Friday, October 31, 2014

IF IT'S RAINING, THERE'S NO GAMING!


I spent four hours on the phone the other morning. I probably would have spent even longer if my phone's battery hadn't died.

It all started when I got really annoyed at the satellite dish that provides my access to the Internet. For some reason, every time it rains, even a fine mist, I lose my connection. Each time it happens, I tell myself I should call the provider and find out if anything can be done about it, but I never get around to it.

The other night, however, was the final straw.  I was playing one of my favorite online games, “Letter Rip,” which involves making words from random letters. The game is fairly easy at first, giving you two minutes to find only 10 words. But then it gets progressively more difficult with each round. In round 25, for example, you have only two minutes to find 36 words.

Well, I was up to level 52 and heading for my all-time highest score, when all of a sudden it started to rain. The next thing I knew, I lost the connection and the game ended, right in the middle of a word. Thank goodness my dogs couldn’t understand any of the “words” I uttered at that moment.

So the next morning I was on the phone to the satellite-dish company.

“Sorry, we can’t help you ,” the guy said. “You’re a wholesaler.”

“I’m a what?” I asked, wondering what the heck he was talking about. I mean, there certainly was nothing “wholesale” about my monthly bill.

“You’re a wholesaler,” he repeated. “You took out a package deal with your TV’s satellite provider, didn’t you? So they’re the ones who have to help you.”

I hung up and called my TV’s satellite provider.

“Sorry, we don’t have any technical support for Internet problems,” the woman said. “And besides that, we don’t deal with that particular provider any more anyway. They’re going out of business.”

I hung up and sat there wondering what the heck I was supposed to do, especially if my Internet provider actually was going out of business. I had visions of myself climbing up on the roof and using a wire coat hanger and some aluminum foil to fashion a makeshift antenna, like back in the old days.

So I called the Internet satellite company again. I didn’t care if I was a wholesaler, retailer or any other kind of “ailer,” I figured it was their equipment so they should be responsible for fixing it. I was fed up with having to check the weather report to determine when or if I could use my computer.

“There is no sense in repairing equipment that will be obsolete in only a few months,” yet another customer-service guy said to me. “The best thing for you to do right now is cancel your current account and sign up for our new service. It’s much faster, fully updated and the rain won’t affect your connection.”

The minute he said rain wouldn’t affect my connection, I was ready to sign up for whatever he was offering. But before I made any hasty decisions, I said, “So now tell me the bad news. How much is this going to cost me?”

I’ve been around long enough to know that when something is new and updated, so is the bill.

“That all depends on which package you choose,” he said. He then proceeded to describe each one of them – in endless detail. He talked about megabytes and gigabytes and probably mosquito bites, for all I knew, because I tuned him out after only about five minutes. He could have been speaking in ancient Babylonian and I’d have understood him just about as clearly.

“I’ll take the cheapest package you have,” I finally said.

“The economy package? I really think you should upgrade to the next level,” he said, which I’d pretty much anticipated. “With the economy package, you’re allowed only so many hours online each month. Granted, from midnight until 5 a.m., you have unlimited usage, but that’s not convenient for most people.”

Maybe it wasn’t convenient for most “normal” people, but I’m not normal, and I’m also a night owl, so the package was perfect for me. I told him I’d take it.

“Fine. I’ll connect you to our sales department.”

The man who answered said he was pleased I’d decided to switch my provider.

“Well, you didn’t give me much choice,” I muttered.

“So, now let me tell you about all of our packages,” he said.

I groaned. “No, thanks, I’ve already heard it all, and I’ve picked one.”

“But the rules state that I have to read all of the options to you first,” he said. “So let’s go through them again.”

Before I could protest, he launched into the same previously endless descriptions of gigabytes and megabytes. Meanwhile, my phone was starting to beep, telling me the battery was dying. I began to pray it would.

“I’ll take the economy package!” I finally blurted out, interrupting him. “My battery is dying!”

Fortunately, he stopped his mandatory rambling and set up the installation appointment for Saturday morning.

So early last Saturday, the technician arrived to install my new satellite dish.  I actually felt sorry for the poor guy. The minute he climbed onto my garage roof, a swarm of bees greeted him.

Sympathetic soul that I was, I shouted up at him, “If you’re going to fall off the roof, try not to fall into the back yard. My rottweilers are out there and will go straight for your jugular!”

He gave me a wide-eyed look, then cautiously peered over the edge of the roof…and into four big eyes staring up at him.

“That’s scary,” he said. “I think I’d rather deal with the bees.”

In between swatting at bees, he managed to put up the dish. He then asked me to show him where the previous dish’s cable was located in the basement.

I said, “You really want me to take you down into the basement from hell?”

I call it that because of the problems I’ve had with the foundation constantly sprouting cracks.

His eyebrows rose and he hesitated to follow me. “Why?” he asked. “Is that where you hide the bodies of the people your dogs have attacked?”

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

So I now have my new satellite dish. The way the technicians talked, I thought I’d be getting online with lightning speed. Unfortunately, the word “speed” does not currently apply to anything dealing with my computer. I think whatever lightning they were referring to is in desperate need of recharging.

But the true test will be when it rains. 

I’m tempted to roll out the hose and spray water on the dish just to see what happens…but I wouldn’t want to annoy the bees.

Friday, October 24, 2014

SOME CATALOGS MAKE ME LAUGH!


 

I can tell that Christmas is only two months away because my mailbox has started to bend from the weight of the annual avalanche of catalogs.

Many of the catalogs, such as those for big and tall men or coin collectors, go directly into my recycling container. But there are a few I always read because they are good for a laugh. The two that immediately come to mind are, “What on Earth” and “Things You Never Knew Existed.”

For one thing, both catalogs feature endless pages of T-shirts with witty sayings on them. When I was younger, I used to love to buy and wear T-shirts that made a statement. However, something happened that made me never want to wear one again.

I was in Market Basket and was wearing a T-shirt that said, “In Training to be Tall and Blonde,” on the front. A lot of people read it and chuckled as they walked past me, and I felt happy they were enjoying it. But then, in the checkout line, the woman behind me kept giving me a look – the kind of look that someone who’d just sucked a lemon might have – every time I turned around to remove the items from my cart.

Finally, she snapped at me, “Why on earth do you want to draw attention to your chest? Most women are offended when men stare at them there…unless they’re exhibitionists!”

To say I was shocked is an understatement.  The woman made me want to take one of the grocery bags, cut a hole in it for my head and wear it over my T-shirt.

I never bought or wore another message T-shirt again.

But I must confess I’m tempted by the new batch of shirts in the catalogs I just received. Some of this year’s witticisms made me chuckle out loud. Here are just a few examples of the dozens they offer:

For a pastor or minister: “The Sermonator.”

For a baker: “Bakers follow the path of yeast resistance.”

For a hunter: “Lucky hunting shirt” (the shirt is full of simulated bullet holes).

And for no one in particular:

“I go the extra mile…usually because I’m lost!”

“All my life, I thought air was free…until I bought a bag of potato chips.”

“Why do I have to press ‘one’ for English when you’re just going to transfer me to someone I can’t understand anyway?”

“What was the best thing BEFORE sliced bread?”

“Do vegetarians eat animal crackers?”

“Sometimes I open my mouth and my mother comes out.”

“I would grow my own food if only I could find bacon seeds.”

“Whenever birds mess on my car, I sit out on my front porch and eat a plate of scrambled eggs…just to show them what I’m capable of.”

“I don’t think senior citizens should get discounts. After all, they’ve had twice as long to get the money.”

“I am cautiously pessimistic.”

“I don’t need anger management. I just need people to stop ticking me off!”

“At my age, happy hour is any hour spent still above ground.”

“I’m not lazy. I just really enjoy doing nothing.”

“My wife says I never listen to her – at least that’s what I think she said.”

“I’m not bald. I’m a person of scalp.”

“I took nude photos of myself with all of the lights off.  You’re welcome.”

“I think my cat is plotting to kill me.”

“You can tell a lot about a woman’s mood by her hands. For instance, if they’re around your throat, she’s probably angry.”

“Am I getting old, or is the supermarket suddenly playing great music?”

And speaking of supermarkets, there’s a shirt in the catalog I’m seriously thinking about buying, just in case I meet up with that woman in Market Basket again. It says, “I am visualizing duct tape over your mouth.”

In addition to the T-shirts, the catalogs also feature a variety of “fake” novelties: fake parking tickets, fake bed bugs, a fake squirrel wearing a safety helmet and climbing gear, and one I think is pretty clever – a pile of fake dog poop that conceals a secret compartment in which to hide your spare house-key.

I can see it all now…my future emergency call to 911.  I’d say something like, “Help! I’ve fallen in my kitchen and hurt my leg. All of my doors are locked, and I can’t get up to unlock them. But don’t worry – you can use my hidden key to get in!  Just pick up the big pile of dog poop by the front porch. The key is in there!”

Response: Click!

 

Friday, October 17, 2014

HAVE THE MARTIANS LANDED?


I realize my columns lately have been dealing with many things that have been going wacky around my house – the lawnmower, the automatic garage doors, the furnace – the list goes on.  So I really didn’t want to write about yet another problem.  But this latest one is just too weird not to share.

It was after dark one night last week when I was driving up my driveway and noticed a glowing green light coming from underneath the garage doors.  Considering I had nothing in the garage that could glow, my first thought was maybe a burglar with a green flashlight was in there.

My second thought was the Martians had landed.

Luckily, my dogs were in the back seat of my car, so I figured if anything tried to attack me as I drove into the garage, Raven (a.k.a. “Cujo Junior”) was likely to leave some serious teeth marks on it.

Once inside the garage, I remained in the car while I eyed my surroundings. Nothing looked out of the ordinary, other than a bright green glow coming from the corner. Gathering my courage, I finally got out of the car and searched for the source. It was coming from the spare battery for my lawnmower.

Before I continue, I probably should explain how the battery works. It’s big, about the size of a car battery, and weighs over 30 pounds. The lawnmower contains a compartment the battery fits into. Once the battery is in the compartment, there is a key that goes into a slot on the back of it to activate it. When the lawnmower finally is turned on, the battery has five indicator lights on it that light up. There are three green lights, one yellow light and one red light. A fully charged battery has all three green lights lit. As the battery gets weaker, however, only two green lights will light, then only one. Finally, the yellow light will pop on, meaning the battery is on the verge of dying, and the red one means the battery is about to cough and die, and desperately needs to be recharged.

The lawnmower’s instruction manual specifies that the indicator lights on the battery will not light unless the battery is properly seated in the mower, has the key in it, and the mower’s motor is running.

Well, I have big news for the person who wrote that manual.

This particular battery had been sitting on the floor in a corner of the garage for weeks. I hadn’t charged it. There was no key in it. And it wasn’t even anywhere near the lawnmower. Yet all of the indicator lights on it, especially the green ones, were shining more brightly than I’d ever seen them shine before.

I happened to notice that one side of the battery was swollen, which instantly sent me into a panic mode. Visions of the battery exploding made me grab it and lug it out to the driveway, where I set it on the asphalt. The lights on it seemed to get even brighter, casting a fluorescent green glow everywhere.

Not understanding what was going on, I went inside and headed straight to my computer to search for information. One of the items that caught my eye said something about batteries building up hydrogen gas inside and exploding. Visions of a giant mushroom cloud looming over my neighborhood made me decide to call the fire department’s non-emergency number and have a little chat with someone there, just to make sure I wasn’t about to inadvertently wipe out the local population.

The man I spoke with listened to my story, then calmly asked me to hang on. When he returned, he said I probably should move the battery to an area where there was nothing combustible near it.

“Why?” I dared to ask him.

He didn’t respond.

“Then you think it’s safe for me to be carrying it around?” I persisted, wondering what would happen if I dropped it.

“It should be fine,” he said. “Just wear gloves and face protection when you do.”

Call me a doubter, but the words “gloves and face protection” didn’t exactly make me want to rush to pick up the battery.

So I left it right where it was. The green lights kept getting brighter. My driveway is over 400 feet long, and the battery’s lights could be seen from the road.

My friends Paul and Nancy came over the other night and were intrigued by the battery. Paul checked it over and said, “Well, at least it’s not hot to the touch.”

The weird thing was whenever he got close to it, the lights would start flickering in different patterns.

“Maybe it’s some kind of code, like Morse code!” I jokingly said. “A message from beyond!”

Paul said, “The only Morse code I know is S.O.S., and it’s not flashing that!”

“That’s a relief,” Nancy said under her breath..

So Paul contacted a few stores about the battery’s mysterious behavior and was told the battery probably was “sulfating” and I should wrap it in a blanket and take it to the nearest battery recycling-center.

Maybe I’m just a big chicken, but the thought of driving around with a swollen battery in my car really didn’t appeal to me.  I had visions of hitting a bump in the road and being launched into space.

So as I write this, the battery still is sitting in my driveway. It has been out there through rain, wind and fog, and still continues to shine brightly. I figure it probably still will be sitting there when it snows.

Meanwhile, I’m going to just keep waiting for the lights on it to finally die…or for the Martians it’s trying to signal to come pick it up.

 

Friday, October 10, 2014

QUIZZES TAUGHT ME A LOT ABOUT MYSELF


 
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I spent one night last week being completely unproductive. I sat on the sofa and using my laptop, spent hours taking Internet quizzes.

The titles of the quizzes were so intriguing, every time I decided I wasn’t going to take another one, a new quiz would pop up with an enticing title like, “Let Us Give You an Appropriate Nickname,” and I’d be hooked.

I learned a lot about myself I never knew before, thanks to those quizzes. For example, one of them told me if I were an animal, I’d be an eagle.  Needless to say, that surprised me, especially since I have poor eyesight, hate to fly and if I were a bald eagle, I’d be the type who’d probably rush out and buy a toupee. Besides that, I honestly thought my animal would turn out be something more like a laughing hyena.

Then I took a quiz where they said they could guess the kind of car I drive. The first question asked how long I’ve been driving. The minute I entered “over 40 years,” I was pretty sure they’d say my care was a Model-T Ford. The next question was, “Do you like your car?”  followed by, “Do you like to be seen in it?” I assumed they were trying to figure out if my car was so worn out and hideous looking, it was held together with duct tape, or if I slouched down in the driver’s seat whenever I drove by someone I knew.

The end result, according to the quiz, was the car I’m currently driving is a Bentley Continental. I’ve never even heard of it. The only Continental I’m familiar with is a Lincoln, and if a Bentley is anywhere close to that price range, I won’t live long enough to even afford to buy one of its tires.

Actually, I drive a second-hand PT Cruiser that looks about as much like a luxury car as I look like Cher.

I went on to the next quiz where they said they could guess my middle name. I thought the questions were kind of weird. I mean, how could telling them if I prefer odd or even numbers or if I get over seven hours of sleep per night give them any clue about my middle name?  They finally concluded my middle name is Jean. It’s actually Ann. I guess I should give them credit for getting two of the letters right.

Another quiz told me how long my life expectancy is.  One question asked if I could choose a perfect companion, if it would it be a human, a dog, a cat or an inanimate object. The thought of having an inanimate object as a companion made me laugh – although, I think could picture myself hanging around with or clinging to my refrigerator, especially when I’m dieting. The end result said I’ll live to be 101. If I do live to be that age, I probably won’t remember how old I am anyway.

The quiz that really interested me was what my true career should be.  However, I thought those questions were the strangest of all, especially the one that asked my opinion of personal hygiene. I checked off, “It’s important, but I’m not obsessed with it” rather than “cleanliness is next to godliness.” I guess they took that to mean I don’t bathe regularly and should have a stay-at-home career, far away from other people. My ideal career, according to them? A writer!

“Which movie is based on your life?” the next quiz asked.  I love romances, so I figured it would be something like “Gone With the Wind” or “Love Story.”  So I was less than pleased when my quiz results said the movie, “The Hangover,” was based on my life.  I mean, I don’t even drink. The explanation, however, said it was attributed to the fact I love people, can easily strike up a conversation and I haven’t really grown up yet. That made it sound a lot better than if they’d said, “Because you constantly act as if you’re three sheets to the wind.”

Then, I’ve always been a big fan of the Star Wars movies, so the quiz entitled, “Which Star Wars Character are You?” caught my attention. My result was I should be the old bearded guy, Obi-Wan Kenobi.  The explanation said it was because I’m brave and fairly intelligent. Believe me, the word “brave” never has been used to describe me, especially when spiders are around. And what does “fairly” intelligent mean? That I’m less than smart?

There was one quiz I refused to take, however, even though it said it was for entertainment purposes only. It was, “Find out When and How You Will Die.”  Just the title gave me the creeps. One of my friends took it and it told her she would die 15 years from now in a car crash in Manchester. She thought it was good for a laugh and shrugged it off. If I, on the other hand, had taken the quiz and it told me that, I immediately would be plotting ways in which to hibernate that entire year, miles away from anything with wheels on it.

Oh, and I did take the quiz to find out what my nickname should be. It’s “Sunshine.” I’m still laughing.

The other day I was telling a friend about my night of quiz-taking and she groaned and said, “Don’t you know why they ask you all of those dumb questions about personal hygiene, the kind of car you like and how many hours of sleep you get, when they don’t seem to have anything to do with the topics of the quizzes?”

I shrugged. “I thought it was to help them figure out the best answers for me.”

“You’re so naïve!” she said. “They don’t care about the quiz, they’re just trying to get information about you for their advertisers!  Pretty soon you’ll be getting emails trying to sell you everything from deodorant to a new car!”

That might explain why I’ve been getting a lot of email advertisements for mattresses lately. Maybe I shouldn’t have told them I usually get fewer than seven hours of sleep per night. They probably think it’s because my mattress is full of lumps.

Or maybe they’re thinking someone whose life is based on the movie, “The Hangover,” really could use a good mattress.

 

Friday, October 3, 2014

A NIGHT OF LAUGHTER, MUSIC AND MALE STRIPPERS


Until last Friday night, I hadn’t been to the Palace Theatre in Manchester in years. But I still can remember one of the last movies I saw there back when I was 14 – The T.A.M.I. Show, which starred The Rolling Stones, Lesley Gore, the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, James Brown, the Supremes, and more. In fact, I had a program booklet and a poster from the show, which, if I hadn’t cut out all of the photos to stick in my scrapbook, probably would be worth enough today to fully fund my retirement.

Anyway, last weekend I went to see the live stage performance of “The Full Monty” at the Palace. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the show, it’s a musical comedy about six unemployed men who are so desperate to earn money, they decide to stage a one-night-only performance as male strippers. The problem is, however, they aren’t built like strippers and don’t have a clue how to dance. But… they are willing to take it “all” off – or, go the “full monty.”

My friend Barbara couldn’t rave enough about the play when she invited me. “You’ll love it!” she said. “I saw it about five years ago and it was hysterical!”

“Well, before I say yes,” I answered, “tell me if they really do strip down to their birthday suits.”

“I’m not going to tell you and ruin the surprise!” she said. “You’ll have to find out for yourself!”

So out of curiosity, and the fact I figured that at the very least, I’d probably be able to see six scantily clad men, I agreed to go.

We parked on the third level of the Citizens Bank parking garage across the street from the theatre. As we were walking down the three flights of steep stairs, I kept thinking I was going to have to climb back up them when we came back. 

I was pleased to see that the theatre hadn’t changed much since I’d last been there. It still had the same rustic charm. No cup holders on the arms of the seats, no fancy psychedelic décor. It was the theatre I remembered. Even the steep staircase up to our seats in the balcony hadn’t changed.

Believe me, it wasn’t an evening for someone who has trouble climbing stairs.

Barbara was right. The show was hysterical. I laughed so hard at times, my stomach hurt. For example, one scene that really cracked me up took place in a men’s restroom. One of the characters, a woman who was desperate to “go,” was in the restroom and, with her underwear down around her ankles, kept trying to contort herself so she could straddle the urinal and aim into it.

And then there were the stars of the play, the male strippers, who were all shapes and sizes – tall, short, overweight, pale, bald, thin. Watching them rehearse their striptease routine in preparation for their big night was like watching auditions for circus clowns. When the overweight guy removed his shirt and then squeezed his belly fat to make the folds look as if they were a mouth talking, the audience roared. And when he put on a red G-string over his saggy white BVDs and pranced around on the stage, everyone laughed even harder.

That is, except for the guy sitting in the row in front of us.

He was with a woman I assumed was his wife. She laughed and applauded while he sat there with his arms folded and his bottom lip jutting out in a seemingly angry pout. His expression never changed – not even so much as a hint of a smirk. Barbara and I were making bets about when or if he finally would give in and chuckle, but he never did.  We got the distinct impression it strictly had been his wife’s idea to see the play. And after intermission, we noticed their two seats were empty.

“I’d have made him go wait out in the car while I stayed to watch the rest of the show!” Barbara said.

“I’ll bet if it had been female strippers, he’d have stayed,” I said.

As the play headed toward the much-anticipated final scene, the question the would-be strippers onstage kept asking themselves was, “Will we actually do the full monty and strip down to nothing, or won’t we?”

One minute they decided they would and the next, they changed their minds. Meanwhile, Barbara sat there with a knowing smile on her face. My brain kept coming up with devious ways in which to force the information out of her.

Finally, the scene I’d been waiting for arrived. The six guys performed their strip number. They danced, they teased the audience, they removed one piece of clothing at a time. The women in the audience cheered and urged them to “take it off!”

They ended up wearing only their red G-strings and hats. They turned their backs to the audience and removed their G-strings, and we were given a view of their bare backsides. But when they turned around, they were holding their hats in front of their private parts.

Just as they began to drop their hats, the stage went black and the curtain came crashing down with split-second timing.

End of show.

Personally, I think the show’s final performance (October 11) might really pack a punch if someone could bribe a couple of the stage hands to “interfere” with the lighting and curtain during the show’s final few seconds.

But hey, that’s just my opinion…