Holy Bathroom, Batman!

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Just the other day I went to a bathroom in a public building and noticed a sign on the wall by the door. I thought it was an odd place to put the “All employees must wash hands” sign. Besides, this was a hospital and you’d think all the employees would already be doing that. I would hope, anyway. But the sign should have been over the sink if that were the case at any rate.

So I looked closer at the sign. It read: This room has been dedicated by prayer to the ministry of healing.

I was taken aback. I had never heard of anyone blessing a bathroom before.

Later I learned that this was a religious-affiliated hospital and that all the rooms had been prayed over before they were used, not just the ubiquitous chapel. One employee told me that the hospital encouraged prayer. She was glad because she didn’t have to sneak around and pray with a patient surreptitiously, with an eye on the door or the door closed, which I didn’t know was the case in other hospitals. I guess in some hospitals only the official chaplain is supposed to address the Almighty.

I have used a variety of bathroom facilities over the years, from a two-holer outhouse on my Uncle Sam’s farm to a squat toilet in Croatia’s Roman ruins.

But never have I peed in such a holy restroom.

(I will refrain from making any joke here about sprinkling or anointing the facilities. You’re welcome. And if you want to read my further musings on the topic, go here for “What Were They Thinking? (Toilet Edition)”: https://wp.me/p4e9wS-6T.)

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The Death of Humor?

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When I was younger and Saturday Night Live was just getting its start, I thought that the show marked the death of humor in America.

Yes, it was funny and yes, it introduced lots of fine new comedians who went on to brilliant careers.

But what bothered me was that as it filtered down to the general public, all people seemed to be doing were reciting lines and discussing skits from the show, not making humor on their own.

I’m pleased to say that I was wrong. Mostly. There is now the phenomenon of people passing along funny memes on Facebook, seldom taking the time to make their own. These floating bits of humor make their pervasive way into all our feeds, but our reaction to most of them is a snicker, a groan, and a click on the share button.

(Who makes all those memes anyway? If you look closely at who originated them, sometimes the answer is a radio station you never heard of. These businesses are trying to increase their interaction numbers by “click-farming.” Having a very responsive audience means more advertisers, which means more money. Simple as that.)

But truly, SNL marked the renaissance of comedy in America. Comedy clubs and ensemble comedy teams like Second City grew from humble beginnings into forces to be reckoned with. Stand-up comedians got their own Broadway shows and movies and HBO specials. Improv comedy became a thing. From this flowering of talent and innovation we got Whoopi Goldberg (remember when she was a comedian?) and Ellen Degeneres and Drew Carey, movies like Airplane! and TV shows like “Whose Line Is It Anyway?,” books like Christopher Moore’s Lamb and David Sedaris’s works, cartoons like The Simpsons and King of the Hill and (for those who liked that sort of thing) South Park. Even MAD magazine and The National Lampoon added to the mix. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and John Oliver and Samantha Bee became late-night staples.

But where, you may ask, is local humor, from people that you know personally? Local people, not Hollywood’s cream of the crop?

Just look around. Plenty of bars and comedy clubs have open mike nights that welcome not just singer-songwriters, but comedians as well.

And what about those singer-songwriters? Plenty take after Weird Al and make comedy music. Oddly, one place to find them is at science fiction and fantasy conventions. There they practice a style of music called “filk” (yes, it was once a typo, but now it’s not). Although many of the songs are about space travel and such, plenty of songs are humorous, such as Michael Longcor’s “Kitchen Junk Drawer” and Tom Smith’s “Talk Like a Pirate Day” (the official song of a yearly celebration made famous by humorist Dave Barry).

And written humor? You have only to look at past and present attendees of the Erma Bombeck’s Writers’ Workshop. There’s a book of essays by various participants called Laugh Out Loud (see http://humorwriters.org/2018/03/05/lol-2/). Past attendees have written and published books, including If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse? by Gina Barreca, Who Stole My Spandex? by Marcia Kester Doyle, Are You Still Kidding Me? by Stacey Gustafson, and Linda M. Au’s Secret Agent Manny. Their books are available on Amazon, even if they don’t yet have the following that their patron saint Erma had.

Even I have attempted humor at times. (https://wp.me/p4e9wS-Gc, https://wp.me/p4e9wS-5I, https://wp.me/p4e9wS-8W, https://wp.me/p4e9wS-7E, https://wp.me/p4e9wS-yn). I bet you can too, if you give it a try.

My specialty, though, is puns. Once when having breakfast with a friend I almost got thrown out a window. She had complained that her Eggs Benedict was taking an awfully long time.

“They probably had to go out and find a hubcap to serve it on,” I said.

“I know I’m going to hate myself for asking,” she said, “but why?”

“Because there’s no plate like chrome for the hollandaise.”

Okay, I didn’t make that one up, but I knew the perfect setup for it when I heard it. They say that in comedy, timing is everything.

Even if she had thrown me out the window, it would have been worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

From Performance to the Pit

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Fiddler on the Roof is a good selection for a local theater group, with all its sentimental and well-known songs. But once when it was performed in my town, things didn’t go quite as planned.

My husband decided to join the cast and make use of his marvelous baritone for the first time in years. He said his one line (“It was a horse!”) clearly and at just the right time. He celebrated and fell off his barstool on cue and left Anatevka sorrowfully. He sang and danced in the chorus with gusto.

The only thing was, he played parts of his role a bit too convincingly. He fell off his stool, as required at a party scene, but he always landed so that half of his body stuck out past where the curtain fell. Since he wouldn’t break character, the other performers had to drag him back before they could reset for the next scene.

And he had trouble with the lyrics.

This was not a recent problem. He still thinks that CCR sang “There’s a bathroom on the right.” But with Fiddler, he was positively innovative. Sometimes, instead of “I Belong in Anatevka,” he sang, “I Belong Under Anesthesia.” Or “Anastasia,” which must have disrupted the chorus no end.

But the biggest problem was with his costume. Since it was a local amateur production, there was no budget for wardrobe. Everyone made do with what they had on hand. My husband had a pair of corduroy pants, some leather boots, and a baggy shirt that were deemed acceptable.

That left his glasses. Horn rims were not considered period. So he had to perform without vision correction for his extreme nearsightedness.

And so he acted and danced. There was a real danger when he danced; he hora’d his way not just past the curtain, but close to the edge of the stage. And closer. And closer. Another chorus member grabbed his sleeve and dragged him back, just before he landed unceremoniously but noisily right in the orchestra pit. That person was thereafter assigned to dance next to him, hold onto his sleeve, and drag him in the right direction if necessary. Likewise, someone had to guide him behind the scenes to make entrances from the other side of the stage so he didn’t wander into the parking lot.

It was actually quite a good production of the musical. At the end, when the townspeople left Anatevka, performers dressed as ghosts waved goodbye to them, which was a lovely touch. And no one, including Dan, was injured during the performance.

Afterward, at the cast party, Dan was singled out for particular recognition. He even received an award.

It read, “Best Portrayal of a Sighted Jew by a Blind Gentile.”

He had worked hard for it. He had earned it and he framed it. It still hangs on our wall. If he gets new glasses, maybe he can even read it.

 

From Hell They Came

From Hell It Came is one of my favorite bad movies – possibly the worst that I can actually stand to watch. (Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is a close second.  And I love The Blob‘s theme song.) The plot, according to IMDB: Tabonga, a killer spirit reincarnated as a scowling tree stump, comes back to life and kills a bunch of natives of a South Seas island. A pair of American scientists save the day.

It wasn’t just the fact that the threat was a scowling tree stump that made it so awful. It was the fact that the actor in the Tabonga suit could only move at a pace of a few steps a minute. All of the terrified natives who tried to run away from it could easily have sat on a rock for a few minutes, moved a foot or two, sat on another rock, and kept waiting for it. Conversely, a whole bunch of natives could easily have surrounded the Tabonga and dispatched it with their primitive weapons.

It wasn’t a case of “Run, Forest, Run!” but of “Shuffle, Stump, Shuffle!” I get the giggles every time it moves or catches someone.

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But the Tabonga is not the only creature from hell that I’ve ever encountered. Another was a cat. A kitten, really. The Devil Kitten From the Crawlspace of Hell.

My husband found the tiny feline under our house, too young really to be separated from its mother, who hadn’t hung around. Being a tender-hearted soul (read: sucker), Dan brought the little beast upstairs.

As always, when a new cat enters our house, we keep it isolated from the others until it can be vet-checked. The little guy decided that the floor of the bathroom closet was its favorite hidey-hole.

That was fine, except that when either one of us entered the bathroom, it would spring from its lair and savagely attack our ankles. Although the kitten was adorable, it had tiny needles for teeth and claws and could do a lot of damage. We had bleeding ankles. I had shredded pantyhose. That little sucker was fast (unlike its spiritual cousin, the Tabonga).

Again and again we detached the Devil Kitten from our tender flesh and – encouraged – it to retreat to the closet. We decided not to keep it, but when we took it to a no-kill shelter, they said it was too tiny for them to take. We’d have to bring it back once it grew some more and gained weight.

I did feel sorry for Devil Kitten. It obviously had what in humans would be called an attachment disorder – it had simply been taken from its mother too young and had never been socialized. It was left running on instinct and that instinct said, “Attack, shred, kill!”

I will admit that we considered feeding the little thing lead pellets to get its weight up more quickly, but that was just a passing fancy. We waited on its weight and then handed it over, quite thankfully, to the shelter.

I sometimes wonder whether the Devil Kitten ever found a substitute mama to show it the way to be a proper cat. I also wonder what family eventually took it home, and what the state of their ankles was, and whether they had to buy chainmail socks.

This all happened many years ago and I’m sure Devil Kitten (or whatever its adoptive family named it) is no longer around. Perhaps it is in the afterlife, using the Tabonga as its own personal scratching post. It would explain the scowling, anyway.

Word Weirdness: Hey, Lady!

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There are lots of things you can yell at a guy to let him know he’s getting a flat tire. “Hey, buddy,” “Hey, bro,” “Hey, dude,” “Hey, mister,” “Hey, Mac,” “Hey, man,” and the ever-popular “Hey, you!”

But there is only one thing you can reasonably yell to a woman in the same situation: “Hey, lady!” “Hey, you” or “Hey, woman!” just seems rude. You can’t even call her “miss” or “ma’am” without kicking in the instant, if insincere, politeness of “Excuse me.” And you can’t put casual terms for women after “Hey!” (sis, sister (unless she’s a nun), girl, gal, doll (unless you’re a trucker), or chick (unless you’re stuck in the 60s)). I suppose you could yell, “Hey, person of the female gender!” but by then you’d be past her and unable to get your message across.

There’s a similar problem referring to women in a group. “Ladies” is virtually the only choice. (“Here are your appetizers, ladies.”) Women can sometimes get away with calling other women “girls” or “gals” if they’re being informal, but if men try this, it sounds patronizing, because it is.

And mixed groups! What is one to do then? Once I was teaching a college class. One student called me out – and rightly so – because I referred to them as “guys.”

But what were the alternatives? “Guys and gals”? (Too casual.) “You-all” or “Y’all”? (This was in Ohio, not Texas.) “You folks”? (Too folksy.) “Dudes and dudettes”? (Really?) “Ladies and gentlemen”? (I was a teacher, not a ringmaster, though it felt like it at times.) “Class”? (Too Sister Mary Elephant.) “Students”? (Too juvenile to my ears.) “People”? (Well, maybe. I think that’s what I ended up with.)

Of course, I could have just used “you,” meaning the second person plural, but it being the first semester, I hadn’t taught them that yet.

I had solved the levels of address problem by referring to the class members as Mr. Jones and Ms. Smith, since I wished to be addressed as “Ms. Coburn.” (I briefly considered asking to be called “sensei,” but that would still have left me with the problem of what to call them.) The students were amused because they didn’t learn each other’s first names and had to use Mr. Jones and Ms. Smith when they crossed paths in the library or cafeteria.

I just looked up what the collective nouns are for men and women, to see whether they’d be any help. (Collective nouns are those oddball phrases like “a murder of crows” or “a brood of hens.” Many people I know are disappointed that there is no “squad of squids.”)

Boringly enough, the collective nouns for persons are “a band of men” and “a bond of women,” both of which imply that they stick together. Other groups have much more evocative names like “a neverthriving of jugglers,” “a threatening of courtiers,” and “a fixie of hipsters.”

I’m jealous.

At the least we could be “a confusion of people” or “a division of citizens” or “a passel of persons.” A “brawl of men.” A “nest of women.” But then we’d need collective nouns for LGBTQIA+ people and there would be no end to it, what with the proliferation of new terms for sexual identities that seem to crop up every day. (I still don’t get the difference between gender-fluid and pansexual.)

Let’s just stick with “a commonality of humans.”

 

Weird Food Faves and Fails

I admire adventurous cooks. Especially ones who make something out of what’s already in the house instead of going to the store for a double rack or ribs, which requires taking out a meat loan. If it’s in the fridge, freezer, or pantry, it’s fair game. Unless it’s game in the pantry, in which case you have bigger problems than what to eat.

People who cook this way inspired me and my husband to start cooking again after a long spell of frozen, pre-cooked Useless People Meals™. Tom and Leslie had a dish called “Experimental Chicken,” which, as you can probably guess, never came out the same way twice. It did, however, have a consistent theory – chicken, salt, pepper, garlic, and some kind of sauce. Any kind of sauce. Chili. Thai. Mexican. Indian. Martian. (They are both science fiction fans.)

My husband and I were inspired. Our dishes were not just experiments; at times they seemed straight out of a mad scientist’s lab. The trend was encouraged by the fact that my husband likes the one-of-a-kind and slight-irregulars tables at the stores where he shops. He’ll bring home a “unique” ingredient and then try to build a dish around it.

For example, he recently brought home spaghetti sauce in two flavors: regular and chipotle. The only problem was, the sauces weren’t tomato-based. They used pumpkin as the main ingredient. And he decided to try them out not with regular spaghetti, but with spaghetti squash.

Now, I’m not a big fan of spaghetti squash, which I find watery and tasteless. And the pumpkin sauces looked, shall we say, dubious. I instantly knew why they had appeared on the “Manager’s Special” table. But there they were, so in the interest of science and encourage culinary courage, I agreed to try it.

Given the bland nature of spaghetti squash, I picked the pumpkin-chipotle sauce to go with it. We figured out how to solve the wet-noodle problem thanks to Google, which has replaced cookbooks in our kitchen. And Dan decided to add some bite-sized chunks of leftover pork chop because he feels that every meal should contain meat, unless he has to kill it himself.

The first forkful was not inspiring. It was definitely pumpkiny, with a brief finish of chipotle on the back of the tongue. The more we ate of it, the less odd it seemed to get. The result was what I like to call a “Work in Progress” – something that’s survivable but needs either tweaking or a major overhaul before it enters our regular repertoire. I still hope the manager never finds that sauce “special” again, though.

Another one-of-a-kind item that appeared in the grocery bag was apple-bourbon salsa. It struck me as an awful combination for salsa, though I do enjoy peach or mango salsa. But, valiantly, I dipped in a chip and made a discovery. “This is horrible salsa,” I said. It reminded me of all those weird new alcoholic drinks like cranapple schnapps and birthday cake tequila and whatever that liqueur is that comes in a bottle that looks like Oil of Olay.

“But,” I added, “it tastes like pretty good barbecue sauce.” We tried it out on a handy pork loin that had survived in our freezer, and declared it delicious. Now I wish we could find another jar of it.

Our best culinary invention came when my husband, disappointed by a frozen cheeseburger mac that contained only ground meat, macaroni, and cheese, declared, “We can do better than this!”

Our new, improved version included those basics, plus garlic, diced onion, diced tomatoes with green chiles, and diced dill pickles. And way too much cheese – our theory is that everything should come with way too much cheese. Occasionally we add mushrooms or bacon if some happens to be around.

But the ingredient that really makes the dish – and makes it taste like a real cheeseburger – is a drizzle of ketchup over the top. As over the top (sorry, not sorry) as that may sound, it brings the whole dish together. Even I, ketchup lover that I am, had my doubts, but once I tried it I loved it and we have never made this one-skillet meal without it since.

Unfortunately, not every experimental dish goes that well. A man I once knew had a “signature dish” that he regularly made. It started innocently enough, with ground beef and rice in a stew pot. Then it started to get weird. Knorr instant split-pea soup was the next ingredient. After that all cooked together to a porridge-y consistency, at the last moment before serving, he added pineapple chunks “for the contrast in flavor, texture, and temperature.”

And that wasn’t even the worst of it. He made huge batches of it and kept adding things as the days went by. The most, uh, memorable addition was leftover Chinese food. The actual “recipe” has not survived, and neither did the relationship.

The porridge may not have actually ended the romance, but it’s surely no accident that I ended up with a man who at least understands the concept of flavor profiles, even if he does shop from the quick-sale table.

Ring! Ring! Banana-Gram!

When I was a teen, I once said to my mother, “I think I’ll put a banana in my ear.”

“Why?” she asked, incredulous.

“Because if anyone says ‘Why do you have a banana in your ear?’ I can say, ‘I’m sorry. I can’t hear you. I’ve got a banana in my ear.'”

Mom laughed and said I had my father’s sense of humor. I don’t know what she meant by that, because Dad never told those kinds of jokes.

Later in life I learned that there is such a thing as a “hearing banana.” It’s what results when you have a hearing test that produces an “audiogram.” If your hearing is good, the chart is shaped like a recognizable banana. If your hearing is wonky, so is the banana.

I think the hearing banana must be involved in what are called “mondegreens,” though hardly anyone knows that’s the name for them or where it comes from. A mondegreen is a misheard song lyric that produces an unexpectedly comical result. The term was coined by a woman who misheard the words in a Scottish ballad. The song really said, “and laid him on the green,” but she heard “Lady Mondegreen.”

Perhaps the two best known of these hearing mishaps are “There’s a Bathroom on the Right” by Creedence Clearwater Revival and “‘Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy,” by Jimi Hendrix. Well, and all the little children who sing, “Stand beside her/and guide her/through the night with the light from a bulb,” which might be better than the original anyway.

It was a running gag on the TV sitcom Dharma and Greg that the character Greg misheard (and mis-sang) various song lyrics. Two of my favorites were “Got a black magic woman/and she’s tryin’ to take a pebble outta me” and “I can see clearly now, the rain has gone/I can see all the popsicles in my way.”

Working in a place where there is canned music playing can spawn mondegreens like crazy. A friend of mine who works in a retail establishment swore he heard a song that went, “I want the royal gravy. I want the royal gravy. I want the royal gravy. Give it to me.” There was another one that he heard as, “Do you want an egg?”

Being a brave sort, he asked his coworkers what the song lyrics really were. They were, respectively, “I want the good news, baby” and “Do you want to dance?”

I suppose I shouldn’t make fun of this guy. When you’re working in a large store filled with bustling customers, it’s sometimes difficult to tell what someone right next to you is saying, much less something that’s coming over the loudspeaker.

And it may be that my friend just gets hungry at work and that’s why he hears songs about gravy and eggs. Or maybe he goes to work with a banana in his ear.

But the most likely explanation is that his hearing banana looks more like a kumquat or a coconut or something.

Or it could be there’s nothing wrong with him at all.

After all, “egg” does sound a lot like “dance.” Anyone could make that mistake.

 

Fed Up With Telemarketers!

First, let me say that telemarketing is (scams aside) honest, hard, low-paying work that I never would do myself, at least not if I had a choice in the matter.

But there are limits.

While the Obamacare enrollment window was open, I received a fair number of calls from folks that just wanted us to know that they had the perfect health insurance policy for us and would we be interested.

That was understandable.

I’d say, “Sorry, not interested. We just got health insurance coverage from my husband’s job.” And that would be that.

I thought that once the enrollment window closed, the calls would stop.

Silly me.

Most of the subsequent telemarketers were dispatched with a polite, “Please take me off your calling list.” They would say, “Thank you” or “Sorry to bother you” and hang up.

I thought that would be it.

Silly me.

There was one health insurance telemarketer that kept calling back. And calling back. And calling back. Sometimes several times in one day. For a while I turned my phone off, thinking that would discourage them.

Silly me.

One caller persisted. She left voicemail. And when I couldn’t keep my phone turned off any longer, she kept calling back. She had a long spiel before she stopped to take a breath and then ask me if I would be interested in healthcare insurance.

I tried waiting to the end of her pitch, then saying, “Please take me off your calling list.”

It was always the same person (Hi, this is Annie, from blah-blah insurance. Now that the window has closed for the Affordable Care Act, you can still get et endless cetera).

I took to talking at the same time she did, repeating over and over, “Please take me off your calling list. Please take me off your calling list.” Finally, she would get to the point in her spiel when she paused to take a breath and ask a question designed to elicit a response from the callee. I would repeat, “Please take me off your calling list,” and hang up.

I know I could have hung up as soon as I heard, “Hi, this is Annie,” but I wanted to get across the idea that she should simply not call back, ever. Ever, ever. Ever. (My phone is a stupid phone and doesn’t show the phone number of the calling party.)

Silly me had had enough. The next time Annie called, I talked over her spiel again, and at her pause for a response, said firmly but still reasonable politely, “There is a law that requires you to take me off your calling list if I ask you to. Do I have to report you?” and hung up.

I was bluffing. I had no idea who I should report her to. The FCC? Ma Bell? Some telemarketing regulatory agency? The Department of Repetitive Calls Department?

For the next call, we went through our usual routine, except that I said firmly, but crankily, “I will report you to the authorities.” (Still bluffing. I still had no idea to whom to report them,)

Then I reached the end of my proverbial rope. I was through with being polite. The next time Annie called and said her name, I simply screamed into the phone, “AAAAAAAAAHHH!” It woke up my husband, who was sleeping beside me.

I was a little ashamed of myself. Not for waking my husband, but because I don’t approve of blowing an air horn into telemarketers’ ears when they’re just trying to do a job. I’d like to think I was less likely to cause hearing damage than an air horn. But I had been patient and polite long enough.

It stopped the calls. I should have thought of it sooner.

Silly me.

When You Have a Cold: Some Unsolicited Advice

Say you’ve got a cold or a light touch of the flu. Then keep far away from me. You feel awful and I don’t want to feel awful too. I know you don’t want visitors, but here I am. And at least I’ve brought a gift: a few suggestions for entertaining things you can do while you suffer in peace and quiet. Except for, you know, the coughing and sneezing and assorted other noises you’re making yourself. Relative peace and quiet, if you know what I mean.

Drink tea. It really doesn’t matter what kind, since you can’t smell it anyway. Earl Grey will smell just like jasmine. Peppermint and Irish Breakfast, the same. And if you want to, you can use it as the base of my father’s restorative tonic, which consists of tea, bourbon, and horehound candy (tea optional). Or boring old lemon and honey, if you insist, though my father would not approve.

Cuddle large, fuzzy cats. Even if you’re allergic to them. You’re already sneezing as much as humanly possible, so you have nothing to fear from dander. Bonus: A large, fluffy cat makes an excellent substitute for a heating pad or hot water bottle.

Read. Or pretend to. Actual reading may distract you from how miserable you are (unless you’re reading Les Miserables). Pretend-reading will encourage people to keep their voices low, plus it doesn’t matter if you fall asleep with the book elegantly displayed on your chest. (Make sure it has a classy dust jacket, even if the book inside is Fifty Shades of Grey. Which I don’t recommend, unless it’s for pretend-reading. It may lead to barfing, which may be in your future anyway.)

Eat chicken soup. Tell everyone that you need it for the fluids and the electrolytes. Egg drop soup is an especially good variety, since if you can’t convince someone in your household to make it and bring it to you, you can always convince the Chinese take-out down the street. Nibble saltines daintily, or the little fried things that look like Chinese tortilla strips.

Hit the Nyquil. And I don’t mean the non-drowsy kind. Sleep through as much of the cold as possible. Warning: Do not mix Nyquil with Southern Comfort or the bourbon-horehound mixture (see above). You’ll barf and you may be doing that already. Also, don’t mix Nyquil with cough syrup, which can cause unintended psychedelic effects and more barfing.

Squash tissues. Let them blossom all around you in a protective ring that no one will want to cross. If you try the ones with built-in lotion, don’t use them to wipe your glasses before actually trying to read (see above).

Call the doctor. Don’t go see the doctor. You’ve got a virus and there’s nothing she can give you for it. Just ask how long it is until you can get an appointment, then rest assured that your cold will be over before that. Unless you start making a sucky, moist kind of wheezing sound when you breathe. The advantage is it will keep people even farther away from you, but the downside is that you may have pneumonia, which is even less fun than a cold.

Use Vick’s Vapo-Rub. You won’t be able to detect the scent because your nose is busy with something else (snot), but other people sure will, encouraging them to keep a respectful distance. If you don’t have Vapo-Rub, try Ben-Gay. Bonus: Nice warm feeling on your chest. Note: If you use either Vapo-Rub or Ben-Gay, do not cuddle the large, fuzzy cats (see above). Unless you want to look like Bigfoot. Just sing “Soft Kitty” instead, or insist that someone else sing it to you.

Whine. Punctuate with coughs and sneezes. Again, the goal is to get people to leave you alone. If this isn’t working, move on to even more disgusting symptoms. Keep a bucket by your bed, just so people get the idea that you could use it at any moment.

P.S. I’ll give you one guess why I wrote this. If you don’t get it right, I’ll start whining. And coughing. And sneezing. And barfing. Just bring me some egg drop soup and leave quietly.

You wouldn’t want to catch what I’ve got.

 

 

 

The Future of Sex and Cleaning

Forget about all the robot assembly and manufacturing machines that are out to steal our jobs. As far as I can see, the only occupations chores activities that are likely to be overrun by robotic thieves are sex and cleaning.

Let’s start with everyone’s favorite – cleaning. (I mean favorite in terms of one thing we’d like to have taken off our to-do lists hands plates – including cleaning the plates.)

Of course everyone knows by now about the Roomba and its cousins, those vacuuming wizards and automatic cat transports. And although they’re not the Jetsons’ Rosie the Robot Maid, they’re fine. As far as they go. Which supposedly is around corners and table legs, over shag carpets and pet stains, and through any detritus (other than Legos) that is conveniently lined up in a perfect rectangle, according to the commercials.

But do you have any idea what other household chores have been usurped by mechanical minions?

A quick tour around the Internet reveals the possibilities. As of this writing, there are, in addition to mechanized, self-propelled vacuums, robotic:

moppers

window-washers

barbecue grill-cleaners

gutter-cleaners

pool-cleaners

dustpans (I can’t make this stuff up)

cat litter-scoopers

baby-rockers

plant- and lawn-waterers

and lawnmowers (at $2100 per, a bit pricey compared to the kid down the street or your own reluctant teenagers).

It would be nice if there were one robot that would satisfy all our needs do all that, but unfortunately, every chore needs its own robot. So we humans still have to multitask, even though our machines don’t.

But, speaking of multi-tasking, there is the RealDoll (Abyss Creations), apparently the be-all and end-all epitome (for now) of sex dolls. They’re easy, but not cheap. And they’re marketed to men. (Do I need to say that? The sexbots-for-women industry is tiny minuscule nearly invisible not yet growing unimpressive.) Starting at about what you’d pay for a robotic lawnmower, but rising rapidly at increasing price points or more, you can have a “plastic pal who’s fun to be with.” (Apologies to Douglas Adams. Couldn’t resist.)

Make no mistake, for that price you’re getting more than your standard blow-up doll. Or sheep. Or whatever. More than “just silicone orifices,” according to one writer, the sexbots are jointed, with synthetic skin, and customizations tailored to the customer’s preferences desires specifications as far as hair color, skin tone, eyes, clothing, booty jiggliness, and genitalia go.

(That customizable genitalia feature has me perplexed. According to the specs, that can mean “removable, exchangeable, flaccid, or hard.” I don’t quite get why someone would want a sexbot with flaccid genitalia. And if you know, don’t tell me. Removable kind of gives me the creeps too.)

For those of you not in touch with an aficionado of deeply into conversant with the world of artificial intelligence (AI), any number of quandaries are brought into being by the creation of sexbots. You (well, not you) pay for them, so are they prostitutes? What happens when a company decides to make a robo-sex-sheep (and you know they will)? Will a sexbot that can fulfill antisocial desires make it more or less likely that users will act out criminal lusts IRL (as the saying goes)?

Sexbot visionaries have lots of plans for the future: camera eyes for facial recognition, multiple downloadable personalities, etc. The goal is to have either a sexbot that can pass the Turing Test (being indistinguishable from a human being in conversation, the gold standard of AI) or one that you can fall in love with.

Long before then, however, we’re going to need a sexbot-cleaning cleaning robot. ‘Cause otherwise, ew.