Tag Archives: Writing

The Waiting Room Magazine Association©

Longtime readers of this column will recognize the name Eloise Simplkins. Eloise was a domestic cleaning woman who realized that suburban housewives were uncomfortable having their regular cleaning ladies see their husbands’ messy bathrooms. Eloise realized that these women would pay pre-cleaning ladies to touch up their houses before the regular cleaning ladies arrived.
Eloise created a nationwide business that sent pre-cleaning ladies to prepare homes for the regularly scheduled cleaning ladies. She had scores of franchises.That idea made her wealthy.
Of the various things we have said about Eloise over the years, we have never said she had a sense of humor. But Eloise does have a sense of humor. She often uses it to make a point. For example, she created the National Waiting Room Magazine Association.
Like most of us, Eloise spends time in waiting rooms of practitioners like dentists, medical doctors, financial advisers and specialists who enhance one’s personal appearance. Eloise recently was kept waiting by such a practitioner. As she waited (and waited) Eloise riffled through the waiting room magazines. They were dog eared and months old. Her eyes wandered to the walls of the office where framed credentials touted the practitioner’s professional qualifications. There was even a framed ribbon that the practitioner received for winning his third-grade spelling bee.
Eloise decided it would be easy to convince these certificate-happy bozos that their waiting rooms should be certified and organized and incorporated the National Magazine Waiting Room Certification Association. She hired a PR agency to place favorable news stories about the association in all the mass and social media.
Meantime, Eloise developed a large quantity of waiting room certificates. The certificates covered a variety of professional practices and included fee structures that each practice could afford.
Eloise added an incentive. For an additional fee Eloise would deliver the certificate personally and evaluate the waiting room magazines. She created categories for the waiting room magazines—including oldest date, most-dog-eared-but still-readable, most unusual foreign language, most appropriate content (for the particular practice) magazine, least likely to be of interest to the clientele of that practice, most unreadable type face.
Finally Eloise said she would pose for photographs with the practitioners. After she said that, orders poured in, nearly all of them specifying that Eloise was to deliver the certificates.
These projects kept Eloise so busy that she hardly had time to gloat. This leading physician and that nationally noted orthodontist, the other highly regarded financial adviser all wanted a waiting room certificate and a photo taken with Eloise. She traveled across the country, visiting waiting rooms large and small. She took a couple of assistants with her and they did a systematic evaluation of the magazines and put them in the appropriate categories from Eloise’s list. By this
time the mass media were covering Eloise’s movements without prodding from PR firms. The New York Times did an interview; the Wall Street Journal sent reporters to dig into her past and The New Yorker did a humorous short piece about her past and found it to be exactly as originally reported. She appeared on Jimmy Kimmel’s show, the Today show, Anderson Cooper 360 and network evening news.
Overseas practitioners revamped their waiting rooms. All that activity was good for the industry and good for the wide variety of clients being served in the waiting rooms.
The analysis of categories proved popular and was picked up by social media as well as the media of mass communication.
Following are the results:
• Oldest magazine found in a waiting room: 1917 copy of Field and Stream.
• Most dog-eared-but-still-readable magazine: an April, 1971 copy of Ladies Home Journal.
• Most unusual foreign language magazine: Kalakaumundi Magazine published in Malayalam .
• Most appropriate magazine content for a particular practice’s waiting room: The Bark found in Veterinarian’s waiting rooms.
• Magazine least likely to be of interest to that waiting room’s clientele: Today’s Senior Magazine, found in a pediatric physician’s waiting room.
• Magazine with the most unreadable typeface: Saturday’s Guru printed in Frutiger boldface type.
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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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Hadley and the Cell Phone Glare©

(a 2014 offering repeated)

Letongaloosa has a fine performing arts center. The center brings nationally and internationally known performers, musical groups and other topflight entertainers to town. Hadley Wilkins always buys season’s tickets to the center’s “It’s Broadway” series. His seat is in the middle of the first row of the lower balcony. That’s where the cell phone glare episode happened.
Hadley was at his seat early for the first performance of the season. Just before the house lights went down, a man in a dark suit made his way along the row and sat next to Hadley. Before the man’s pants touched the seat, he had a large-screen cell phone in hand and had begun thumbing through a series of messages. As the curtain rose, the man’s eyes remained on his cell phone screen. The glow of the cell phone was distracting, but Hadley waited a few moments before touching the man’s arm.
“They said to turn off and put away all cell phones,” he whispered.
The man didn’t look away from the screen.
“Don’t bother me,” he said, and kept on scrolling
Finally the man set the cell phone screen-up on the arm of the chair between him and Hadley. Moments later the phone emitted a “ping.” The man touched the screen, pressed a button, and began thumbing a text message. Hadley saw no allies seated around them, so he subsided in his seat and watched the show.
As the audience streamed out of the theater, Hadley looked for a staff member, but found none. The next morning Hadley drove to the center to talk to the manager. Hadley explained the encounter, and the manager expressed sympathy, and asked what seat the cell phone user had occupied.
“He was seated on my left,” said Hadley, and gave the seat number. The manager typed, and looked at the screen.
“Oh my,” he said.
“What’s the matter?”
“That seat belongs to Clemment Boxley. He’s a senior executive at Red Grove Industries. The company has just transferred him to Letongaloosa from New Jersey. Red Grove is one of our largest corporate sponsors.” He touched another key. “And Mr. Boxley is one of our “Starfire” level contributors. He contributed $5,000 to the center this year.”
“And that means?” asked Hadley.
“And that means,” said the center manager, “that we are going to find you a marvelous new seat. Do you want to stay in the balcony, or would you prefer the main level?”
“I prefer the seat I’ve occupied as a season ticket holder for the last 10 years,” said Hadley.
“You have that choice, of course,” said the manager.
“But you’re not going to do anything about that man and his cell phone,”
I apologize, but, no, I am not.”
“I see,” said Hadley, and he left.
Hadley Wilkins is an electronics wizard. He developed important parts of current cell phone technology. Hadley decided this was a job for Cyberman!
The next performance was sold out. The center spokesperson welcomed members of the audience, thanked the performers and sponsors, and made the ritual cell phone announcement. During that announcement, Clemment Boxley’s eyes were on his cell phone screen and his thumbs were on the keys. The face up screen glowed on the arm of his chair.
Then, just before intermission cell phone tones erupted all over the theater. Baffled audience members fumbled for their phones in their purses, pouches and pockets and pulled them out. Scores of cell phones glowed in the darkened auditorium. It looked surreal. On each cell phone screen, in Ariel Black type, was the same message: “Ain’t teknology wonnerful?”
The Associated Press ran a short piece about Letongaloosa’s “cyber glow phenomenon.” The story lasted one news cycle in the mass media.
A few days later the performance center manager came to see Hadley.
“Mr. Wilkens, the center wants to reward you for your years of loyalty as a season ticket holder. Here are six complimentary tickets to our upcoming ‘Pop Culture Parade’ show.” Then he said, “By the way, Mr. Boxley has been transferred back to New Jersey. Apparently the company didn’t think he was a good fit for the Redgrove plant here.” -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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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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Against all Odds©

` Two events within 24 hours of each other changed Oswald Parker’s life. If the events had happened in reverse sequence, Oswald would have remained a dirt-poor loser. Instead he became a millionaire and the Great Hope of everyday Joes in the country.
Oswald, a 30-year-old nerdy-looking bachelor, went to a local department store to buy himself a pair of socks for his birthday. Walking through the Women’s Department Oswald saw a life-size poster of a beautiful auburn-haired model.
He gazed at the poster for five minutes during which two sales ladies asked if they could help him find something.. He just stared at the woman in the poster. The floor manager was approaching Oswald when Oswald snapped a photo on his cell phone and bolted for the front door.
He drove straight to a grocery store and stood at the counter where lottery tickets were sold. As everyone knows, a lottery ticket is the poor man’s Magic Lamp.
Oswald held out two one-dollar bills.
“What numbers are you going to play?” asked the clerk.
Oswald didn’t answer. He just stood there in a daze.
Page 2 “Against All Odds”
“Sir, what numbers do you want?” Nothing.
Miffed, the clerk pushed a button and the machine spit out a lottery ticket.
“That’ll be $2, sir,” she said.
Oswald gazed.
The clerk reached across the counter, took the $2 from Oswald and put the lottery ticket in his hand. “Next,” said the clerk.
Oswald drove home, put the lottery ticket on top of his dresser and crawled in bed. He didn’t wake up until morning. He lay with his eyes closed thinking of the woman in the department store poster. It took great effort to get up, get dressed, and leave for his shift at the tire store where he worked.
A few days later television newscasts announced that someone had purchased the only winning ticket for a five-million-dollar lottery pay out. The winner had not come forward to claim the money. That was normal–many lottery winners don’t claim their prize until they get their legal team and their “Instant Millionaire” strategy worked out.
Meantime Oswald went obliviously on with his life until a local newscast prompted him to reflect. He remembered the lottery ticket on his dresser. He checked the number and realized he had the winning ticket.
His first thought was: “Now I can meet her.” Now he could meet the love of his life—the woman in the department store poster. His second thought was: “I want her to like me for myself, and not because I just won a million dollars in the lottery.”
The next day Oswald quit his job, cashed in his savings account and flew to New York City. He had no luck at the model agencies.
Page 3 “Against All Odds”
Nerdy in appearance and speech, Oswald often didn’t even get past the front desk at most agencies. Then a receptionist–who was kind of nerdy-looking herself–took pity on him. She asked him some questions and looked at the photo on his cell phone.
“I’ll help you find her,” she said.
It was a difficult job. There are almost as many model agencies in New York as there are pizza joints. After a couple of days of fruitless searching Fran—the receptionist—asked Oswald if he had seen much of New York.
“Nothing,” he replied.
“Why don’t we take the afternoon off? I’d be happy to show you around. We can start fresh tomorrow morning.”
Oswald agreed reluctantly, but by midafternoon he was having such a good time he almost forgot he had come to New York to find the poster model. The next morning he showed up at Fran’s desk with a box of chocolates and a bouquet of flowers.
“Let’s see some more sights,” he said.
“I can’t,” said Fran. “I don’t have any vacation days.”
“Then quit your job. I won a million dollars in the lottery. I love you and I want to marry you.” He showed her the winning ticket.
“What about the model, the one in the poster?”
“She can be a bridesmaid,” said Oswald.
And she was.

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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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Giving Alma Mater a Boost©

A light flashed on Camden Manuel’s huge mahogany desk in an office in a building on Wall Street.
“Yes, Fay,” he said
“There’s a Dean Ima Farseer on the line. From a community college.”
“I’ll take it. Put her through.”
Click.
“Dean Farseer, what a pleasant surprise. Are you in New York?”
“No, Camden, I’m back here in Letongaloosa. Thanks for taking my call.”
“It’s always a pleasure. How are the Leopards doing this season?”
“Not well, as usual. But they keep trying.”
“That’s the important thing.”
“I suppose.”
` “Is there something I can do to help?”
“Not with the football team, Camden, but perhaps something else.”
“I’ll be happy to try to help. What’s the problem?”
“We have a money problem.”
“How much do you need?”
“That’s not the problem. We have too much money.”
“Wow. Now that IS a problem.”
“You remember reading about Eloise Simplekins, the woman who made millions as a pre-cleaning ladies’ cleaning lady”?
“Yes. Eloise and I chatted at an alumni party some time back.”
“And Ribby Von Simeon, the millionaire who has that land with the reconstructed ship outside of town?”
“And Brett Timert, the guy who inherited a pile of money from his adoptive basque parents?”
“Yes, I remember. They’re good guys, all three of them.”
“Well, they want to give Letongaloosa Community Junior College a million dollars each.”
“That’s a lot of money.”
“I’ll say. Our last big alumni contribution was $850 from Old Doc Coggins’s will.”
“So, how can I help?”
“We need advice. There will be lawyers and hand-out-seekers and IRS agents all over the place.
“Give me a couple of days. I’ll talk to some people and get back to you.”
“We’ll all appreciate your help.”
Camden did some digging and called Dean Farseer a week later.
“Dean Farseer, this is Camden. I have a suggestion: You designate one building on campus for each of the donors and plan an official naming ceremony for each. If they agree, you could space the naming programs out so that the university will get maximum exposure from the mass media and the public.”
“That’s a good idea. But there’s a problem. Many of the best buildings are already named for pioneer professors, former deans and such. The faculty, and perhaps the community, would make a fuss if we dropped those traditional names.”.
“Other institutions have had that problem,” said Camden. “They solved it by giving the buildings hyphenated names with the pioneer name listed first. Names like Parson-Walters Hall and Peabody-James Hall.”
“Wow! Now we’re getting somewhere. Thank you!”
“Keep in touch, and let me know how things go.”
Time passed, and then one day Camden got an engraved invitation to attend the naming ceremony for Tilden-Simplekins Hall. Months later the university invited Camden to the dedication of Kleghorn-Von Simeon Hall. Quite a bit later came the naming of Thompson-Timert Hall.
Camden had been right. The public turned out for the dedication programs and the mass media, including some national media, covered the events. Dean Farseer gained university administration approval and was invited by a number of other universities to speak about the success of the building naming idea.
More time passed. Camden didn’t hear from Dean Farseer. And he didn’t see any more about Letongaloosa Community Junior College in the national mainstream media. Then one day a white envelope arrived at his office. The envelope contained an engraved invitation to a building-naming ceremony, but didn’t specify the name.
When Camden arrived at Letongaloosa Airport he was met by the mayor in a stretch limo and a delegation of city officials. Also on the airport tarmac were representatives of the LCJC faculty and administration. The mayor joined Camden in the limo for the ride back to town. The procession drove to campus and stopped at a speakers’ platform in front of a new dormitory building.
The mayor escorted Camden to the platform and a microphone.
“My fellow citizens,” said the mayor. “Thank you for joining us on this auspicious occasion as we designate this fine new facility Camden Manual residence hall.”
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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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Ghosts Of Legends Past ©

Last Thursday, I found myself sitting in my office putting the finishing touches on this month’s column. Every “I” had been dotted, every “t” had been crossed. A problem made this column difficult to write. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to write about, it’s that, with Halloween around the corner, I couldn’t stop thinking about the peculiar conversation I had with Barkley Michaels, WZBZ’s Mega-Radio’s disc jockey.
I had been away from my desk for almost two weeks. I had been in La Mancha at the Cineplex for a week helping finalize the plans for the upcoming Fall Film Festival. Immediately after that I grabbed Emmaline and we headed off to Tahiti to attend the Marlon Brando Film Festival. I went every year, especially after Letongaloosa County Community Junior College, where I teach, acquired a research grant to study the topography of the island where Brando once lived.
I also began writing the weekly movie review for the Letongaloosa Register-Journal-Challenger-Sun Chronicle after Dexter Dolby, winner of the Fall Film Festival, went out to Hollywood. The Marlon Brando Film Festival in Tahiti was always a reader favorite.
I know what you’re thinking–how many reviews can a person read (or write) about an iconic movie legend, especially since the body of work hasn’t changed in decades?
But you would be surprised. Marlon Brando films are just an element of the festivities. There is food, there is fun, and there is just an overall celebration of life in Tahiti. And that brings me back to a vexing problem and to a conversation I had with Barkley.
“I don’t understand how my listeners can be so fascinated about the fact that the station is haunted. It’s the same year after year. The former station owner Reginald Wicker watches over the station. I get tired of hearing the same old stories, along with the corny “running refrigerator” jokes that listeners like to tell, Barkley said.
The legend is that since Reginald dropped dead in the control booth, there have been strange manifestations. Control room lights grow brighter then dimmer, then go out altogether. Announcers’ throats suddenly tighten up and they sounded like Minnie Mouse for a few seconds. Then their voices would go back to normal. It was pretty non-scary haunting. It was not threatening or scary, but something new had occurred, and while still not frightening, was definitely peculiar.
While reading promotions for the Fall Film Festival, trick-or-treating schedules, and other Halloween activities occurring around town, Barkley said, everything seemed normal. Then he read the announcement about my upcoming piece showcasing my time at the Marlon Brando Film Festival. Then the haunting activity picks up.
“It’s weird–every time I play the sound bite that Isabella sent over from the newspaper office, the lights in the studio flash on the back wall like you’d see at a movie premiere”, Barkley looked perplexed.
Isabella Frost, the Letongaloosa Register-Journal-Challenger-Sun Chronicle’s managing editor had the college interns put together sound bites that used lines from well-known Brando films to showcase my review. She thought it would be a good way to get people in Letongaloosa excited about the upcoming fall film festival.
“Hmm, well, Reginald was a huge Brando film buff. I guess he still is…,” I said.
If you think about it, Halloween is more than snack-sized candy bars, haunted radio stations and toilet paper tossed into the trees in front yards. It’s about the legacy and memories that those before us have left behind—whether it is an iconic movie legend or a ghostly station manager watching over things.
“It’s not so bad, you know. And neither are the corny appliance jokes,” I said.
You may roll your eyes, but you could also embrace what’s happening and realize that the people of Letongaloosa remember the past.”
With those thoughts in mind and Barkley’s problem solved, I went home to finish my column. Barkley headed home, too. He put on his favorite Tahitian shirt, popped a large bowl of popcorn, and turned on a Marlon Brando movie. Then he sat back on his couch, and smiled.
Maybe Barkley couldn’t tell the stories of his old pal, Reginald Wicker, but I can wish everybody a Happy Halloween!
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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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Everything Old Is New Again©

                Putting an actual pen to an actual piece of paper is becoming a thing of the past.—at least that’s how it seems most days. I started writing quips and short stories back in 1945, back in the days that surely pre-date any social media account, smart phone app, tablet or laptop. This doesn’t mean that I don’t still like to scribble and jot ideas down when the mood strikes or when the deadline for my column is just around the corner.
What it does mean is that writers of my generation communicated in a different way than today’s 21st-century wordsmiths typing and uploading their stories at lightning speed. Now that I’ve been living as a “writer” for nearly 75 years, I can look back over my stories and notes I’ve jotted down since I was nine years old, and see how putting a pen to paper has shaped my life as a writer,
Looking back, I’m shocked that I’ve been writing this long. I hadn’t really given it much thought until I was chatting with my friend and childhood pal, Eloise Simplekins.
Eloise had always been considered 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, and always has been very smart. Eloise always had a unique perspective and a kind word.
We met for lunch at the Main Street Diner in downtown Letongaloosa last Tuesday. Eloise wanted to tell me about her latest idea to expand her current business as La Mancha’s premier pre-cleaning lady and to reminisce about “the good ol’ days.”
“When I started my company, people in town thought I was just plum crazy, but I didn’t listen and I’m glad I didn’t…just like you”, Eloise grinned.
I smiled. I knew the story she was about to regale me with.
“I’ll never forget the look on Miss Bunker’s face when she read that note she caught you passing to Dean Larson. I still can’t believe that you convinced her that what you wrote was an idea for a story.”
“Ha, yeah. ‘Screw You’ I told her it was a title for a story about a boy who gets a toolbox for Christmas.”
Eloise laughed, “Miss Bunker said she wanted to read the story and threatened to call your mother if you didn’t finish it before we left school that afternoon.”
Smiling, I thought back to that day. Putting a pen to that piece of paper changed my life. It was the catalyst for my life as a writer—for my becoming a foreign correspondent, world traveler, newspaper reporter, and now, a humor writer.
I don’t consider myself to have had a particularly exciting or extraordinary writing life, but Eloise likes to remind me of that story I wrote for Miss Bunker.
A few years ago, Eloise started a company that services fastidious homemakers. Her idea was to send pre-cleaning ladies to homes where the homemakers can’t stand to let their regular cleaning ladies see the mess.
“Your gumption ‘way back when’ stayed with me. It gave me the courage to start my company. It took me a while, but I finally got to where I want to be…thanks to you, old friend.”
Over the years, Eloise and I have managed to keep up. We both have websites, blogs, a presence on social media.
So, I was truly surprised when Eloise told me her new idea: hand-written notes. She wanted to jot down “Thank you” messages to her clients for their business and support.
In a time when messaging and texting has become our primary form of communication, the idea showed 21st-century genius. Even I couldn’t remember the last time I had written or received a personal note—a grocery list from my wife, Emmaline, doesn’t count, does it?
It had been a good day. I left the diner that afternoon feeling good about my life as a writer and headed home to work on this month’s column. A few days later, I received a note from Eloise. It was hand-written and one of the best messages I have ever gotten from my old friend:
“Everything old is new again.”
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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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