What's Up With That?

      Have you ever encountered a situation that seemed so bizarre your only response was, “What’s up with that?” 
      My book, by the same title, includes 19 humorous short stories that depict a few of these “head-scratching” moments you might have encountered at some point during your life. I've posted a few of these stories on this blog. 
      If you’ve ever eaten at a restaurant where the lights were so dim you couldn’t see your food, been trapped in an elevator with someone wearing so much cologne you couldn’t breathe, or been stuck in a traffic jam in the “drive-thru” lane at a fast food restaurant, then you can relate! 
      Life in modern-day America can be challenging—to say the least—so why not look at the humorous side and vent some of our stress through chuckling instead of exploding? 
      Most Americans can empathize with the experiences I’ve written about in this volume. So take a few moments to sit down, relax and enjoy these light-hearted tales. 
      I encounter topics for my “what’s up with that?” stories frequently as I go about the chores of my daily life and plan to write about many more of them. 
      I love to receive feedback from my readers and would especially like to hear your “what’s up with that?” tales. 
      If you’d like to share your own frustrating dilemmas from everyday life, e-mail your comments to:
      Just remember to keep it light and keep it tactful, because life is semi-humorous.

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The Evil Fast-Food Drive-Thru Hoax

      I’ve decided to blow the whistle on the evil “drive-thru hoax” that American fast food restaurants have perpetrated on their unsuspecting (or unwitting) customers. While sitting in one of my favorite fast food restaurants the other day (yes, I’m a fast food junkie), I counted eight cars parked in the drive thru lane. Eight! What’s up with that? 
      Do these gullible souls actually think they’re going to get faster service in the drive thru lane? NOT!!! Even if it takes only five minutes per customer—if you’re lucky—to take an order, receive payment and hand over the bag, guy number eight is looking at a good thirty-five-minute wait. 
      With the high price of gasoline these days, who can afford to sit with the engine running for that length of time; all for the sake of cheap food and “fast” (I use that term lightly) service? 
      Considering the number of calories we scarf down with our “super-sized” meals, parking and hiking into the restaurant would burn off at least a few calories. Heck, we’d all be better off parking at the fast food joint at the end of the block and jogging back to this one. Then we could eat those fries almost guilt free. 
      But, there they sit in the “drive-thru” lane—inching along and waiting, while sucking up the toxic fumes from the car in front of them. Maybe that’s the problem: brain damage from car fumes in drive thru lanes. I can see it now, a whole new class of law suits! 
      As I enjoyed my meal in air-conditioned comfort, the long line of cars continued to snake through the lane outside. Occasionally, one pulled off to the side to wait even longer for his “special” order to be delivered. 
      And then there was the poor sucker, directed to the sidelines, and his order was lost in the process. Ten minutes later, he stomped inside to complain. 
      But the real kicker is the guy who gets back to his office and discovers that he received the wrong order. Now that’s entertainment! 
      Ah, such is life in the drive thru lane. It’s enough to make you want to brown-bag your own lunch—or not. As for me, I’ll gladly park my car and walk inside, whether I’m getting my food to go or eating it on site. I’m certainly not going to burn up a gallon of gasoline and inhale toxic fumes in the hope of saving myself a few steps. 
      Like I said before, there’s no such thing as “drive thru” at a fast food restaurant. If these places were forced to adhere to truth in advertising, the sign would actually read, “Park and Wait Lane”. 
      But don’t mind me. This is a free country. If you want to waste your time and gas, kill off your brain cells and hoard your calories, be my guest. 
      Oh, and for those of you who are feeling a bit dizzy, call 1-800-LAWYERS.

Stuck On You

      Our lives these days are pushed along at break-neck speed, mainly because of all the high-tech, computerized devices we encounter at every turn. Bar codes are a good example of how technology has sped up the check out process at most retail stores. 
      Each item has one of those little paper bar code tags glued to it, so the checkout clerk can scan your items in record time. That’s the good news. The bad news is that you need a degree in chemical engineering to remove those little tags from your newly acquired possessions. What’s up with that? 
      A few days ago, I accidentally broke my ceramic salt shaker—the one with the pretty blue flowers on it that matches my dinnerware. Yes, I know—bad luck. I dumped the broken pieces in the trash, tossed a handful of salt over my left shoulder for good measure, and called an 800 number to order a replacement. 
      I was delighted when the new shaker arrived; unfortunately, it had one of those bar code stickers stuck to the side. Just the sight of it sent chills down my spine! Everyone knows those things are impossible to remove.  
      I tugged at the corner gently, trying not to tear the paper; but lost that battle, as the top layer separated, leaving me with a thin layer of paper over a thick layer of glue. I clawed desperately at the sticky residue with my fingernails, but only managed to reshape it into a brown glob. 
      Moving along to the chemical phase, I washed the shaker inside and out with detergent; but the gummy glob remained. Next, I tried window cleaner; perhaps the ammonia would do the trick. Nope—no luck. Scouring powder, I thought. Surely that will work. Not a chance. I now had grimy little particles mixed in with the sticky glue.  
      In a last-ditch effort, I dashed out to the work shop in search of sand paper. I wasn’t fooling around anymore! But that turned out to be a mistake; now I had big gritty particles in addition to little gritty particles mixed in with the steadfast glue. 
      I gave up, washed and filled the shaker with salt, and put it on the dinner table. I figured in maybe five or ten years, after a few more washings, it was bound to come off. 
      At dinner that night, my husband asked, “Hon, would you pass me the salt?” 
      “Sure,” I replied, handing him the brand new shaker. 
      “You need to let go,” he said, trying to remove it from my hand. 
      “I can’t, it’s stuck.”
      “What do you mean, it’s stuck?”
      “It’s the glue from the bar code label,” I explained.
      “You mean you didn’t even wash it?” he was dumb enough to ask.
      I glared at him. I should have thrown the stupid shaker at him. And I would have, too, if it wasn’t permanently attached to my hand.

Just One Little Candle

     My friend, Donna, and I decided to treat ourselves to lunch the other day at one of those upscale, downtown, trendy restaurants. Anticipation was high, as we donned our best outfits and headed for the big city. 
      When we arrived, however, our expectations were doused—or I should say dimmed. The restaurant interior was so dark, we barely avoided bumping into the furniture and other diners on the way to our table. What’s up with that? 
      Andrew, our waiter, handed us each a menu, which of course we couldn’t read for lack of illumination. Instead, we simply chose to listen to the specials for the day.  
      “I’ll have that,” Donna said, when Andrew paused for a breath. 
      “Me, too,” I added. 
      While waiting for our food to arrive, we squinted into the darkness, hoping to catch a glimpse of the supposedly elegant décor—not a chance. We might as well have been dining in Carlsbad Caverns, with the lights out. 
      “Do you think there are bats up there?” asked Donna, scanning the shadowy depths above us. 
      While we pondered the spooky prospect of bats hanging over our heads, Andrew brought a basket of freshly baked rolls to our table. We knew this because our mouths began to water with the heavenly aroma. Locating the basket, however, was another matter. 
      “Ouch,” said Donna. “That’s my arm!” 
      “Sorry,” I replied, “I was reaching for a roll.” 
      Next, Andrew brought our entrees, placing them deftly in front of us. We squinted, trying to make out the objects on our plates. 
      “Could we have a bit more light?” asked Donna. 
      With a flourish, Andrew whipped a fancy, long-handled lighter from his apron and lit the tiny votive candle in the center of the table. 
      “We’re going to need about five or six more of those,” I said. 
      Andrew gave me a haughty glare, then turned to leave. He kissed his tip good bye! 
      “What do you think this is?” asked Donna, stabbing a piece of food and holding it up for my inspection. 
      I pulled out my trusty penlight attached to my key ring and directed a tiny beam of light at her fork. “A shrimp,” I declared.
      “Yum!” she replied. 
      We continued to stab blindly at our food until we began to feel full. Now I know how Helen Keller must have felt. I just love that movie.  
      I rubbed my fingers around on my plate to make sure I hadn’t overlooked something. Nope—all gone. I licked the tasty sauce from my fingers and waved my napkin in the air, hoping to attract Andrew’s attention. 
      “Check, Madame?” he asked, suddenly appearing from the darkness. 
      “Please,” I replied. 
      Now, I’m not saying I won’t go back to that restaurant. The food was quite good. But I have one request for all you restaurant owners out there. Could you lighten things up a bit? Being able to see your food, as well as taste and smell it would add a whole new dimension to the dining experience.  
      Imagine that! Well, actually, I wouldn’t have to, if I could see it!

The Sign Spoke to Me

      Four-letter words have long been known for getting us into trouble—first with our parents and teachers; then later on, with society. But there’s one socially acceptable four-letter word that can wreak havoc on our lives in general and our budgets in particular. We encounter it at every turn and its hypnotic appeal pulls us in like a magnet—“SALE!” 
      This word has the same affect on all of us: young and old, male and female, we simply cannot escape its allure; the greater the discount—the bigger the temptation. It doesn’t matter whether we need the item or can even afford the item, we can’t resist a sale! What’s up with that? 
      We’re bombarded with sale announcements on a daily basis: through the mail, on the radio, on television, and with huge signs plastered in store windows. How can we avoid the onslaught? Grocery stores, furniture stores, sporting goods stores, department stores, even the Internet—they’re all lying in wait, ready to cast their “discount spells” to relieve us of our hard-earned cash. 
      The super warehouse stores are some of the worst offenders. “Ten pounds of bacon for ten dollars!” Wow! Never mind that you can’t eat it all before it spoils, or if you did you’d be one hundred pounds overweight and probably drop dead of a heart attack. But, hey! You saved twenty dollars on bacon! 
      My husband and I went shopping for new stainless steel eating utensils. We found a pattern we liked in a set of twelve and discovered it was on sale for seventy-five percent off. 
      “Let’s get two sets,” was my husband’s immediate response. 
      “Why do we need twenty-four forks?” I asked. “I don’t have enough space to store that many.” 
      “But we’re saving a hundred dollars!” he exclaimed. 
      Women are particularly vulnerable when they find shoes on sale. “Buy five pair and get two pair free!” Never mind that you only need one pair. If you spend five times more than you intended and buy five times more than you need, you’ll get two pair free. 
      Even if you do your bargain hunting at garage sales, the spending can add up in a hurry. Haggling is addictive. It’s quite a power-rush to talk the owner down from two dollars to one dollar on your twenty-third pair of blue-bird salt-and-pepper shakers. What a coup! 
      These days you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your home to indulge your “sales habit”. Just download your cash to anywhere in the world with the click of a button on the computer. 
      If we all continue to succumb to the overwhelming power of “The Sale”, we’ll save ourselves right into bankruptcy. This scenario might play out as follows: 
      “So, how did you wind up in this terrible predicament?” the bankruptcy judge will ask. 
      “It was on sale!” you’ll reply. “I already had four push lawn mowers, but this was a riding lawn mower, with a 26 horsepower V-twin engine and a fifty-four inch deck. It was half off!” 
      “Wow!” the judge exclaims. “Is it still on sale? I need one of those.” 
      “Sure,” your lawyer confirms. “I got three for myself.” 
      So, how does the average, hard-working American resist the power of “The Sale?” 
      Don’t ask me! The half-price book store is my home away from home; my best friend is a garage-sale junkie; and my eighty-year-old mother has three closets jammed with brand new clothes, which she got on sale, of course. 
      I guess you’ll realize that you need help when you’re living off peanut butter sandwiches and raiding your kid’s piggy bank to buy gas for your car. 
      Until then…Happy Shopping!



      What could be more comforting than Thanksgiving dinner shared with extended family members? (Okay, hold the snickering—I mean, aside from the occasional personality clashes and unavoidable family tiffs.) 
      We gather together on this traditional holiday to express our thanks for the bounty we have received throughout the year. And judging by the mountain of food piled on the table, which literally groans under the sheer weight of it all—for most of us it’s a sign of more than plenty. 
      But the scariest part about this holiday is the fact that the weight of that food is about to be transferred from the table to everyone surrounding it. After all, Thanksgiving spelled backwards is “gluttony”—at least metaphorically speaking. But it doesn’t matter whether you spell it upside down, inside out or backwards, the bottom line is that on this “holy day of food worshipping”, it seems that we grant ourselves a free pass to scarf down everything in sight. What’s up with that? 
      Statistics show that the average person consumes roughly 6,000 calories on Thanksgiving Day—nearly three times the amount we eat on any regular day. What causes us to turn into human vacuum cleaners this one day of the year? I suspect that it involves the same reasoning as the famous “mountain climbing” quote. 
      “Why did you climb Mount Everest?” 
      “Because it was there.” 
      “Why did you eat five pounds of turkey, a dozen dinner rolls and two pumpkin pies?” 
      “Because they were there.” 
      We simply have no willpower when tasty homemade food is placed within our grasp. Then we spend the rest of the day in a comatose state sitting in front of the television. 
      I guess it really doesn’t matter, since there’s absolutely no way we could burn off that many calories. It would take 12 hours of non-stop jogging or 24 hours of walking. And that is SO not going to happen. You can just stuff that exercise nonsense right up the turkey where it belongs! This is a holiday! 
      Year after year we indulge ourselves in at least one serving of each and every one of the twenty-eight or more offerings from the Thanksgiving Day spread, and then, when we’re about to explode, the hostess offers dessert. 
      “Do you want pecan pie, apple pie, or pumpkin pie?” she asks. 
      “Sure,” we reply. Why pick just one when we can have all three? 
      I guess we’ll never know why we lose all sense of reason on this special day. I believe it must have its roots somewhere in our early evolution, tied to Cro-Magnon Man’s fear of famine—or we just plain have no will power when our senses are overloaded with so much taste-tempting, mouth-watering, aromatic, delectable treats. Yep, that’s probably it. 
      And we’re darn thankful to have them, too. Bring on the turkey! Could you pass the sweet potatoes again, please? 

Visions of Sugar Plums

      When I was seven, my mother arranged for my two sisters, ages five and nine, and me to take ballet classes at our local community center. We purchased the requisite black leotards, pink tights and ballet slippers, which I laid out carefully beside my bed. I could barely contain my anticipation for the first day of class. 
      We donned our ballet attire and were chauffeured to the community center at the appointed time. I was in ballerina heaven and practiced every move with serious determination. Visions of Sugar Plum Fairies danced in my head. 
      When my mother collected us an hour later, I was flushed with excitement and couldn’t wait for the next class. My two sisters, however, wanted no part of the ballet life and refused to go back. Apparently, the activity decisions in our family were decided by democratic vote, so my ballet career began and ended in one day. It was the first time I ever said, “What’s up with that? Life just isn’t fair!” 
      Many years later, when I was in my mid-thirties, I noticed an ad in our neighborhood newsletter for an adult ballet exercise class. I couldn’t get to the phone fast enough to sign up. The visions of Sugar Plum Fairies had returned and this time, no one could stand in my way. Once again, I purchased the required black leotard, pink tights and ballet slippers—ballerina heaven, here I come. 
      There were eight of us middle-aged to older-aged women in the class—apparently all deprived of our childhood dreams to be prima ballerinas; ethereal visions in tulle. We pirouetted, pliéd and chasséd our hearts out, up and down the wooden floor in the mirrored studio. But, alas, there would be no Nutcracker Suite performances for us. 
      It turned out to be a wonderful exercise class, but my fantasy of wearing a beautiful tulle costume and dancing in the spotlight with the Nutcracker Prince would never come to pass. Or at least that’s what I thought, until one day, many years later when I was in my mid-fifties, and an invitation to the First Annual Neighborhood Costume Party arrived in the mail. 
      My ballerina dream bubbled to the surface, and I made a beeline to the fabric store to purchase yards and yards of pink tulle. For days, I worked on my costume. Then one afternoon, I pranced into the living room and twirled around for my husband, Bob, to admire. I was a slightly plump, gray-haired vision in tulle. 
      He pushed the mute button on the television to silence the sirens blaring from his favorite police reality show. “Very nice,” he smiled. 
      “I’m the Sugar Plum Fairy,” I explained. “And you will be my Nutcracker Prince,” I added, holding up a man’s formal red jacket, complete with tails, and a spectacular hat with a fluffy plume.” 
      “Hmm,” was his suspicious reply. “Where are the pants?” 
      Dang, I was busted! Reluctantly, I held up a pair of men’s white tights. 
      He raised one eyebrow and pressed the mute button again. The sirens blared from the television speakers as the good guys continued their pursuit of the bad guys. 
      I knew it was a long shot, but I had to try.  
      On the night of the big event, I finally realized my Sugar Plum Fairy dream; it had taken me nearly fifty years. I wasn’t dancing around a stage on pointed ballerina shoes, but my ballet slippers were tied with pink satin ribbons, my tulle skirt swirled around me like a cloud, and my rhinestone tiara sparkled under the dance floor spotlights. 
      Bob chose to wear a gangster costume, with a black pinstripe suit, black shirt and tie and a fedora hat. But his favorite accessory was the fake Tommy gun that he slung jauntily over his shoulder. He was the infamous mobster, Nicky “The Nutcracker” Scarpetti. 
      He wasn’t quite the “Nutcracker Prince” that I had envisioned, but a prince by any other name is still a prince! 
      It was a magical evening.