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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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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Pop Fly Redemption

La Mancha is the posh section of Letongaloosa  where the streets are winding and the house numbers are hand painted on Spanish tile.  The La Mancha girls softball team—the Amazons—and the team’s star, catcher, Madison “Madie” Sommerset,  suffered an ignominious defeat in the final game of the 2014 regional tournament.  After trailing the whole game, the Amazons allowed the Fairfield Fusions to  tie the game in the bottom of the final inning.
With the score tied, and two out, a  scrawny Fusion  batter hit a high fly that Madie called for.  Madie was wearing extra thick make-up in anticipation of  posing for victory photos.   Madie tried to tear off her catcher’s mask but her thick make-up had bonded with the lining of her catcher’s mask . She couldn’t get it off.  Madie muffed the play and the fusion runner crossed the plate for the winning run.  There was no joy in La Manchaville , Mighty Madie had flubbed up.
Things were tough for Madie during the off season. Students called her “Muffles” behind her back, and a few called her Muffles to her face. She developed an allergy to cosmetics and had to go to school barefaced. Worse, Madie developed a pimple on her nose. Students called her Bruja  which is “witch” in Spanish. Someone left a big red apple on her desk to remind her that she wasn’t a big shot “Snow White,” any more.
When it came to academics Madie had been an indifferent student. She worked hard enough in school to stay eligible for athletics and extracurricular activities, but she often failed to turn in her assignments.  She just never even tried to get good grades, much less make the dean’s list.
That was acceptable, even to her parents, when she was a star athlete.  But when Mr. and Mrs. Sommerset found that people at the country club treated them with pity rather than the usual deference, they confronted Madie and found out that she was, academically, a nonperson. They demanded that she make the honor roll and that she excel at some other extracurricular activity than sports.
At  Letongaloosa High School, forensics was to the brainy kids what athletics was to the athletic kids: a ticket to popularity and recognition.  Madie had always distained non sport activities.   But now, Madie signed up for forensics and focused on poetry recitation.  She memorized and practiced reciting “Casey at the Bat.” Partly because she looked the part, and partly because she loved the poem, the judges liked Madie’s recitations.

She won the local and district forensics poetry competitions and went on to regionals. Competition was very tough at the regional tournament but Madie managed to win or place second in poetry recitation and found herself in the final round facing an opponent from Fusion High School.  Madie’s  opponent was listed on the forensics tote board in the hall as Sally Teasley.  The tournament was held on a Saturday in a neutral high school building. The tournament judges were from out of town  They didn’t know the competitors other than by their names, and didn’t know what high school the contestants represented.
That afternoon Madie walked into the large classroom designated for the poetry competition. She wrote her name on the board under the sign “Poetry Recitation Finalists,” and sat down.  A moment later her opponent entered the room and signed in. Madie drew a sudden breath. Her recitation opponent was her old softball nemesis, Sally Teasley, A.K.A. “Scrawny Arms” from Fusion High School.
The judges were sitting in student desks eight rows back. They conferred, then one of them announced:  “We’ll begin this session with Sally Teasley reciting  “ The Highwayman,” by Alfred Noyes.  Sally went to the lectern and began this session with Sally Teasley reciting  “ The Highwayman,” by Alfred Noyes.  Sally went to the lectern and began reciting:

“The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees…” Then she paused and turned pale.  The room was silent. Sally stood frozen at the lectern. Then Madie’s quiet voice came from behind her: “The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed among…” Sally brightened, picked up the refrain, and finished her recitation beautifully.  After Madie had recited “Casey at the Bat,” the two girls walked out of the room arm in arm.

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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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Eloise Calls the Robo Callers©

“Ring.”  When Eloise Simplekins picked up her phone, a robot voice said: “Hello. This is Jan.  Congratulations! You qualify for ….  Please press ‘one’ now to speak to a customer representative. Press ‘nine’ now if you wish to be removed from the qualification list.”

“Fiddlesticks!” said Eloise, and clicked her phone off.   It was the sixth robo call this week.  She had tried hanging up, she had tried pressing “nine,” but a salesperson always came on the line anyway.  She had pressed “one” and told the person who answered to take her off their list.  The person didn’t answer Eloise’s request.  All Eloise heard was a  click and a dial tone.

Eloise Simpelkins is plain—beginning with her name and continuing with her squat chunky figure, her thick unruly hair, her flat face, her squinty eyes, and her pug nose.  But she is very smart.

Years ago Eloise became a pre-cleaning lady for the women of La Mancha, that rich part of town where the streets are winding and the house numbers are hand painted on Spanish tile.  It embarrassed the women of La Mancha to have their cleaning ladies see poopy toilets in their husbands’ bathrooms, so Eloise became their pre-cleaning lady. But she became much more.  These women ached to reveal their foibles to someone.  Eloise was there every week and seemed discreet. She became their confidant, and the women rewarded her handsomely.  She invested wisely and became a wealthy woman.

Robot phone calls irked Eloise, and after she became rich they irked her even more.  When she couldn’t convince the “you qualify for…” robot voice organizations to quit calling her, Eloise turned to Hadley Wilkins for help.

Readers will remember Hadley “Cyberman” Wilkins. He’s the electronic engineer who helped develop cell phone technology.

“Hadley,” she said. “I need your help.”

“Say on, oh Wise One.”

“I get six to eight robot calls a week,” she said.  “If I hang up, they just call back.   I press the button and talk to a live operator but they still won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.  Hadley, I want you seek out the private phone numbers of the executives who run these robo-call outfits.   I’m going to give them a taste of their own medicine.”

“On it,” said Hadley.

Randall Egregious, the vice-president for operations at Techaly Communications, Inc., was relaxing in his den when the unlisted number on his cell phone rang.  The screen said “Mara Belle.”  Mara Belle Function was a Techaly  executive.  Egregious clicked on.

“Are you being pestered by robot telephone calls?” a robot voice asked.  “If you get robot calls seven days a week, please press one.  If you get robot calls…”  Egregious clicked the phone off, but the robo- voice continued talking: “If you get five or fewer robot calls a week, please press two,  if you get fewer than three  robot calls a week, please press star.  To repeat this message, please spell out “help,” on your keypad. ” Egregious hurled the phone across the room.  It slammed into the brick fire place and fell to the floor.  The robot voice continued to speak:  “If you are angry and frustrated and want to destroy your cell phone, please press the “tone” button.”  Egregious picked up the cell phone, ran outside, and threw it as far as he could.

He came back inside and turned on the television.  Instead of his favorite channel, the screen showed a television test pattern.  From the television speaker the robot voice intoned the same message.

Egregious ran to his car and sped to his office.  He called the company’s technology director at his home.

“George, this is Randall Egregious. I’m at the office.  How do I shut down the robot-call apparatus?”

“You can’t.  Don’t you remember?  You ordered us to create closed-circuit hardware and software that would, in your own words, ‘make robot calls forever.’”

Egregious clicked off and ran down the hall to the fire safety cabinet.  He yanked it open, grabbed a fire ax, ran back and smashed all the robot-call machines.

Then he scribbled, “I quit, Randall,” on a scrap of paper and taped it to the CEO’s office door.

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Dr. Larry Day is a retired KU J-School professor turned humor writer. His book of humor columns, Day Dreaming: Tales from the Fourth Dementia,  is available on Amazon. You can also visit his website at www.daydreaming.co

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It’s So Cold…

Colder than a witches’  up here.  Clear blue sky, not a cloud.  Cold enough to freeze Ginger’s pee as soon as it hits the grass (well not quite).   

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 Consultant

 

When I was a teenager, I was klutz. My klutziness—with everything from gadgets to girls—was a source of merriment for my friends, and despair for me. I shared my anguish in an interview with my kindly old Bishop.

He gave me some advice: “The Lord makes imperfect people with the hope that they will help other imperfect people with their imperfections.” That advice didn’t mean much to me at the time, but it does now.

It got me a job.

I was at a local hardware store when I met the headhunter who set up my job interview. I had gone to the store to return a faulty flashlight. The flashlight, it turns out, worked fine. Apparently I had put the batteries in wrong.

The salesman, Mr. Morales, turned the batteries around, replaced the cap, and flicked the switch. The light came on.

“It’s working now,” he said, and handed me the flashlight. He smiled, but he didn’t give me “the look.” That’s why I always look for Mr. Morales when I return merchandise at that hardware store.

Every time I hand faulty gadgets to other salespeople, they make the darn things work in an instant.

“You had the fragjibber in backwards,” they say.

Then they give me “the look.” You know what I mean, that surreptitious supercilious raising of the eyebrows that says, “If this guy is brain dead, shouldn’t he be on a respirator?”

It was while I was thanking Mr. Morales that the headhunter, Sandra Chang, came up and started talking to me. She asked me what I did for a living. I told her that I was retired and working my head off at odd jobs to make ends meet. After we had chatted a while, Ms. Chang asked if I would be interested in being a consultant. I said, “Sure I would.”

When she called some weeks later, she had set up an interview with Apogee Engineering. I’d never heard of the outfit, and Ms. Chang was pretty vague about what they do to keep their stockholders happy. She was also vague about which of my myriad talents Apogee Engineering was interested in. She said they’d explain in the interview.

Ms. Chang briefed me well. She said that first they’d go over my resume, and told me what they’d be looking for. She was right on target. She said that after the routine stuff, they’d want to ask me some different questions. She told me to be sure I answered all their questions truthfully.

“No problem,” I said. “My life’s an open book. I’m a professor emeritus from a small university, and I teach part time at a large university. I don’t drink, and I don’t do drugs. I don’t smoke and I don’t chew. I’m a very happily married man.

On the appointed day I went to Apogee Engineering. The interview was going great. They seemed completely satisfied with my answers to the routine resume questions. Then the assistant to president cleared his throat.

“Professor, as Ms. Chang may have told you, the project we’re considering you for is very important to Apogee Engineering. Because of that, you’ve been the subject of a rather extensive background check. Would you mind confirming some of our findings?”

“Not at all,” I said. “I’ll tell you anything you want to know.” Then I said to myself, “Bring it on.” I was secure in the fact that I have lived a solidly upstanding, if somewhat prosaic, life.

“Professor,” said the assistant, “a couple of weeks ago the local computer store sent someone out to your house. Why did you call them?”

“I inadvertently put a CD Rom disk into the B-drive slot instead of the CD Rom slot on my computer,” I said. “It got stuck, and I couldn’t get it out.

“I see,” he said. Then he went on.

“The folks at Triple A report that you have made extensive use of their emergency road service. In fact, you called last them last week. Can you tell us what happened?”

I paused. “Where was this guy going with this stuff?” I thought. “Oh well, what the heck,”

“I was driving to work and a car splashed mud on my windshield. When I turned on the automatic windshield washer, it squirted oil all over my windshield. I couldn’t see a thing, and I ran into a curb and blew out a tire.”

“And how did oil get into the reservoir of the windshield wiper?” asked the assistant to the president of Apogee Engineering.

“Lie,” whispered a little voice inside me. “Lie your socks off.” But I didn’t.

“A couple of days earlier the oil light came on, so I put in some oil. I must have poured oil into the wrong hole. All those darn caps under the hood look the same.”

I wondered if he was going to give me “the look,” but he didn’t.

“You’ve returned nine appliances to local stores in the last few weeks. How many of those appliances were actually faulty?”

“These guys are setting me up,” I thought. “They’re going to give me the old heave ho. Well I’ll save them the trouble.”

“All nine appliances worked perfectly when the store personnel adjusted them, I said with quiet dignity. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just be on my way.” I stood up.

“Professor,” said the assistant to the president, “please sit down.”

“You people are trying to humiliate me,” I said.

“On the contrary, we’re trying to hire you,” he said. “We’ve been looking all over the country for someone like you. You’re bright. You’re successful. You’re a solid citizen. And you’ve been blessed with a gift. World class athletes 2

are a breed apart. They run the 100-yard dash in 9.3 seconds. They bat .375 year after year. They shoot in the low sixties in high pressure golf tournaments.

“What does that have to do with me?” I asked.

“You are an extremely rare phenomenon. Industrial companies all over the world hire Apogee Engineering and pay us millions of dollars to help them idiot-proof their products.”

“So you’re looking to hire a blithering idiot,” I said bitterly.

“On the contrary,” he said. “We’re looking to hire a world class reverse mechanical engineering genius, and you are he. You’re one in a billion. If a consumer product doesn’t baffle you, it won’t baffle anyone. Please come to work for us and help make consumer products safer for people all over the world.”

So I did. -30-

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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