Sunday, December 30, 2018


I swear I met the clone of Eddie Haskell the other day.  And I’m ashamed to admit I came very close to allowing him to talk me into doing something that would have cost me a lot of money.

For those of you who are too young to recognize the name of Eddie Haskell, he was a character on the old TV show, “Leave it to Beaver,” and was known for complimenting and flattering everyone to the point of being completely nauseating.  The worst part was he didn’t mean a single word of anything he said.

My “adventure” began a few days ago when I visited a jewelry store because I wanted to have one of my rings resized. The moment I entered, “Eddie Haskell” practically leapt over the counter to greet me and then went into action.

“Hello, lovely lady!” he said, smiling so widely it was amazing he didn’t injure his face.  His gaze fell to my green jacket. “How did you know that green is my favorite color?”

“I want to have a ring resized,” I said.  I extended the dainty ring to him.  It wasn’t a very expensive ring, but it held a lot of sentimental value for me.

He completely ignored the ring and instead, stared at the two rings I was wearing (my engagement ring and an onyx one with diamonds). “Oh, what bee-yoooo-tee-ful rings!” he gushed. “Can you take them off so I can see them up close?”

Like a fool, I removed my two rings and handed them to him.  I was too clueless to realize his true hold the rings hostage and force me to become his “captive” audience.

“Exquisite!” he said, briefly examining the rings. “Here, let me clean them for you.  It’s free, and you’ll be amazed at the difference. They will sparkle so brightly afterwards, you’ll need sunglasses!”

As my rings were being cleaned, he asked me if I was married.  I didn't feel like going into any personal details about my being a widow, so I just answered yes. When I did, he said, “Well, I guess then, so am I.”

I looked at his naked ring finger. “You’re a jeweler and you don’t even wear a wedding band?”

“It’s being cleaned,” he said.

He made it sound as if he’d sent it off somewhere to be cleaned and it wasn’t back yet, which made little sense, considering he was the one who was cleaning my rings at that moment.

When my rings came out of the cleaner, he picked up a diamond-testing device and pressed it against my engagement ring. His smiling expression instantly transformed into one of shock - the sort of expression you might see on someone's face after he just caught his wife in bed with his best friend. 

“It’s a Moissanite!” he gasped.

I just stared at him, fearing that my diamond had some rare, diamond-eating disease. “What’s a Moissanite...and is it contagious?”

“A fake diamond!” He clutched his chest for obvious effect.  “You have a fake diamond!”

Before I even could open my mouth to respond, he excused himself and rushed off to assist another customer – a petite, attractive young woman. She inquired about having a medallion personally engraved for a male friend of hers.

“Well, aren’t you just as cute as a button!” Eddie Haskell said. His eyebrows arched. “Are you sure this guy is only a friend? This is a pretty expensive medallion!”

The girl ignored his question and looked undeniably uncomfortable when he added, “Well, if you don’t have a serious boyfriend, you can always have me!”

I was beginning to understand why the guy didn’t wear his wedding band.

“I don’t have time for a boyfriend,” she said, neither smiling nor amused. “Now, do you want me to write down what I want engraved?”

After he took down all of her information, he finally returned to me and my “fake” diamond.  “Maybe your stone was real at one time,” he said, “but if you’ve had the ring serviced over the years, someone could have switched the diamond on you!”

I shook my head. “Impossible. It’s never left my sight.”

“Look, I’ll get my wedding ring out of the cleaner,” he said. “I know the diamonds on that are genuine, and I’ll show you how this device reads REAL diamonds.”

He retrieved his band, which had a row of diamonds across the front of it, and pressed the testing device against one of the diamonds.  The meter landed on Moissanite.  I nearly burst out laughing.

“Dumb machine!” he muttered, giving it a few vigorous shakes. “I paid over $200 for it and it’s a piece of junk!”

He then put a jeweler’s loupe up to his eye and studied both of my rings.

“They’re real,” he finally said, sighing. “But the prongs are so worn out on the engagement ring, you are in serious jeopardy of losing the stones!  I’m surprised they haven’t already fallen out, the prongs are so bad.”

“Really?” I asked, genuinely concerned.

“I can replace the prongs for you with nice new, solid ones. They will protect the stones, too, because they’ll be thicker and will prevent you from accidentally hitting the diamonds against anything.”

I found myself agreeing to the prongs.  After all, I didn’t want to have my diamonds fall down the toilet or wind up in my cake batter.

“Well, I feel generous today, so I’ll give you a discount,” he said in a tone that told me he fully was expecting to earn my eternal gratitude. “Normally, it would cost you over $325, but I like to make my customers happy, so for you, it's only $285.”

Before I could find my voice, another female customer walked in.

“Well, today must be my lucky day for having beautiful women in here!” he immediately said, moving toward her. “I love that coat you’re wearing!  Blue just happens to be my favorite color!  Oooh!  What a stunning ring you’re wearing!  Can you take it off so I can get a closer look at it?”

By then, I was so frustrated with myself for even considering doing business with such a creep, I began to wonder when someone had removed my usually logical brain and replaced it with oatmeal. So while the jeweler was busy delivering his phony spiel to his newest victim, I snatched my rings off the counter, where (fortunately) he had set them down on a drying cloth, and made a quick exit. I didn’t even bother to have my inexpensive ring resized – the original reason for my visit. 

So I must warn everyone who’s brave enough in the future to eat something I’ve are at risk of cracking a tooth on a diamond that might fall out of its dangerously worn-out prongs on my ring.

But to be honest, considering how truthful the jeweler was about everything else I witnessed him saying and doing during my visit, I suspect my prongs probably still are strong enough to support a bowling ball.

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Monday, December 17, 2018


I swear I entered the Twilight Zone of plumbers the other day.

First of all, the sprayer in my kitchen sink broke off. As a result, the ceiling received a nice geyser-style washing before I was able to turn off the water. Not only that, the faucet also had been acting up for a while. The single handle on top of it decided to stop turning to the left, which made trying to get hot water nearly impossible.

So I finally raised the white flag of surrender and went to a big-box hardware store to purchase a new faucet and sprayer.  The first thing I noticed on the faucet boxes was a list of the number of holes the faucet required – anywhere from one to four holes. I had no idea what kind of holes they were talking about, so I flagged down a clerk.

“What type of faucet do you have now?” he asked. “One handle or two?”

“One – that doesn’t work.”

“Does it have a sprayer?”

“Yes – that also doesn’t work.”

“Is the sprayer separate or attached?”


He then showed me the faucets I could choose from that would fit the required number of hole options to replace my current set-up. Naturally, being the very selective, fussy person that I am, I immediately chose the cheapest one.

The next day, I called a large plumbing service that advertises daily on TV, and asked about scheduling the installation of the faucet and sprayer. The employee said they would send someone over on the next Wednesday, between 8 AM and 5 PM.

The plumber, John, showed up at 4:30 PM.  I gave him the new faucet and he set to work. 

The first thing he did was attempt to pry my sink out of the granite countertop. I’m by no means an expert on faucet installation, but that seemed a little odd to me.

“This sink is sealed in here for life,” he grunted, still trying to pry it out.

“Well, isn’t that the whole idea?” I asked him.

The sink finally popped out with a loud cracking sound.  I had a "sinking" feeling that any cracking sound, especially when associated with a plastic sink, couldn’t be good.

He then inserted the faucet into the holes in the disembodied sink and went to set it back into the opening in the countertop. It didn’t fit. He pushed down harder. The sink’s back edge, where the faucet was, was sticking up.

“You’re going to have to get a different faucet,” he said, sighing. “This one doesn’t fit.”

“But I had a long conversation with the clerk about the number of holes,” I protested.

“The holes are okay. The faucet is too big. You need a narrower one to fit into the space between the sink and the wall.”

“Well, seeing you already tore out the sink, maybe I should get a new one while I’m at it?” I asked. “I really hate this cheap plastic one and have been wanting to switch over to stainless.” I moved to check out the sink and saw a crack along one of the edges. “And it looks as if this one is cracked now, too.”

He shook his head. “Nah. It’ll be fine. Just put some Wite-Out on it. You don’t have to bother getting a whole new sink.”

He then said he’d pick up a faucet for me and install it the next day.

“OK, but I’m not paying a penny over $120 for it,” I warned him, thinking he’d probably go buy the most expensive faucet he could find otherwise – something worthy of the Playboy mansion.

“That's fine.” He was silent for a moment, then, to my surprise, said, “So, let’s have dinner now.”

I just stared at him, wondering if a guy young enough to be my grandson was inviting me out to eat.  When I didn’t immediately answer, he added, “I’m starving. What are you having for dinner? I was hoping you might feed me.”

He wasn’t inviting me out to eat. He was trying to score a free meal.

“I don’t have a thing thawed out,” I told him. “Besides that, I don’t usually eat dinner until 9 p.m.”

“Oh,” he said. “Well, when I come back with the faucet tomorrow, at least have a sandwich for me, okay? I’ll be hungry then, too.  And by the way, I’m not fussy.”

After he left, I’m ashamed to admit I was dumb enough to actually consider going to the store and buying ham and cheese so I could make a sandwich for him. Then I looked at the crack in my sink, which was just lying on the counter, and was reminded that I couldn’t even use it that night, and thought, “Go buy your own darned sandwich!”

John returned after 5:00 the next afternoon with another faucet and set to work installing it.

“I’m doing you a favor,” he informed me. “This is after hours and I’m charging you for only a half-hour of labor. I’m saving you a bundle.”  He looked around. “So where’s my sandwich?”

“I have some brownies,” I offered, “but no sandwich.”

“I’d rather have a sandwich,” he said, frowning. “I’m trying to cut down on sweets.”

He then continued to install the faucet, and while he was underneath the counter, called out to me, “Hand me my Plumber’s Caulk.”

I’d never heard of  Plumber’s Caulk, and considering that the “L” in the word is silent, so it’s pronounced, “cauk”...well, I wish a camera had been recording my expression at that moment.  

The faucet and sprayer finally were installed, the sink was caulked back into the counter, and everything was working properly, so I suppose I should have been relieved.

That was when John handed me the bill...$559. The itemized list even included the rubber gloves he’d worn while caulking the sink.

That was what he classified as “saving me a bundle?”  Heck, I nearly needed a defibrillator.

Like a fool, I paid him.

Two days later, I was out taking my daily walk and met one of my neighbors, who asked how I was doing.

“I’m totally broke for Christmas,” I told him, then explained about the plumber.

“Are you crazy?” he said. “He even cracked your sink and you still paid him all that money?  Boy, he must have seen you as an easy mark...a real meal ticket!”

“Yeah. Believe it or not, he even asked me to make dinner for him.”

His eyes widened. “You’re serious? For that kind of money, he can buy himself Paris!”

He then added, “You know, I’m really mad at you right now!  I’m excellent at anything to do with plumbing.  Installing a faucet doesn’t take Einstein to handle it, you know! If you’d have called me, I’d have put in your faucet in a snap...and free of charge.”

I don’t think he was prepared to see a grown woman cry.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018


Just when I started feeling good about having an artificial Christmas tree, some unknown demons of Christmases past came and conked me on the head and made me crave a real tree this year. The problem was, I didn’t want to spend any money for one.

So last Saturday I grabbed my hacksaw and headed off into the deep, savage wilderness – better known as my back yard – in search of a suitable tree. After an hour of tromping through the snow on my eight acres, I was convinced that every tree on my property was a lifetime member of some club exclusively reserved for trees that didn’t even remotely resemble Christmas trees. Never had I seen such an array of lopsided, bald, branch-deprived, scrawny specimens all gathered in one place.

Still, I reminded myself that for the price I was going to pay for the tree, I couldn’t expect perfection, so I’d have to concentrate on its other assets, such as the nice “piney” smell and its symbolism, not on the fact it had only about six branches and looked as if it had been in the direct path of a moose stampede.

As luck would have it, there turned out to be a fairly shapely pine about seven feet tall growing only inches from my chain-link fence. I knew that in a couple more years, it would be growing right up against the fence and probably would have to be cut down anyway, so I convinced myself I would be doing it a favor if I didn’t prolong the inevitable.

“Hey there, Mr. Tree,” I said to it. “How would you like to come into a nice warm house and be beautifully decorated? Wouldn’t that be better than standing out here in the cold and being a sitting target for bird poop?”

I’m not sure why, but I suddenly had the distinct feeling the tree actually preferred the bird poop.

Gripping my saw, I dropped to my knees and started to attack the tree. The trunk was skinny – too skinny for such a big tree – yet it felt as if I were trying to saw through solid concrete. After 10 minutes of vigorous sawing, my heart was racing, my armpits were damp, and my shoulders ached, yet I’d managed to make only a half-inch notch in the trunk. By the time the tree finally toppled over about four hours later (or so it seemed), I had no feeling left in my arms.

Dragging the tree over to the driveway was much more difficult than I’d imagined. For one thing, the tree was about as lightweight as a 100-lb. sack of concrete. As I slowly inched it toward the driveway, a chorus of so many grunting noises escaped me, I began to fear I’d be attacked by a wild boar in search of a mate.

I finally managed to lean the tree against the garage, then brought out the tree-stand – a red-and-green metal monstrosity on green legs, with giant Frankenstein-like bolts sticking out of it. I hoisted the tree into the stand and then began to screw the bolts into the trunk to secure it. The trunk was so thin, the screws, even at their full length, couldn’t reach it. Still, foolish optimist that I was, I let go of the tree, thinking it might still be able to stand on its own.

Unfortunately, it couldn’t.

As the tree started to keel over, I twisted around to grab it and felt something pull between my ribs. The tree crashed to the driveway, the stand flew up into the air, and the little prong thing in the bottom of the stand, onto which the trunk was supposed to be impaled, tore right off.

I, hunched over and grasping my ribs, was unable to straighten up. It felt as if a muscle had tied itself into a big knot. So I decided to lie down in a fetal position on the driveway and wait until the muscle loosened up a bit.

As I lay there, right next to my fallen Christmas tree, I couldn’t help but chuckle at how the scene would look to a neighbor walking by. I even imagined what the news headlines might say: “Elderly Woman’s Frozen Body Found Lying Next to a Savagely Hacksawed Pine Tree in Her Driveway.”

When my muscle finally started to relax a bit, I slowly got up and then walked over to my neighbor’s house. When he answered the door, I threw myself at his mercy and begged him to help me set up the tree. To my relief, he and his wife both agreed to come to my aid.

After using Gorilla Glue to reattach the prong-thing into the bottom of the stand, and adding a couple pieces of wood to the tree’s trunk to make it thicker so the screws could reach it, the tree finally stood proudly on its own. My neighbor carried it into the house and set it in the designated corner of the living room. The tree, however, turned out to be too tall, so the top of it leaned over into a sideways U shape, scraping against the ceiling. No problem, my neighbor said, and promptly hacked six inches off the top of the tree. It made it look a bit square across the top, but I wasn’t about to complain.  I profusely thanked both my neighbor and his wife and then breathed a sigh of relief (which wasn’t easy because my midriff muscle still was really sore), grateful to finally have the tree standing in the house.

The first thing I did was fill the stand with water so the tree wouldn’t dry out and end up bald, with all of its needles lying in a heap on the floor. Then I started to decorate it.  I’d barely managed to wrap the string of lights once around the very top when I felt the tree begin to lean forward, right toward me.

I grabbed it to steady it, but I couldn’t make it stand up straight again. It seemed determined to tip forward. As it did, the stand, which was full of water, began to tip with it. The last thing I wanted was a flood on my floor, so I strengthened my grasp on the tree...and stood there holding it.

“How long am I just going to stand here?” I muttered to myself after nearly five minutes had passed. “The tree isn’t going to miraculously straighten up and stand tall again – it’s going to fall over...guaranteed.”

I tried to lean the tree back toward the wall in the corner so it wouldn’t fall, but it refused to lean back...only forward. Finally, I admitted defeat, sighed and let go of the tree. It crashed to the floor, sending a shower of water flying up everywhere.  

I’m ashamed to admit I called the tree a lot of very un-Christmas-like names at that point. I could swear I heard it cackling maniacally.

I cleaned up the mess and then, in a moment of anger and frustration, carried the tree out to the garage and flung it on top of the trash barrels.

“There!” I snapped. “I hope you enjoy the cold, dark garage, Fir-Face!”

The next day, however, while I was shopping in a local store, I happened to see a different type of tree-stand  that sort of  resembled a big dog-bowl. It was green plastic and sat flat on the floor – no legs to tip over. Suddenly, I had a change of heart and decided to give the tree another chance. I bought the stand, and when I got home, I immediately shoved the tree into it. The screw-bolts had no trouble reaching the skinny trunk, and within minutes, the tree was solidly anchored and standing tall and straight.

I brought the tree back into the house and stood it in the corner once again, all the while expecting it to do what it did best – topple over and impale my gallbladder with a branch.  But as I decorated it, it continued to remain solid. Not even so much as a needle moved on it.

The end result was not perfect by any means, but I have to admit I really am enjoying the tree.

And after all of the pain and torture it put me through, I’m pretty sure I won’t be taking it down until mid-April.

                                                                               #   #   #


Monday, December 3, 2018


I have DIRECTV, which means my TV is connected to a satellite dish. I’ve had no real problems with it, other than the fact the signal can be temperamental during bad weather. If there is a sudden downpour during the last five minutes of a movie, I can forget about ever finding out if the movie couple ended up living happily ever after...or dropped dead.

Anyway, every now and then, DIRECTV offers a free premium-channel weekend. Most of the time, it’s just one channel, like HBO or Showtime. But the weekend after Thanksgiving this year, they were offering all of the premium channels free at the same time! 

Excited, I prepared for a weekend of recording as many of the movies and programs as possible while they were free. This meant first clearing out some of the hundreds of other shows and movies I’d previously recorded and hadn’t watched yet, so I could free up some space. It took a lot of  time to decide what to keep and what to delete, but I finally managed to get rid of about 60 percent of my stash and make plenty of room for the new stuff. I then searched through my on-screen program guide and scheduled at least a dozen movies to be recorded during the freebie marathon.

On Thanksgiving morning, I was sitting on the sofa, enjoying the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, when suddenly, the TV screen went blank. Up popped a message that said, “Error 771. Signal lost. Click here for solutions.”

I immediately clicked and the first thing I was instructed to do was check for loose connections on the back of the TV and control box. I checked. They all were tight. It then said to press the reset button on the control box. I pressed it and waited for what seemed like 10 years for the box to reboot. When it finally did, nothing had changed. There still was no signal.

So I called DIRECTV. The technician told me to press the reset button.

“I already did that,” I said. “It didn’t work.”

“Please try again,” she said.

So I tried it. Nothing happened.

“Now try unplugging the unit, waiting a few minutes and then plugging it back in,” she suggested.

I did.  Still no signal.

“Is there no signal on just one TV or on all of them?” she asked.

“No signal on any of them,” I answered.

“Oh,” she said in a tone that instantly stripped away the small sliver of optimism I still was clinging to.

“Are you having bad weather?” she asked.

“No. It’s bright and sunny out today. But yesterday, it snowed.”

“Then maybe you should go out and clear the snow off your satellite dish.”

“It’s on the highest peak of my roof, and I’m nearly 70 years old. You really want me to climb up there?”

“No!” She gasped. “I thought the dish was mounted on the side of your house, like most of them are nowadays.” She paused before adding, “Well, I think we’re going to have to send a technician to your house.”

“Good!  How soon can he get here?”

“Um...first, perhaps I should inform you that the service fee is $99.”

I had hoped that because it was their satellite dish, the service would be free. After all, I wasn’t the one who’d crawled up there and caused it to stop working.

“OK,” I said, even though it pained me. “Send the technician.”

“Fine. He’ll be there around 7:45 AM on Sunday morning.”

My first two thoughts were: “I have to go without TV – and the special freebie weekend – until Sunday? I'll never survive!” and, “What kind of sadist schedules a service call for 7:45 on a Sunday morning?”

But I had no choice – I had to wait.

“Well, at least now you can catch up on watching all of the shows and movies you’ve recorded,” the tech-support woman said brightly. “You don’t need a signal for that.”

“Yeah, I have such great timing,” I muttered. “I just deleted 60 percent of my recordings to make room for all of the freebie stuff I now won’t even be getting.”

So I spent the weekend watching just about everything I’d previously recorded, all the while painfully aware of how many great new movies I was missing. By the time the technician showed up bright and early on Sunday morning, I was on the verge of popping a handful of valium.

He first checked outdoors. Then he checked indoors. He tuned my TV to a screen that said, “show signal strength.”  I hadn’t seen that many zeroes since receiving my test scores in college-chemistry class.

“Where is your basement?” he asked me.

I led him to the door.

It turned out there was some kind of little converter box mounted high on the wall in the basement and it had been plugged into one of those big orange extension cords...but somehow had come unplugged. The technician plugged it back in.  The zeroes on the TV screen suddenly began climbing to higher numbers so rapidly, the screen resembled a slot machine.

So I ended up spending $99 just to have someone plug an electrical cord into an extension cord.

Granted, I was pleased to have my TV signal back, especially since the free premium-channel weekend wasn’t over for another 16 hours, but I was puzzled about how something on a wall in the basement had become unplugged in the first place, especially since no one had been down there. Also, every time I’ve tried to unplug one of those big orange extension cords, I've nearly herniated some essential body part in the process, so I doubted the plug somehow had just “fallen” out of it.

Visions of a mysterious border – like a really tall rat or a giant, mutant spider – lurking somewhere in the dark and maniacally cackling as they unplugged cords in the basement, flashed through my mind.

All I can say is that even if I lose my TV signal again in the near future, I still don’t think I’ll venture down to the basement to check things out. 

Nope. I’d rather spend the $99.

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