Sunday, September 27, 2020



Every October I’m forced to do something that inevitably costs me a lot of money – money I usually don’t have because my fuel supply for the winter also is delivered in October.

I’m talking about having my car inspected.

I can’t count how many times in the past I’ve sat there holding my breath during an inspection as I awaited the verdict, feeling like a criminal about to be sentenced.

“Well,” the mechanic usually would say, “you’re going to need a new exhaust system, brakes, rotors and four new tires.  Oh, and when I had the car up on the lift and got a good look underneath it, I noticed that the only thing holding it together was rust.  Other than that, everything looks fine.”

This would force me to hand over my debit card, which already was begging for mercy after paying for the 400 gallons of propane for my house.

So this October, I’m not going to wait until the end of the month to have my car inspected. I am going to get it over and done with during the first week. That way, I’ll know how much money I'll have left in my budget for the month and how thin I will have to stretch it. Basically it will determine whether I'll be eating steak…or SpaghettiOs for the next three weeks. 

So in preparation, this weekend I decided it might be wise to clean out my car – something I haven’t done since my last inspection. I’m in the habit of taking my two dogs with me wherever I go, so my car pretty much looks like a kennel on wheels. The seats that appear to be covered in luxurious, soft black fleece, actually are buried beneath two inches of dog fur. And the windows all have so many nose prints on them, they look as if they’re decorated with abstract patterns.

On top of that, you might say my car doesn’t exactly smell like roses in bloom.

So I gathered my cleaning products and set to work trying to make the vehicle look and smell better.

As I attempted to vacuum up all of the fur, my vacuum cleaner started to make a noise that sounded like a jet plane about to take off…and then it died. I took it apart and found it clogged with a clump of dog fur about the size of a baseball.  The problem is, when my vacuum cleaner gets clogged, it overheats and shuts itself down for anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the mood it’s in on that particular day.  Never being known for my patience, I proceeded to pick up the fur with my bare hands.

Finally, I said, “The heck with it!  It’s good enough!” and quit cleaning. Then I grabbed a can of cinnamon-apple air freshener and sprayed the inside of the car with so much of it, I swore I heard the car cough. 

In my opinion, the car now is ready for inspection.

In the past, I’d always gone to an area mechanic to have my car inspected. This involved sitting in a drafty waiting room about the size of a closet and reading such stimulating magazines as “Auto Parts Monthly” or “1001 Designer Seat Covers.” 

But last year, just to be different, I went to Sears Automotive at the Steeplegate Mall.  I didn’t even have to make an appointment. I just walked in and they took me right away.

“Feel free to shop around while you wait,” the guy told me. "We’ll call you when your car is ready, or if we have any questions.”

It felt wonderful to be able to roam around inside a nice warm mall while my car was being inspected. I browsed through the stores, checked out all of the sales, and even enjoyed a cup of tea.

All too soon, my cell phone rang. I was certain when I answered it, I was going to hear, “Well, we’ve checked out your car and it needs $850 worth of parts plus a surgically implanted pacemaker to keep it running.”

“Your car is all set,” the voice told me. “Everything passed. You can come pick it up when you’re ready.”

I was too shocked to speak. In the history of owning my car, I’d never once heard those words. 

“Are you sure you called the right number?” I asked. “My car doesn’t need anything?”

“Well…actually, it does,” the voice said.

“Here it comes,” I thought, bracing myself to hear a list that sounded like an inventory sheet from Auto Parts R Us.

“It’s a little low on antifreeze.”

At that point, I felt comfortable enough to splurge. “Put some in,” I said.

When I returned to the automotive department to pick up my car, I was amazed at how small my bill was. I'd never had an inspection cost me so little.

And now, just one short year later, as luck would have it, Sears is out of business.

So I have no idea where I’ll end up going for an inspection this year. But I’m pretty sure that wherever it might be, I’ll once again be forced to sit in some drafty waiting room and read such exciting magazines as “Torque Wrenches of Tomorrow.”

And then I'll probably have to go stock up on SpaghettiOs.


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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, September 21, 2020



My late husband never believed jewelry was a good investment because there is such a huge mark-up on it. I, on the other hand, have always loved jewelry.

So a few years ago when I happened to come across an estate-sale ring that caught my eye online, I quickly became obsessed with it. It was like no other ring I’d ever seen before – mainly because it was hand-made, hand-engraved and one of a kind. I’ve always been drawn to unique things, and jewelry is no exception. In fact, I’ve owned several unique pieces of jewelry over the years, such as a coffin-shaped onyx with 6 gold prongs shaped like hands carrying it, and a fox’s head done in brown tourmaline and diamonds.

But this ring, for a change, actually was more elegant than quirky. It was an oval-shaped natural sapphire surrounded by diamonds and set on a cabochon black onyx with side diamonds – all surrounded by 18K gold. Seeing it was only a few weeks before Valentine’s Day, I began frantically throwing hints to my husband about buying the ring for me.

Finally, when I tucked a photo of it into his shirt pocket and taped another onto the bathroom mirror just before he shaved, he decided to have a talk with me.

“You know that I think jewelry is a waste of good money, don’t you?” he said.

“But what about Antiques Roadshow?” I protested. “People on there are always being told things like the necklace they bought for $20 at a yard sale is actually worth $20,000!”

He shook his head and chuckled. “Sure, they can be told it’s worth that much, but the truth is, jewelry is only worth what you can actually get for it. They’ll never find anyone who’s willing to pay those high estimates, mark my words.” 

But still, I persisted, because I really, really wanted that ring. I also knew that if he waited too long, some other lucky woman would get it…and I would be beyond crushed because there wasn’t another ring like it in existence. And in my heart, I already thought of it as my ring, no one else’s. 

Sure enough, the next day I checked my precious ring online and was devastated – it had been sold. My window of opportunity had closed. No more hinting, no more trying to convince my husband to buy the ring for me. No more fixing him all of his favorite foods and giving him more compliments and affection than any man could sanely tolerate in such a short period of time. It was over.

So on Valentine’s Day when my husband presented the ring to me, I felt as if I’d just won the lottery.  While I squealed with delight, danced around the room and nearly cut off his oxygen with the hug I gave him, he just rolled his eyes and said, “I still say it’s a waste of good money.”

I wore the ring every day and I remember thinking that even if someone offered me $10,000 for it, I wouldn’t part with it. It was a special gift, one of a kind…and it was mine, all mine.

My husband passed away suddenly only a few months later. So the ring then became even more meaningful...because it was the last gift he ever gave me.

Fast forward to seven years later. My knuckles had become arthritic and the ring was a struggle to put on, even when I soaped my fingers. Soon, it didn’t fit at all.

Also at that time, my bills were piling up because of unforeseen major expenses – a contaminated artesian well, a dead refrigerator, a sick dog, four new tires to pass inspection, oral surgery for an infected tooth, etc.  I couldn’t get ahead no matter what I did.

That’s when I made the extremely difficult decision to sell the ring. I have no children, no grandchildren, no sisters or brothers, so the thought of someone else owning the ring and handing it down through the generations made me feel good because it was something I couldn’t do myself. And not only would I hopefully be making someone else as happy as the ring had made me, I also would be able to pay some of my bills and perhaps finally get ahead.

So I took the ring to a jeweler to have it appraised because I had no idea what it actually was worth. The gemologist, a woman, couldn’t rave enough about the ring and its quality and uniqueness.  She appraised it at nearly $4,000. I nearly laughed because I knew my husband hadn’t paid anywhere near that amount for it. When I left the jeweler’s I looked up at the sky, smiled smugly and said to him, “See? Jewelry isn’t such a bad investment after all!”

But just to be certain, I went to another jeweler in another town and had the ring appraised there. The value turned out to be very close to the other one.

That night, I searched the Internet for jewelry stores that purchased estate jewelry. I particularly singled out the ones that said, “Highest prices paid for your jewelry, guaranteed!”

And the next morning, I set out to sell the ring.

Four jewelry stores later, the highest offer I’d received was $400. I felt personally offended.  I even could hear my husband saying, “I told you so!”

But I was not about to give up. I went to three more stores the next day. All three made me feel as if the ring should have been a gum-machine prize. The highest offer I received was even worse than the day before…only $300.

The bills still were piling up and I was getting desperate, but not THAT desperate. So I listed the ring on eBay for $2,000, which I thought was a fair price, considering the appraisals I’d received. Those written appraisals had cost me $125 each, and I even offered to include both of them free of charge, for the buyer’s insurance records.

After several weeks of no activity on eBay, a man offered me $1,250 for the ring. I decided to accept it, and the money immediately was deposited into my Paypal account. But I had mixed emotions the next day when I went to the post office to mail the ring. I was relieved to be getting some much-needed money, but I also felt as if I were losing a part of me…a part of my husband.

Well, eBay has a 30-day return policy. On day 29, the guy who’d bought my ring requested a refund.  The reason given was he preferred the sapphire to be a darker blue.

I was speechless!  It took him nearly 30 days to realize that? Wouldn’t he have realized the sapphire wasn’t blue enough to suit him when he opened the package on day one?

“I’ll bet his wife wore the ring all 29 days,” one of my friends said. “Either that, or he’s a shady jeweler and took out all of the real stones and replaced them with fakes!”

Even worse, I’d already used some of the money that I then was required to refund to him.

He returned the ring and before I sent him a refund, I took the ring to a jeweler for yet another appraisal, praying it wouldn’t come back as being worth only $75 with “cubic zirconia and manmade stones.”  The appraisal was $3,750, to my relief.  But it cost me another $110 to find that out.

Part of me was thinking at that point, “Maybe this is my husband's way of telling me to keep the ring.”

But then I saw an ad in the paper for a jewelry store offering consignments for fine jewelry and estate items, so I headed over there with the ring. I signed a contract for 6 months and stipulated that the least amount I’d accept for the ring was $1,200.

The jewelry store had a gorgeous website, and I waited for my ring to appear on it, certain it immediately would attract a lot of intention because of its unique look.

But three months later, my ring still wasn’t on the website, so I called the store to ask why.

“Oh, you have to pay over $100 for that privilege,” I was told.

“But it doesn’t cost you anything to add my ring to your site,” I protested, “And it’s only to your benefit to try to advertise it, isn’t it?”

“Sorry, but that’s our policy.”

Needless to say, I wasn’t about to pay them to be on their website. But that also meant my ring wouldn't have much exposure. Sure enough, at the end of the six months it hadn’t sold. 

“If I were you, I’d leave the ring here for the holidays,” the administrative assistant at the jewelry store suggested. “It’s our busiest time, so it will have more of a chance to sell. can have our buyer make you an offer and buy it outright, if you prefer not to wait.”

I opted to have the buyer make me an offer because, after all, my bills still were a major concern.

The buyer contacted me later that day and said, “Well…I won’t even make you an offer because I know it would only insult you. The ring’s not really worth that much. If I were you, I’d keep it on consignment a while longer and see what happens.”

So I kept it on consignment through the holidays – again with no sale and no exposure on their website. Out of curiosity, I sent one of my friends into the store to pretend to be interested in buying a vintage sapphire and diamond ring.

“Oh, we have a gorgeous, fine quality, one-of-kind ring I think you’ll love,” she was told.

And sure enough, my ring was shown to her – a real steal at only $4,000! 

I was so upset, I picked it up a week later and took it home.

Then came the pandemic. And my financial problems grew even worse.

So last week I listed the ring on eBay once again, mainly because desperate times call for desperate measures. This time, for only $949, which just happens to be the amount I still need to pay my property taxes in a few weeks. So my fingers and toes are crossed.

Meanwhile, I still can hear my husband chuckling from up above about jewelry being a crummy investment.

But I have vowed never, not ever, even if I were being tortured, to admit he just might have been right!


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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, September 14, 2020


There's this online game called Chicktionary that I really enjoy playing.  In fact, I’ve enjoyed playing it for years. Basically, it involves a row of cartoon chickens that lay eggs that have a different letter on each one.  The object of the game is to make as many words as you can from the letters. In each round, the game tells you how many words you should be able to make. If you make all of them, you get 10,000 bonus points and advance to the next round.

When I first started playing Chicktionary, there was this guy, Studly, who held the record for the highest score – a whopping 101 million points.  For some inexplicable reason, I became obsessed with beating him.

It took me four months of intense Chicktionary playing to amass a score higher than Studly’s.  But I didn’t publicly post my score until was I certain I’d beaten him by a wide margin…then I cackled fiendishly as I posted my 147 million points and saw my name replace Studly’s as the new high-scorer. I’d defeated the king!  It didn’t matter that I had a persistent stiff neck from endless hours of looking down at my laptop, or that I’d developed a bad case of carpal tunnel syndrome from trying to move my hands fast enough to make the required number or words in the allotted time-limit for each round. What mattered was I’d beaten Studly. And that made all of the torture worthwhile. 

As it turned out, my reign as the high scorer was short-lived. To my shock and dismay, within only two weeks, Studly was back on top with a score of over 200 million.  I couldn’t believe it. What had taken me over four months to accomplish had taken him only mere days to beat. I figured he mustn't have eaten, slept, or gone to the bathroom in two weeks.

That did it. I was so discouraged, I didn't care if I ever saw another chicken again (other than on a plate next to some mashed potatoes). So I gave up playing Chicktionary for many months.

But recently, I suddenly had the desire to play the game again – purely for my own enjoyment, not to beat anyone.  So I grabbed my laptop and played the game for about two hours.  When it came time to shut off the computer, however, everything froze.  I spent about 10 unsuccessful minutes trying to unfreeze it before I finally gave up, pressed the "power" button and went to bed.

When I turned on the computer again the next day, a message flashed on the screen that made my heart momentarily stop beating…"Dumping Files."

I had no idea what that meant, but I had the sneaking suspicion that when it came to computers, anything that started with the word "dumping" probably wasn't a good thing.

Sure enough, within a few seconds I couldn't even get into the computer.  Panicking, I called the technical-support line for help.

"That's not good," the woman told me when I explained what was wrong (as if she were telling me something I didn’t already know). "Bring it into the store and let one of the technicians check it out."

So the first thing the next day, I headed to the electronics store where I’d bought the computer. Normally I wouldn't have ventured out, as I have become a total recluse during the pandemic, but I deemed this to be an emergency.

"You have two options," the technician told me after he turned on the computer, pressed a few keys and shook his head so much he resembled a bobblehead doll. "We can restore it for you and save what's in your hard drive…for only $299."

I sucked in my breath. “Only” $299 was about $275 more than I could afford. “What's the second option?" I nearly was afraid to ask.

"You can use the system-recovery disk that came with the computer and restore everything yourself."

I decided to take my chances and try the do-it-yourself approach.

The second I got home, I shoved the recovery disk into the computer. Things seemed to be going along well until the program suddenly paused to ask me how many partitions I wanted.  The only partitions I knew anything about were walls in houses.  After some deliberation, I figured it might be nice to have everything in just one area of the computer…so I chose the single partition.

Obviously I made the wrong choice.  The computer started flashing a message that said I'd run out of space.  Groaning, I called technical support again and begged for help.

This time, I was assisted by a technician in India who spoke so fast and had such a heavy accent, all I heard at my end was something like, "Bwah ood nobby dweet, rajama…OK?" throughout most of the conversation.

I kept saying "OK" in response to everything he said, but for all I knew I was responding to, "And you said you dropped the computer from a third-story window and that's why it doesn't work?"

Finally, the poor man grew tired of my constant, "Excuse me? Can you repeat that?" and said he would mail me some newer disks and to call him back when I received them so he could walk me through the installation process, step by step.

"And then will all of my programs, photos and information in my computer be fine?" I asked.

The technician laughed and said, from what I could understand, that I pretty much should have kissed my files goodbye when I saw the word “dumping” on the screen. He said that sometimes one file just goes bad and wipes out and corrupts everything else in the computer.

The chickens laying eggs immediately came to mind as the perpetrators, and I found myself wishing all of them would be turned into fricassee.

An evil little part of me also secretly was hoping that Chicktionary had caused similar problems with Studly’s computer.

Not that I’m vindictive or anything…

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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, September 7, 2020


I have had a lot of unpleasant run-ins with skunks over the years, one of which was while I was out hiking. It caused me to stand outside by my car for hours afterwards because I didn’t want to get back in and stink it up. Of course, my only other option was to walk 20 miles back home, so I didn’t have much choice, unfortunately.

My car became known as the “skunkmobile” after that.

And then, two summers ago, there was an attack skunk on my property. It would hide in the bushes along the edge of my driveway and then whenever I’d walk by, usually on my way to check the mail, the skunk would leap out at me and assume the “spray” stance. It never actually sprayed me (thank God), but  still, I’m sure sadistic little “Pepe Le Pew Junior” increased my heart rate to near-stroke proportions every time he pulled his little scare tactic on me.

The other morning, I went out to feed my birds, as usual, and saw something horrifying lying directly beneath the feeder – a dead skunk with its throat torn out!  My first thought was, “Thank goodness my feeder is out near the woods and not in my yard.”  My second thought was, “What animal is crazy (or desperate) enough to attack a skunk?” Obviously one with severe sinus problems.

Another thing that struck me as being weird was there was very little “skunky” odor, which made me suspect the skunk had been the victim of a sneak attack and hadn’t had the opportunity to let off a deadly blast. 

The body already was covered with a thick layer of flies, many of which flew up at me as I approached. That did it – I ran off, wanting nothing more to do with the corpse or the flies. The problem was, I knew I couldn’t just leave it lying there, especially in 90-degree heat. The usual skunk odor would be the least of my problems in a few hours – the odor of rotting skunk-meat would. And a bunch of flies all but promised to produce a bumper crop of maggots. I knew I had to dispose of the murder victim...and soon.

My neighborhood has a private group on Facebook where we share tips, questions, ask for help or to borrow things, etc.   Because I had seen some pretty gory photos of dead deer posted on there by a couple of my neighbors during hunting season, I figured a dead skunk would be no big deal to them. So I posted a plea for someone to help me dispose of the skunk, saying I was just too squeamish to do it myself. Then I sat there and watched how many people read my post.  By the time it reached 20, I was getting frustrated because not one person had responded, offering assistance.

Finally, I received a private message that said, “Oh, just put on your big-girl panties and go do it yourself!”

I was so aggravated, I was ready to go scoop up the skunk just so I could drop it off on her doorstep.

When my plea produced no knight in shining armor riding on his horse up my driveway to rescue me from the rapidly decaying skunk-corpse, I figured I had no choice other than to tackle the job myself. So I literally did put on my big-girl panties – and a raincoat, face mask (Covid-19 at least came in handy for something), gloves, hat and rubber boots – and grabbed a snow shovel. Then I hesitantly approached the dead skunk and its rapidly thickening layer of flies. I took a deep breath, scooped it up and bolted to the edge of the woods where there is a big drop-off, and flung it down there.

Later that day, a post on my neighborhood group’s site said a State Trooper with a K-9 unit and a game officer were seen roaming the neighborhood.  It made me wonder why. Were they searching for the beast that had de-jugularized the skunk?  Perhaps something like Bigfoot or El Chupacabra?

Just last month, I’d had a conversation about Bigfoot with a friend.  He told me that a few years back, his wife had seen Bigfoot running past their window.

“My wife said he looked like a really tall, naked old man,” he explained, his eyes wide.

Considering they live across the road from a large elderly-care facility, I suspected that maybe it actually was a really tall, naked old man trying to make his escape from the place, but still, the story intrigued me.

So, for now, the case of the murdered skunk still remains a mystery.

But I definitely will keep a keen eye on my property from now on – especially if it involves seeing a naked man…no matter how old he is.

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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: