Saturday, December 31, 2011

I SHOULD HAVE STAYED IN BED

Last weekend I had one of those days where everything seemed to go wrong. Unfortunately, those “I should have stayed in bed” days are way too common in my life.

First of all, there was the pizza incident.

“I want extra cheese, extra pepperoni and extra hamburger on it,” my husband had emphasized before I’d left to run errands the night before. “And be sure to check the pizza before you take it home. The last time, they completely forgot the hamburger, and we paid for extra!”

Well, by the time I ran all of my errands, fought traffic and waited in lines that rivaled the ones at Disney World, my only thought was to get home and get into my fuzzy slippers and sweat pants. So when the pizza box was handed to me, I just grabbed it and took off.

When I got home, I handed the pizza to my husband and headed straight for the bedroom and my well-worn, lint-balled, but oh-so-comfy sweat pants.

Suddenly his voice came from the kitchen. “You didn’t check the pizza before you left the restaurant, did you?”

I groaned. “Why? Did they forget your hamburger again?”

“No, they gave me an unidentified blob of dough with meatballs sticking out of it!”

I have to admit I was puzzled, so I headed out to the kitchen. The way my husband was staring at the pizza box, you’d think something was about to leap out of it and attack him.

“What is that thing?” he asked, pointing at the box as he backed away from it.

I nearly was afraid to peek inside. “It’s a calzone – a meatball calzone,” I said.

“What the heck is a calzone and what is it doing in my pizza box?” he asked.

“I don’t know, but I’m not about to make a 30-mile trip tonight to find out. I’ll bring it back tomorrow in the daylight, OK?”

His expression told me it wasn’t OK, but I was too tired to care at that point. He ended up eating a peanut-butter sandwich.

The next day, I headed back to the pizza parlor with my receipt and the alien calzone in the car. On the way, I passed a department store that surprisingly had a half-empty parking lot, so I decided to pop in and see if I could pick up a few last-minute stocking stuffers.

As I passed the jewelry counter, a ring on sale caught my eye. I couldn’t resist, I stopped to try it on.

It was a pretty ring, but I didn’t think it was worth the price, even on sale, so I decided to take it off and put it back. I tugged on the ring and it didn’t budge.

I spent the next five minutes yanking, tugging, pulling and grunting, but all I succeeded in doing was making my finger swell...and the ring get tighter. I licked my finger, hoping the moisture would help the ring slide off. People stared at me, probably wondering why the heck I was “tasting” a ring, but still the dumb thing acted as if it had been dipped in super glue.

Humiliated, I finally decided to seek help. As it turned out, help came in the form of a male clerk who was stocking shelves.

“I have a slight problem,” I said to him, holding up my hand. “I can’t get this ring off.”

He smiled and said I wasn’t the first one he’d had to help out of the same situation. Not only did I feel less dumb, I felt relieved. I mean, after all, I’d obviously chosen a ring-removing expert.

“Follow me to cosmetics,” he said.

Obediently, I followed.

He searched up and down each aisle until he found a display of hand-lotion samples. Then he told me to squirt some lotion on my finger. I did, but still the ring wouldn’t move. I was praying he wouldn’t tell me to follow him to the power-tools department next.

“Well, maybe if you put your finger in the freezer in the snack bar,” he said, “the cool air will shrink the swelling and the ring will come off.”

I had visions of coming home with a frostbitten ring finger and trying to explain it to my husband.

Desperate, I tugged on the ring one more time and it popped off. Never in a million years would I ever have thought I’d be happy to get rid of a piece of jewelry.

By the time I arrived at the pizza restaurant to return the meatball calzone, I was, well...not exactly in a jovial mood. I thrust the pizza box at the poor guy behind the counter and snapped, “Does this look like a pizza to you?”

He opened the box and stared at the calzone, then shook his head. I handed the receipt to him. “This is what I ordered! Do you think I enjoy traveling 30 miles out of my way to return things you goofed up?”

His wide-eyed stare told me he probably thought I was going to leap across the counter and dunk his head in the vat of pizza sauce. I took a deep breath and counted to 10, then calmly said, “You owe me a pizza.”

Well, not only did I come out of there with a pizza (which I carefully inspected), I also had a complimentary $20 gift card and a bottle of juice. The guy probably would have given me the keys to his car, too, just to get rid of me.

So I guess the day ended pretty well after all. My husband finally got his pizza...and I got to keep my finger.

Monday, December 19, 2011

I NEARLY BECAME MRS. CLAUS

Since my husband retired a few years ago, he’s been slacking off when it comes to getting his hair cut...and shaving. As a result, I’m married to someone who looks like Santa’s long-lost twin.

He, however, is in denial.

A few weeks ago, I sat looking at his nearly shoulder-length white hair, big bushy beard and ample waistline, and told him I felt as if I should change my name to Mrs. Claus.

“Don’t be silly,” he said. “This isn’t a Santa look! This is my Harley Davidson look!”

“But you don’t even own a Harley. In fact, you don’t even own a regular bicycle!”

Not long afterwards, my husband took me shopping at the mall and something happened that made him think he just might bear some resemblance to the big guy from the North Pole after all.

Whenever we go to the mall, my husband usually plunks down on a bench and “people watches” while I shop. He really enjoys studying people and could sit there and do it for hours – which works out fine because I’ve been known to shop for hours...even days.

Anyway, after I’d finished shopping, I returned to the bench where I’d left him, just in time to see a little girl, who looked about four, run up to him and say, “I want Barbie’s Dream House!”

My husband looked at her as if she’d just been beamed down from some other planet.

The little girl then tried to climb up beside him on the bench, but her mother rushed over and grabbed her.

“I want Barbie’s Dream House!” the girl repeated.

“I’m so sorry!” the mother said, red-faced. “She thinks you’re Santa Claus! I tried to stop her, but the minute she saw you, she just dashed right over.”

I couldn’t help it. I burst out laughing.

All the way home, I teased my husband about being mistaken for Santa. I also had to throw in a few smug “I told you so’s” for effect.

He, however, seemed preoccupied. Finally, he said, “You know, I’ve heard that mall Santas and department-store Santas can make pretty good money. Maybe I should look into it as a part-time holiday job. I think it might be fun.”

He was silent for a few seconds before he added, “Trouble is, my stomach’s getting so saggy, it rests on my thighs. I don’t even have a lap where the kids could sit.”

“They could always sit on your knee,” I said.

“But I have bad arthritis in my knees,” he said.

I was beginning to think he should look for a different part-time job that was better suited for him...like a mattress tester.

When we got home, he headed straight for the computer and looked up information about being a mall Santa. It was the first time he’d actually seemed enthused about anything (other than eating and sleeping) since he’d retired.

Twenty minutes later he turned off the computer. I couldn’t help but notice that his expression looked less than jolly-ish.

“What’s the matter?” I asked. “Did you find out you have to have a college degree in ‘ho-ho-hoing’ to qualify?”

He shook his head. “I never realized how much hard work being Santa is. I mean, it always looked like nothing but fun to me. But did you know that they have to have at least three extra Santa suits ready at all times because so many kids get nervous on Santa’s lap, they have accidents? And I’m talking about accidents from both ends!”

The vision that popped into my head wasn’t exactly a festive one.

“And then there are the bruises from being kicked so much,” he added. “They showed a photo online of this one Santa’s legs. They had so many black-and-blue marks on them, he looked like a dalmation!”

“So I guess this means you’re going to cut your hair and shave your beard now that your career plans have been dashed?” I asked.

“I’ll think about it,” he said.

As luck would have it, a few days later we stopped at our local gas station. Our mechanic greeted us, then said to my husband, “You know something? You look really good with your hair long. Don’t ever cut it. In fact, I think you should wear it in a pony tail.”

Great. At the rate my husband’s going, in a couple more years I’ll be married to a replica of Father Time...or Gandalf from Lord of the Rings.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

WE SHOULD HAVE SHOT THE GAME

One of the things my husband and I used to enjoy at amusement parks when we were younger was the shooting gallery. Most of the galleries were set up like saloons, and the stuff in the saloons, like the spittoon or the bottles lining the bar, had targets on them. Every time we’d shoot one of the targets, a sound effect like a “ping” or a “crrrr-aaack” would be heard. And at the end of the game we’d receive a scorecard listing the targets we’d hit.

My husband and I played those games so often, we began to feel like reincarnations of Annie Oakley and Wild Bill Hickock.

I hadn’t thought about the shooting galleries for a long time...that is, until I was in a department store the other day and saw a target-shooting game on sale. I read the box and was pleased to discover it didn’t require a connection to a TV game system of any kind, nor was a DVD or disk involved. This game, according to the box, was completely self-contained inside two plastic rifles. Just aim them at the TV and the game would show up on the screen.

On a whim, and thinking of all the fun my husband and I would have shooting at targets again, especially in the comfort of our own living room, I bought the game.

“Look what I bought!” I said to my husband the minute I got home. “It’s a target-shooting game! We can have competitions, just like the good old days!”

He took the box and studied it. “Looks pretty interesting,” he said. “There’s deer hunting, jug shooting, and even frog flipping.”

He opened the box and removed the two plastic guns – a bright green one and a bright orange one. He then proceeded to assemble them. Soon, I heard a lot of muttering and grumbling.

“Something wrong?” I asked.

“Can’t get the rifle butt to fit on the green one,” he said. He banged it with the heel of his hand a few times and muttered some more. Finally, he left the room and returned with a hammer. I knew right then that the future of the game was in real jeopardy.

I covered my eyes when he started hammering on the rifle. I expected to hear a loud plastic-splintering sound followed by a stream of colorful words at any second.

“There! It’s on!” he said. “And believe me, it will never come off again!”

The next step was inserting all of the batteries – about a case of them in various sizes. Finally, the game was ready to play.

I grabbed the orange rifle and my husband took the green one.

“Calibrate your rifle,” the screen said. “Hit the target on the upper left.”

My husband shot at the target and missed. He tried again – but the rifle wouldn’t shoot.

“Pump the rifle to shoot another round,” the screen said.

He gave me a look that told me he wasn’t particularly pleased. “We have to pump these rifles after every shot?” he asked. “That’s going to be a real pain.”

“Move back and try again!” the screen said.

He took a few steps back and shot. Again, the screen told him the calibration hadn’t been successful and to move back a few more feet and try again.

By the time he finally succeeded in calibrating the gun, he’d moved back so many times, he practically was standing in the neighbors’ living room.

A deer-hunting game then popped up on the screen. “Shoot only the bucks,” the instructions said. “If you shoot a doe, the game is over.”

A forest scene appeared, complete with several deer with only their butts visible.

“Which ones are the bucks?” I asked my husband.

“Probably the ones with the smallest butts,” he answered.

In a flash, the deer lifted their heads from the bushes and we saw antlers. We took three shots each...and hit nothing.

“Game over,” the screen said.

My husband and I stared at each other, dumbfounded.

“But I took only three shots!” he said. “Is that all we get per game?”

“If it is,” I said, “then this game must be for people with really short attention spans.”

We tried again. My husband took three quick shots and the game was over. I didn’t even have time to raise my rifle.

He frowned. “Let’s try a different game.” He switched over to the jug-shooting game. The screen told him he had to recalibrate his rifle.

That did it. He set down the gun and said, “This game stinks. I think you should take it back to the store.”

“And how do you intend to fit the guns back into the box so I can return them?” I asked, “You hammered the butt onto the green one and said it was on there for life!”

He grabbed the rifle and tried to remove the butt. Short of shoving a stick of dynamite into it, there was no way the thing was going to budge.

So now I’m the proud owner of a target game that’s probably going to spend the rest of its days down in the basement collecting cobwebs with all of the other has-been toys.

I just hope the spiders down there won’t turn into sharpshooters.

Monday, December 5, 2011

MY BRIGHT IDEA WAS PRETTY DIM



Sometimes I get what I think are brilliant ideas, and I put a lot of time and effort into executing them...only to have them fail. Such was the case last week.

The front of our house sits on level land, but out back, the land, which is all forest, steeply slopes down to Deerfield Road (also known as Bear Brook Road). Up until about a year ago, our house wasn’t visible from the road. But one day a convoy of heavy equipment rolled in and cut down acres of trees in what seemed like minutes. So now we are visible...and I can’t go outside in my pajamas to feed the birds any more.

A few nights ago, as I was heading home up Deerfield Road, I happened to notice that on my left, directly behind a pale-green house with a gate across the driveway, a solitary light was shining in the dark, way up on a hill, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. It took me a couple seconds to realize it was our back-porch light.

That’s when the wheels started turning in my pointed little head. What if, I thought, I bought a giant lighted star and hung it on the back of our house, so when cars came up Deerfield Road and the passengers looked to their left, they would see a lone, bright star shining in the darkness? Wouldn’t that be a great Christmas decoration?

The minute I got home, I dashed to my computer and started searching for giant Christmas stars. A half-hour later, I turned off the computer, discouraged. Before I could afford to buy a giant star, I’d have to cash in my life insurance and probably sell one of my kidneys.

Still, I wasn’t ready to give up on the star idea, so I checked Ebay. There, I found a wire-framed 52-inch star with 140 lights, at a really affordable price. So I ordered the star and then camped out on the front steps, waiting for it to arrive.

The box that was delivered a few days later was about the size of a briefcase. I had imagined it would be about the size of big-screen TV, so I was puzzled. My star, I soon learned, had to be assembled....from a stack of small V-shaped wire segments and another stack of plastic twist-ties.

It took me three hours to put the star together. Proud of my work, I lifted it by the hook on the top of it to admire it...and ended up with just the hook in my hand. So out came my trusty roll of duct tape. To heck with the plastic ties, I thought. I wanted my star to hold together through blizzards, tornadoes, hurricanes and hail. And I could think of nothing that would do the job better than duct tape.

The lights on the star were the tiny, blinking variety, definitely not bright enough to be seen from miles away. So I bought several strings of huge white lights and wrapped them around the wire frame of the star. Then out came the roll of duct tape again for added security.

Our garage, which is attached to the house, has two front overhead doors and one rear overhead door, so my plan was to hang the star on the rear door. The only problem was the door is white. I’m no Christmas-lights expert, but I was pretty sure white lights against a white door wouldn’t give me the desired “star in the darkness” effect I wanted.

So I came up with another plan...get a 4’x8’ sheet of plywood, paint it flat black and lean it against the garage door, then attach the star to it. I got on the phone to Uncle Lenny, seeing he has a truck, and asked him if he could pick up the plywood for me.

All I can say is when Uncle Lenny arrived with the plywood and got his first glimpse of my monstrosity of a duct-taped star, he gave me a look that clearly told me he thought I’d finally lost my last few remaining brain cells.

“You hang up that thing and you’ll have people climbing the hill out back here, looking for a manger!” he said.

“Do you think they’ll be able to see it from Deerfield Road?” I asked.

“I think they’ll be able to see it from Manchester!” he said.

I grabbed the black spray-paint and began to spray the plywood. When it dried, Uncle Lenny wedged it into the frame of the garage door, then put a screw into the top of the board to hold the star. We finally hung my masterpiece, but instead of being pleased, I was instantly traumatized.

“The plywood is only 4 feet high!” I said. “The star is 52 inches high! Look! Four inches of my star aren’t even against the black background!”

Uncle Lenny rolled his eyes. “No one will be able to tell the difference from that distance. You’re too much of a perfectionist!”

“But the tips of the star are very important!” I complained. “They have to be against the black background!”

“It will look just fine,” Uncle Lenny said.

“But -!”

“You know,” he interrupted me. “You can be a real pain in the neck sometimes!”

When I later went inside, my husband asked me how things were going.

“Uncle Lenny says I’m a pain in the neck!”

He started to laugh. “Thank him for me.”

That night, I finally lit my precious star, then drove down to Deerfield Road to gaze at the results of all my efforts.

When I reached the pale-green house with the gated driveway and looked up at the hill behind it, my smile of anticipation faded. Uncle Lenny had been right. Not only didn’t the four inches of the star that weren’t against the black background matter, the entire star ended up looking like nothing more than a car’s headlight. No shape, no star-like quality at all – just a bright white blob. The star was too small and too far away to look like much of anything. I figured I’d need at least a 10-foot star to produce the effect I wanted.

I was crushed.

So I bought some big colored bulbs and replaced the white ones on the star.

At least now, it looks like a multi-colored headlight.