Monday, March 20, 2017

Operators Are Standing By

Greetings, WYMOP readers!

I’m trying to get down to 200 pounds. I’ve been trying for a while now, and it’s becoming rather depressing. It’s only 14 pounds, but I just can’t seem to lose it.
So I decide I’ll eat less at dinnertime. I mean, whatever calories I take in that late in the day have the least chance of being burnt off due to activity, right? Not going to get ripped abs in my sleep, or anything. Well, not unless I buy those capsules being touted on late-night television by a strangely googly-eyed man in a multicolored bowtie, rainbow suspenders, and a rather forceful English accent.
Or is it Australian? He seems to kind of waver between the two—but look, whatever it is, it’s really forceful, so that stuff must really work, right? I mean, he’s not offering any science supporting the product, but the way he keeps grinning and shouting “Am I right?” at the studio audience, he’s so convincing . . .
But no, I’ll just eat less at dinnertime, rather than spend the nearly $300 (in three easy installments of just $99 each!) buying a 1-week supply of Poops-A-Lot, guaranteed to flatten your stomach while you sleep1, even though operators are standing by. I have this in mind as I set about cooking dinner.
I’m making pork chops, mashed potatoes, and corn for myself, Handsome, and Miss D. There are six chops (I have to cook all of them, it’s not like the package is resealable or anything), but they’re thin cut, and I’ll just have one. The spuds are coming out of a box (instant-schminstant, these things take almost five minutes!), and I’ll just make two servings of those. The corn is frozen, so I’ll just make one box of that. Nothing too out of control here!
The chops are in the oven and the corn’s in the microwave, so I’m buttering, boiling, milking, and mixing the potatoes on the stove. You think if I put the instant spuds in the microwave they’d go back in time? I’ll find out next week. But it seems that when you follow the directions on the instant spuds box you don’t wind up with mashed potatoes: you wind up with a sort of potato soup with the consistency of Cream of Wheat.
So I shake in some more flakes, and stir. And shake. And stir. And shake. And stir.
God damn, the instructions on the box are off by a mile! Maybe I added too much water? Or milk? Or butter? I suppose it’s possible I may have added a little too much of all three—but they’re getting close to the right consistency now. I’ll just have to taste them to find out.
Mmmm. Close.
Shake. Stir. Taste. Shake. Stir. Taste. Shake. Stir. Taste. Stir. Taste. Stir. Taste. Taste. Taste.
And the microwave beeps, and the oven timer goes off, and dinner is ready. I take my one pork chop, a moderate amount of corn, and just a little of the potatoes—I only made two servings for three people, after all—and I go sit at the table.
Handsome and Miss D come fix their own plates, and the next thing I know Handsome’s standing at my elbow with a fork chop (a pork chop on a fork, so you can eat it like a lollipop).
“Dad, eat this.”
“No,” I say, sticking to my guns. “I’m good, thanks.”
“But there’s just one left, and I want to put the pan in the sink.”
I look at my plate. The one chop I have does look a little lonely, and, really, there are barely any mashed potatoes there, and what with those few kernels of corn . . .
“Okay. I’ll take it.”
The two chops nestle on my plate, snuggling, practically spooning—at least, until I begin sectioning up the new chop into bite-sized pieces as the first chop looks on in horror. I eat the pieces with great relish and lots of noises signifying almost sensual pleasure, those sounds probably driving the remaining pork chop mad with terror as it waits for me to—
But I digress. I eat my dinner, miniscule as it is, satisfied to be holding to the eating less at night plan. I’m surprised upon finishing at just how full I am; after all, I just had the two chops and barely anything else, right?
The kids are done and gone now, so I guess it’s up to me to clean the kitchen. The potato pot is practically empty, but I’d like to get as much out of it as I can before rinsing it for the dishwasher; if the spuds dry on, sometimes the dishwasher’s not enough to get them off. I scrape out the pot with the wooden serving spoon, scraping and scraping—and hey! The spoon’s full. Be a shame to waste that spoonful of spuds, what with children starving in, uh, that starving kid place where Sally Struthers films those commercials.
I eat them.
I scrape some more, and have to eat the spoonful again. I scrape still more—sometimes I’m very disappointed in our dishwasher’s performance—and eat, and scrape, and eat, and then it’s time to rinse the pot.
But while the pot is rinsing, I see how much corn is left in the bowl by the stove. It’s quite a lot, actually, plenty to save for leftovers if only I had some potatoes, or even a pork chop to store with them. As just corn, though, it’s likely to go to waste if I put it in the fridge. That wouldn’t be right. I use the serving spoon to finish this off, too.
I put everything in the dishwasher and wipe down the counters, surprised once more at how totally full I feel, especially considering the drips and drabs that were on my plate.
The next morning I wake up and head straight to the scale—by way of the bathroom. I’m anxious to see how my plan’s working out. I pee for what seems like an hour, then step on the scale. I step off, let it zero, and slip cautiously back on, like I’m trying not to frighten it.
“Son of a bitch!”
After being so careful, after practically starving myself for the evening, I’ve gained two pounds!
I wave my arms. I stomp about. I argue with myself. I argue with God—he doesn’t bother arguing back, so I decide to call that a win.
And then, before I leave the house, I make a single phone call. The number’s easy to remember: 1-800-P-O-O-P-S-A-L-O-T.
Operators are standing by.

1―The makers of Poops-A-Lot claim no responsibility for soiled sheets, social embarrassment, or destroyed relationships via use of this product. Use only as directed.

Talk to you later!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Memory Schtick

“Excuse me?”
“I was wondering if you could help me. I'm working on a movie review, and I'd like to reference a film, but I forget the name. You see, I'm horrible with names and titles. I can always remember plots, and what certain characters did, but I can't remember who the hell they were, or what the movie was called. You get me?”
“Well that can’t be a good thing in your line of work!”
“Exactly. So I was wondering if I could, you know, describe the movie to you, and then you can tell me what it's called? I know it's a really popular film, I just have a blank spot in my head where the title should be.”
“Sure, sounds like fun. Shoot.”
“Well, there's this guy, and for part of the film he's running. He runs a lot.”
The Running Man?”
“No that's Arnold Schwarzenegger, and he's not in this.”
The Marathon Man?”
“No, that's Dustin Hoffman. And he isn't running for the whole thing. For some of it he's fishing. And playing world class ping pong. And in the army, in Vietnam. It, uh, stars that guy who was in the movie about the dude who's trapped on an island all alone with volleyball—”
“You mean Castaway?”
“Yes! That's it. Castaway. The guy was also in Castaway.”
“Tom Hanks?”
“Yes! Tom Hanks! In this film he plays a guy who's kind of slow, and keeps talking about eating a box of chocolates.”
Forrest Gump?”
“Yes! That's it! Forrest Gump. So in this movie, Tom Hanks plays a dude named Forrest Gump. But what's the title of that film? I’d swear it’s on the tip of my tongue. Hey—where are you going? But we were almost to the . . .”
(Seeing another passerby) “Excuse me?”
“I was wondering if you could help me . . . ?”
~ ~ * * ~ ~
Talk to you later!

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Taco Bell Diet

Greetings, WYMOP readers!

“Well, tomorrow’s my day off, so I’m heading to Taco Bell!” was my foolish, foolish cry as I strode out the back door to the employee parking lot behind my post office.
“What’s your day off got to do with where you go for dinner?” asked a coworker.
“Not just dinner,” I answered. “Taco Bell. I don’t have to work tomorrow, so I can just lie around all day bitching, moaning, and recovering.”
“Ah.” The coworker nodded. “I get it.”
Apparently, though, I didn’t. It had started out a joke, just something amusing to say as I exited the building, kind of making fun of cheap Mexican food*; driving away from the office however, the idea gained a strange sort of traction in my mind. I hadn’t had Taco Bell in quite a while. If there was a reason for the long stretch of Taco Bell abstinence, I couldn’t remember it. I did remember liking it, though. And that it was easy: a pre-packaged meal that was simple to just pick up and eat one-handed, leaving the other hand free to do other stuff. I had some reading and editing to get done that night, and I was hungry.
It seemed, to my mind at the moment, like a match made in heaven.
I pulled up to the Taco Bell drive-through and realized it had been quite a while since I’d been there: I had no idea what to order. “Welcome to Taco Bell, can I help you?” squawked the box, and I had one of those moments of confused panic I once made fun of old people for—you know, before I became one. The menu board was just a wall of words and numbers that meant nothing to me. I didn’t even know where on the frigging thing to find tacos—and then I spotted the word I was looking for. It had some other words around it, but I didn’t really comprehending them until I heard the whole phrase coming out of my mouth.
“I’ll have the taco twelve-pack, please.”
Wait—what? said the rational part of my brain—what I now recognize as my common sense—a little panicked. Did I just say twelve?
Don’t worry about it, said the part of my brain that was trying to bluff it out and come off looking a rough approximation of cool, even though it was still reeling, hotly denying it had just been through a senior moment. I’m off tomorrow, so whatever I don’t eat tonight just becomes instant lunch, right?
Okay, that sort of makes sense, said my rational part, and while it was distracted by the crumb of logic that had just been thrown its way, my mouth—apparently firmly in the bluff it out and look cool camp—completed my order, asking for six soft, six crunchy, hold the lettuce, please. I made the drive home with my rational part shoved into the backseat of the Mini, ignoring it as it asked What did we just do? Guys? Guys? What did we just do?
I plunked my box-O-tacos down on the kitchen table, set my Chromebook a little ways behind it, and started reading, eating tacos a bit like chips: mechanically, one after the other, without really paying attention. They were tasty, though, and that was about all that registered as I unwrapped and chewed, unwrapped and chewed, all while scrolling down the page . . . and I was suddenly full. No, more than full, I was a little bit stuffed. How had that happened? I checked the box and found the three remaining tacos huddled at the bottom of the container like the three little pigs if they’d been without building supplies when B. B. Wolf came rolling into town all full of pep and feeling peckish.
I’d eaten nine. Without even noticing. Who was the pig here?
I packed the three little leftovers into the fridge and went about my business, falling asleep early due to the unplanned but comfortable roundness of my gut—it ain’t just tryptophan knocking overeaters out on their feet after Thanksgiving dinner; a full belly has something to do with it, too. The last thing I heard before drifting off was a strange but powerful gurgle coming from deep within the bowels of . . . well, my bowel.
I woke already on my feet and moving, stumbling through the darkened bedroom in a way that, while not exactly panicked, had a serious sense of urgency. Wow, I thought as I sat down in the dark, not having taken the time to hit the light switch on the way into  the bathroom. That was a close one. I must have really been asleep to let things, uh, progress that far before waking.
It was the middle of the night, so I finished what I was doing—couldn’t have stopped if I’d wanted to, actually—and went back to bed.
For almost half an hour.
Then I was up and urgent again. And then I went back to bed. And then I was urgent again. Back to bed. Urgent again. Bed. Urgent.
You get the picture.
I often weigh myself first thing in the morning, because that way the day can really only get better. Once the sun was up I stepped on the scale—after a bout of urgency—and found that, despite the previous evening’s consumption of however much nine tacos comes out to by weight, I had lost five pounds. Overnight. And I was—whoops, it was time to be urgent again—still losing.
I’m not sure just how much weight I lost overall, but I did spend a significant portion of that day sitting on what is commonly referred to as the throne, trying to remember the words to songs like “Burning Love,” and “Burnin’ For You,” and—my personal favorite that day—”Ring Of Fire.” I’d have weighed myself again, but that would have required me to stand upright while not being urgent, and that simply wasn’t an option: my legs spent most of that day asleep.
By the next morning I was okay again, and a lucky thing, too, as I had to go to work. I got dressed and made my way downstairs, walking a bit gingerly and still humming “Ring Of Fire.” I stopped by the ’fridge, looking for something to take for lunch.
My eye fell upon the three leftover tacos, sitting on the shelf all innocuous and tasty-looking.
It’s just three, said the bluff it out and look cool part of my mind. Three couldn’t hurt, right? And they were tasty. I reached out a hand—
—and my common sense burst into the kitchen, well rested but pissed off at having been locked in the back seat of the Mini for a day and a half. Some bitch-slapping happened, and bluff it out and look cool began to cry. I threw the leftover tacos in the trash and dug out the bread and peanut butter, constructing myself a bland little lunch while my common sense beat bluff it out and look cool’s ass all over the house. When I left, common sense was flushing bluff it out and look cool’s head in the toilet and screaming “How do you like me now?”
I drove to work. One of the clerks saw me entering the building and shouted, “How was your day off?”
If she’s reading this, now she knows.

Talk to you later.

*My apologies to any Mexican-Americans out there reading this. I am aware that referring to Taco Bell as Mexican food is roughly equivalent to calling McDonald’s haute cuisine. Please remember I’m trying for humor here. Trying.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Buying Time.

Greetings, WYMOP readers!

“You can go first.”
I glanced at my shopping cart: two gallons of milk, a half dozen bottles of Diet Pepsi, bread, some of those bottled Starbucks Frappuccino drinks (vanilla, my favorite!), and a couple of other things. I looked at the girl’s hands; she held a birthday card and a chocolate bar. “Don’t be silly,” I said, waving her toward the self-checkout line we were vying for. “That’s all you have? You go first.”
With a grin of thanks, she slipped in front of my cart—then stopped dead, looking at the man currently waving items about in the air above the price scanner in the hopes of making the thing beep. “He, uh, has a lot of stuff,” the card-and-chocolate-bearing young lady said, slipping off to find a different line.
I looked ahead. By God, this dude did have a lot of stuff, a whole bunch of stuff, far more than I’d ever seen anyone try to squeeze through the self-checkout before. Usually people with shopping carts full to the top with goods go through the regular checkout; the bagging area at the other end of the belt from the scanner in self-checkout is too small to hold a whole cart’s worth of items, mucking up the entire process and drawing obvious sighs and death-stares from the people waiting in line.
Recalling however that, for some reason or other, Fate has decreed that when Rob goes shopping he will get in the wrong line, I decided to stay put and see what would happen. Besides, Fate seems to get a little pissed off when I line-hop, trying to avoid my curse, and in the past this has resulted in jammed printers, sudden shortages of register tape, emergency phone calls to my checkout clerk, and the clerk’s sudden slamming down of the Lane Closed sign followed by a tight-butt-cheeked speed-waddle toward the restroom. There haven’t been any actual deaths yet, but someday I plan to line-hop incessantly, just to see if I can force Fate to actually drop my store through a giant sinkhole in the Earth’s crust into the realm of the Mole People, who’ve tunneled up and stolen our Stop & Shop because they’re in dire need of Swiffer cleaning products and, besides, they’ve heard the deli counter can give them the thinnest shaved turkey slices in the state . . . but I digress.
Bearing all that in mind (and yes, I stood in the store a moment fantasizing about presenting a Swiffer WetJet to the Mole king)—and not really being pressed for time for once—I settled in for the long haul to watch the gentleman in front of me completely fail at self-checkout.
Unexpected item in bagging area,” said the machine.
“How can it be unexpected?” asked Mr. Shopper. “You just rang it up!”
Please choose the correct produce item from the screen. Thank you for purchasing your beets.”
“Beets? No—those were peppers! Peppers!”
Please remove all items from the scale.”
“Scale? There’s a scale?”
Help is on the way.”
“What? But help just left!”
Unexpected item in bagging area.”
I watched all this go on with a strange (for me, at least) sort of calm, chuckling at each new dilemma and waving people off who tried to get in line behind me. “No, seriously,” I’d say. “It’s too late for me. Save yourself.” People came and went in the other lines around, entering the store, completing their shopping, moving through checkout, driving home, and probably cooking and eating their purchases as I stood there, giggling quietly each time the light above the price scanner took to flashing, heralding yet another visit from the ever-helpful clerk.
The clerk went through several hairstyles as time went on, finished high school, went to college, and started a family of his own. I watched with an odd sort of pride as he trained his oldest son to someday take over for him in the now family business of self-checkout help clerk. The kid was good, really good, jumping right in to enter a code into the scanner when Mr. Shopper was at a loss, or point out the bar code on the bottom of the bag of once-frozen mixed vegetables.
The bagging area is full,” announced the price scanner, long before the cart was empty. “Please bag some of your items.”
“Called it!” I cried, pumping a fist in the air. Several people gave me strange looks as Mr. Shopper, clearly wishing death upon me, tried for several minutes to pinch open one of those plastic shopping bags in the holder at the end of the bagging area.
Seasons turned. Styles changed. I filled out the form that would allow me, if things kept going the way they were going, to use a senior citizen discount when finally purchasing my food items. A dark-haired twentysomething with a basket over her arm got into line behind me.
“Young lady?” I said. I’d reached the age when referring to a twentysomething as young lady became perfectly acceptable way back when the price scanner was telling the openly weeping Mr. Shopper, “You are purchasing an over-twenty-one item. Checkout help is required.”
I leaned a little closer, giving the woman a better look at my gray beard, deepening crow’s-feet, and—let’s be honest—the dim glow of madness in my eyes.
“I was your age when I got in this line,” I said. “You might want to give one of the other registers a try.”
She chuckled nervously, but stayed put. “Thanks, but I’ll be fine.”
“Suit yourself,” I said.
Some time later, when Mr. Shopper dropped and shattered a glass jar of something quite red and very splashy all over the floor at the end of the register lane, I heard a quiet “Excuse me . . . pardon me . . . can I just . . .” I turned to find the twentysomething working her way through the crowd to another register. I didn’t blame her. Hell, I was happy for her. I smiled as I watched Clerk and Son of Clerk descend upon the red mess with a sort of glee, the former waving about great wads of paper towel, the latter wielding a Swiffer WetJet like some sort of neatnik samurai, then laughed when I remembered, so long ago, daydreaming about presenting a WetJet just like that to the Mole king.
I cackled.
The twentysomething turned and waved to me as she exited the store with her purchases, mouthing the words Good luck. I hope she’s doing well.
One day I woke from one of my standing naps to find Mr. Shopper gone. I stared awhile, unable to comprehend what I was seeing, until I was startled by a light poke in the back. “The register’s open,” said the young man behind me. A line had formed while I dozed, and the kid looked a little impatient.
“Well,” I said, my voice thick with tears. “So it is.”
I made my purchases and bagged my goods, the receipt telling me exactly how much I’d saved with my new senior citizen discount. I tottered off to the parking lot where, surprise surprise, I couldn’t find my car. The kid collecting shopping carts from the lot—Grandson of Clerk, I believe—made a couple of phone calls and found out my car had been thought abandoned and towed away years ago.
Grandson of Clerk was good enough to call me a taxi, which showed up a few minutes later. I climbed in as the cabbie loaded my groceries into the trunk, and the next thing I knew the man was back in the driver’s seat and asking me, “Okay, sir. Where to?”
It seems I was in that store for so long I’ve forgotten my address. If there’s anyone out there who knows my son, Handsome, or maybe my grandkids—if I have any—and can let them know where I am? You’d be doing an old man a real kindness.

Talk to you later?