Friday, November 30, 2012

Holy Sense of Humor, Batman! (And a Special Message Too!)

Greetings, WYMOP readers!

I know you all came here to read a quick little story, but before I get to that there is a little something I have to take care of -- it's actually a week overdue!

If you have been a reader for a while, or even if you are a new reader who's gone back to read the archives, you may have noticed that I don't get a whole lot of Comments. Not for the number of Posts there are on this blog, and not considering that, as of this writing, WYMOP has logged over 16,000 page views. I do love to hear from my readers, I love it a lot, but Comments are, for the most part, few and far between here in my little corner of the universe.


I do get comments from time to time on Facebook, where I put a weekly link to my Posts. Between there and here, someone out there has distinguished themselves as WYMOP's #1 fan.  That fan had a birthday more than a week ago -- right on Thanksgiving day, 11/22/2012.

Happy birthday, Kaye! Please, hit the play button below to get your special birthday message.
Once again, I apologize for the huge blank space below the player -- I have no idea how to get rid of it yet!
Scroll down for today's story.

So anyway, here's the story:

As you may or may not know, I work with a guy I’ll refer to here as PW. PW is… well… let’s just say he’s ‘vertically challenged’. He has ‘height issues’. He’s ‘smallness enhanced’. He carries ‘a high factor of growth resistance’. He’s a ‘good thing’ because he’d fit into the right sized package.

In a word, he’s short.

But to compensate for his lack of height, he has ‘an overabundance of violent reactive tendencies’. He has ‘explosive personality disorder’. He has ‘negative emotion control issues’.

In a word, he has a temper.

More than a temper, he’s like (this one’s for the serious Geeks out there) the old Hulk mixed with the new Hulk. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry… and he’s always angry.

That PC crap above was just to give me something to chuckle about. What I’m talking about is an angry little man. He works for the USPS as a letter carrier.

Going Postal, anyone?

PW, this angry little man, is under a Special Route Inspection this week. The ‘Special’ in that sentence applies to the Inspection, not the Route. PW requested this inspection himself, but that doesn’t mean he’s happy about it. Quite the opposite, in fact: being under a special, five-day inspection is just about the most stressful thing a mailman in this country can do. Now this may sound horrible, but for the rest of us in the office this has been a source of both entertainment and morbid fascination. Picture a bunch of guys watching an ancient boiler in the basement of an old building that’s been turned way, way up and then left unattended. The pressure’s building, there’s no one to hit the relief valves, the needle on the pressure gauge is climbing into the red and we’re all just waiting for it to blow.

This gauge, though, doesn’t have one of those tiny slivers of red that you usually see. This one has a huge red zone — nearly half the gauge!

To our surprise (and, yes, pride in him) he’s done quite well all week long. He’s never lost his temper once, never even given the appearance of being close… unless you know him. If you know him then you;re used to reading ‘The Face’.

The Face, as it is called around our office, is the expression that is usually plastered to the front of PW’s head. It is a Face of anger. It is a Face of disapproval with the world. It is a Face that ranges in expression from ‘I hate the world and everyone in it’, to ‘I just chomped my tongue while biting into a really sour pickle just as I smelled the world’s most rancid fart that I know came from my greatest enemy in the world (and the bastard did it on purpose), and all that just happened to coincide with the onset of explosive stomach trouble hitting just as I figured out that the long sliding step I just took was me treading in a fresh pile of dog dirt that splashed up onto the pant leg of my best suit just as I was walking into church’.

Yeah. It’s that kind of Face.

So PW has been wearing The Face all week long, like the darkest thundercloud you’ve ever seen scudding along really close to the ground. A thundercloud that’s being followed closely by a man with a clipboard.

God, I can hear his teeth grinding even as I write this.

Now, I know it will surprise you all to find that I am a bit of a joker around the office. Yes. Me.

No, I can hear you all saying “No way, Rob! Not you! But you’re always so staid and serious all the time!”, but it’s true. I have been known to crack a smile around the workplace and then try to spread it around. Unfortunately for PW that makes him a pretty constant target for me. Fortunately for him, though, I’m pretty good at infecting him with the smile. This does, of course, ruin The Face.

I take a special bit of pride in ruining The Face, but this was not to be one of those days. Clipboard Man was sticking to PW like he was growing on the little man’s ass, and The Face was really threatening to explode. This had the side-effect of making that particular duo the focus, in a very sidelong, ‘out of the corner of your eye’ way, of the attention of everyone in the office. At one point, just as I was pulling my route down out of the sorting rack, the guy in the route next to me leaned around the rack to whisper to me, prison-style.

“Wow, they’re really sticking to him like glue! Lookit The Face! Jesus, The Little Guy doesn’t even have time to take a crap today!”

And here we see the Hand of God, that Greatest of Practical Jokers, offering to share His humor with me once more.

As I was pulling my mail out of the rack I had just sorted it into, something fell out of the upper corner of the rack where I have a bunch of official papers tucked. This was something I brought in myself at least two or three years ago to poke fun at PW and hopefully bring a smile to The Face. I had used it at the time, then apparently tucked it into the corner of my rack, though in truth I have no memory of doing so. If pressed I would have sworn I put this piece of paper in my locker, pushed safely toward the back of the high shelf in there. However this paper managed to get into my rack, it apparently lay there, forgotten and untouched for more than two years, closer to three, and never slipped loose, never pulled free from the rest of the papers stuffed in there, never fell out to flutter, leaf-like, to land face up right in front of me on my bench.

Until today.

Until just that moment.

And it was a picture. This picture:

I laughed so hard I nearly wet my pants. I laughed so hard I had to sit down, drooling on the floor amidst my guffaws.

Thank You, God.

That was not the time to share my fortuitous happenstance with PW, not while he was under the eye of Clipboard Man. But Monday. Monday I will walk in to the building armed with this story, and with the photograph, and I will do battle with The Face, and I will emerge victorious!

The Little Guy deserves a good laugh, don’t you think?

Talk to you later!

P.S. - I just had the thought that there may be some of you out there who are more sensitive than the rest of us and may have felt bad about our seeing humor in The Little Guy's misery. I'm sorry about that. I don't want you going through your day all bummed out now, so just for you I've included this picture:

You! You who just said "Awww!" I heard you! Look at the bunny! Look at it! Remember it!

Talk to you later!

Friday, November 23, 2012

I Do So Love Good Conversation…

You think it's always easy to come up with something to write about here at WYMOP, even just once a week? Sometimes even I have a little difficulty.

What am I talking about, you ask?

Okay... here's the story:

So there I was, driving in to work this morning. I had farther to go than usual since I had gone to a parent/teacher conference at Handsome’s school, so I had more time to think than I usually do during my morning drive.

What was I thinking about, you ask?

Why, this blog of course!

I try to have something to post every Friday evening. This was Friday morning. I had nothing to post.

I repeat: Nothing.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I did have something about half-written, more than half actually, but I didn’t like it. It wasn’t funny.

Just to make sure we all get this straight, I am of the opinion that I am one of the funniest bastards ever to pen a punchline. I may be the only one of that opinion, but if I didn’t think something I’d written was funny then there was sure no way anyone else would get a chuckle out of it!

So there I was driving in and trying to brainstorm an idea all by myself. Now, one of the good things about being a writer is that when you want to workshop an idea (in other words, talk it out with a few people and get different perspectives on it) you don’t have to go anywhere. You don’t even have to make a phone call. You simply turn the idea over to the voices in your head, then turn them loose. They do tend to play ‘Point-Counterpoint’ within the confines of my own head, and that is really cool… but sometimes the voices that are in my head start to slip out into the real world.

Just a little.

How do they do this, you ask?

Why through me, of course!

I call it ‘talking the idea out’, but what it amounts to is that I talk to myself. Hell, sometimes I even argue with myself and it degenerates into name-calling and hurt feelings on both sides. This is pretty awkward when I am both sides.

But I digress. I do that a lot.

So there I was, driving along in full ‘talking-it-out’ mode: good volume, animated facial expressions, head bobbing and weaving while my hands and arms gesture and wave like I’m conducting the Boston Pops. I was just getting to the point where one part of me thought I he was making a cogent and well-thought-out argument while another part of me thought I was full of the sort of by-products you get from a well-fed pony, and a third part of me was reminding the other two, quite forcefully, that I still didn’t have a blog… when something caught my attention.

From the corner of my eye I had seen a pale oval in the car next to mine. The two cars were stopped at traffic lights, next to each-other but facing opposite ways. As I looked over I saw that the oval I’d noticed with my peripheral vision was a face. The face belonged to a girl of about twenty, I think, and she was staring at me. She was also grinning hugely.

My gaze snapped back to my arms, which were extended in front of me, the right one held up so high my hand was actually above my head. My mind scrambled for about a half a second, trying to recall just how the hell my arms had gotten into such a position, but quickly gave it up as a bad job. It didn’t matter anyway, I knew I’d been caught in a complete, full-on, practically shouting conversation with myself.

Not to worry, my brain threw out. I have the perfect out, remember?

I looked directly at the young woman and pointed to my left ear. Over-enunciating to make the message just as clear as possible, I smiled, nodded, and mouthed the words “I’m on the phone!”. The lady in question nodded slowly along with me until my finger touched my ear; my left ear, the one that right up until that precise moment I had assumed held a very visible Blue-Tooth headset. My questing finger, however, found only flesh.

My ear was, quite obviously, empty.

I saw the missing headset sitting on the dashboard in front of me, right where I had tossed it before going in to the parent/teacher conference about a half-hour earlier. I’d automatically reached for it before I realized what I was doing, and by the time I stopped myself it was far too late. I’d picked it up in full view of my audience of one.

Have you ever read about someone being embarrassed, and it said that they ‘felt the flush creeping up their face’? I know exactly how that feels now. I could feel the line of heat moving up over my face as, caught in the obvious lie, I looked once more to the young woman and shrugged sheepishly. My light turned green and the line of cars I’d been began to move. I moved with them, driving away from the young woman.

Her light had also turned green, by the way, and her traffic had also begun to move, though she herself was not driving off.

She was laughing too hard.

Well, I thought as I felt the flush settle evenly over my entire face, at least now you have something to write for the Blog.

Apparently every single voice in my head agreed. Thus:


Talk to you later!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Time I’ll Never Get Back

So as you know my friend SB was here on a visit from Colorado last weekend. She enjoys historical yet touristy things: tours, museums and the like. Sure, there are plenty of those kinds of things to be found in Boston, but it was the weekend. I would have Handsome with me. Indeed, I wanted to take him out to Boston for some kind of outing… but what would I find that would be suitable for both Handsome and SB?

Well, I did my best… and here’s the story:

The New England Aquarium, I thought. How could it miss?

The main exhibit, for those of you who may have never been to the New England Aquarium, is its central tank, and I’m going to do a little Wikipedia rip-off here to help you understand what I’m talking about and, lets face it, make my job easier!

Located in the central open atrium of the main building, the principal feature of the Aquarium is the Giant Ocean Tank, a cylindrical 200,000-US-gallon (760,000 l) tank simulating a Caribbean coral reef. This tank houses sharkssea turtlesstingrays, eels, barracuda, and many smaller reef-living fish. Open at the top, the concrete tank is surrounded by a walkway that spirals down, allowing visitors access to 52 windows that offer views of the reef from every angle and level.

Now this is a very cool thing. It is truly amazing to look at these animals from every angle and to see them in such a realistic representation of their natural environment and I was counting on it to be a hit for young man and grown woman alike. It was, I thought, perfect.

Perfect. Yeah... sure.

So we took the train into Boston, the T having a Blue Line stop right there at the Aquarium. We crossed over to the Aquarium proper and got in the admission line. Said line was, I noticed with some satisfaction, not even very long. This day was looking better and better... until we got to the actual front of the line.

"Sir, are you aware that our big tank is closed and undergoing renovations?"

At her words I felt certain portions of my anatomy shrink up like there was a very cold wind and I seemed to feel Murphy's Law tap me on the shoulder, but I managed a somewhat feeble "What?"

A sigh. "Sir, are you aware that our --"

"I heard you, but what does that mean? Are you still open?"

"All of the animals are still here, sir, they're just spread out among the other exhibits. To make up for the lack of the large tank we are giving out free tickets to the IMAX show across the way. What show would you like to see, sir?"

I checked the small show poster in the window.

"Uh... Whales and Dolphins?"

She handed over the tickets with an "Enjoy the show" that sounded a little more like "Move along, doofus, you're tying up the line".

I moved along, so as not to tie up the line, then explained the situation to Handsome.

"The big tank is closed?"


"I don't want to go to the movie. It's not a fun one, it's like a school thing."

"You mean it's informational."


"Well..." I thought about SB, thought she might enjoy the show, and it was in Super 3D after all. "Let's try it, okay? It's free, so if it's too boring we can just leave, okay?"

He agreed and we were off to see the fishes. We saw a few of the exhibits, then made our way over to the IMAX theater for the 1:00 show. The boy got his popcorn and a drink and we all took our seats in the theater.

"Now remember," I said to Handsome as we sat down, "if it's too boring we can just leave, alright?"

He nodded, already shoving popcorn into his mouth. I settled back in my chair and the movie began. There were whales. There were dolphins. It was all in a terrific 3D effect.

That's just about all I can tell you because I fell asleep almost immediately. Out cold. Sound asleep. I may have been snoring up a storm, I have no idea.

I awoke just before the movie ended, SB on my right, Handsome on my left, and just hoping to God no one had noticed me sleeping. Handsome, I noticed, was looking none too pleased when the house lights came up, and I cast about for something to say to head off any scathing remarks he might make, such as 'I told you so'.

"Well," I blustered, "that was... uh..."

"An hour of my life I won't be getting back," finished Handsome in a voice as flat as a pond on a dead-calm day. It was so adult sounding, so flat, so saying 'I told you so' without saying 'I told you so'... I burst out laughing. I laughed so hard a woman leaving the theater asked them if I was okay.

The rest of the day was terrific.

I love that boy.

Talk to you later!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

White Rabbit

As a few of you may remember, I took a trip out to Colorado a few weeks ago to visit my friend SB, and there were some shocking results! (Please see the post titled "Shocked at the Pumps" for further information on that score!) Well this week SB makes a return trip to WYMOP as she makes a trip to Boston.

...and here's the story:

My friend SB was coming to Boston to take part in an event put on by an organization she belongs to. I, of course, as the 'Host Country' so to speak, was going to provide all the transportation for her.

On the day of her arrival it was mid-morning the first time I looked at my watch and said to myself,

"I have time."

Her plane wasn't scheduled for touch-down at Logan International Airport until 2:40 pm and it was then just about 10:00 am. Figuring on about a 30 minute ride into Boston I figured I had about 4 hours, right?


It had been about 3,000 miles since my last oil change, and I had plenty of time, so I took a little drive down to Valvoline and had them change the oil, check all the fluids -- just let them do the thing they do. Why not, I had the time.

I got home and checked my watch again, then sat down at the little home-made recording studio I have in my room and started working on a recorded narration I was doing for one of the District of Wonders podcasts. I had done a bunch of work on it before, but there had been sort of a technical glitch (read that as a sinus infection wreaking havoc with my voice during the first attempt at this) and I was starting again, basically from scratch.

But hey, I had time, right?


Soon enough it was 1:00 and I trotted down to clean my Jeep a bit. There was a little bit of fishing gear in there (and you can read that as seven spinning rods that go with me everywhere once the summer starts, plus a whole cargo area full of tackle, a broken-down 8' fly rod...) that I wanted to get out of the way to make room for SB, her luggage and the like.

It needed to be done, and I still had plenty of time, right?


Once I was done with that, and all the stuff was out of the way, I suddenly had an unrestricted view of just how dirty the interior of my Jeep really was. Normally, I guess, I just don't notice it. Jumping in to go to work, out when I get there, in to go home... you understand. During the course of everyday activity it kind of faded into the background and became part of the scenery. Now, though... yuck.

This was kind of embarrassing... I had to do something about this. I ran in the house to grab the Clorox wipes from under the sink, the paper towels from the counter top, and the vacuum cleaner from the upstairs closet. I dragged the whole bunch out to the driveway and got to work, attacking the dirt with vim and vigor.

I knew it was 1:30 when I started my little cleaning project, but like I said it really had to be done, and besides, I still had time, right?


One wash, wipe-down and vacuum later the Jeep was presentable... but I was not. It was 2:00 as I was finally putting the vacuum cleaner back in its upstairs closet, but I really needed a shower. It was just a 30 minute trip in, and touch-down was in 40 minutes... plus she'd have to disembark so that gave me a little more time. I can do this, I thought as I kicked aside my heap of dirty clothes and cranked the water on in the shower.

Besides... I still had time ... right?


I showered, dressed, got my stuff together, grabbed a water to drink on the ride, and was going out the door at 2:18. I was running a little bit late now, but like I said before SB would have to disembark. I also figured that if she called to say she was on the ground and I told her I was right outside the airport and driving in she could just relax and walk out of the terminal at a leisurely pace and I'd be there in moments to pick her up at the curb.

Then, just as I was putting on my coat the phone clipped to my hip buzzed.

"Hi," said SB, sounding chipper for having just gotten off a plane. "I'm here, but I can't find you. Where are you?"

My jaw dropped, and I sputtered. She was 20 minutes early. At least.

I was not only out of time, now I was better than 30 minutes late.

I am the White Rabbit.

Welcome to my life.

Sorry, SB.

Talk to you later!

P.S. - I know, I know, I sort of said SB was in this one. And she is. She has three very important lines!


Friday, November 2, 2012

A Reading?

As some of you may know, I am a member of New England Horror Writers, a loose, multi-state organization of people who write of things Dark and Scary. Last Sunday they had a reading/signing event in Billerica Massachusetts, and I went down there to see what was what and meet a few people. I’d never been to a reading before, and I wasn’t sure what to expect — the intent was to go there, support the organization, and see just what went on so I’d be a little prepared for the next one, where I’d participate.

That was the intent.

The reality, however…

…okay, here’s the story:

Saturday night I’d decided I was definitely going to the reading, and I sent an email to J.H., the Director of Publicity for the NEHW. He’d been sending out the word that he was looking for a head-count, trying to see how many readers he would have and allocating space at the sale table. I wasn’t looking to do any reading or selling (I had no idea how the sale table would actually work), but I wanted to let him know I was going to be there to meet and support the people who would be reading and selling, and maybe help out behind-the-scenes. He sent back an email saying he’d be glad to meet me, and not to be silly, just bring down what, if anything, I had to sell.

At the last minute I did grab a box of books I have — five copies of The Ghost IS the Machine — and tossed it in the back seat.

When I got there I wandered about a little, met a few people, and checked out the situation. If you were hoping I’d be going off on how odd someone looked, you know, all goth or tattooed or something (I mean, this was a gathering of Horror writers, right?), well, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Everyone looked surprisingly normal. J.H. was glad to see me, as apparently a few people who had signed on to be there had failed to show up, citing the imminent arrival of Hurricane Sandy as their excuse.

Did I mention that? There was a hurricane on the way? Couldn’t turn on the television or radio all that day without some talking head going on about it, so I guess they had a pretty good excuse there. It did mean, however, that the reading was a little short of actual readers.

For those of you who have never been to a reading/signing event (and as I said, up until last Sunday that group would have included me) and might not be sure what I’m talking about, it’s rather simple really. A group of authors get together and read excerpts of their work to a watching audience in the hopes of enticing the audience to purchase some of the books they’ve carted along.

Now, thanks to J.H. I had brought my five books, and what with the dearth of participants there was plenty of room on the sale table. He explained how everything worked, and sent me out to the car to get my books. It looked like I was going to be taking part in the sale after all! I brought them in and we set them up on the table… and then J.H. asked me about a reading.


“Yeah, just something, if you like.”

I looked at the gathering audience. “Well, from this?” I pointed at The Ghost IS the Machine.

“Yes. Something about five minutes, a little less, something like that? Maybe?”

“Well…” I picked up my Nook. “I have the book in here too. I’ll have a look and see if I can find something, okay?”

That was the end of it. I looked through the book, looked through my story in the book, trying to locate a suitable passage. Something of the proper length, maybe with some good dialog, and a nice sort of cliff-hangery spot to stop. I thought I had found one, possibly, but before I could really think about it they were calling the audience to take their seats. I went with the crowd, choosing a spot in the middle of the audience with a good view of the podium. J.H. stood up there and got things started.

“Hi everyone! I’m J.H., and welcome to this reading by the New England Horror Writers.”

He told us that there would be a few authors reading from some of their works, and that said works would be available for purchase at the sale table. He began mentioning each author by name as he held up their books, so they would be more easily identifiable for later. Some of the book covers looked really cool, and I was looking forward to hearing the excerpts the individual writers had chosen. I was wondering if there was some way I could let J.H. know that I might have found something to read myself when he held up one last book.

“…and Rob will be reading from his story in this anthology, The Ghost IS The Machine.”

Whoa! So much for just quietly watching the proceedings and getting a feel for the thing! I was selling! I was reading! In front of an audience!

Terrific. Good thing I had found a bit I thought would work.

The reading progressed, and everyone’s work sounded great. Everyone seemed comfortable behind the podium, everyone looked relaxed reading in front of a crowd.

I, on the other hand, felt slightly nauseous.

Available at Amazon and Barnes&Noble
Suddenly it was my turn. I stood and made my way from the audience to the podium, Nook in hand. I had made certain it was on and set to the correct page, which was about as much preparation as I could think to make — other than a trip to the bathroom, which had suddenly become a somewhat urgent need, but it was way too late for that. I introduced myself to the audience, and told them this was my first public reading. I then made a circular gesture to indicate my entire face.

“This is what ‘nervous’ looks like.”

That got a laugh. I described the book, saying it was a collection of stories from different authors, all about haunted things. Everything from typewriters to pianos to a pair of futuristic cybernetic eyes, these stories would make you think twice the next time your phone dropped a call or your computer went on the fritz.

“My story,” I told them, “is about a camera.”

I opened the cover of the Nook and started reading. I was about a third of the way through the section I had chosen and just hitting my stride, doing pretty well I thought, when right there in front of the audience, in the middle of the reading, my Nook shut down.

Queue the flop sweat.

“Ha-ha, that’s terrific,” I said to the waiting audience, “my Nook just shut down. Just a minute…”

I was frantically stabbing at buttons and screen, trying to bring the machine back and certain this was turning out to be a minor disaster, when J.H.’s voice piped up from the back of the room.

“It’s haunted!”

Hell, even I laughed at that.

By the time the audience had finished laughing my little screen was covered with words again and I picked up where I had left off. The crisis was averted, and I think the audience liked me all the better for the stumble. Eventually the reading ended and the sale table opened, and I actually sold some books. I wound up having a great time, and met some terrific people, and it was quite a different experience from the one I’d expected when I walked in the door. I’m looking forward to the next event I can attend.

Thanks, J.H.

Talk to you later!