On Hiatus

Someone e-mailed me recently. “You used to have a humor blog. What happened?” I could have replied, “I lost interest and had something else to do and couldn’t find anything amusing in the whole world to write about,” but I didn’t. I said, “I’ve been on hiatus.”

Then I went to the dictionary to make sure “hiatus” still means what I think it means because at my age some words have changed meanings over the years. One change that bothers me is “commando.”  How did “a highly skilled member of a special military unit” come to mean “going without underwear?” What kind of skill does that require? Apart from reunions in Las Vegas, what kind of mission does a military unit undertake that requires no underwear?

While checking on the meaning of “hiatus”, I became interested in the “hi” section of the dictionary, all words beginning with “hi.” Think how important this section is to us. How could we zanies greet each other without “Hiya, Hiawatha!” Or stand each other without an occasional “high-ball?”  A great way to endure the Covid-19 pandemic is with the “high hope” that soon enough all this will be behind us. Of course, if you have no such hope, a relevant word in the “hi” list is “hibernate.” Put a sign on your front door that says, “Wake me when it’s over. I’m on hiatus.”

“Hiatus,” though, still means what it always did, “a break in something where there should be continuity.” I had attempted a humor blot for the better part of two years and then switched to writing a humorous novel instead. I took a hiatus. Now the book is almost finished and I’m almost back.

What to do With all the Nickels?

If you make a donation to a charity, and this charity knows your address, they will sell your address to every other charity in America. Soon your mail box will have no room for the birds to build a nest because it is filled with appeals from all the rest.

Furthermore, I have noticed that a charitable fund-raising practice is presently on the rise. It is not new, but it is certainly more frequent than in recent years. And this is charities sending me a nickel. You can see these nickels without even opening up the envelopes. They’re taped to card stock inside and appear in the clear plastic window of the envelope.

But what do you do with such a nickel? It’s a dilemma. I didn’t ask for it, but I’m not going to stick it in another envelope and send it back. That would cost me a stamp. I’m also not going to throw a nickel in the trash. When I grew up, you could buy a coke or an ice cream cone for nickel. I wasn’t raised to be the sort of person who goes around squandering five-cent pieces. Nickels are to be squeezed until the buffalo hollers. Anonymous said, “If I had a nose full of nickels, I’d be a rich man.” He could have also saved them in his piggy bank and breathed a lot easier.

Not knowing what to do with all the nickels flowing in, I decided to consult the instructions that come in the envelope with them. One said, “If you will give just one nickel every hour of every day, together we can stamp out quicksand on our nation’s playgrounds.” Hmm. Why didn’t they just ask for $36/month? Giving a nickel every hour of every day is exhausting. When would you sleep? Also, it seems to me that if one attempted to stamp out quicksand, one would sink.

Another of the nickel instructions said, “Add this to your donation and enable us help many more people this year than in the past.” Since I’m not the only one receiving a nickel in the mail – there must be thousands and thousands of people opening this charity’s envelopes – maybe they could have already helped more people by not giving such a chunk of their prior donations away.


The Dog Poop Waver

You have heard of The Horse Whisperer? Well, I have become known in my neighborhood as The Dog Poop Waver.

As I look back upon the circumstances that have led to this dishonorable designation, all I can say is that as we grow older we aren’t as nimble as we once were. Also, that when I was growing up we didn’t clean up after our dogs in public places. Maybe some things should never change.

When I walk my dog, there is no way I feel prepared for what might happen next – a rabbit darting out in front of us, a potential dogfight, a car coming down the sidewalk, a drone firing B.B.’s – if  I hold her leash and her doggie bag in the same hand. One load in each hand is how I choose to handle the task. Balance it out.

So, there I am on our evening walk when a new neighbor down the block waves to me as he passes in his car. Being a friendly person, I immediately wave back, but I do so with a rather voluminous doggie bag in hand. Realizing, then, that he might have misconstrued my intentions – as in you don’t go around waving to other people in the Middle East with your left hand – I immediately tapped out mea culpa in Morse Code with my head on a nearby tree. Why do I do these things? Aarghh, Charlie Brown!

But people drive by in a quick fast hurry. I don’t necessarily have time to transfer what I’m carrying to the other hand and wave back even if I was better coordinated. And so, awhile back, I committed the same offense a second time with another neighbor. And I was reported.

An Officer McGruff knocked on my door the next day. He would have given me a citation had I been younger – it is against the law to wave containerized dog poop at passing traffic in my fair city – but since I’m a senior citizen, he recommended a new class that was starting up. Seems I’m not the only one.

There are fourteen of us who will be taking an evening class for the next six weeks.  It’s a form of modified occupational therapy designed to teach dog people “How to Walk and Wave at the Same Time.” It was developed by the grandson of the man who designed the course, “How to Walk and Chew Gum at the Same Time.” I guess they like to keep it in the family.

I’m looking forward to our first session, but my dog isn’t at all interested.

Self-Deprecation South Pacific Style

The Society for the Preservation of Self-Deprecation recently sent me on a fact-finding mission to the South Pacific. I found no facts, but under a coconut tree I found the Ukeleleans, a lazy, down-on-themselves tribe of basically nice people who once were followers of Tiny Tim.

They have good intentions. It’s just that they never follow up on them. All they do is sit around playing the ukulele and peering into their cell phones. At night they feel so badly about themselves that they text one another the following sorts of messages.

Owa-Tahgu-Siam.  For when they have done something really stupid.

Owa-Todger-Kiam. For when they say something that hurts another’s feelings.

Owa-Tahnur-Diam. For when they don’t have a date.

Owa-Tahfu-Liam. For when they fall for a cell phone scam.

I asked them for more of their self-deprecation, but they have terrible memories and no one has yet gotten around to writing The Ukelelean Book of Self-Deprecation. “Owa-Tahway-Stiam,” their chief scribe told me.

My trip was not entirely a waste, though. The next time you foul up, you too can chant the above self-deprecating syllables slowly and think about the meaning. Or you can sing them as you play your ukelele.



When I was in high school, I had a friend who, when he witnessed something funny, would say, “I sat there laughing my butt off.”

I realized back then that there was probably something wrong with his statement, but only recently have I figured it out. Here’s the problem.

If you are sitting there laughing your butt off, your derriere is going to dwindle down to nothing eventually. In other words, you’re not going to be sitting for long if what you are witnessing is truly funny. With no more than a postage stamp bottom firmly in place, you are soon going to tip to one side or the other. Having laughed your butt off, you’re going to be laying on your side. From this position, of course, all is not lost. You can engage in “side-splitting laughter.”

But what has happened to you is no laughing matter. As we all know, when a person loses a lot of weight, there are parts of his/her body that will never put weight back on, or at least not like it once was, say one’s face. What if, having dwindled one’s sitter-downer down to nothing to sit on, one can’t put the weight back on? All the weight goes to one’s stomach or contributes to multiple chins.

This is why I join with the native people of Ugooruk in saying,  “May you find laughter, but not too much in one sitting.”

Why Don’t We Phone Like We Used To?

Given how few people phone nowadays, one would think that Alexander Graham Bell’s phone call to Watson went like this. “Watson, I have invented a telephone that is fantastic! For if I hold my speaker next to my telegraph machine, you can hear what I’m keying in to you via Morse code! Listen!”

And so Watson hears the sounds of “– .- – . -..- – .. -. –.”  Soon, everyone in America wants a telephone so he/she can hear a caller key them dots and dashes.

It seems that we have forgotten how good the voice of a friend can be, say, one with whom we’ve had a long history. Or how valuable a discussion can be with a friend who knows us better than we know ourselves. (And we don’t have to pay long-distance like yesteryear!) Phone calls serve a purpose that texting and emails do not. Can you really feel the love with an emoji?

People have largely hung up the phone because they’re hung up on texting and other modern variations of sending Morse code. Yet, in the business place, experts insist that face-to-face communication is best. When that isn’t possible, phone calls are the next best choice. People can gather context and meaning from vocal tone that you can’t otherwise. According to Launch Workplaces, sixty-seven percent of executives and managers say productivity would increase if superiors communicated face-to-face, or dare we say, mouth-to-ear rather than dot-dot-dash.

And this is not to say that emails and texts (in French it’s called a texto) have no place in our lives. They do. It’s to say that phone calls do not deserve to be squeezed out. It’s also to say that we mature adults who refuse to text and begrudge emailing are cool. It’s our increased productivity that keeps America running!

There may be a new development. Some people think that they have begun to receive more phone calls on the job and from friends than a few years ago. (Actually, some people were surprised because these were friends with whom they had never spoken by phone! Hello.) A 29-year-old video producer has discovered that “Phone calls are much more efficient for everyone involved.” A 20-something female says, “I’ve always liked calling people, but maybe there’s a renewed desire for authentic communication.”

There seems to be no statistical proof that the phone call is back – do a google search and you will find dozens of stories lamenting the phone call’s death – but in her book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age, Sherry Turkle argues that teens and young adults are ready to change how they communicate. She spent several years interviewing hundreds of them and discovered they are growing tired of text-based communication. I’d guess it is a matter of, “If mom and dad are texting or emailing their friends, I’m going to talk to mine! WHERE CAN I FIND A DIAL TONE?”

Footnote: It is not clear whether or not Sherry Turkle is related to Studs – their last names sound alike – but she does lead MIT’s Initiative on Technology and Self. If you are interested in whether or not the two are related, give her a phone call. Did I mention that there is no long-distance charge?



Forty Percent of Seniors are Having Sex?

I walked into a doctor’s waiting room the other day and everyone in there had his/her nose in a dumb smart phone. And they were all elderly! If their parents had lived long enough to know how they were acting in public, they would have sent them to bed without their Ensure.

Having one’s nose in one’s phone is not the example that we of the older generation should be setting. It’s up to us to leave a legacy that is beneficial to those that follow. And what could be more beneficial than each younger generation taking seriously its responsibility to “Keep those Social Security payments coming!”

The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 National Population Projections maintains that by 2030, all Baby Boomers will be older than age 65. (Actually, this did not require much of a projection. Just subtract 1964 from 2030.)  But what is not so obvious to the statistically unsophisticated is that this age increase will expand the size of the older population so that 1 in every 5 residents in the U.S. will be of retirement age. That’s almost like 20%! And by 2035, the estimate is that there will be 78.0 million people 65 years and older compared to 76.7 million under the age of 18.

Just this next year, 2020, the ratio of older adults to working-age adults, which is known as the Who Is Going To Be Paying Into Social Security Dependency Ratio? is projected to be three-and-a-half working-age adults for every retirement-age person. By 2060, that ratio is expected to fall to just two-and-a-half working-age adults for every retirement-age person.

It’s even worse than all this. No less a madcap than George Will reminds us that in 2018 it became known “that young Americans were found to be having less sex.” I don’t know who found them and called it in, but one possibility for this disinterest, says Will, is that one-in-four Americans say that they are “almost constantly” online. No time for sex, which is obviously not good for those of us dependent upon sustaining a workforce to pay in to social security.

So, here is the true legacy set by retirees that young people need to be aware of.

A 2017 National Poll on Healthy Aging, conducted in association with the University of Michigan, confirmed what some earlier studies have found with regard to sexual activity in older adults. Among men and women ages 65 to 80, 40 percent were still having sex. And this percentage would be much greater if more seniors could get a date, which is why all the elderly people at the doctor’s office had their nose in their phones. They were trying to figure out how to use an online dating service.

Senior citizens would gladly be populating future generations of social security, but we’re not the Abraham and Sarah Generation. (Remember Isaac’s older-than-dirt parents?) Biology doesn’t work that way, so it’s up to the younger folk to preserve social security. If 40% of seniors are having sex, just imagine how high this percentage could be among younger generations if they’d just get off line!


Readers Ask…

Dear Dewey: Is Punxsutawney Phil any relationship to Doctor Phil?

No, but the tabloids claim that Dr. Phil’s wife, Robin, is divorcing him and getting a groundhog for a pet. Now that Punxsy missed seeing his shadow this past week, we’ll see how that’s working out for them.

Dear Dewey: Today’s cartoonists draw a light bulb above a person’s head to indicate that he/she has had an idea? What did cartoonists draw for ideas prior to Edison’s invention?

Coleman Lanterns, which sometimes caught the person’s hair on fire. The light bulb is definitely better.

Dear Dewey: What if Edison had invented a bathroom scale that works like wind chill?

It would say, “156…But you feel like 181.”

Dear Dewey: My American family and I are presently living in Japan where my husband’s corporation assigned him to work for the next three years. Our son, who has always wanted to be a sumo wrestler, loves his Japanese high school, but his ribs show when he wears a mawashi, or loincloth. He’s only big enough to make the junior varsity team. Any ideas on how he can gain some weight and make the varsity?

Send him back home to his grandparents in America for the summer. Remember, America is the home of the Big Gulp, the Big Mac, and the “Supersize Me.” I see high school kids walking out of Starbucks drinking frappuccinos with an “awesome” number of calories. (Venti is Italian for Sumo Size.) As a matter of fact, I am wondering when American high schools are going to start sumo wrestling teams. Many of our kids can already take the teenage sumos of Japan.

Dear Dewey: I am a single woman and tired of men coming up to me and asking me, “What’s your sign?” What can I do?

Tell them it’s a “Do Not Disturb” sign.

Dear Dewey: How many spare peg legs does a pirate have?

I’m not sure, but I would imagine female pirates have more than male pirates. Also, that pirates no longer need one to walk the plank. In their yoga classes, they do the plank.

Dear Dewey: Why do most obituaries say, “She passed away” instead of “She died?”

Good question. Whenever I see such an obituary, I sometimes think of something like “slipped away.” She slipped away for a smoke or slipped away to go down the road for lunch and never came back. I think it’s unhelpful because “passed away” in no way approximates the magnitude of the mourners’ loss, whereas “died” does. This person has died. It’s a big loss. Much more than just gone around the corner. The Apostles’ Creed does not say of Jesus, “he was crucified, passed away, and buried…” In the New Testament are we told that Christ died and was raised from the dead, not raised from “the passed away.”

Loyalty Programs

The Bijou 48 MoviePlex, Food Court, Fitness Center, and Laundromat recently went stupid. It tore out the regular movie seats and put in these big honking reclining chairs. The arm rests alone – on which you can set your 96 oz. soda, your 55-gallon popcorn tub, your movie-comfort animal, and your elbows – reduced the seating capacity by more than 100 seats. There’s room enough for just a few people inside these theaters now compared to the number who used to be able to watch movies. Consequently, The Bijou 48 has to turn people away constantly.

This is a very strange phenomenon. It’s the exact opposite of the airline industry.

My wife and I arrived at the Bijou 48 a couple of weeks ago and stood in line in the cold outside the box office forever. Why so long? The Bijou 48 went so stupid that now you also have to choose your seats when you buy your tickets, which more than doubles the wait time.

There is no more unreserved seating. Couples get to the box office window and then debate, “Should we sit here, or if we sit there would it make the screen look bigger?” as though they’re talking about some dress and her butt. MOVE IT, PEOPLE!  By the time we got to the box office window, the cashier not only had to unthaw us with a blowtorch, but there were only a couple of seats left, and they were in the front row. We didn’t need the pain in the neck, and so we left.

This happened to us twice, and so when a movie we really wanted to see came to the Bijou 48, I decided to order our tickets online. Sounds simple enough, but there’s a catch. If you don’t join the theater’s Loyalty Program you won’t get your money back if you get sick or lost or shot by a movie terrorist and don’t show up. Movie tickets are expensive. Not getting your money back is like losing a fortune in the stock market, or even worse, spilling a vente mocha at Starbucks.

So, I joined the Loyalty Program, which took three hours of hassling with the website.  You would think that a loyalty program would have a user-friendly format, but no. This one should be named, “You Can’t Get There From Here,” There being “You Are Now A Member!”

I didn’t realize how loyalty programs have taken over our lives. Inside my wallet alone I find “Cinemark Connections,” “Member Barnes & Noble,” “Walgreen’s Balance Rewards,” “My Panera,” not to mention several others such as Southwest Frequent Flyer Program and Amazon Prime Idiot. Half of these I didn’t even know I had, and I rarely use the other half.

But everywhere you go there’s a loyalty program – grocery stores, drug stores, retail outlets, airlines, hotels, car rentals, restaurants. “Sign up! Save Big! Keep us in Business!” And whereas the one at the Bijou 48 was a hassle to join, some of these seem to enlist you without your even knowing it. They’re sneaky!

Well, what’s next? Here are my predictions for loyalty programs:

Frequent Worshiper Program. You get a 10% deduction on your offering if you attend church at least three Sundays/month. Plus, you don’t have to stay for the sermon on months with 30 days.

Yard Sale Discount Club. Get a 50-cent discount on each item valued at $1 or more. Plus, if you find something that gets you on the Antique Roadshow, you get a free membership for life!

Funeral Home Balanced Rewards. For every regular-sized casket you purchase, you get a burial urn for free! Either that or a plot in the Pet Portion of the cemetery.

What We Learn From El Chapo’s Management Problem?

Walt Disney is not going to get the movie rights to the El Chapo narcotrafficking trial in New York City. The characters are too animated for Walt. Still, this trial has its light-hearted moments. It seems that Miguel Martinez was hired years ago by El Chapo to pilot planes filled with cocaine from Columbia to Durango, Mexico. But he was a lousy pilot. He would have flown better had he been on drugs. One day he ran out of gas on the landing approach and broke the plane’s landing gear. On another, the landing was so poor that he wound up with the propeller stuck in the dirt and the plane’s tail assembly in the air. He was so bad that those who rode with him packed their own parachute.

El Chapo, the alleged kingpin of the Sinaloa cartel, thus had a management problem. Martinez could not continue as a drug pilot. He wasn’t even capable of running the kiddie rides at El Chapo World. What to do about him?

One option was to have Martinez sign a non-disclosure agreement; agree to never tell anyone where the bodies are buried, where the drugs come from, and certainly never tell anyone that the boss’s wife calls him El Chapstick. But that probably wouldn’t work. Another was to write him a letter of recommendation and tell him to seek employment with United or Delta or Southwest. Wouldn’t work either. If you read the news, airlines tend to go more for pilots with drinking problems.

If Hollywood writers had written the script, Martinez’ body would have soon been among the buried bodies. In fact, El Chapo’s bodyguard, an ex-cowboy named El Chaps, was ready to shoot Martinez, who was taking a selfie of himself by the plane with the propeller sticking in the ground. But being a kingpin who valued loyalty over ability – it doesn’t take much to sell dope to Americans – El Chapo instead gave Martinez a promotion.

Martinez was transferred to an office in Mexico City where his job was to grease the growing number of police palms, as well as those of government officials. He was so good at greasing palms that over the years he rose above El Chapo’s other MBA’s to run all of El Chapo’s companies. His compensation went from $25,000/flight to millions and millions/year. He became so wealthy that he could afford his own cocaine habit.

Now, to a different cartel. Although the Super Bowl is yet to be played, one of the stories to come out of the past NFL season has to do with field-goal kickers. I have nightmares about being a field-goal kicker. There I am. It’s the last few seconds of the game. My team is behind by two points, but if I can make the field-goal, which is very doable given the ball is on the 30-yard line, we’ll win by one! The center snaps the ball to the holder and I kick it! But it’s an unrighteous kick. It doesn’t go through the uprights. A sudden gust of wind blows it around them.

My team’s fans roar their disapproval and raise those big foam fan hands. Only their big foam fan hands don’t have the index finger pointing upward.  It’s the other one. And so, rather than face the sports writers, I go into the dressing room and shoot myself in the foot. But even then, no one is concerned about my pain. It’s tough being a field-goal kicker.

In the NFL, the saying is pretty much true, “You’re only as good as your last kick.” Fact: in the last 23 seasons, the Redskins have gone through 21 kickers. (The average for all teams over this period is 11.) The Chargers have gone through six kickers in just the past two seasons. Some kickers wake up on the road Sunday morning, and not only do they not know what city they’re in, they have forgotten what team they’re playing for.

There have been a couple of exceptions to the rule, though, one being the Chicago Bears. Robbie Gould was their kicker from 2005 through the 2015 season. He was one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history. But because he was set to be paid one of the highest salaries in the league in 2016 for a kicker, the Bears had to make a management decision.

Couldn’t they find someone else to do the job on the cheap? How difficult is it kicking field goals in Chicago anyway? So, they let him go. Like El Chapo, they didn’t shoot him, but they also didn’t offer him another position in their organization. They simply allowed him to seek employment with another team.

And how did his less costly replacements do? The Bears finished in the bottom six in field-goal percentages in 2016 and 2017, also during regular season play in 2018.  How did Robbie Gould do? He was the most accurate kicker in the NFL these past three seasons, one season for the Giants, and two for the 49ers.

This past season, 73 NFL games were decided by three points or less. In fact, sportswriters tell us that you can count on two things during the NFL playoffs. One team will win the Superbowl, and one team will miss going to the Superbowl because of a missed kick.

All NFL teams soon face the question, “What to do about the guy who missed the kick?” Call El Chaps, the bodyguard, and tell him to handle it with sudden-death play? Or call El Chapo, a guy who values loyalty, and see what he advises?