will also always be in the far left lane, since he or she is pretending to be living life in the fast lane.  Suddenly, a brain cell will fire and he or she will realize that the exit he/she needed to take is four exits back.  Then he/she will veer across five lanes of 80 mile-per-hour traffic to take the next exit, blissfully heedless of the horn-blowing and brake-screeching.  I guess there is an advantage to losing your hearing. 

But I digress.  I’ve lived in North Florida now for 9 years so I have fewer specimens to study, but it is, after all, still Florida.  Home of the brave, land of the Senior Citizen.  In the week before my momentous birthday, I observed the following situations: 

Old guy gets dropped off in a parking garage by the elevators, while younger woman (daughter, granddaughter, wife?) goes to park the car.  He gingerly makes his way to the elevator landing and casually leans on a nearby handrail  What?  He couldn’t walk from the car to the elevator?  Is this in my future? 

Scenario Number Two:  Also involving parking.  Old woman gets into her car, parked in a handicapped space.  It then takes her 15 minutes to actually start the car and get moving.  Oh no.  This hits way too close to home.  Except in the opposite direction.  When I get IN the car to leave somewhere, I’m ready to roll.  It’s when I reach my destination and get OUT of the car that poses the problem. 

It seems to me that when I was younger, I would reach my destination and hop out of the car in a veritable heartbeat.  Now it’s like, should I take my whole handbag, or just the wallet and the book?  Do I need my sunglasses, or should I leave them in the car?  And what about the umbrella?  I see a dark cloud in the distance.  Should I take the sunglasses AND the umbrella?  Did I turn off the headlights?  Is the emergency brake on? 

Much has been written about how boomers are re-writing the idea of aging and I believe there is a lot of truth to that.  It seems to me that it used to be that at a certain age you were supposed to adopt a sort of aged  persona. You’ve now risen above all those little annoyances that used to be such an important part of your life (you know, like sex, and Twitter). 

My preliminary conclusion is:  I’m not aging gracefully.  First of all, I hear perfectly, and I can walk a long way.  I don’t have a handicapped license plate.  I don’t own a Chrysler Sebring convertible.  The logical conclusion is, I’m not old.  And I refuse to be old.  But wait…is that a wrinkle I see? Not to worry.  I’m pretty sure there’s an app for that.

Worm Grunting Part 2, Dilbert, and PSI

PSI, as in “pounds per square inch”.

In my original post about worm grunting, I learned that reader ptfan1 attempted to teach his daughter to worm grunt while living in Blountstown.  Then I learned that my good friend Judith’s father taught her and both her sisters to worm grunt while living in Marianna.  Apparently this is a rite of passage I somehow missed out on.  Frankly, I never learned anything that could be called “useful”.  I’m pretty good at applying nail polish, but I haven’t found that skill to be particularly transferable.

In real life, I’m a manager, and you know what that old saying is:  “Those who can, do, those who can’t–manage”.  One of my former employees gave me a card once for Boss’s day which asked, “How many bosses does it take to screw in a lightbulb?”  The answer was something like three.  One to write a memo documenting the malfunctioning light bulb, one to requisition the new light bulb, and a third to hunt down an employee to screw it in.  Of the “How many…” jokes available, I like this one, which Fakesister will also appreciate:  How many computer programmers does it take to screw in a light bulb?  Answer:  None.  That’s a hardware problem. 

Which brings me to Dilbert.  Employee goes to the weird-haired boss and says, “If I don’t seem to hear what you’re saying, it’s because I lost my hearing aids.”  Boss:  “I didn’t realize you had a hearing problem.”  Employee:  “What?  Eh? You can try to send me an email, but I have my spam filter set to ‘Taliban’.”

Which brings me to PSI.  I guess you were wondering how I was going to tie all these seemingly disparate topics together, right?  My guess is that by the end of this post you’ll still be wondering.  But there really is a theme here. 

So on Christmas Eve, I paid a visit to Jeff the Mechanic, another of my most favorite downtown people along with Officer Mike.  The occasion for the visit was that the little icon thingie came on telling me I had low tire pressure in the baby Toyota.  At first, I thought it was just because the weather had turned colder.  (“Yes!” said Jeff the Mechanic.  “You lose 2 PSI in cold weather!”)  But then it warmed up and the icon was still on, and btw the icon is very curious.  It looks exactly like this:  (!)  So after about 3 days of the icon being on, I decided I might have an actual problem.  (That’s me:  always swift to react at the first sign of danger. This is one of the first things they teach you in manager school.  Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize.  Make a to-do list, then label the items on the list A, B, or C.  The stuff you don’t want to do goes into the D file.  After a week, you’ll forget why it was there and it can be moved into the T file, for Trash.  If, however, it continues to flash an icon at you or starts beeping or something, it will have to be upgraded to at least B status).

So I said to Jeff, the sign on the inside of the door says the tires should have 32 PSI.  Nonsense!  he said.  Never pay attention to the sign on the door!  Or to the owner’s manual!  This car should have 35 PSI in the front and 32 in the back!  So as he began checking (the left front tire had 29 PSI), he said in a casual and non-judgemental tone, “I guess you don’t do air pressure.”  I said, “Are you kidding?  The only thing I know how to do is check the oil–and I can also add oil–but that was in the Camaro.  I don’t even know if this car has oil.  Does it, you think?”

See?  I am a one-woman stimulus package.  Of course, Jeff did not charge me for this service, but I wouldn’t have blamed him if he had.  After the air was checked and added to Jeff the Mechanic’s specifications, we had a brief chat about the hulking Nissan SUV he had just completed a $300 repair on.  The part it needed was under warranty, but the owner said he would gladly pay $300 out of his own pocket rather than take it to the Nissan dealer.  Jeff said this was not the first time he’d encountered this scenario.  Also participating in the chat was the clerk from the “store” in this particular BP station, where you can buy beer, lottery tickets, and a dizzying array of candy bars.  He said, “We think the local Nissan dealer has a torture chamber in the basement for their customers, with Dick Cheney in charge.”  I started laughing so hard I thought I was going to have to call 911. 

So here you have the essence of Fakename:  can’t do anything useful, has brief encounters with relative strangers (real life tweets), and finds humor everywhere.  Humor is like misery:  if you look for it, you’ll find it.  My way is a lot more fun.

Grocery Voyeurism Revisited

It’s been a while since I shared any grocery voyeurism.  To refresh your memory, this is a game wherein you guess what the person in front of you in the 10 Items or Fewer line plans to do with six cans of tomato sauce, a bunch of celery, and one can of Raid.

This however, is a new variety of grocery voyeurism, actually involving a conversation between the person in line behind me and his son, who appeared to be about 7 years old. 

Dad:  No you cannot have a Coke. 

Son:  (Whine.)

Dad:  Okay, you can have a Sprite. 

Son:  (is heard to be opening the door of the cooler before Dad changes his mind, but he was too late.)

Dad:  You know what, never mind.  Get a water.  There’s just too much sugar in soft drinks.

Son:  (Whine.)

Dad:  No, get a water.  Now go pick out a bag of M&M’s.   

I actually did not invent this game.  When I lived in Memphis, I knew a writer named John Ryan, who was constantly jotting down things he overheard to use in his books (the most famous of which is The Redneck Bride). 

He once told me that his favorite overheard line ever occurred in a grocery store, when the cashier complimented a woman in front of him on how cute her baby was.  “Well, thanks”, said the mother, “But do you know this baby is 8 months old and still won’t eat crowder peas?”  Now there is grocery voyeurism at its finest.

A Visit to Blogworld

Some days (or hours, or weeks, or months, or years), you just can’t get it together.  Currently, I’m busy rocketing at warp speed from one personal or work crisis to another, and don’t have a bloggable thought in my head.  Well, I did think it might be nice to talk about the newly discovered frog from Asia with fangs, that eats birds.  Maybe later. 

So at times like these, I try to catch up on what other people on my blogroll are writing about.  There aren’t many of them, which is a good thing.  If I add one more, I will become paralyzed by inaction (a primary symptom of crisis-hopping).

So today I will do shameless plugs for other people.  Not that long ago I did a plug for Davis W who is the funniest person you never met.  This link will refer you to his website review of GetMotivated.com.  This is a must-read for those of you who are rocketing from one crisis to the next.  In the small-world category, Davis used to live in Tallahassee, where I currently live, although I had no idea about that when I began reading his blog. 

Now I introduce you to masteroftheuniverse, aka, Jeff Watson.  Currently Jeff is in the middle of a sort of quest, which might be called spiritual in nature, although I hesitate to use that word because a) it may be presumptuous, and b) I don’t like to draw attention to myself in such matters, since I may be struck by lightning.  Jeff is probably the most interesting person you never met.  I can’t do justice to him by attempting to describe him…his own words are much better. 

I’m going to show you the photo that appears in the blog entry linked above.  I don’t feel TOO bad about this, he has after all put it out there on the Internet himself, but I think this is a photo he could sell.  It’s astonishing.  I know a smidgen about photography, and in large part it involves having a good camera and being there at the moment it happens, whatever “it” is.  (The so-called “F-8 and Be There” rule.)  But you can satisfy those requirements and still take a bad picture, because it takes an imagination.  First to see that the picture is possible, and second to snap it at the right moment, at the right angle.  You have to have an “eye”.  Happy viewing.