Break from the lake
Taking a break for March
Philip is taking a break for March. He plans to be rested enough for an April column.
Phillip Bond Sartain is a Gainesville, GA lawyer and freelance writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Asking the authorities to punish my car
I like my car. Nothing special about it, but just enough predictability to get me where I need to go – wherever that is. And that is why I was hurt when my car turned on me out of the blue. It’s no small matter when your car goes off the grid and you have to call the law.
In all fairness, I am partly to blame. I cranked up the car in the first place. I was at home at the time, about to head out to spend eight hours inventing ways to avoid work until just before quitting time. I was not looking forward to the first seven hours, and I was oblivious as to what my car had in mind for me.
The weather was just a little nippy as I slid into the driver seat and cranked the engine, and then pushed the button to close the the remote control on the garage door. I should point out that the garage door hates me, always has. At least 50 percent of the time, it balks, gags and reverses direction and opens back up for no good reason. I can only assume that it feels unappreciated (it’s a female remote we’re talking about here.)
And, true to form, the garage was almost closed when it flipped me off and began rolling up. With the car idling, I stepped out of the driver’s side in hopes of cajoling the beast into taking a downward approach to closure and to my surprise, it did, in fact, reverse course.
Unbeknownst to me, however, I discovered that my car was not where I had left it, but was, instead, making a beeline toward the backyard and the pool. (Full Disclosure: There has been speculation that the car may have been thirsty, but to my recollection, my youngest daughter was responsible for watering the car periodically.)
But anyway, the car was on the loose without a license or a driver. Not surprisingly, I have had very little to no training in the area of a car without a driver. Moreover, it seemed like the car was making a determined dash for the pool under the mistaken perception that the pool was an oasis of sorts for cars.
As such, I fell back upon thousands of years of evolution to immediately formulate my course of action which amounted to me jogging beside the moving car, shouting “stop the car, stop the car,” apparently under the mistaken impression that either the car would immediately acquiesce to my request, or that my backyard was filled with helpful bystanders patiently waiting to lasso the car on the brink of a gigantic belly buster.
Actually, neither option was feasible, nor necessary. At the last minute, the car deemed it was more judicious to careen sideways into the path of a truly unremarkable shrub which in turn steered the car into a truly solid pillar of rock work with the result of causing the pillar to fall over and die straight away, apparently as a result of a sudden rock attack.
Needless to say, I was quite perturbed by the whole affair, and determined to take appropriate action. I called the police immediately, and an officer arrived in a matter of minutes. He asked what the problem was, and I pointed to the car, the garage door, the shrub, and the dead pillar. “I want this car arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
He looked at me, then at the debris, and he asked me how long I had owned the car and if I was taking medication. Then, he said, “We don’t get involved in cases where people have a complaint about their car going rogue. And besides, you should be thankful you were not hurt.”
I realized later that he was right. And I also realized that I would be able to wiggle some time off from work based on my traumatic experience. In the spirit of moving forward, and laying out of work, every one is invited to the wake for the pillar. Every one but my car that is.
By the way, can someone give me a ride?
December 2014 & January 2015
Taking a break for the holidays
Philip is taking a break to plan for and recover from the holidays. Please check back soon for a new column or enjoy the 'oldies but goodies' below.
November 2014 column
Maybe there's an app to control my tech shopping issue
I have a little problem. It has to do with the perils of technology and the lust for more. Like most people, I have the basics, but not nearly enough. I do have some some geeky stuff laying about the man cave. And that is where I run into trouble.
Just last week, for example, my wife and daughters plotted a deep sea shopping expedition. For reasons that I don’t fully understand, they asked if I wanted to go along. Wary of some kind of ambush in the shoe department, I half-hardily agree to tag along, but only after all parties signed off on the right of the only male to opt out for any reason. Sort of a preemptive strike on my part. And given the high likelihood that I will be relegated to the to the role of token pack mule, I bailed out just before the point of no return.
As usual, I suggested that they just drop me off at the front door of Geek Central. “Take your time,” I told them as I slammed the door and made a beeline for geek paradise. Moments later, I was inside, rubbing my eyes, trying to adjust to the to the sharp glare of a mountain of seething, churning, exotic technology. I was in the belly of the biggest man cave of all – Gizmo Sity.
Once the rush faded, and I got my bearings, I set course for the hot stuff in the the back of the store. Hard Core Gizmo. That is where all the new stuff lands first. On arrival, I grabbed the first thing I saw. It was beautiful, and in the process of covering every inch, I was frozen in time and place – I was mesmerized and unaware if the goings on around me.
When I come out of my fog, one of the clerks was beside me with a piece of paper in his hand, and I gave him my “no thanks, just browsing” look. But he did not move. Instead, he handed me the paper, and said, “Mr. Sartain, you drooled on the merchandise again. We can’t sell it if you do that. No one will buy it now. So you own it.”
I cleared my throat before offering my rejoinder, “But I have only been here for 10 minutes, tops, it could not have been me, but thanks for asking.” That is when he pulled a photo out of his pocket, which he said was a picture of me creating a giant drool pond, and said it was identical to the last drool-fest a month ago, and the one three months before that.
“So, what, are you? Working with the NSA now? What is this world coming to if a little spittle gets you in trouble with the government?”
“Sir, you may have a problem. You may even need professional help. Maybe even ‘tech no geek evaluation.’ This is the 14th time you have had to buy the same product.”
“Don’t exaggerate, it is only the the 13th time,” I retorted, “This store should provide cots and moist toilettes for resting between purchases” I complained.
“Just show me where to sign,” I retorted defensively. “And, no, I don’t want the insurance this time either.”
The girls were giddy when they came to pick me up. The entire crew was awash with new shoes. They were all different, and as far as I could tell, they didn’t have any drool on any of them. So what’s the fun in that?
October 2014 column
Who is really to blame for the summer heat
My shiftless editor has, once again, felt the need to ring me up in the midst of my pondering about absolutely nothing. Why this goon has to harass me for a column every month is beyond me. But I listen anyway. “Summer is almost over, you know,” trying and failing to sound important.
“Thanks, Einstein,” I congratulated him. “Who knows? If you play your cards just right, you might get on cable TV, or you might even get to hang out with Alex Trebek. The moment I said it, I could hear his emaciated little brain cells turning back flips.
Naturally, I had to seize the day, striking just as he was about to clear the phlegm in his throat to respond. “Oooohh, so sorry, but your answer must be in the form of a living brain cell. And, as our listeners will remember, the judges have repeatedly ruled that phlegm is not a question, it’s just phlegm.”
I could feel his shocked disappointment, and was on the verge of hanging up when he sputtered back to life, and hit me with a jolt. “Summer is over, and you haven’t written your annual ‘I Hate Summer’ column yet.”
“Summer is not over,” I calmly informed him. “I am still wearing these baggy shorts, the ones that accentuate my spindly nearly translucent chicken legs. And my t-shirt is still producing a liter of sweat every 15 minutes. And that is the reason I do not go out in Summer. People look at me as if I have been in a horrible accident.”
In the middle of my explanation, he rudely interrupted to tell me that “Well, the calendar says that it is officially Fall.” Honestly, this guy is so weather challenged that it makes me weep salty tears. “Listen to me,” I insisted. “You have to stop watching the Weather Disinformation Channel. They are just a bunch of weather drones. Every thinking person knows that Fall is just a decoy to keep you outside, vulnerable, and without a can of SPF 85 sunscreen, so that you end up looking like fleshy over baked corn-dog.
He responded, of course, “But your reading audience will be expecting you to get all bent out of shape and foaming of the mouth, and what and I going to tell them?”
“Tell them to ask themselves one simple question: have you ever seen any of the Channel automatons not wearing a jacket or dress when they are swinging their arms from side to side clicking the maps on and off? And have you ever seen them walking around their neighborhood in shorts and a nappy t-shirt? Of course not.”
“They are the people that invented this furnace called Summer in the first place, and they know better than to fool around with that stuff – it makes you hot.”
At that moment, I had to break off the conversation. The ice truck was pulling up my driveway with the day’s supply of genetically enhanced ice cubes that can be attached to any part of you body for maximum sweat avoidance.
When I returned, well iced, he tried again. I refused. “Go drip on someone else for a change.” Even the phone sounded slippery as he slammed it down. He’ll thank me by November, at the latest.
The term 'Dog Day's' means something a bit different for me
There is this dog, you see. It is the dog that my wife and my children brought home one night out of the blue. As such, I had no hand in the selection of the dog. They call the dog Bella. I, on the other hand, have always called her the Dumbest Dog In the World. In return, she causes me indigestion.
Of course, they picked the dog for no other reason than the fact that she was “cute.” The dog is a Bichon Frise, which is French for “I am a ridiculously expensive dog that barks continuously at absolutely nothing.” What the seller did not tell them at the time, was that this particular breed has an extraordinary gift for pooping incessantly, sun up to sun down. As such, we have been living in field of land mines for over six years.
I have had multiple conversations with the dog over time, all to no avail. She just stares off in space, looking out the window, and just when I think that I am getting through to her, and we are making progress, she excuses herself to plant anther land mine. Leave it to the French to intentionally breed such a dog.
But just recently, I was forced to reevaluate our man-to-idiot-dog-relationship. It was an accident, actually. One of my daughters had purchased one of those insane “Brick of Death” chocolate bars that most people take a bite of just to see what a sugar coma feels like.
My daughter, on the other hand, took two bites, and it was late in the evening before we got back from the E.R. Unfortunately, Bella was left unsupervised in the rush. In other words, we did not have the time to put her in her sensory deprivation poop chamber. And, you might have guessed, in the course of trolling and soiling everything in the house during our absence, she lighted upon the the Brick.
It wasn’t apparent at first that there was anything out of the ordinary upon our return. Everyone went to bed but me. And I was in my bunker, enjoying a bit of quiet self examination of my belly button when I heard the noise. Assuming that it was the dog completing her scorched earth rounds of the house, I ignored it.
But then, I heard someone clearing their throat, and when I looked up, there was Bella, up on her hind legs, looking jittery, but dapper, smoking a cigar, and wearing a red smoking vest. It was clear to me that she had consumed the entire Brick in our absence.
I wasn’t too put off by the smoking jacket. But I was a little annoyed when she explained that she had, in our absence, reorganized our entire investment portfolio. She pulled up a chair and politely offered to pour me a drink, and explain everything. But eventually, I dosed off.
The next day, Bella was back to her usual pooping responsibilities and all appeared normal. But out out of no where, I got a healthy dividend check in the mail – some outfit that deals in manure futures. And so now, my wife and my daughters make me bow down to Bella on a daily basis. Not only that, but I have to clean up her poop wearing a red smoking jacket. The fit is a little tight.
I guess I am OK with all that as long as the dividends continue to pile up, so to speak. All the same, if anyone has any idea how to wake me from this nightmare, please drop me a line, or at least a couple of candy bars.
Voyage to the bottom of the freezer
Although it may seem easy on the surface, it is not easy. It requires a lot of thought and a fair amount of planning. So far, I had been planning for about 16 years. My wife assured me that I had planed long enough. She is very impatient about such things. Although I had serious reservations, I agreed to undertake a “Voyage To The Bottom Of The Freezer.”
Of course, chaos ensued right away when I realized that my wife had taken all of my cold weather skiing gear to the cleaners. Obviously, I had been preparing for the worst. But now, I was left with Bermuda shorts and a ratty old pair of my wife’s jogging mittens. I shuddered at the prospect of trying to look noble while navigating through arctic tundra without the benefit of my overpriced, over hyped, and under used status symbols.
Not to mention the fact that those ratty mittens were bright pink, of course, and that they were hardly manly enough to take down a completely frozen, half eaten, two pound birthday cake, circa 1994, with plastic spoons jutting out in in all directions like angry porcupine quells.
To make matters worse, I found myself going in without adequate food due to having eaten the last of the frozen dinners the night before. And, I was told that there would not be an automatic grocery run until I had “liberated” the freezer. And so I did what I usually do under such obstacles – I whimpered to myself bitterly, and cursed the goddess of processed foods.
Apparently, my mate heard my agony and came out to the garage. “I was taking a nap,” she calmly intoned. Holding back my tears, I gave her a rundown of all the the bad news. “We’re finished” I said. “Without my gear, it's impossible.” I tried to hide my disappointment. “Not even the intrepid polar explorer, Capt. Robert Peary, could weather this storm.”
To my surprise, she became very quiet, looking at me and then at the freezer. Then she spoke, “It’s the middle of Summer. You don’t need any ‘gear.’ ”
“And don't wake me up again.”
I sat stunned for a moment, slowly realizing that she was serious. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had to suck it up and rise to the occasion. And at the same time, I realized that even with the door closed, it would be impossible for me to disembowel the contents of the chest without making an awful ruckus and waking her up. But in the end, I knew that she would adore me all the more.
As it turned out, the freezer was not so much a freezer as it was a solid block of ice with scattered encampments of food islands, clambered together as an apparent safety precaution in the event of a power outage. Undaunted, I began to chip away in an attempt to salvage that which was clearly edible from that which was going to to be referred for forensic analysis.
I cleared a path using a box of tissues and lighter fluid. Then I clawed and cursed until a path appeared, and at the end of the path, at the every bottom, I spied something metallic. It took me a moment to figure it out, but as I got closer, I realized that it was a couple of my old hubcaps. And it took me a little while to realize that I must must have put them in the freezer by mistake. (Don’t ask for particulars). It then occurred to me that I had I probably had been doing stupid stuff like that for a long time.
In fact, I ultimately surmised that I had been using the freezer as an alternate trash can. Which meant that my wife had unknowingly been using my trash can as a freezer.
I don’t think that Robert Peary ever encountered something that stupid on his quest to the North Pole. But if he had, I am sure that he would have buried the evidence, too.
In any event, it is probably a good idea to clean out your freezer more than once every 16 years. Unless of course you are a moron, and in that case, once a day will do.
No new column for June or July 2014
May 2014 column
A bad car day and who was at fault
You have to know that there are going to be days like this. It’s just built into the fabric of the cosmos, and there is nothing to be done about it, I suppose. But that does not make it right. And that means that somebody is going to pay.
Just to get it out of the way first, my vehicle did nothing wrong. At the time of this tragic scenario, it was slumbering in the garage. I, on the other hand, was in my usual state of Appointment Lateness Disorder.
Psychologically translated, that means that I was running late for work. And for the record, the only thing my therapist ever says to me is “just get up a little earlier,” which doesn’t even begin to address the heartache of my disorder.
In my defense, on the morning of the “incident,” I had shaved off a little extra time by jamming my toast, coffee, iPad, sunglasses, left over zucchini, and underwear, into a grocery bag with the intention of sorting it all out on the way the office.
Pleased with myself, I cranked up my truck and was in the process of backing out when I saw that there was an unfamiliar car blocking my path. Then I realized it was the car of my wife’s running partner, and that they were by then a couple hundred miles away trying to blow out their medial meniscus.
I then vaguely remembered my wife, in the darkness, asking if it would be OK for her to park there. Which brings up my other, more dangerous disorder – I don’t listen to what my wife says, I just nod yes to everything and take my chances. My therapist tells me that such an approach was discarded by Adam, at the prompting of Eve, years ago.
But I didn’t lose my cool. Instead, I quickly sought out my daughter, who was at that time trying to set a 44-hour zen sleep record. Not daring to wake her up while she was traveling somewhere in Middle Earth, I took her keys with the knowledge that I would pay a heavy non-zen like price down the road.
Once outside, I remembered that she had a car the size of a Soap Box Derby Racer. And it took me a while to get all my stuff into the back seat, which was about the size of a shoe box. Once I was stuffed inside, my nose was pressed up against the windshield.
From there, I spent a good hour trying to figure out how to turn on a car that did not have a key, which, as far as I am concerned, is not a car at all. A lawnmower, maybe, but not a car. Fortunately, while I was banging my head against the steering wheel, I inadvertently struck a button that cranked the car.
Having mastered the ignition, I got on the road just in time to encounter a torrential rain storm. That brought on a spasmodic, but hopeless search for the windshield wipers, with me concluding that they were not a standard part my daughter’s go-cart. That left me with no choice but to drive five miles an hour with my head out the window.
I made it to the office just in time to see the the door being locked by the janitor. I was fortunate to reach my therapist by phone, and he coached me home until he got bored and hung up.
Through the entire ordeal, I was sustained by the fact that someone was going to pay for my misery. And I was right, there was someone to blame – and my wife and daughter explained to me, in great detail, why it was my fault. And the whole time they were explaining, I was nodding my head yes.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, I never did find my underwear.
No new column for April 2014
March 2014 column
Cookies everywhere yet not a crumb for me
Lewis Grizzard said it first and best many years ago when he informed the “We don’t do it this way back home”crowd, that “Delta is ready when you are.” I am afraid that, unfortunately, things have changed since then. Based on my most recent interaction with Delta, they are a long way from being ready.
Like all the rest of you lemmings, my family and I have been tethered to Delta for a very long time. As a result, we have endured many trials and tribulations with a certain amount of equanimity in the misbegotten belief that same would eventually be rewarded by Delta.
Not sure what kind of reward I had in mind exactly, but I was thinking just a little bit more than a Biscoff cookie and a cup of water. I mean, incarcerated homicidal maniacs do better than that, and they rarely, if ever, serve hard time in Coach. But on a recent trip to Colorado, I was confronted with the reality that I had a better chance of being incarcerated than I did being honored by Delta for being such a loyal patsy all these years.
For the most part, things went well on the way out. Well, except for the the guy a few rows up from me. It was just before push back and he committed the cardinal sin of asking for a cookie pre-flight. As a result, the Sky Marshall sat on top of him for the rest of the flight. No one cared, of course, because we all knew that they would raffle off the extra cookie mid-flight.
Having been lured into a false sense of security once again, it was during the return trip when Delta reviled their true avionic dementia. We were in the midst of an hour long drive to the airport, and to pass the time, I called an agent to make sure that our flight was on time.
Instead of getting an agent (I learned later from a reliable source that they were all in the back playing poker with surplus cookies), a recording advised me that I could hold on the line and that I could expect a wait time of one hour and 10 minutes (roughly the amount of time it takes to quaff down a whole box of surplus cookies).
So I gave up on the entire rouse of trying to talk to a living breathing person, and logged in with my tablet. And that is where I learned for the first time that our flight had been canceled, no reason given, and that they were pleased to advise us that we had been rescheduled for the following day.
I later learned from others in the same predicament that all of the Delta Flights in and out of Denver had been canceled due to a missing box of cookies – and that the place was swarming with cookie sniffing dogs. As far as I was concerned, this was the final Biscoff insult.
Arriving at the airport, we pushed past the panting bloated dogs and accosted the first ticket agent we could find to demand justice. When she saw us coming, she quickly brushed away some crumbs from the corner of her lips. With her head down, she pointed to a line that looked a little like a cattle pen, and we were eventually assigned a seat and released to board once TSA swabbed us down looking for traces of cookie batter.
The stewardesses were extra edgy the whole way and no one asked for anything, which was probably the whole point to begin with. And by the time we landed, I had vowed to never have any further interaction with Delta, or their stupid cookies.
But just in case, does anybody know if I can get Sky Miles for this column?
No new column for February 2014
January 2014 column
After this I might need a new bucket
Out of the blue I get an urgent phone call telling me that I should do a “bucket list” for my next column. My first thought was to respond and advise that such a list would not be necessary as I only have the one bucket in my garage. When I mentioned the single bucket, the guy retorted, “No, you moron, not a real bucket, but a list of the things that you would like to do before you die.”
Oh, I thought to myself, like swearing off taking telephone calls from complete strangers while I am taking IV treatments after going Christmas shopping with my wife. “So you want me to do what exactly?”
“You know, list all the things you want to do but have haven’t done before, and you put the list in a bucket and pull them out one at a time” It didn’t make any sense to me but I was apparently going to have to play along in order to move forward with my life, or death, as the case may be. “Thanks, I will get right on it,” I said, and I hung up.
Just at that moment, my wife came in to check my pulse, and I used the opportunity to ask her to bring me my bucket. She quickly returned and I put it on my head so I could pull out ideas as I went along.
So here are the things that I want to do before I die:
1) I want to unplug all of the electrical outlets in my house and see how long it will take Georgia Power to drive over to my house and beg me to plug them all back in. My daughters will complain, but it will be worth the agony depending on the finance rate Georgia Power uses when plugging me back in.
2) I want to fly to France first class, make reservations at the most expensive restaurant in the city, review the menu, and order a plate of snails, and before the waiter enters my order, I want to ask if I can Super-size that plate of snails and get a side of slugs.
3) I’d really like to find a certified Dog Whisperer to come to my house and translate the following to our dog: “Although you may have heard otherwise from your dog buddy’s down the street, the inside of our house is not your personal poop garden.”
4) And I would love to be able to draft a petition that leads to a legislative prohibition outlawing the broadcasting of figure skating events on television for as long as I am alive. After I die, I could care less.
5) One of the things I would really like to do in my lifetime would be to go back to college and sleep threw all the classes that I slept threw the first time around just to see if I would get a higher GPA based on me being a more mature adult.
6) Another thing I have wanted to do is to charter a seafaring boat to go in search of Moby Dick and/or his offspring, and talk them into doing a reality show where they bite the heads off of all the other reality show hosts.
7) I have dreamed probably all of my life of traveling to Tibet to mingle with and befriend yaks, and once I earn their trust, to offer to provide them with dental coverage at a reasonable price.
8) More than anything, I want to stub my toe repeatedly and roll around on the floor in agony while waiting for the paramedics to arrive.
9) It would be a thrill, and I would love the opportunity, to meet the Pope and share stories with him about our beanies getting blown off in a strong gust of wind.
10) And finally, if the Dog Whisperer can’t convince my dog to stop leaving gifts around the house, I’d very much like to introduce my dog to Moby and Company, episode one.
OK, so that last one was sort of a duplicate. Anyway, it would really be nice if after the holidays there was some money left over. If so, we could visit one of those Amish Hardware stores and I could get me a new bucket.
The one I’m wearing now full of it.
December 2013 column
Issuing a call out to all my supporters (restrictions apply)
OK, so here is where I am on the whole column writing thing – I have finally run out of anything to say. (Please hold your applause until I have finished my entire written statement).
I know that this will be a crushing blow to all six of you that count the days until the next masterpiece is published. Get over it. It’s a Humor Column for crying out loud, it’s not the end of Western Civilization (that happened long before hilarity was invented).
In an effort to make this transition (read: my release from involuntary servitude and abject poverty) as painless for me as possible, I am opening the door to my generally ungrateful column groupies to submit my last column idea for me.
There are, of course, rules to be followed. Nothing written on toilet paper will be considered unless the paper is 27 ply, or, carefully stuffed with $100 bills. Further, any idea that is deemed by the Judge (Me) to be funnier than anything that the author, (Me again) has ever written, will be automatically disqualified.
Also, certain topics will be off limits, and any use of same will result in the transgressor being forcibly removed to Alabama in perpetuity (Meaning, for those of you who were lucky enough to have escaped from law school, FOREVER AND EVER).
The following off limits topics include, but are not limited to: heart warming tails of cute “toy” dogs with bladder problems; heart warming stories about cats born and raised without a brain, i.e., all of them; appetizer recipes using fresh goldfish and chipmunk dip, or both; any combination of hand creams, three way bulbs, or authentic monocles; the mystical properties of gravel excavated from the side of the road or in a gully; or simultaneously ordering a pizza while giving birth.
All contestants must submit to psychological evaluations performed by two certified psychologists, and one uncertified psychopath. And no, if you are a psychologist or psychopath, you cannot perform your own mental exam, or dental exam, for that matter.
The NSA has agreed to safe guard the results of all evaluations for future use in the event that they can pin something on you before you die. A sympathy card will be provided gratis.
Tattoos are not required in order to participate, but full body tattoos are apparently welcome at the parlor where the Judge (Me) will announce the results. Urine and blood screens will not be required, but may be used in the event of a tie.
And finally, in the event that I am able to come up with a worthy idea for a suitable column, and I somehow manage to pull together a satisfactory result before the draconian deadline, and assuming that said column is timely submitted and published, and payment received in unmarked bills, then all of the parts and subparts of these agreements are hereby rescinded.
Thus, and as it seems to be that I have, once again, silenced my detractors, and given that I knew you people would not be up to the task anyway, we will adjure.
However, inasmuch as it appears that I am willing to stay, same is nonetheless contingent upon my fan base calling, en mass, the owner of this rag to make him apologize to me for this entire unnecessary upheaval.
And just so that everyone knows, I was just making up that stuff about the chipmunk dip.
November 2013 column
Raking it all in ... at 3 a.m.
The street I live on is sort of a war zone. But it is not directed at people. Instead, the annual March of Folly is directed at leaves – that’s right, my neighbors are all crazy leaf killers. It never occurred to me that decimating the leaf population was a precursor to ruling the world.
I should point out that these psychotic masters of leaf annihilation don’t necessarily limit their crusade to the months of Fall like most people who have only a passing grudge against Mother Nature.
Apparently, it is so personal with them that they have dedicated themselves to a year round vigilant need to banish the leaf population even when leaves are still attached to trees, and thus presenting no imminent danger to, really, anyone.
And yet, the crusaders on my street nonetheless feel the need to harass the leaves anyway. This is usually accomplished by cranking up their Uber-leaf blowers and assaulting those leaves careless enough to have detached themselves from their given tree and fallen to the ground.
Once they crank up, of course, you never hear the screaming of the clumsy leaf as it is carefully corralled and safely extradited to the great leaf pile in the sky. In the meantime, all the remaining blower freaks in the neighborhood have mobilized into a cacophony of permanent ear damage just to signal the alert in the face of a single errant leaf.
Given all that, you can just imagine the mania that goes on in my neighborhood about this time of year. And for the most part, I try to be a patient guy when is comes to run of the mill yard maintenance. I don’t have a problem with the leaf commandos and their weapons of leaf destruction. But I do have, however, an issue with leaf maneuvers at 3 in the morning.
At first, I thought it was just someone tuning up for a full frontal assault in the morning, and that it would pass shortly. Half a screaming hour later I decided that I was wrong. Because I could not sleep, and my sound canceling headphones were in the shop, I decided that it would be OK to stroll across the street and see what was up with this particular insomniatic leaf warrior.
As is usually the case with these people, not only was the blaring noise at maximum eardrum rupturing capacity, but the guy’s whole house was lit up like an aircraft carrier. Keeping a safe distance, I shouted out, “Hey, how is the blowing going?”
With startling quickness, the guy turned, dropped to one knee, and leveling his blower at me with his hand on the switch. “This is a restricted leaf area, you are ordered to leave now.”
“Easy,” I said. “Don’t mess my hair up, but can you just put down the blower for a minute?” When he didn’t respond, I tried again. “Did you know that it is 3:30 in the morning on a week day?”
Instead of responding to me, he started talking on a radio and the next thing I know, I hear blowers cranking up all up and down the street. I’ve never been one to back down to a leaf blower, so I stood my ground – besides, I think there’s a law that allows me to stand my ground where leaves are concerned.
Next thing I know, someone is standing beside me. “It’s OK, I’ll take it from here.” The guy was wearing jet black cameo pajamas. “He’s just a little stressed. He has seen so many leaves this year. It takes its toll, you know. He’s one of us, we’ll get him the help he needs.”
Being a little spooked by the PJs, I returned home and climbed back in the bed. The blowing had, mercifully, stopped. Rousing herself, my wife asked what was going on. “Nothing much. Just the Black Ops Unit keeping us safe from the blood thirsty leaves again this year.”
What a bunch of blowhards.
October 2013 column
Questioning a colleague's dedication to our profession
Frogs are committing suicide in my front yard by the boatload, my pool is now an income generating rice paddy, and the trees are coughing and hacking about their rheumatism incessantly. And what I want to know is – who is in charge of the weather around here?
Given who I am and what I know, I was quite sure that Mr. Weather himself, Glenn Burns, was the person in charge of the heavens. I mean, after all, he is always on television telling everyone just exactly what is in store weather wise – sort of an omnipotent weather wizard watcher. So it just made sense that I should call him up and get the lowdown before we all drown in our beds. I mean, we are practically colleagues working for this so called newspaper.
Simply said, we share the ignominy of having stooped so low as to actually work for this rag. More important, we are comrades in arms as we both obsess over how to keep our hair from getting wet as the result of a rogue micro thunder burst hovering menacingly over our heads like a dive bombing kamikaze even when the forecast only calls for a two percent chance of a light dew on the lawn.
The only problem is that when I called Glenn, all I got was a recording, saying, “You can’t reach me right now because I am outside getting a feel for today’s weather.” Either that or he would say, “I am communing with fish presently, trying to get a handle on whether they want to be caught today or wait until tomorrow.”
On at least one occasion, the recorder informed that “I am talking to my stock broker just now about investing all my money in umbrellas and galoshes. But you can catch me LIVE at 6, 7, and 11, and I will update you on how my stocks are performing, and whether or not a lunar eclipse is a game changer for water futures.”
Under the circumstances, I had to resort to a subterfuge. Meaning that I called as usual, and listened to his voice mail, and just before it ended, I announced that there had been a storm at my house, with hail, and that I was holding a hail stone that was a perfect likeness of longtime Weather Guru, Guy Sharp.
Before I could say another word, Glenn picked up the receiver, “Could you hold on for a moment, I am putting away some fish?” In a matter of seconds, he was back on the line, “Does it really look like Guy? How big is it? Do you have it packed in ice?”
I tried to get him back on track, “Glenn, it’s me, Phillip.” There was a confusing pause. “You know, from the paper.”
To which he finally responded, “Oh, you’re from the Atlanta Journal, and you want my comments on the amazing hail stone head.”
“No, Glenn,” I responded. We are colleagues at the paper. You know, LAKESIDE ON LANIER!”
There was another long embarrassing pause. Then he said, “What is Lakeside on Lanier?”
“That’s Alan’s paper, stop kidding around, Glenn. We’re part of a team. I read your column and you read mine, you know, we are professionals.”
There was a really long silence, and he asked, “So there is really no ice replica of Guy Sharp?”
“No, I just wanted your thoughts on this crazy weather. You should see my front yard. The dead frogs are making my drive way slippery and dangerous. Should we call out the whole weather team to strategize?” That’s when the line went dead.
I don’t know what Glenn has against frogs, but I don’t think he should be in charge of the weather with that kind of attitude. I mean, I don’t even think he was listening to me when I asked him if he wanted some rice.
No new September 2013 column
August 2013 column
Clearing the calendar for yoga
So I am in my study one morning, halfheartedly engaged in my yoga routine. Meaning that if I were to actually engage in yoga like activity, that I would be pursuing a yoga derivative of just sitting and thinking about what I would do if I were to yoga at all.
For the record, I do this religiously. And I have to say that it is very draining. It basically amounts to trying to calculate the chances that yoga would change my life in some meaningful monetary way. In other words, is my yoga-ness going to pay off?
And then, out of the blue, I got an email. As you may have surmised, I’m a pretty busy person, and so I rarely have time to flip through a lot of trivial, unsolicited emails. But this one was different in a deeply transcendental kind of different-ness. As a lawyer, the email spoke to me.
The first thing that it said was that I was the only lawyer on the planet that could help. Meaning, of course, that my genius had, at last, been recognized, and that as a consequence, I was about to be rewarded as such. Forget about yoga (what a waste of time), this was serious Karma, and it was mine for the taking.
Specifically, the letter said as follows:
“Dear Counselor Sartain, My name is Betty Trump.” (When I saw the name “Trump,” I almost fell out of my chair.) Continuing on, she advised that “I am seeking a property settlement with my ex husband who resides in your jurisdiction.” (I did not know that about Trump, but it was great news because I wouldn’t have to drive to New York to sue him.)
She continued: “Though, I am currently on assignment in Japan,” (a world traveler, doing “assigned” work no less!) “Trump and I had a Property Settlement Agreement for him to pay $1,038,500 plus legal fees. He has only paid me $186,000.00 since.” (What a cheap low life rat, I shook my fist in the air).
Not only did my new found client need my assistance, but she had absolute confidence in my abilities, being not the least bit concerned by the fact that I had exactly zero experience on such matters.
Continuing, she begged me for my services. “I am hereby seeking your firm’s assistance in compelling him to remit the balance of $852,500 owed to me as the stated time for completion of payment has long elapsed.” (Indeed, madam, indeed.)
“Furthermore, I wish to retain you for this purpose if you are available to handle this case.” (Only a coward would allow such a blatant injustice go untested.) “I await your timely response.”
I immediately began to marshal all my instruments for the Payoff of the Century: my pencil, my yellow pad, and a box of tissues for my client. I called my secretary and told her to immediately clear my calendar for at least six months, and that she could take the next six months off with paid vacation.
Just as I hung up the phone, full of hope and excitement, my wife walked in, laughing hysterically to herself. “Look at this email I just got. It’s from one of those con-artists trying to get people to represent them in bogus schemes in order to steal their money. It is so poorly done that it’s embarrassing. Only a complete idiot would fall for something that stupid.”
Then she abruptly changed the topic, “How is the yoga going?” I hesitated a moment, then said, “I think I am starting to get the hang of it.” I didn’t feel the need to tell her that I had about six months open to work on it.
Stupid yoga. Stupid Karma.
July 2013 column
Beware of thechnology going rouge
As a general rule, I am OK with technology. In fact, I use some periodically without any lasting psychological effects. And though I have not killed any of my various digital devices yet, I have, just recently participated in the death of a clock radio.
Hard to say how such thoughts creep into one’s conciousness. I suspect that over time, we have been hardwired to rebel against the occasional laptop. Especially when it suddenly decides to permanently delete 434 pages of painstakingly gathered graphs, charts, and text just moments before making a critical presentation that will determine one’s continued employment.
I can understand the occasions such attack on an inanimate object to the extent that computers and similarly constructed technology are worse than cats when it comes to finicky, unpredictable acts of random and ruthless chaos.
But threatened by a clock radio? Really? I mean, when was the last time that you truly felt threatened with imminent demise at the hands of a clock radio?
Clock radios are as stupid a machine as they come. In fact, they are so low tech that 99.9 percent of the time, it is the owner of the clock that that is responsible for sleeping through multiple alarms, and reacting badly by hurling the device against the wall.
But in my case, technology blindsided me. My wife needed a clock radio, and I volunteered to locate just the right radio to meet her all of her needs. In other words, I drove to the TeckNoBarn just up the road, walked in, bought the first clock radio I saw, drove home, and hid in the garage for an hour and a half before staggering inside like a wounded hero, and handed it to her before collapsing on the couch.
After I had recuperated from the rigors of my odyssey, I checked on her progress, and found her in the bed room in a state of mental and physical disarray. The clock radio was bleeping incessantly while strobe lights were sweeping the perimeters of the bedroom and gibbering about intruders. I immediately called TNB (that’s tech speech for TeckNoBarn), and told them to send over their best expert right away. Over all the bleeping, I heard someone in the store yelling “We have a situation here people, and we need support and backup “STAT.”
Our tech Scout, as he called himself, arrived in a matter of minutes, dressed in black fatigues from hear to toe with sunglasses so dark that he kept stumbling over our furniture. Once in the bedroom, he seemed to be mesmerized by the situation, and took off his shades. “I’ve heard rumors about these kind of things before, but I always thought it was just a myth,” he half whispered.
“What are we going to do?” I yelled over the noise.
He got a grim look on his face, and turned to me and said, “There is no fix for this. We’re going to have to implement a Black Ops Techno Rendition.”
“That sounds a little over the top, don’t you think,” I said.
He mumbled under his breath, and he shook his head at me, spitting out the word, “Civilians!”
“It is almost time for dinner” I pointed out. “Why don’t we just look in the owner’s manual before we do anything drastic? It’s just a clock radio.”
That was when he got in my face. “You think your wife has any idea which trash can she tossed the owner’s manual into? Do you really think that we have that kind of time here?”
At that point, my wife and I left the bedroom and waited in the living room watching America’s Most Misguided Attempts at Humor on the TV. He appeared in short order, almost tripping over the ottoman. “It’s done,” he said, handing me a receipt. “If we need anything, we’ll call you.”
After he left, my wife leveled me with her eyes. “You picked out the first clock radio you came to, didn’t you?” Other than going to get a gallon of milk, I really didn’t have a good response to her accusation.
After all, who would have ever thought that I’d live to see the day when I would get busted by a clock radio gone rogue.
June 2013 column
Trying to not be the mouse
The process was so gradual and imperceptible that it was easy for me to not notice the changes. And not knowing any better, I could hardly be blamed for my fallings. At least that’s what I thought. But, as is the case with all of my shortcomings, my three daughters keep a running tally of my ineptitude and use it to their advantage. Even though I never aspired to have perfect handwriting in the first place, there was an insistence that my failure with a pencil was somehow destined to ruin their lives.
I never would have thought that such a simple flaw could affect so many futures so completely. I mean, it’s not like I was plotting to set off a nuclear weapon, or maybe conspiring to dry up the Gulf of Mexico. Compared to that, I felt like they were blowing the whole penmanship thing out of proportion.
My attitude adjustment would, predictably, arise when they decided to grace me with their presence at my office to make a withdrawal from the ATM, otherwise known as my wallet.
My middle child started in on me immediately. “Dad, I can’t believe that you are allowed to practice law if every thing you write looks like something that a cat hacked up on your desk.”
“It’s not that bad, I can read it,” I countered.
“Really?” she smirked. “Then tell me what this word is supposed to be.” She gestured toward a piece of paper on my desk that resembled ancient hieroglyphics scratched on a rock.
Uncertain as to what it was, I tried to buy a little time and countered, “You think that I can’t read what I just wrote, don’t you?”
She snuffed out the stall. “Just tell me what the first letter is.”
As the middle child, she is the most persistent of the trio. Unfortunately for me, she is usually right, a hereditary gift from her mother. Her surgical maneuver was so skillful it made my writing hand shrink into a painful cramp.
In my agony, I succumbed and admitted that I was unable to tell what the letter was without my glasses. She casually struck back, “You don’t wear glasses.” That made my remaining hand spasm into a cramp, too.
“Look,” she said, “just prove to me that you can write legibly – write your name on this piece of paper, in cursive, and I will take back every thing I said, and I will go away and leave you alone.” It stuck me a little more than ironic that she was toying with me like a feral cat would toy with a hapless mouse. More disturbing, the piece of paper she handed me was the bill for the prom dress she had just ordered.
Once the paramedics got my heart restarted, I noted that she was still standing there with the receipt in her hand, unfazed by my near death experience. Not only that, but I could almost swear that she had a tail and that it was twitching back and forth.
I knew she had me where she wanted me. If I signed the receipt legibly, then I would have just paid for the dress that just caused my heart attack.
On the other hand, if my signature was illegible, then her mother would still make me pay for the dress. And I would be living on moldy cheese and crackers for the next six months to pay for it.
The truth is that no matter what anyone says, I am the mouse, and none of my girls are ever going to leave me alone. I suppose it’s a good thing that I like cheese.
May 2013 column - no new column
April 2013 column
Remembering Edith and our wild ride together
It was a long, arduous work related road trip into unfamiliar territory. Just to be on the safe side, I took my unused GPS along for the ride. I thought I was being smart. Talk about a miscalculation. Starting out, I relied on my innate sense of direction, a generational gift passed down through the eons from fathers to sons. Who needs technology when you’re hardwired to know exactly where you are going?
Unfortunately, and as I soon discovered, there is a bit of a navigational problem when it comes to driving through the god-forsaken states of South and North Carolina. As I quickly discovered, there are plenty of fine expressways in both states; however, none of them go anywhere that’s the least bit useful! That being so, I quickly found myself inexplicably and hopelessly circumnavigating the small orbits of both states without advancing my efforts to reach my intended destination before the end of the decade.
Eventually, I pulled onto the shoulder of the road to look at my map and get my bearings. I plugged in the device to be on the safe side, and then proceeded on. I had traveled only a few miles before I was startled by the sound of a disembodied woman’s voice commanding, “In point one mile, Stay Right!” followed by a more emphatic “STAY RIGHT!” a second time.
Having already considered the location of the Sun, the lay of the land, the direction of the wind, and my finely tuned ego, I politely ignored the lady and traveled onward, staying “left” as much as possible. Almost immediately, I was instructed to “Make a u-turn, then “STAY RIGHT!”
Convinced of my abilities, I continued on my way, announcing out loud that there would be no u-turns. From that point forward, I was harangued incessantly to engage in a series of driving maneuvers, and each time, I verbally rebuffed same. And that was because I knew that both she, and the Carolinas, had zero sense of direction.
It was somewhere around Roadside Pullover Number 17, in the dark, and running out of gas, that I was willing to broker something of a compromise. “Okay, Edith.” (The name was suggested in the user’s manual, and I figured that I could use it to reach out to her). “I’m willing to work with you – to an extent. But I’m still in charge of this trip, OK.”
I was just about to offer up a plan of action when Edith intoned, “In two point one miles, turn right, enter the convenience store and ask for directions.” Not only was that hitting below the belt, but I also realized the depth and extent of the female conspiracy to dominate Global Navigation.
It takes a pretty strong sense of self to cede control of the steering wheel to an inanimate object with a pretend vocal chord. In spite of my well-founded concerns that we would soon be on a course that would take us just this side of Tucumcari, New Mexico, the road signs seemed to be working in Edith’s favor.
In a short while, we pulled up to the entrance of the hotel that I had booked. As I retrieved my overnight bag, I thought of saying something nice to Edith as sort of a quasi apology. But before I could formulate the words, she broke the silence, “You’re not wearing those pants to the meeting tomorrow, are you?”
The return trip home to Georgia was seamless, with Edith chirping incessantly and me just nodding my head yes. Somewhere near the Georgia/South Carolina border, I pulled over for the last time. For the record, there is now a small Memorial Site for a mutilated navigation device in the tall grass on the side of I-85 southbound.
If anybody would like directions, just let me know.
March 2013 column - no new column
February 2013 column
Ah, the joys of 'sooo easy' online banking
Sure, it was a little archaic on my part, but I had a bank account at a bank. If I wanted some of my money, I would go to my bank and tell them how much I wanted, and if I hadn’t wasted it all on the weekly Jackpot Dream, they would give it to me. It used to be so simple. But not any more.
Apparently, someone at my bank got clever and gave birth to a new way of banking that involved technology. I got an email telling me about it. According to same, I was invited, along with hundreds of other Neanderthals, to enjoy the marvelous advantages of BANKING ONLINE, at no cost to me.
How could I refuse? So I drove to my bank and was directed to the person in charge of ruining my life, who cheerfully advised me that this experience would be easy, brief, and painless, which was exactly what I was told just before my first colonoscopy, but with more paperwork. “Just sign here, here, here, here, and here, and then initial here, here, and here, then flip all the documents over and do the same thing on the other side using your left hand only. Then locate and highlight the seven blue circles separated by dollar signs in a curlicue fashion using this crayon. Finally, print your name upside down on this napkin, and spit into your palm three times.
After a short break to ease the cramping in my hands, she asked me for my passport, “We’ll need to hold on to this for a while. If you need to leave the country, just let us know so we can alert Homeland Security.” There was a lull in the conversation as I waited for further instructions, and I was about to clear my throat when she set down her Twinkie and said, “Oh, are you still here?”
“Well, yes” I mumbled, “When are you going to set up my computer so I can start using my Online Banking?”
“We don’t do that, you can do that whenever you’re ready using your PC in your home, your office, your car, or even in your bathroom. It’s ssoooooooooo easy, and super convenient.”
Leaving, I thought to myself, “Finally, something easy and useful.” Back at my office, I fired up my computer and followed the instructions the teller gave me. Once I logged in, I was directed to a screen full of pictures and was instructed to choose 16 different photos and to arrange them into a perfect color coded hexagon that would serve as the password for accessing my account, and theoretically, my money.
An hour later, after choosing my pictures, I was about to access my account online when I received a pop up message that told me that, “for security purposes,” all 16 colored pictures had been permanently deleted. As such, access would require me to recreate the exact order, color, location, psychological justification, and phase of the moon precisely as originally created.
Although I can barely remember my children’s names, I gave it a shot. But after about three hours of trying, I had only progressed through 679 combinations out of a total of 46,000 possible permutations, and I called the bank.
The Twinkie lady answered the phone. Relieved at the sound of her voice I excitedly explained my dilemma. “OK,” she said, “that should not be a problem, what is your passport number so that I can verify that you are who you say you are.”
I chuckled with a great sigh of relief. “You have my passport, remember?”
“Sir, we are not allowed to divulge any information in order to protect the customer’s accounts. Per the terms of the agreement, which you signed, the local police department and Homeland Security have now been notified, and I am terminating this call. Thank you for banking with Handy Bank, and have a nice day.”
It never occurred to me that I could be charged with trying to steal my own money. My lawyer told me that I would have plenty of time to work on the hexagon to come up with the money to pay him to represent me in court.
In the meantime, I just wish someone would tell me what a hexagon is.