Friday, June 19, 2015


I’ve never been a big fan of basements. For one thing, they give me the creeps because they usually are dark, damp, cold and they breed colonies of spiders. And worst of all, 90 percent of the scariest horror movies I’ve ever seen contain murders that take place in basements or in secret torture chambers…also in basements.

My basement is no exception when it comes to being creepy. Every time I go down there I expect to be attacked by everything from a giant mutant spider to an escaped serial killer.

And then there’s my dog, Willow.  I once saw a horror movie called something like, “Devil Dog From Hell,” where a rottweiler was waiting at the top of the basement stairs, and when its owner climbed up them, the dog, snarling and its eyes glowing yellow, rammed its head into her pelvis and sent her tumbling backwards to a skull-crushing death on the concrete below.

Well, no kidding, every time I go down into the basement, Willow stands on the top step and waits for me. I keep thinking that one of these days, she’s going to do her impersonation of a bull and head-butt me when I climb back up. I swear, if her eyes ever start to glow yellow, I’m crawling out and escaping through a basement window…providing it doesn’t have a big spider web on it.

Anyway, because my basement usually is damp even during periods of drought, I have learned the hard way that setting cardboard boxes filled with stuff directly on the floor isn’t such a wise idea. Too many times I’ve lifted one of the boxes only to have the bottom drop out along with everything else in the box. So I began collecting an assortment of wooden pallets and old tables so I could stack the boxes on those.

A couple weeks ago, on the night before trash pick-up day, I was out walking with Willow when we passed by a house that had a coffee table sitting next to the trash container on the side of the road.  The table looked pretty solid, so I immediately thought of how many boxes I could stack on it in the basement. But there was no sign on it saying it was free, so I wasn’t certain if the owner was throwing it away, or was about to set some potted plants on it for a spring display.

Two days later, the table still was out there, with nothing sitting on it other than a layer of yellow pollen. That’s when I decided it was free for the taking. So early the next afternoon, I drove over there in my hatchback. I pulled up in front of the house, opened the back of my car and then bent to pick up the table.

I couldn’t budge it. The table felt as if it weighed 200 pounds. Determined, I continued to struggle with it, trying to lift one end and drag it over to the car. The only thing I succeeded in doing was nearly herniating some essential body part.

I soon found out why the table weighed as much as a small car. It had a separate hinged top on it that could be lifted to about two feet above the bottom part of the table. So it was like getting two tables in one.  Immediately I thought of how much extra stuff I could stack on the two separate layers.

I stood on the side of the road and looked around, hoping to see someone who resembled Arnold Schwarzenegger jogging toward me so I could ask him for help. All I saw was a black-and-white cat.

Frustrated, I drove home without the table.

For several days after that, every time I walked by that house and saw the table still sitting out there in the wind, rain and humidity, I secretly wished I had trained to be a professional weightlifter.  I already considered the table to be mine, so I didn’t enjoy seeing it taking a beating from the elements.

Finally, when Willow and I were out for a late afternoon stroll one Friday, I saw a woman out in the yard at the coffee-table house.

I walked up the driveway and called out to her.

“Hi! Are you giving away that coffee table?”

The woman turned to look at me. “Yes. In fact, I was going to take it to the dump in the morning.”

“No!” I thought. “Not my coffee table!”

“Well, I’d like to take it,” I said. “I want to put it down in my basement, which has a damp floor, so I can stack boxes on it. But the problem is, I can’t lift it.”

“Yeah, it weighs a ton,” she said. “I had to bring it out here in a wheelbarrow.”

“If I go get my car, can you help me load it into the back?

“Sure,” she said. “I’ll be out here working in the yard for a while.”

I rushed to take Willow home, then jumped into my car and drove back over to the house.

The woman and I then proceeded to make so many grunting noises trying to lift that table into my car, people nearby must have thought a wild boar was running loose through the neighborhood.

Finally, the table was safely in my car. I smiled with satisfaction.

“So,” the woman said, “how do you plan to get it down into your basement?”

She really knew how to spoil my moment of triumph.

“Oh, I’ll get someone to help,” I assured her, even though just about everyone I know is suffering from everything from bad backs and knees to arthritis and heart problems. Trying to lift that albatross of a table probably would send them to their early graves.

So as I write this, the table still is sitting in the back of my car.

I’m thinking if I just can find some way to drag it as far as the door to the basement, I can get the Devil Dog From Hell to head-butt it down the stairs for me.

                                                                         #  #  #


Friday, June 12, 2015


I hate to say it, but I’ve begun to notice that I, along with several of my friends, aren’t hearing quite as clearly as we once did.  Phone calls are particularly bad, because I find myself either having to repeat things more than once or shout when I’m talking. And in return, I notice I’m saying “huh?” so often, I probably sound as if I have something stuck in my throat.

The other night, an old family friend called. The conversation went something like this:

“So, how was your week?” he asked.

“Not so good,” I said. “I turned on my central air-conditioner and nothing happened. It was completely dead. I think the mice got in there and chewed up the wires again.”

“Oh, you have central air-conditioning? That must be nice on hot days.”

“When it’s working, it’s nice. But not right now. I’m so frustrated, I’m tempted to shoot it!”

“The shoe fit? What style did you buy?”

The conversation got only worse after that.

I remember when my husband started to lose his hearing. At first, I couldn’t figure out whether he had “selective” hearing and was just ignoring me, or if he actually had a problem.

Most of the time, no matter what I said, he’d just answer, “Yeah.” He probably figured I’d be happy if he agreed with me, so “yeah” was a safe answer.

I’d say, “Do you want steak for dinner?”


“You want fries with it?”


“Or would you prefer mashed potatoes?”


“Is it OK if I run off with Ricardo, the 20-something Brazilian landscaper and part-time exotic dancer I met last week?”


But I began to suspect he really was losing his hearing when he started misinterpreting what I was saying.  I remember one afternoon when I asked him if he wanted his ham sandwich on pita bread.

“Peter’s dead?” he gasped. “When? How?”

He was referring to my cousin who, I’m pleased to say, still is very much alive.

Another time, we were in the car and a song came on the radio where the singer was singing, “My eyes adored ya.”

My husband sang along with it, “My eye’s in Georgia.”

But I’m finding that as I get older, I’m beginning to have trouble, too. It was evident last week when my friend, who’s Scottish, called to chat. It was bad enough I had to strain to hear her, but her thick Scottish accent and the fact she rrrrrrr-rolls all of her rrrrrrrr’s when she speaks, made my struggle even worse.

I hate to say it, but I ended up using my husband’s “yeah” technique throughout most of the conversation. Judging from my friend’s tone of voice after some of my responses, however, I’m pretty sure I said, “yeah,” when I should have been saying, “no,” or “Oh, that’s terrible!”  I also think I may unintentionally have offended her.

I mean, she either said, “I’m dieting because I have more spare tires than the Michelin Man,” or she said, “I’m so tired, I need a trip to Michigan, man!”

Either way, I answered, “Yeah!”

I have the feeling she won’t be calling me again any time soon. 

                                                                           #  #  #

Friday, June 5, 2015


My old laptop computer, which I bought years ago, has been causing me so much stress lately, I’m glad my neighbors aren’t within hearing distance because their poor ears would be subjected to an ongoing stream of colorful and creative language.

I don’t know why, but when I got up the other morning, grabbed my glass of orange juice and turned on my computer to check my email, which is my regular daily routine, the machine suddenly acted as if it had been possessed by some demonic spirit.

When I tried to get into my AT&T mailbox, I received a message: “At&T is not responding.”

It really didn’t have to tell me that. I mean, the completely blank screen was a pretty good clue.

So I decided to check my auctions on Ebay.

“Ebay is not responding.”

By then, I was becoming just slightly irritated. Determined, I tried yet another website, Facebook.

“Facebook is not responding.”

So basically, if I had gone outside and picked up a big rock and brought it back inside, I would have had the same response from it as from my computer.

An hour later, I finally was able to read my email. By then, I had come very close to turning my laptop into a speed bump in my driveway.

So I decided maybe the time had come to buy another laptop. But I didn’t want a brand new one – I wanted a factory refurbished one. For one thing, after recently spending over $2,000 on veterinary bills, the most I could afford to spend on a computer was about $100. 

When I mentioned it to one of my friends, she said, “For that price, you’ll be lucky if you can get a pocket calculator, a pad of paper and a pencil.”

Undaunted, I began to search Ebay (while my computer still was being gracious enough to allow me to), for a refurbished laptop.

I specifically was looking for a model exactly like my current one. That’s because all of my programs, along with my printer and scanner, are compatible with it. So if I bought a newer model laptop, I’d have to upgrade everything, and I didn’t want or need any extra work…or stress.

I spent over an hour reading endless descriptions of the used laptops listed on Ebay.  One had a hole in the screen. Another was missing the power cord. Another had a battery that no longer could hold a charge. And yet another was protected with a password no one seemed to know.

I continued my search, skipping over the laptops that were being sold for “parts only,” or “as is.”  Past experience had taught me that “as is” meant the laptop probably had been used for third base in a Little League baseball game.

Suddenly a brand new listing popped up and made my eyes widen. It was the exact make and model laptop I was searching for. It was described as completely factory refurbished and in “like new” condition. It came with all of the accessories and a warranty. And best of all, it was only $110, with free shipping.

Fearing that someone else might snap it up, I broke all speed records buying it. Ebay told me it would arrive in three days. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. All of my previous computer-related stress vanished as I breathed a sigh of relief.

About an hour after I purchased the laptop, my phone rang. It was a man who said he was from California and owned a pawn shop there.

“I just sold you a laptop computer on Ebay,” he said.

“Yes,” I said. “And I can’t wait to get it!”

“Well…um…there’s a problem,” he said. “When it was first brought into the shop, I ran the serial number on it and it came up clean. But just now, when I went to package it to ship it to you, I decided to run the number again, just to be safe. This time…um…it came up as stolen.”

For some reason, a vision of myself behind bars, doing time for receiving stolen property, struck me funny. I burst out laughing.

There was complete silence on the other end of the phone as I continued to laugh. I was pretty sure the guy must have been thinking he’d called someone who was in desperate need of a long vacation….in a nice padded cell.

“Are you OK?” he finally asked.

“Yeah…I’m sorry,” I said between chuckles. “It’s just that stuff like this always seems to happen to me. It’s to the point where it just strikes me funny.”

“Well, I’ll issue you a refund right away,” he said. “And I really do apologize for this.”

So I’m still stuck with my old computer.  And as I’m writing this, I’m wondering if when I try to post it, I'll see, " is not responding.”

If that does happen, I swear I really will take my computer out to the driveway and turn it into a speed bump.
On second thought, that's too kind for it.  Make it Route the fast lane.

                                                                          #  #  #