Monday, March 30, 2020


The fact that I’m pretty much a loner, as most writers are, and rarely go out socially has been to my benefit during this pandemic crisis, because even though the governor has ordered everyone to stay at home for the next five weeks, it really hasn’t affected me much. What has affected me, however, is my house.

I’m pretty sure it needs an exorcism.

I won’t even go into the details about how both my computer and my TV decided to kick up their heels and die only a day apart, now, when I need them the most. I swear I could hear both of them cackling wickedly before their demise.

I attempted to disconnect and then hook up the small TV from the bedroom to replace the dead TV in the living room, but had no idea which lines and cables to plug in where. When I finally figured it out, I sat down to watch TV and realized I’d need binoculars to see the screen from the sofa.

And then I tried to download Windows 10 into my now extinct Windows 7 laptop so I at least could have a computer to use.  Unfortunately, I still haven’t figured it out yet.  Let’s just say it’s a good thing my dogs can’t understand English because their ears probably would be burning by now.

But despite my problems with the TV and computer, my biggest problem thus far has been the fear of dehydration.

See, a couple months ago, the water in my well flunked its annual test. The rock ledges underground here are full of arsenic, radon and uranium – of which the arsenic decided that my well looked like a great spot to take up residence. As a result, the level in my well is about 10 times what is considered to be a safe limit.  I guess I should consider myself lucky, however, because my neighbor across the road hit the trifecta with his well and has all three – arsenic, radon and uranium.

It’s not as if hearing about my arsenic problem came as any surprise to me. When we built the house 10 years ago and the water was tested, we were informed about the arsenic back them and were ordered by the town to have a purification system installed or we would be denied a certificate of occupancy. So we had the system installed for “only” a few thousand dollars. Every year, the water has to be tested – and it’s been safe…until a couple months ago. The tank, I was informed, needs a new liner, for about $1,000...or more.

It’s the “or more” that worries me.

So I’ve been buying bottled water for the dogs and myself – about 10 gallons a week. This was no problem until the virus struck. For reasons I can’t quite fathom, people immediately began to hoard water as if they were expecting a hurricane or a tornado. I’m not sure what water, however, has to do with the virus.  Do they expect it to contaminate the public water systems? And even if it did, boiling the water would kill it.

Not so with arsenic. You can’t boil out arsenic.

But trying to buy water lately has been a real challenge. I went to five stores one day and found none at all – just bare shelves. I came home, defeated, fearing the dogs and I would end up dying of thirst. So when I went to Walmart a few days later, I was shocked to find the water aisle fully stocked. Suddenly I knew what it felt like to be a dying explorer who spies an oasis in the middle of a desert.

The aisle had every brand of water imaginable, from generic to exotic. In front of each brand was a sign that said, “Limit one.”  I thought it meant to limit one for each brand, so I put a couple gallons into my cart.  I’d barely set them down when a clerk seemed to swoop in from nowhere. She grabbed the water right out of my cart and shouted, “Pick one!  You’re allowed only one!”  I picked the gallon of Poland Spring, all the while thinking it wouldn’t last even a day with both of the dogs sharing it with me.

The clerk then saw another woman putting four bottles into her cart and rushed up behind her and shouted, “Only ONE!  All damn day I’ve had to deal with this!” making the poor woman jump, startled.

I began to understand why Walmart still had water on its shelves.

I went to three more stores after that one. Two allowed two gallons of water per person, and the other one had no water in stock. So I ended up with five gallons total – not even a week’s worth.

One of my friends decided to help me out by filling up bottles of his tap water for me and delivering them. I really appreciated the gesture, but when I uncapped one of the bottles, it smelled so strongly of chlorine, it made me think I could use it like Clorox the next time I wanted to whiten my underwear.  Still, I poured some into the dogs’ water bowl. They sniffed it and backed away from it as fast as if it contained live rattlesnakes.

A couple days later we had an unexpected spring snowstorm that dumped about five inches of fresh snow everywhere. I went outside at midnight and stared at the glistening white snow and first thought of how beautiful it looked on the trees and the ground. Then I thought about how much more beautiful it would look if I scooped it up into pots and boiled it down into water!

One thing about snow, I learned, is that it has a lot of air in it. So if you fill up a three-quart pot with it and boil it down, you’ll end up with about three ounces of water. So I spent the entire night going outside and filling up pots. I wanted to do it at night when the snow still was fresh and clean, because I knew that come morning, birds would be flying overhead and dropping surprises into it, or deer and squirrels would go tromping through it. So I was determined to collect “virgin” snow.

For my five hours of work, I ended up with four gallons of snow water. But, I told myself, it was better than nothing (or drinking the chlorine water that would bleach out my intestines).

And now it’s pouring rain outside…and I have pots lining my entire walkway.

“But what about acid rain?” one of my friends asked. “Aren’t you worried about drinking that?”

“Well, I look at it this way,” I said, “It’s still less dangerous than going to Walmart and doing battle with the clerk from Hell.”

The poor guy had no clue what I was talking about.

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Sally Breslin is an award-winning humor columnist and the author of “There’s a Tick in my Underwear!” “Heed the Predictor” and “The Common-Sense Approach to Dream Interpretation." Contact her at:

Monday, March 23, 2020


Sometimes events in life (especially mine) can be so ironic they're scary. A good example of such irony happened to me a few weeks ago.

I was checking my e-mail while eating lunch, when an offer for a free aptitude test suddenly popped up on the screen. "Take this test now, and find out which career you are best suited for," it read. "Haven't you ever wondered?"

Actually, I had. Curiosity got the better of me.  I decided to take the test.

The questions were fairly simple at first, but as I went along, they became more and more confusing: "If Mary is older than Susan and Susan is younger than Kelly, is Kelly older than Mary?"

My first instinct was to write down, “Who cares?” But I decided to give the test my best shot, mainly because I was curious to see what my true calling in life was meant to be. It took me 45 minutes to complete the test.  The computer screen then read, "Please wait while we calculate your score and determine your ideal career."

As I sat waiting, all sorts of thoughts crossed my mind. Would the results tell me I should be a novelist?  A talk-show host?  A stand-up comedian? I could hardly wait to find out. This, I was certain, would be the proof I needed to confirm what I’d always felt I’d been destined to be.

When the screen finally displayed my ideal occupation, my mouth fell open and my eyes grew wide in disbelief.  It said that the perfect career for me (and I swear this is the absolute truth) was an auto mechanic!  "You have a natural ability for tinkering with and repairing anything mechanical," it said.

I burst out laughing! Ironically, my dad had been a terrific auto mechanic just about all of his life. But me?  I could think of a million other things I’d rather touch than something covered with oil and grease. And as far as being mechanically inclined, it had taken me over a week just to figure out how to work the electric can-opener.

After I stopped laughing, I actually became a bit upset. I mean, I had wasted 45 perfectly good minutes of my time taking what had turned out to be a pitifully inaccurate test.

The next day, I had an appointment and decided to arrive early for a change. As I backed my car out of the garage, I noticed that it felt as if I were trying to steer a concrete truck. I also heard a scraping noise coming from underneath. I stopped the car in the driveway and got out to check things out.  There sat one of the flattest tires I’d ever seen.

I groaned.  I was a great mechanic all right. The only way I knew how to change a tire was to call AAA and have them do it, so I grabbed my phone.

“We can be there in about four hours,” the person who answered said, “We’re dealing with a lot of calls today due to some icing on the secondary roads.”

“Four hours?” I practically whined. “I have to make it to an appointment in an hour!”

“Sorry,” the person said.

I decided to try my neighborhood group on Facebook and post a desperate plea for someone who might be available to help me change the tire. One by one, I watched person after person read my my post…and then ignore it.  When the "seen by" total hit 27 without even one response, I muttered a lot of unpleasant things and deleted the post.

The thought did cross my mind that if the aptitude test had been right, I’d have been whipping off the old tire and slapping on the spare one in the blink of an eye, and still would have been able to make my appointment with time to spare. But there I stood in my driveway, glaring at the tire and wanting to give it a swift kick in its lug nuts.

Suddenly, a handsome young man came walking up my driveway. I had no idea who he was, but he was smiling, which was a good sign.

“Someone need a tire changed?” he asked. “I’m Brandon, your new neighbor, and I’m here to help.”

I felt like charging at him and crushing him in a bear hug, I was so relieved. Instead, I just frowned and pointed at the rubber pancake on my car’s wheel.

“Yep! That’s definitely flat,” he said and immediately set to work. “Where’s your jack and your lug wrench?” 

“Good question,” I answered, shrugging. A lug wrench could have been lying in the driver's seat,  for all I knew

My car is a hatchback, so there’s no trunk. I honestly never had wondered before where the stuff – like the spare tire – was hidden. Brandon lifted the carpeting on the floor of the hatchback to reveal a compartment that contained a tiny donut-looking tire.

I giggled. “You think that puny little thing is going to make it to Concord?” I asked him.

“Sure,” he said, “as long as you don’t go any faster than 50.”

His search revealed another compartment to the side of the tire one. It contained the jack and lug wrench.

Removing the lug nuts, which appeared to have been welded onto the wheel and then super-glued on top of it, required a lot of strength and muscle on Brandon’s part. And I stood there and watched every flex of his biceps and every sway of his hips as he struggled.  It was the most entertainment I’d had in a long time – nearly more than my aging old heart could bear. 

And soon (too soon) the spare tire was firmly in place. I didn’t know whether to be happy…or disappointed. 

“I can’t thank you enough,” I said to Brandon. “You’re my knight in shining armor!”

He flashed me a smile worthy of the best toothpaste commercial. “No problem. And if you need anything else, you know where to find me. Just give me a shout.”

Now, I’m even more certain than ever that I’d never want to be a mechanic, even though I have a gut feeling that something else on my car is going to stop working very soon – like maybe someone “accidentally” will leave the headlights turned on all night and the battery will need to be jump-started.

By Brandon and his biceps.

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Sally Breslin is an award-winning humor columnist and the author of “There’s a Tick in my Underwear!” “Heed the Predictor” and “The Common-Sense Approach to Dream Interpretation." Contact her at:

Monday, March 9, 2020


As I was walking through the woods the other day, I thought about how far I’ve come since I was a kid. I’m referring to the days back when I was the world’s biggest city-slicker; the days when the only way I would have gone into the woods would have been if I were blindfolded, hog-tied and slung over someone’s shoulder.

I also thought about ticks. The latest news reports are saying they already are out in such abundance, by the end of the summer they pretty much will have multiplied to such astronomical numbers, they will be taking humans as hostages.

I grew up in the heart of the city of Manchester where pigeons, squirrels and an occasional chipmunk were about the only wildlife I ever saw (aside from the neighbors’ dog, Ghostie, better known as the pants shredder). A bee or any bug larger than a grain of salt would send me screaming into the house and begging my father to buy a flame-thrower.

But once a week, I was exposed to a few hours of country life when my mother and I visited my grandmother, who owned a farm.

I guess my cousins Eddie and Carla, who lived next door to my grandmother, should be given a lot of credit for attempting to transform me into a pseudo country-girl. Eddie, who was my age, and Carla, who was four years older, were seasoned country kids who didn’t think twice about running around barefooted or catching frogs, and they didn’t have much patience for a city kid who was wearing patent-leather shoes and lacy white socks. The first thing they did whenever I came to visit was make me shed my footwear.

Feeling my bare toes in the cool grass of my grandmother’s field for the first time wasn’t half as terrifying as I’d expected it to be, even though I couldn’t help thinking about all of the snakes’ heads I might be stepping on or the tarantula-sized spiders that might be trying to crawl up my pant legs.

 Unfortunately, my grandmother had a couple milk cows that regularly grazed out in that field, so I ended up stepping in something that I hadn’t anticipated…but I will spare you the details.

A major part of running around shoeless at the farm also involved wading in streams or in a small natural pool that Carla and Eddie dubbed the “Little Ledge.”  It was an area made entirely of granite where water pooled to about three feet at the deepest. It was a great place to cool off…if you didn’t mind sharing the water with tadpoles.

Naturally, being from the city, I hadn’t had the opportunity to make the acquaintance of too many tadpoles, so after initially leaping out of the water and screaming that I was being attacked by “hideous slimy things,” I actually became pretty fascinated with the little critters. And when some of the tadpoles started to sprout tiny legs, well, I thought that was just about the coolest thing I’d ever seen.

Carla and Eddie also taught me bravery…well, sort of. I will never forget the day they took me into my grandmother’s barn and showed me something “fun” to do. They both climbed up into the hayloft and then flung themselves into the haystacks below. “You HAVE to try it!” they excitedly told me.

Well, I climbed up to that hayloft and took one look at the hay below, which seemed like 150 feet down (it actually was more like 10), and started to tremble. My knees knocked, my heartbeat zoomed to 200, and beads of sweat popped out on my forehead. I froze. I absolutely froze.

At first, Carla and Eddie were patient and understanding, shouting words of encouragement up at me from their places in the hay below. “Come on, Sally!  You can do it!  We’re right here waiting for you!”  But as the minutes dragged by and I still hadn’t budged, their patience rapidly began to wane. “For cryin’ out loud, ya big chicken!  Jump, will you!  We haven’t got all day!”

When Eddie finally threatened to climb back up and “help” me jump (a.k.a. give me a well-placed shove), I closed my eyes, sucked in my breath and leaped.  The plunge was a huge letdown. In a flash, I was lying face-down in a pile of itchy hay, which I spent the rest of the day picking out of my clothes and hair.

Carla and Eddie also taught me the fine art of raiding my grandmother’s garden and eating vegetables in their natural state. When they first suggested that I eat a raw potato, I thought they were suffering from too much sun. I mean, eat a potato that hadn’t been cooked and mashed with lots of butter and milk?  Never! 

But they dared, and even double-dared me, so I took a bite. Raw potatoes actually tasted pretty good; a little starchy, but nice and crunchy. The same for corn on the cob. No salt, no butter, just raw corn, gnawed right off the cob. I think, after all these years, I finally understand why Carla and Eddie rarely were sick.

Raw tomatoes were no problem because I loved them just the way they were. And it was fascinating to see them actually growing in various stages of red and green in a garden instead of sitting in cellophane packages in the grocery store.

Soon, however, I discovered something about tomatoes that horrified me:  the tomato hornworm. Let me tell you, that worm is the biggest, fattest, ugliest, greenest creature on the face of the earth. The first time I saw one, I nearly broke a blood vessel from screaming. I mean, the thing was the size of a hot-dog and it had a big ugly hook on its hind end (or it might have been its head; it’s pretty hard to tell which end is which on a worm). Never in my life had I seen anything like it, so I was certain the creature had escaped from some alien
spacecraft. Just the thought of a colony of hideous worm-monsters breeding inside tomatoes was enough to make me swear off tomatoes for life. I even started eating BLT sandwiches with just the B and L.

Yes, Carla and Eddie really did teach me a lot. I learned to drink milk straight from the cow’s udder (and I’m still alive to tell about it!). I learned that if you touch a wooly-bear caterpillar, it will curl up into a neat little ball that you can roll around in your hand. I learned how to shimmy up a tree (well, only about four feet up, actually) and grab an apple, then try to outrun my grandmother’s cow that thought it was a bull. I learned that some wasps live in the ground and you never should stand barefooted on their nest-hole unless you want to learn how to do steps worthy of Riverdance.

My grandmother has been gone for nearly 50 years now, and in place of her farm and field are many nice new houses. I miss running barefooted through her field, especially since back then I swear I never saw a tick, even after I rolled in the knee-high grass. If I were to try that today, I’d probably end up covered with so many of the nasty little buggers, I’d need a transfusion.

Oh, and I DO eat and enjoy fresh tomatoes now…but every time I’m about to buy one and have to pick it up to inspect it, I still can’t help thinking that a giant, ugly hornworm is going to pop out of it and attack me.

Some childhood traumas never die.

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Sally Breslin is an award-winning humor columnist and the author of “There’s a Tick in my Underwear!” “Heed the Predictor” and “The Common-Sense Approach to Dream Interpretation." Contact her at:



Monday, March 2, 2020


A few months ago, my friend Rachel, who lives in Washington, happened to mention in her e-mail that she couldn’t stop buying ink pens. She said she had drawers stuffed to capacity with them, yet for some reason, she still couldn’t resist buying more and more…even though she rarely uses them or needs them any more.

I read her e-mail with stunned disbelief and felt my pulse quicken. Was it truly possible, I wondered, that someone else shared my secret addiction?

The truth is, I have been a closet pen-addict for years. I’m not talking about collecting pens that are souvenirs from places I’ve visited or pens that have witty sayings or business names on them. I’m talking about buying every and any pen imaginable in all colors, shapes and point sizes. I have so many pens, if I glued them together I probably could construct a life-sized replica of the Eiffel Tower.

I still remember the first pen I ever really got excited about, back when I was in grammar school. It was a Lindy ballpoint and it was unlike any other ballpoint I’d seen. It was a long, slender stick-type pen, with no button to click, and best of all, its ink came in eye-catching colors like purple, turquoise and even gold. The pens were 39 cents each, which was pretty steep for a pen back then, but I gave up my usual pound of penny candy every week just so I could afford a new Lindy or two.  

That should have tipped me off right then that I was on the road to becoming a hardcore pen addict.

The sad part was that my teachers didn’t even let me use my brightly colored pens on my schoolwork. They wanted boring black or blue ink, not bright pink or turquoise. So my precious Lindy pens eventually dried up from lack of use. That’s when one of my friends told me that if you held a ballpoint pen over a flame, the ink would become un-dried and start flowing again. Excited, I turned on the burner on the gas stove and thrust one of my pens into the flame.

That was the day I learned that melted plastic really stinks…and has to be chiseled off the stove when it hardens (and that Lindy pens don’t look quite so stylish when they’re warped into a “U” shape).

In the early 1960s, I once again experienced pen-induced excitement. That was when Flair introduced the first felt-tipped writing pens. I was in awe. These pens didn’t skip or leave ink blobs on the paper the way ballpoint pens did. And they produced a bold, smooth line, unlike the ballpoint’s scrawny little one. Best of all, they came in a rainbow of bright colors that made the Lindy’s colors pale in comparison.  

I spent all of my allowances on Flair pens. I used them to decorate my book covers, my pocketbook, my sneakers…and my arms, with tattoo-like artwork that required Lava soap and a Brillo pad to remove.

Alas, I soon discovered that leaving the cap off a Flair pen overnight rendered it completely useless. I also discovered that if you tried the pen-heating method with a Flair and held it over a flame, the felt tip turned into a miniature blowtorch.

I bought every novelty pen that was introduced over the years: the bracelet pen, the glitter-ink pen, the flashlight pen, and even one that wrote in invisible ink and required a “magic” developer to make the writing appear.

I thought that the invisible-ink pen was the answer to my prayers because it meant I’d finally be able to write notes in school and if the teacher caught me passing one, she wouldn’t be able to read it. But writing with invisible ink wasn’t easy. I couldn’t tell where one sentence left off or the next one was supposed to begin, so my sentences usually ended up going uphill or criss-crossing each other.

“Your mother got spayed and your cat is going to drive us to the movies on Saturday?” one of my friends asked after she’d used the developer on one of my invisible-ink notes.

My days of passing invisible-ink notes came to an abrupt end, however, when the teacher finally caught on to what we kids were doing and bought herself one of the magic developers.

My pen addiction grew only worse when I reached adulthood, mainly because I had more money. There were Rollerball pens, gel pens and pens that contained erasable ink. There were rubberized pens for easy gripping and permanent marking pens that wrote on everything from clothing to glass. There were pens with pale pastel ink that showed up only on black paper, so I bought a ream of black paper (which I barely used because my friends accused me of trying to ruin their eyesight).

It got to the point where I couldn’t walk through the stationery department in a store without hyperventilating and reaching for the pens. But back then, I had a lot of “pen” pals, so pens were a necessity. I enjoyed buying decorated stationery and then the ink colors to match. If the paper had red roses on the border, I’d write with red ink. If it had violets, I wrote in purple. Color-coordination was very important to me at that time.

My latest acquisition is a pen that flashes colored lights as it’s being used. When I press the tip to paper, it activates the lights inside. It looks like a miniature disco stuffed into a pen…and it makes my eyeballs throb whenever I try to write with it.

I hate to admit it, but hidden in the back of my closet is a plastic trash bag filled with hundreds of pens I’ve bought over the years. I’m sure that the ink in most of them has turned into powder, it’s so old, but I don’t have enough time or energy (or paper) to sit down and test every pen to see which ones still write and which should be given a proper burial.

Meanwhile, the other day I saw a great sale advertised for Pilot extra-fine premium-gel pens, and my heartbeat immediately quickened. I’m definitely going to go stock up on them. It doesn’t even matter if the only time I’ll use them is when I write out the occasional check or birthday card.  I still want them.

But heck, I guess I always can use a few more pens to complete my replica of the Eiffel Tower …or I suppose I can send them to my friend Rachel for Christmas.

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Sally Breslin is an award-winning humor columnist and the author of “There’s a Tick in my Underwear!” “Heed the Predictor” and “The Common-Sense Approach to Dream Interpretation." Contact her at: