June 27, 2017

Four by Four?

Was I sleeping or out of town when they changed the definition of the term “4×4”? I first wondered about this when a few years ago I noticed an all-wheel drive, one-ton “dually” pick-up  with “4×4” painted on the flared rear fender that is so distinctive of the breed. At first I thought that I was mistaken or the owner had transplanted a fender from a different truck, but then I saw another one a few days later. Not long after that I noticed another manufacturer had it painted on the tailgate. Finally, the last of the three U.S. truck…

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Drive-thru Donut Dilemma

It was my turn to bring donuts to work, so I made a detour to the donut shop. Because it was a little after 5 AM, I was not surprised when I saw only one car in the parking lot. The lights were on inside the building, but no customers and only one employee behind the counter. “Great,” I thought, “no line.” I tried the door and found it locked. No problem, I went down a little way, and tried the other door. It was locked, too. Confused, I looked at the woman inside, and she waved her arm around…

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The Concept of Antiques

The concept of antiques has always puzzled me. I don’t give a hoot about the old junk itself, but the concept is intriguing. The same old furniture we couldn’t wait to get rid of thirty years ago is now valuable simply because we never reached the point of desperation where we needed to burn it for heat. Other pieces survived only because chrome-plated tubular steel, Formica, and beanbags don’t burn very well. The guy who came up with the antique idea has to be one of the greatest salesmen of all time. I think it had to be a guy…

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Dumb Driver Dilemma

I witnessed something disturbing while driving the other day. I saw a person driving the same make, model, year–even the same color–vehicle as mine. The disturbing part was that the other driver executed what I consider to be a particularly stupid driving maneuver. I won’t say what it was, in case that maneuver is a part of your normal driving repertoire, and it’s not important anyway. The important part is: how could a person who is so obviously intelligent when it comes to the selection of a motor vehicle be so patently stupid in its operation? What if one of my friends saw  this other driver and thought it was me? Or what if he caused an accident, and I was arrested? Or the…

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The Bond Between a Man and His Hats

The other day my wife suggested that I discard a hat that I have owned for some time. Her exact words were, “How can you stand to put that grubby thing on your head? You have seventy-three hats, sixty-nine of which you’ve never worn. Get rid of it.” Obviously, she does not know the bond between a man and his hats. They’re actually caps, but I call them hats, because you put a cap on toothpaste, and you put a hat on your head. There’s a big difference (unless it’s a ball cap). A man needs only six hats: One…

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The C C ‘n R’s

Many of us live in complexes or communities that are governed by a thin layer of bureaucracy referred to as a homeowners association.  Most associations use a set of rules and regulations as a guideline for making decisions about our everyday lives. These rules are called “The C C & R’s.” According to the board of directors this stands for Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions, but I found out it really means Convoluted, Confusing & Really stupid. I will go over a few of the rules we live by and the real reasons for having them. Some of these rules may…

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Amazing Marketing Types?

I am amazed at how some marketing types will attempt to make us think a particular attribute of a product is desirable. For example: A certain brand of cereal stays crispy until you have eaten the entire contents of the bowl. I, of course, have some questions: Is there a time limit on how long you can take to empty the bowl, or does it stay crispy forever? If it stays crispy until after you have consumed it, how do we know it EVER gets soft? As I eat my soggy corn flakes, or whatever, I take comfort in the fact…

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An American Driver in Canada

I’m a good enough driver when I’m in familiar surroundings, but I’ll freely admit that I always seem to be in the wrong lane or fifty feet past my exit when driving in a strange city. If I’m driving a strange car, it just adds to the excitement. During one of our vacations, we flew to Seattle, rented a car, drove to Vancouver (that’s in Canada), and caught a ship for Alaska (that’s back in the United States). A trip of that length is fraught with hazards. The first thing I learned is that rental car companies try to trick…

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The Issue of Sending Holiday Cards

The issue of sending holiday cards has always presented a dilemma. Each year you have to decide whether or not to send a card to so-and-so because the cards have become more expensive, postage rates have gone up, and the list of potential recipients has grown exponentially. No matter how many cards (or letters) you send, you always forget somebody or you receive a card from someone you took off your list. It never fails, as you are walking back from the mailbox looking at return addresses, that you realize, “I never sent them a card.” And have you noticed…

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Dirt Road Expert

I’m a dirt road expert. I’ve not only driven on dirt roads in more than a dozen states and six foreign countries, but I’ve lived and worked on dirt roads in three states. I live on a dirt road now, and I am appalled, yes appalled, at the lack of etiquette I’ve seen lately in my travels. If you’re one of those prissy-pants who wouldn’t accept a barbecue invitation from the president because his ranch is on a dirt road and you don’t want to get your shiny SUV dirty, you can just skip this column and we’ll see you…

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Maybe I Was Wrong!

The average male is five feet eight inches tall. I reached that height more than forty years ago and haven’t grown an inch since, so I think I have to resign myself to the fact that I never will get any taller. But I pretty much thought that I would never get any shorter either. Maybe I was wrong. The first ten of those forty-odd years, my waist size fluctuated between 28 and 30 inches. I could measure my own waist, but not my inseam and have never been real comfortable having someone else do it either. Therefore, by trial…

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Brown Bread Conundrum

I was having breakfast with friends, and one of them asked the waiter for wheat toast. His response was, “The only choice we have is white or brown, and I don’t know what the brown is.” There was an awkward silence as everybody waited for my friend’s answer. She was clearly confused. Her cheeks flushed as she imagined every eye in the restaurant was on her, every patron wondering what was taking her so long. She searched the faces of her friends at the table for any simple sign of support, but found none. She sat naked and alone. “White,”…

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Other Characteristics of a Counter

After reading my recent column about being a “counter,” many people have found it necessary to confess that they are also. I have not actually counted how many, but as I suspected, there are more out there than you would imagine. Some have disagreed with my opinion that it was genetic or hereditary, because other family members classify them as being weird. None reported their family has gone to the extreme of keeping them hidden away when company arrives, but introductions may be cut short if you start to say, “It’s nice to meet you. You know, you’re the seventh…

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The Price of RFD

Most city folks don’t know what RFD stands for, and sometimes I think the US Postal Service hopes the rest of us forget about it, too. Rural Free Delivery was introduced a long time ago because Congress thought rural citizens had as much right to have mail delivered to their homes as city dwellers. Most of Congress still feels that way (especially since its members get free postage), but there seems to be some question about the definition of “rural.” I live on the edge of a dirt road, over a mile beyond the nearest asphalt. There are four houses…

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Advice for Tools

When I “deboxed” a new tool the other day, the operating instructions fell to the floor. Ordinarily I pay little attention to operating instructions, until the tool fails to perform as expected. After all, I’m a guy, and guys know all about tools. I don’t need no stinkin’ instructions. But these were underfoot; I couldn’t just let them lie there. I closed my eyes, and felt around for them, but finally had to peek. That’s when it happened. Right there on the front page in big, bold letters were those words no guy likes to see. “READ ALL INSTRUCTIONS BEFORE…

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Deja Vu

There’s really no point in my going on vacation. I should just save my money, because no matter where I go, I’m reminded of home. For example, I went to Alaska and saw nothing new. The dog sled team, barking and eagerly straining at the harness, reminded me of the department where I work–well, except for the straining and eager part. I even went to see some glaciers, because I was sure there were none in Arizona. Calving is the term used to describe huge amounts of ice falling off the face of a glacier into the water. This glacier…

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Pelican Trust

PETA has declared Arizona BPUF or “Brown Pelican UnFriendly.” PETA in this case, stands for Pelican Enlightenment Trust Alliance, and the whole story started this way. For some unknown reason, brown pelicans have started showing up in Arizona. Either they were blown off course by the monsoons, they were brought over as pets by migrating Californians and have since outsmarted their captives, or their California captors released them once the unpolluted air allowed a couple of brain cells to kick in and they realized that a brown pelican makes a pretty lousy pet. My personal theory is that they, as…

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The Counting Habit

I am a “counter.” I count stuff. For example, I know that it takes twenty shovels of gravel to fill my wheelbarrow and ten wheelbarrows to move a ton. I know that there is always an even number of rows of kernels, (between twelve and sixteen), on an ear of sweet corn, and twenty steps between each floor in the building where I work. I also know there is always between fifty-five and seventy-two people in the early church service. The thing that I didn’t know is that this counting obsession is hereditary. My mother counts things too, as did…

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All About Coffee

Coffee on the move, whether in a car or during a stroll down the street to a park bench, is always an experience. Most establishments have converted to foam cups, but there are still a few holdouts that sell coffee in cardboard cups, with and without the little elephant ear handles. In the wake of the “hot lap” incident most cardboard cups have a printed warning, “Caution, cup can be hot.” However, once you pick up the cup to read the warning, it’s either untrue or old news, unless, of course, you have one of those little corrugated sleeves that…

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Dominican Republic Driver’s License Written Test

As much as we complain about traffic, insane other drivers and road conditions, while vacationing in the Dominican Republic recently, I realize just how good we have it in the USA. My first impression was how terrible the drivers are there–but then I realized that it was exactly the opposite. The bad ones were all dead and the ones I was seeing were good enough to survive. There are about 30 motorcycles to every car on the island, and they all are little 100cc putt-putts or scooters. They zip in and out of traffic; the biggest vehicle has the right…

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Getting There Is Half the Fun

“Getting there is half the fun.” That’s what Dad always used to say back in the days when visiting Grandma and Grandpa was a full day trip by car. Remembering that when I’m about to embark on yet another epic journey seems to dull the dread of modern travel. A recent trip to the Dominican Republic gave new meaning to “half the fun.” Our first flight was scheduled to leave Phoenix at 10:45 PM, so we arrived at the airport our obligatory two hours before departure only to find that our flight was delayed until 12:08 AM. We passed the…

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Unnecessary Manuals

My new cell phone arrived the other day and I couldn’t believe how big the shipping box was. The new phone is about the size of a credit card, but the box it came in would hold a Sears side-by-side refrigerator freezer with room left over for a homeless Sumo wrestler. I knew it was my phone, because it said so on the box, but I felt a twinge of panic. I wondered exactly how many phones I had ordered or perhaps I had misunderstood how big the thing was. After all, I had never actually seen the phone, except…

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Brand X Truck

I lost a good friend the other day. He went over to the dark side. Let me explain. I own a Brand A truck. Brand A trucks are the best. Guys who own Brand B, C, or even all the way down to X, know in their hearts that Brand A is the best. I can’t say which make Brand A is, because even though those other guys know it, they won’t admit it. This friend also owned a Brand A truck, and the universe was in balance. But then, in what I can only imagine was a wave of…

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My Wife Bought It

A friend asked me, “Have you been to Australia?” “No,” I answered. “Why?” He pointed to my feet and said, “The Aussies wear boots like those.” “What can I say? My wife brought them home from the store one day, handed them to me and said, ‘Here, wear these. One on each foot, zippers to the inside.’ So I do.” Quite often, my wife feels that amount of detail is necessary. Tee shirts, socks, and hats don’t need much explanation, but almost everything else requires direction. Briefs: Optional, but if worn, one at a time, Y in front, change daily….

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Aromatherapy

Being married gives us guys an opportunity to try things we might otherwise miss out on. My wife told me that she had signed us up for a class, about three hours long, but said nothing more. I figured this was not debatable and the less I knew, the better off I’d be, so I didn’t ask any questions. As we prepared for class, my wife read the brochure: “Wear comfortable clothes and bring a mat.” Since I rarely wear uncomfortable clothes, I was puzzled, but decided on jeans. What the brochure should have said was, “Wear clothes that allow…

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Call Waiting

When I answered the phone the other day a woman asked to speak to “B Marks.” I knew this was not a social call because only two people in the world refer to me as “B,” and I knew this wasn’t “F” or “L.” I thought, “This person must have gotten my name from the phone book.” I answered, “I be B.” She said, “Hi, this is Melissa from the local phone company, how are you today?” Even though she asked, I could tell she really was not interested when I told her about how the cold and damp weather…

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Words are the Horses a Writer Rides

Just as a jockey wonders about and studies horses, so should a writer study words; for words are the horses a writer rides. Language that was perfectly acceptable a couple of hundred years ago has fallen into disuse and I wonder why. Take the word thither for example. I will never have the opportunity to say, “I shall hasten thither to the Seven-eleven for a Slurpee.” I suppose the reason is that all too often it comes out: “I thall hasten thither to the theven-eleven for a thlurpee,” but that’s not reason enough to kill off a perfectly good word…

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Dangerous Horseplay

Numerous scientific and government studies have shown that occupations related to dealing with animals are the most dangerous. There’s always the possibility of being bit, scratched, clawed, mauled, kicked, butted, bucked, squeezed, stepped on, knocked down, run over, or in the case of small dogs, barked to death. The danger varies proportionally with the size of the animal. Horses fall into the category of large. I’m not talking about the obvious risks such as getting bucked off into a bed of prickly pear cactus, flattened against a stall wall, a playful nip from teeth capable of pulling railroad spikes, or…

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Spare Parts

“You need to come home early,” my wife told me over the phone. “The toilet’s not working.” “OK,” I said and hung up. ‘Not working’ is pretty vague, but I’m handy; I was confident that I would be able to cope. When I arrived home, I found that ‘not working’ meant the tank didn’t fill after it was flushed. I fiddled around with this and that, turned the water off and back on, simultaneously clanking a wrench against the side of the tank, so it would sound like I was really working. After a proper amount of diagnostic time, I…

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Storage Container Hell

Ladies, I have a question. My wife has saved approximately 400 cottage cheese and margarine tubs and another 200 yogurt containers. The yogurt containers are the ones with the lids. Not the ones that are narrow at the top and wide at the bottom, making it nearly impossible to get the last little bit out. Should I be concerned? Supposedly, she has saved these to store leftovers in the refrigerator, and they do seem to be a handy size. However, when I open the refrigerator to get some margarine for my toast, I’m faced with searching through seven or eight…

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