Tag Archives: shopping

Do You Do the Jumble?©

 

 

Years ago I wrote a column titled “Code Blur.”  That story revolved around a World War II decoding device that I saw on display as “relics of technology,” at a local department store. As the story evolved, the feds thought I was involved in some  espionage plot. I had a  dicey time before it all got straightened out.

Welcome to déjà vu all over again

Emmaline and I have a mid-morning routine.  We sit in the living room and read the local newspaper.  Once we’ve noted the condition of the nation, the state and the community, we read the comics.  Sometimes we wonder which individuals are the comic strip characters and which are  our leaders, who are acting like comic strip characters.

Then we turn to the puzzle page and work on the word puzzle. That’s a grid with vertical and horizontal numbered boxes.  Printed opposite each box is a set of scrambled letters that spell

the answer to the clue if you put them in the right order.

Most days between us, Emmaline and I solve the puzzle without help.  Sometimes though, there’s a weird clue.  After we have tried the combinations of letters, I trudge upstairs to the computer  to try to unscramble the letters.  I type in the random letters from the puzzle trying to figure out a pattern.

There’s nothing sinister about that, right?  Wrong!  The other day while we were working on the puzzle, two black SUVs drove up in front of our house. The first SUV drove into the driveway. The other one blocked the driveway at the curb.  Four suits got out of the SUV in the driveway, and came to the door.

“Federal agents.  Open the door.”

I opened the door and they poured in.

“What’s this about?”

“We’ll ask the questions,” said the shortest suit—a bald guy with horned rim glasses.

“Show me some identification first.” I said.

Agent Horned Rimmed flashed an ID.

“Who are you?”

“We’re from the Department of Electronic Citizen Surveillance.  Our algorithm devices have detected coded messages coming from your computer.”

“I type random letters on a search engine looking for clues to the Jumble Puzzles in the newspaper,”

Agent Horned Rimmed ignored my answer and said, “Do you deny communicating with an alien who uses the code name KB 11.2?”

“KB 11.2?  “Kaybe,” are you kidding? Kaybe is the alien robot character I created for my monthly humor column?”

“There’s nothing humorous about espionage,”  said Agent Horned Rimmed. “Or aliens, either, for that matter.”

“”But Kaybe is fiction.  He’s a character in my book,” I said.  “Show them, Emmaline.”

“Don’t move,” said the tall suit standing behind Emmaline.

“I just want to show you the book,” said Emmaline.  It’s right here.”

Agent Horned Rimmed made a quick lateral move with his head, and said, “Get it.”

Emmaline crossed the living room and picked up my little book, Day Dreaming. She opened the book to a story titled “I Speak Alien,” and handed the book to Agent Tall Suit.  Agent Tall Suit leafed through the story, grimaced, and handed the book to Agent Horned Rimmed.

“It’s a humor book, Deke,” he said.

Emmaline handed Agent Tall Suit a page from the local newspaper.

“Here is the puzzle those words came from,” she said.  You can see that the letters in the grid match the written clues.  You solve the puzzle by putting the right words in the grid horizontally and vertically.  Sometimes we get stumped, so my husband types the letters into an Internet search engine to see  if it will unscramble them.”

Outside, the neighbors were beginning to gather in their front yards.  They were staring at the guys standing around the SUV that was blocking the driveway.

“It’s another surveillance network screw-up, Deke,” said Tall Agent.

“@#$%^&*,” said Deke. Then Deke gave his trademark lateral move of the head and the suits melted out through front door.

As they were running, one of them yelled,  “wrong address!”

Then they jumped into their SUVs  and sped away.

“Who were those unmasked men?” asked Emmaline.

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Dr. Larry Day is a retired KU J-School professor turned humor writer. His book,  Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available on Amazon.

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Hunting For St. Joseph ©

My wife Emmaline is one no nonsense, “just give me the facts,
please,” kind of woman. You won’t find Emmaline running on the
gerbil wheel of fad or fashion, much less giving heed to folklore
traditions. So it was with some consternation that I found myself in the
car (with Emmaline at the wheel as usual) driving to the city to buy a
statue of St. Joseph
We had decided to put our house on the market with an eye to
moving to something smaller, with fewer stairs. Before we signed a
sales contract and way before the for sale signs went up, Emmaline
got word from her good friend Rosalie that if we were serious about
selling our house we had better seek the divine assistance of St.
Joseph.
“You have to bury a small statue of St. Joseph upside down in the
front yard,” said Rosalie. “If you do that, your house will sell fast.”
Rosalie had told Emmaline to try We Believe Books, a Christian
store on the outskirts of the city. We drove around awhile and then
spotted “We Believe,” in a strip mall.
“Hi folks,” said the man behind the counter. “It’s a blessed
day.”
“Indeed it is,” said Emmaline. “Especially if you have a statue of
St. Joseph.”
“A statue?” the man asked.
“Well, actually small figurine of St. Joseph.”
“We don’t carry figurines,” he said.” Would a book mark do?”
We have some nice St. Joseph bookmarks.”
“No. It has to be a figurine.”
“Then I’m sorry, I can’t help you.”
“Is there another religious store close by?”
“You could try Light and Knowledge over on Linden Tree Road.”
Emmaline asked how to get there and the man gave her detailed
directions. After driving around for half an hour we found ourselves in
a in a rough neighborhood. Emmaline pulled up to a rundown
convenience store.
“See if the clerk knows where to find Light and Knowledge,” she
said.
The clerk was in his early twenties. He had a silver nose ring and
a nickel-sized ivory plug in each ear lobe.
“I’m looking for Light and Knowledge,” I said.
The clerk straightened up. His right hand moved slowly out of
sight under the counter.
“I’m all out,” he said.
“What?”
“I’m all out, man. Come back later.”
My confusion turned to insight. I felt a chill.
“Oh yeah, right. Okay, man,” I said. I backed toward the door.
“Did the clerk know anything?” asked Emmaline.
“No,” I said
Twenty minutes later we were in a less stressed part of town. We
passed a church. Six or seven women and a pastor were chatting on
the front steps. Emmaline pulled to the curb.
“Ask if they know where it is,” she said. “Hi, folks,” I said. “We’re
looking for the Light and Knowledge bookstore on Linden Tree
Road.” The pastor came to the car.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I have no idea. But Salvation Now
Bookshop is up the street three blocks.
The woman behind the counter at Salvation Now was tall and
angular.
“We’d like to buy a small figurine of St. Joseph, “said Emmaline.
“You don’t want Salvation Now, you want Light and
Knowledge,” said the woman.
“Right,” I said, “on Linden Tree Road.”
“Yes,” she said.
“Is it far?”
“About twenty blocks. My sister Ginger owns it. My name is
Sheila.” Sheila handed me a sheet of paper with a map showing
how to get from Salvation Now to Light and Knowledge.
“You must have lots of requests for St. Joseph figurines, why
don’t you stock them?” I asked.
“Ginger and I both wanted to stock St. Joseph figurines, but we
decided to do “rocks, scissors, papers” and let the winner have an
exclusive on them,” she said. “Ginger won. I got exclusive rights to St.
Redondo figurines.”
“What does St. Redondo do for people?” I asked.
“He brings customers to yard and garage sales,” she said. “You
hide him carefully in the worst, most useless, item you have. I’ve
heard of St. Redondo yard and garage sales that have nothing left
less than half an hour after they began.”
We thanked Sheila, and followed her map to the Light and
Knowledge Book Store. The St. Joseph figurine came in a little box
that had instructions on how and where to bury him to insure a quick
sale.
We haven’t sold our house yet, but Emmaline says St. Joseph is
working on it every day. Meantime she’s planning another trip to the
city. Emmaline wants to buy a St. Redondo figurine to use in the
garage sale we’re going to have before we move.

Dr. Larry Day is a retired foreign correspondent turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase on Amazon.

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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-

 

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Cheap Dirt

Maggworth’s Flea Market–excuse me, Maggsworth’s Antique Mall—is named for a guerrilla leader who raided our town and killed a lot of people during the Civil War. Colonel Moriarty Maggsworth was his name, and kill and pillage was his game. He and some of his cohort were later hanged.

Its name is the only thing exciting about the “mall.” The place itself is pretty drab—there’s a bunch of stalls set up in an old warehouse near downtown.

There are jewelry booths, pre-owned clothing stalls, furniture booths, sports card booths, and a both where they sell toilet paper holders made out of armadillo shells. The mall is only open on Saturdays and Sundays. You don’t quit your day job when you open a stall at Maggworth’s Antique Mall. But owning a booth at the mall, or shopping there every weekend does give the townspeople something to look forward to. Other wise they’d be sticking their tongues into electric lamp sockets to break the monotony.

One Saturday morning a stranger came to the mall and asked to rent a booth. There were four or five stalls unoccupied at the time so Ana Maria Symphonia Schultz, president of the mall cooperative association, signed him up, collected a month’s rent and showed him to a stall.

“You’re not going to sell dirty magazines are you?” asked Ana Maria Symphonia.

“No,” said the stranger.

“Good,” she said and went back to the booth where she and her partner Greta Soulsworthy sold exotically contorted ceramic vegetables.

The stranger dusted off the shelves and stacked them with cheap white Styrofoam cups—the kind you buy when it’s your turn to furnish hot cocoa for 150 people at a church bazaar. Then he nailed a board across the front of the booth for a counter and hung up a sign. It was hand lettered and it read: “DiRT fOR SaLE.”

With his merchandise in place the stranger sat down on a folding chair and began reading a magazine.

“Whatcha sellin’?”

“Dirt.”

“What?”

“Dirt.”

“Ya mean DIRT?”

“Yes.”

“Lemme see.”

The stranger handed the man one of the Styrofoam cups.

“It’s fulla dirt.”

“Yes.”

“Hey, Maggie, git over here. This guy’s sellin’ dirt.”

Maggie didn’t respond. She was gazing into a glass case containing several sets of authentic kidney stone earrings. Others, not so deeply absorbed, sauntered over to the stranger’s booth.

“This guy’s sellin’ dirt,” Gertrude’s husband said as a small crowd gathered.

“How much?” asked a pragmatic 13-year-old who had pushed his way to the front.

“The large containers are 75 cents, the middle-sized ones are 50 cents, and the small ones are a quarter, tax included,” said the stranger.

“Where’d the dirt come from,” asked somebody.

“From my back yard,” said the stranger.

“You just dig up dirt in your back yard and bring it in here to sell?”

“Yes.”

“What does it do?”

“Nothing.”

“You’re selling dirt that don’t do nothin’?”

“Yes.”

“Hot dog,” said the man. “I’ll take three big ones and a middle-sized one.” The stranger had sold all his dirt in an hour. He never returned.

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Pat & Pete Meet the President

 

When Pete and Pat took separate vacations last year, they had no idea they’d end up becoming a family of six—with four adopted kids.   And they certainly didn’t expect to visit the White House or that Pat would prepare lunch for the President.

Patrocina Megamecheldorf Zamborvich Jones and Pedro Salazar Remirez Sandoval Montoya y Montoya are known around town, for obvious reasons, simply as Pat and Pete. The two came to Letongaloosa years ago and became a couple after having been business rivals.  They got married, and, last year, adopted four children—a girl and boy from Korea and a boy and girl from Colombia.

Back before they become a couple, Pat wanted to buy the old Peabody home from the city and turn it into a pre-school. Pete wanted to make the place a pawn shop. After a notable public debate at city hall they ended up joining forces and sharing the facility. Together they created a unique business: Pat and Pete’s Pre-school and Pawn Shop.

Pat and Pete took separate vacations because the business associations to which they belonged had scheduled annual conventions at the very same time, but on different continents. Pete and Pat kissed each other at the airport and went their separate ways.

As the result of a mix-up Pete found himself in an orphanage in Seoul. Meantime Pat visited an orphanage in Cartagena. Pete met Min-ji, age eight, and her brother Hae-jin, six, and came home eager to adopt them both.   Pat fell in love with Hernando, age eight, and Maria, six, in Cartagena and hurried home with adoption on her mind.

The logistics of a four-child, two-country adoption process were daunting, but Pat and Pete kept their cool and just ploughed ahead. They got help from unexpected sources. In Washington, a Congresswoman helped smooth the way with the U.S. State Department. A Korean American businessman helped with the government in Seoul. Two adoption attorneys took the case pro bono. The couples’ professional organizations paid transportation costs for all the trips Pat and Pete had to make. A national hotel group gave them free meals and lodging in Cartagena and Seoul.

Back in Letongaloosa, Pat and Pete adjusted amazingly well to the shock of going from being just a married couple to being the parents of four lively pre-teens.

For their part, all the kids proved to be adaptable, resourceful and very bright.

 

They settled down to a quiet home and school life, and in less than a year, the Koreans were speaking Spanish, the Colombians were speaking Korean, and all four kids were speaking English without an accent.

The way things are in quiet little Letongaloosa, life for Pat and Pete and their four children might have flowed along unremarkably. But then a reporter for the local newspaper, the Argosy Herald Tribune Challenger Dispatch, found out about the family and decided to write a feature story about them. Because cross cultural news was “in” with the mass media at that time, her story was picked up by the wire services. The next thing they knew, Pete and Pat and the kids were invited to the White House for a visit.

In the Oval Office the children were introduced to the President. They had been well briefed, and they all got through the “I’m pleased to meet you Mr. President,” part just fine. Then out of the blue:

“Are we staying for lunch?” asked Hae-jin, now seven.

The President didn’t miss a beat. “What’s your favorite food?” he asked.

“My Mom makes the best caldo de camarones in the world,” said Hae-jin.

“Her veprova pecene, is better,” piped in Maria, also now seven.

Flustered and embarrassed, Pat opened her mouth to apologize.

But the President smiled and turned to his chief of staff. “Clark, please put Mrs. Montoya y Montoya-Zamborovich Jones in touch with the White House chef. We’re having homemade caldo de camarones and veprova pecene for lunch tomorrow.”

-30-

Dr.Larry Day is the author of Day Dreaming: Tales from the Fourth Dementia available for Kindle on Amazon. Hard copies are available for purchase on Lulu.com. Retailers e-mail Larry: day_larry@yahoo.com

            

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