Tag Archives: books

Antofagasta©

  One doesn’t come across the name Antofagasta—a Chilean city 678 miles north of Santiago—in ordinary conversation and one assumes that the words Atacama Desert come up even less frequently. Probably even fewer readers of this column have stopped off at either place. The region produces much of the world’s supply of copper.
I certainly didn’t intend to land in Antofagasta when my flight left Bogota, Colombia.  My destination was Santiago itself. I’d made many trips to Latin America and the Caribbean over the years on assignments for the United States Information Agency (USIA) to train journalists and seek their support for friend of the press.


The first indication that passengers had that we were going to land before we got to Santiago was when the pilot’s voice came over the intercom. Pilots often talk to passengers from the cockpit, pointing out places of interest.
“This is the pilot speaking. We have just been informed that the Santiago airport is fog-covered. We can’t land there yet. We’ve been instructed to land at Antofagasta, which is nearly 700 miles north of Santiago. Please fasten your seatbelts and put your tray tables in the upright and locked position in preparation for landing. Thank you.”    The plane banked and we began a steep descent.  After an uneventful landing the plane taxied to a very small terminal building that was apparently closed.

We learned later that the air terminal only opened when flights were scheduled. Fortunately, the landside of the terminal was open 24 hours a day to accommodate traveler and commercial vehicle traffic.  Food and beverages and travel items were available at various counters.


The passengers disembarked and headed for the counters and restrooms. They were immediately surrounded by people wanting to purchase U.S. dollars. Passengers were offered a variety of exchange prices depending on how vulnerable they looked.  The gullible-looking passengers were offered 7.50 pesos for a dollar. The official exchange rate was 750.00 pesos per dollar.
One could tell the seasoned travelers by how few people surrounded them.  One could detect the passengers who hadn’t understood decimals in school by the fact that they got taken by buyers who moved the decimal point one or two places and cheated them ruthlessly.


Shysters moved through the crowd s trying to bully passengers into yielding their dollars. Others gazed into passenger’s faces and with mock sincerity and sought dollars by pleading poverty and hunger.
To their credit a number of honest citizens berated their crooked country men. The most effective do-gooders were those who spoke English. But they were berated by the shysters also. A few fights broke out.
At this point the aircraft’s captain grabbed a bullhorn, climbed on top of a wooden box and began shouting. The captain was a veteran of this airline route. He spoke Spanish fluently.
He shouted: “This is the captain speaking! Everyone take a step back and be quiet.”
Then he spoke in English.  “Passengers, move return to the airplane and take your seats. The fog has lifted and that the airfield in Santiago is ready to receive our flight. And in the meantime, courteously decline currency transactions of any kind.”

Despite the pilot’s orders there was a flurry of currency exchanges as the the passengers moved across the tarmac and climbed the stairs to the airplane.
As the plane taxied and lifted off, a few passengers complained about the delay. Most were glad for the diversion and for a chance to see a place they had never heard of and to which they would never have thought of booking a flight.
The plane reached cruising altitude and passengers were told they could move around the cabin.


A passenger shouted, “I forgot. How much is this money worth?
Another shouted, “Who cares? I’m saving mine to give to my grandkids. I’ll give you $30 for all your Chilean pesos.


“Pesos?” shouted another passenger. “Pesos?” Shoot! Some shyster sold me a hand full of Brazilian paper money I thought I was getting a real good deal.”
“I’ll give you a buck for all your Brazilian money,” said the grandma.”
“Coffee, tea or milk?” asked a flight attendant.

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-Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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The Waiting Room Magazine Compliance Association©

People who meet Norman Ormandy for the first time are impressed. Norm is six-two, has thick dark hair and a stony-looking countenance. But friends and relatives know Norm’s stony face hides a 10-year-old kid’s mischievous imagination.
This story begins with Norm and his wife sitting in a waiting room—an occurrence all adults are familiar with.
Leafing through one of the magazines he noted that it bore a very recent date. Ding! Norm’s mischievous imagination kicked in. He took the magazine to the counter
“Excuse me,” said Norman.  “May I see the person in charge?”
“May I help you, Sir?”

“This magazine is out of compliance. You need to tell the office manager.”
“What do you mean?”
“I represent the Waiting Room Magazine Compliance Association and this magazine is out of compliance.
“What’s wrong with it?” .
“It’s too new.  Compliance regulations require waiting room magazines to be at least two months old.”
“You’re kidding.”
Norm put on his most formidable, “I’m not kidding,”  face.
“Young woman, this violation could get your office shut down.”
The young woman pressed a button..
“Sir, we have a problem.”
“What’s the trouble, Megan?”
“A man says our magazines are too new and he’s going to shut down the office.”
“Say what?”
“Take this magazine and show it to him,” said Norm.
The young woman looked perturbed, then resolute.
“Sir, I need to show you something.”
“Okay. Come on back.”

The young woman took the magazine and walked to a door marked “ Private.”
As the door closed behind her, Norm waved to the other waitees, and left. The look on the young woman’s face made Norm’s mischievous streak bloom and he wanted to tell his friends about it.
The next day Norm ordered 100 cards titled “Magazine Waiting Room Association Compliance Regulations.” The card listed a dozen rules of compliance. Then he ordered a batch of  “This office is in violation of the Waiting Room Compliance Association Regulations.  Please comply or we will be forced to take action.”
For the next month Norm visited waiting rooms around the country. Every time he found a non-compliant magazine he gave a compliance card to the admitting desk.
“Please give this card to the person in charge,” he said. “We’ll call on you again in a couple of weeks.”
Within a couple of weeks there was chatter on the Internet.
“What is the Waiting Room Magazine Association?”
“Who is the guy who goes around telling doctors and dentists and financial planners that they are out of compliance with his outfit?”
Norm knew it was time for him to lie low. He quit visiting waiting rooms. He shredded his regulation and compliance cards. After a week the Internet dropped the magazine topic.
Months later Norm decided to check on a few waiting rooms.

Since Internet chatter had spread his waiting room noncompliance activities all over, Norm did his research a long way from Letongaloosa.
He wore a fake mustache, glasses, a blue suit and white shirt. He looked very different.
Norm’s  first stop was at a dentist’s office in New Jersey. He walked in and picked up a magazine. The date was old
Norm visited a few offices in other states and found old magazines in all of them.  As he walked out he whispered, “Gotcha.”
A month later Norm was feeling relaxed. Then the bell rang. Norm went to the door. Three tall men in dark suits were on his stoop. Idling at the curb were two big black SUVs.
“Norman Ormandy?” said one of the men.
“Yes.”
“Secret Service, Sir.  You’ll need to come with us.”
They hustled him down the sidewalk to the curb.
“Please step into the vehicle. I’m sorry, but we have to blindfold you.”
The car drove around for 15 minutes then pulled to the curb
The men hustled Norm out of the SUV and up the steps of a residence. They knocked at the door. Someone removed the blindfold.
“Gotcha!” shouted his friends and family.  Norm was standing at his own front door.
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Dr. Larry Day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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Zimmy, Kate and the Cuban Beetle ©


Until recently the U.S. government didn’t want you to go to Cuba.  That policy, which started way back in the Eisenhower administration, required that everybody apply for a license before traveling to Havana.    My friend Zimmy Tarbox  has a Ph.D. in entomology. He’s been all over the world measuring the space between the eyeballs of baby cockroaches.  Zimmy’s British colleague, Kate Billingsly, is the world’s leading expert on pond scum skimmer bugs.    Back in 2006, Kate and Zimmy attended the 15th Annual International Cockroach and Pond Skimmer Conference in Cuba.  In 2016 the sponsoring group, the Entomological Society scheduled its 25th annual conference for Havana, and Kate and Zimmy were invited to give keynote addresses in recognition of their outstanding contributions to entomological research.      In Hong Kong last January, the two talked about their upcoming visit to Cuba.    “Speaking of,” said Kate,  “I met Ricardo Calvez in Samoa last month.  He says that the Hypolestes trinitatis, a beetle endemic to Cuba, is in danger of extinction because of loss of habitat.”  “We should do something.”  “Yes, we should.”          The two scientists got the opportunity sooner than either of them thought.  They were invited to the White House.  The President was preparing for a trip to Cuba and, covering all bases, wanted a staff briefing on the flora and fauna of the island.  After speaking with Zimmy and Kate,
one of the staffers proposed a presidential field trip on the island to search for the Hypolestes trinitatis. She wanted something to showcase the President’s interest in the environment.  Kate and Zimmy were invited to lead the expedition.  So, it turned out, Zimmy and Kate flew to Havana, not on a crowded commercial flight from Miami, but on Air Force One.   Organizing a private “off the agenda” trip by the U.S. President to the forests of central and eastern Cuba could have been diplomatically and politically difficult.  But Zimmy and Kate had “friends at court” in the persons of two members of Cuba’s Central Party leadership who were avid amateur entomologists.   The two leaders had been aching to look for the Hypolestes trenitatis but couldn’t justify the cost to the government of such a trip.    At first the Secret Service threw a fit over the idea of the president tramping around in the outback of a communist nation, but under heavy pressure acquiesced to the endeavor.  Thus the party—consisting of the President, three Secret Service agents who didn’t look like what they were, Kate, Zimmy, and the two Cuban party members, slipped out of Havana by night and headed for the highlands.  As they trekked through the sub-montane forest, sometimes on little-used trails and at other times cutting through thick foliage, the members of the expedition kept their eyes peeled for a glimpse of the elusive beetle.  There were a couple of false sightings that disappointed everyone.  Then one of the Cuban party members spotted the prize, a large bug that looked like Hypolestes trinitatis.  The members of the expedition stepped back and waited for confirmation from Kate and Zimmy.

-Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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Parking Sticker Blues©

In most confrontations, The Powers that Be win and the Little Guys lose. In this story, the Little Guy won, and the Powers that Be had to do re-write the rules.
Some background is essential for readers to understand this story. Decades ago when I came to teach at Letongaloosa Community Junior College, Emmaline and I moved next door to a retired military officer. His last assignment was in a country where cars drove on the right side of the road. The colonel bought a four-door Hillman Minx, and shipped it to the U.S. The car’s steering wheel was on the right hand side. When he moved a couple of years later, I bought the car. I loved driving that car. The gearshift was on the left side of the steering column.
At the beginning of fall semester the university administration gave faculty members and students a pamphlet that outlined driving and parking instructions. Everyone on campus had to buy a parking sticker and display it on the rear window of their car. The instructions were explicit. The parking sticker was to be displayed in the lower corner of the rear window on the driver’s side.
I affixed my parking sticker in the lower corner of the rear window on the right side of my right-hand-drive car. That model Hillman Minx had a curved rear window—so the parking sticker was less visible than on domestic cars.
A couple of days after school started I received a parking citation for not displaying the parking sticker correctly. I called the Parking Department and told
them that my parking sticker was displayed according to regulations and asked them to invalidate the parking citation. For the next several days, I found parking citations under my windshield. I put the citations in the glove box, assuming that the Parking Department would inform the people who issued the tickets that my sticker was properly displayed and would void the citations.
A week or so later the dean called me to his office The Parking Department had accused me of being an egregious parking offender. They asked the dean to make me pay the fines for all the parking tickets that the department had issued..
I told the dean that my parking sticker was displayed strictly according to the regulations, but that I would get the problem straightened out.
The university police handled parking on campus so I called the department and told the dispatcher that despite the fact that my parking sticker was affixed strictly according to regulations I had received numerous parking citations and that the department had contacted my dean.
The dispatcher said that the people who issue parking citations didn’t make mistakes and that my sticker was obviously misplaced. I demurred, he insisted. I demurred. Finally he told me to bring the car to the parking lot behind the Police Department so he could see for himself.
I drove to the Police Department parking lot and parked near the office with my car facing away from the building so that the dispatcher could see my rear window. The dispatcher took one look at my car and said:
“That sticker is on the wrong side.”
I said, “Sir, do I have the option of changing the way I follow this pamphlet? I handed him the parking regulation pamphlet.
“No you DON”T.” he said emphatically.
I said, “the regulation says that my sticker is to be displayed on the back window on the driver’s side. That’s where the sticker is.”
“No, it’s on the left side, That’s wrong.”
“Sir,” I said. “Please Look! The steering wheel is on the right side. I am displaying the parking sticker on the driver’s side just as the regulation requires.
The officer looked, sputtered for a few seconds, and then said, “WELL, That’s not what we meant!”
The Parking Department voided all my citations and I reported to the dean that the problem had been solved.
The next year the parking regulation said that parking stickers were to be displayed in the lower corner of the  LEFT side of the rear window. I smiled.
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-Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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“Kaybe and the Six Million Dollar Project©”

The phone rang at our home one evening recently. On the line was my friend Four-Finger Fanny, an alien from outer space. Fanny works as a waitress at The Enchantment. I listened then said “I’ll be right there.”
I asked a young waitress to tell Fanny I was there, and then went to my booth in the back.
The Enchantment is a dingy roadhouse on the outskirts of Letongaloosa. Every college town needs a joint like the Enchantment to maintain its academic accreditation. I go there quite often to relax with a soft drink.
That night, however, I was there on urgent business. Another being from outer space, my friend KB2.11, (I call him Kaybe for short) had contacted me. He needed $6-million for a charity project that leaders at our end of the Milky Way galaxy were sponsoring.
“What’s up?” asked Fanny.
“Can you get in touch with Kaybe? I’m helping him raise money for a galaxy charity project and I need to know how and where to send the funds.”
As you may remember, my friend Kaybe looks like a giant tuna fish can. Erector Set arms sprout from the curved sides of his body. Three spindly legs drop from the flat underside of his stainless steel torso. He has ball bearing wheels for feet, and three sensor-eyes wave at you from the ends of floppy antennae on the top his lid.
Kaybe is from the Milky Way, but his home planet is several parsecs closer than the Earth to the center of the galaxy. And his people have solved the problem of traveling faster than the speed of light.
Kaybe speaks telepathically. His words form letters in your mind. Four-Finger Fanny is also from outer space, but she just looks like a
middle aged woman who has spent too much time on her feet.
Kaybe and Four-Finger Fanny communicate telepathically, but Four Finger
Kaybe’s $6-million project.

Fanny also speaks human. That’s good, because I’d rather not converse telepathically.
Some wealthy friends—people who have appeared in previous columns, Blair Timert, Eloise Simplekins, and Sir Jeremiah Teancrumpets,–had agreed to donate two million dollars each to the galaxy charity project.
Blair Timert, was adopted by wealthy Basque parents who lived in Letongaloosa. Their Basque name was unpronounceable for most people so they retained Blair’s birth name. Blair learned to speak Basque. In one adventure, Blair bested some Basque hoodlums who tried to kidnap him.
Eloise Simplekins was a cleaning lady for wealthy women of the wealthy La Mancha neighborhood. She realized that wealthy women in town hired pre-cleaning ladies to clean-up their husbands’ messy bathrooms before the regular cleaning ladies arrived. Eloise figured that other upper class women in the U.S. also hired pre-cleaning ladies. She founded a pre-cleaning business and sold franchises nationwide. She made a fortune.
Sir Jeremiah Teancrumpets was a British billionaire. He used to become angry at even the slightest irritation. His neighbor, a physician, taught Sir Jeremiah to laugh when he became angry, instead of becoming apoplectic. The laugh-it-off formula probably saved Sir Jeremiah from death by heart attack. But hearing Sir Jeremiah’s laugh causes some people fear and consternation.
Sir Jeremiah is a tightwad, but he hates paying income taxes. So he takes inflated income tax write-offs for donations he makes to charitable causes.
“How do we transfer these funds to Kaybe?” I asked Fanny.
“Well,” she said, “you just…” Then with a look of consternation, she added, “Wait. I’ll have to get back to you on that.”
A week later the phone rang.
“I’ve got an answer, but you’ll have to come to the Enchantment.”
“I’m on my way,” I said.
When I got to my booth, Four-Finger Fanny handed me a soft drink and said, “What I’m going to tell you is top secret. You have to guard this information with your life.”
She then gave me the name of a bank, a routing number, and the name and the number of the account. The electronic transfer went through flawlessly.
Sometime later I got a message saying that the donation had been received and that everyone involved was most grateful.
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Dr. Larry Day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co 

 

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Sports Bon Mots, Part 2

The Jargon:                              The Response
“He’s down for the count,” “Too bad he can only count to six.”
“This one’s going down to the wire,” “Hurry, call Western Union.”
”The coach called for a full court press,” “It’ll be back from the cleaners Monday.”
“That was a low blow.” “Even for a base saxophone”
“Smithers is on deck,” “they’re playing poker in the dugout again.”
“They need to bench that guy,” “Or maybe give him a sofa”
“He tried a head fake (basketball term)…Or was it just brain freeze?”

Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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When Nothing Seems Funny

“When you are creeping through the literary underbrush hoping to bag a piece of humor with your net, nothing seems funny. The thing works the other way around. Humor is funny when it sneaks up on you and takes you by surprise.”
Russell Baker, quoted in “Introduction,” Fierce Pajamas, An Anthology of Humor Writing from The New Yorker, David Remnick and Henry Finder, eds., New York, Random House, 2001, page ii.

Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co

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