The Complaint Department

What is in the human blueprint that allows us to complain without end?  Like the unfixable reaches of space or time’s infinite weave, the only thing that limits someone’s ability to complain is the length of our lifespan.  Sometimes it’s justified; most often it’s pointless and repetitive.  To the objective listener, it almost always casts the complainer in a bad light. 

With that in mind, I’d like to present to you may list of complaints in no particular order. 

#1-  KFC’s Chicken “Sandwich” –  I’m not a big fan of fried chicken so it’s a rare occasion to find me sitting in a Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Now, you’d have a better chance of finding me in a Bohemian Fried Dodo. 

After a morning of garage sales with my wife (note:  Not only was this my last time in a KFC it was also the last time I wasted time looking at other’s junk.)  Melissa convinced me to stop at a KFC because it was “on the way.”  I relented.  Since I didn’t care for fried chicken, I choose what should be a safe choice at a restaurant specializing in chicken…a common chicken sandwich.

I received a sagging, squished, white bun and a piece of dry chicken product.  If KFC can’t do a chicken sandwich right, it’s a good thing I didn’t order the Colonel’s beef burrito.

#2 – Showers Left on in the Locker Room – It’s not terribly unusual to walk into the men’s locker room and find one or two showers running full blast with NO ONE IN SIGHT!  Who knows how long they’ve been running?!  Listen to this…someone waltzed in, turned the faucet, soaked up some hot water, then WALKED AWAY LEAVING THE HOT WATER RUNNING! 

If you throw trash out your car window, you’re thoughtless but at least you have a cleaner car.  If you’re done with the shower, why wouldn’t you twist the handle and shut it off?  It takes .3245 of a second!  (I think these are the same people who leave poop in the bowl with no toilet paper.  So, not only did they forget to flush but they also forgot to…   Happens all the time.)

#3 – Nine and Ten Year Olds that Carry Middle-Aged Bellies- I see this at the pool all the time.  A young boy who’s carrying too much weight…waaaay too much weight.  My problem isn’t with the kid; it’s with the parents.  In a very real way, I become angry with parents that let their children put on so many pounds.  Let’s see…it compromises their confidence and how they will come to perceive themselves as adults WITH THE ADDED BONUS of getting a much advanced start on destroying their health. 

Would these parents bother to pull their kids out of the way of a semi-truck?  Of course!  Would they save them from a lifetime of embarrassment and health problems?  Nope.
#4 – Seventh Graders – I teach them so, well, that’s it.  The book would write itself.

#5 – Marriage nixing The Thrill of New Love – A good marriage is one of the sweetest pleasures in life and is defiantly the weightier of these two.  That being said…what a shame to miss the thrill of finding a new love or the potential that comes with flirting with someone new.  The extra long stare from someone you just meant and the almost unlimited potential that person represents.  One implied part of saying, “I do” is saying, “I won’t.”

#6 – No Milk in the Refrigerator – Is there one food staple that you ABSOULUTLY must have in the house or you’re unhappy?  If you don’t have it, it throws your entire day or routine into a tailspin?  Maybe it’s coffee, bread or (but hopefully not) beer. 

Wow.  It looks like I was right.  Writing a complaint post WAS easy!

Winter Holiday

Dakota Territory is a land of exhilarating seasonal extremes.  During the middle of the summer the sun makes the asphalt, concrete, even common gravel into an oven top.  Your eyes beg for shade before discovering that Dakota has no trees.  In winter’s frozen belly, your fingers will go numb seconds after you remove them from your pockets.  Spring is a wet, sloppy mess.  Fall blusters and drags in thick rolls of gray clouds.


Halloween is the occasion winter uses to fully take hold on the northern prairie.  During my last October in Dakota, folks took all their yard refuse and filled wide garbage bags colored orange and black to look like jack ‘o lanterns.  A surprising number of homeowners decorated this way. 


Within moments after the last trick or treater disappeared into their homes, the snow begin to fall.  It fell as a thick blanket with stitches falling as flakes.  Inch after inch piled up until everyone’s Halloween decorations only poked up through the snow.  A few days later, another snow fell, which all but hid the orange trash bags.


Here’s the thing about Dakota…the snow falls then sits until spring comes to clean it up.  By late February, roads and parking lots are bracketed by near mountain ranges of piled snow.  School children use the massive piles of snow as playground equipment. 


Around mid-March, the weather finally shifted and the thermometer slowly eased above thirty-two degrees.  The landscape began a slow metamorphosis as well.  Heaps of dirty snow began shrinking.  Dirt became mud as the semi-arid prairie became saturated with snowmelt.   


“Hey Greg, you know those trash bags that looked like jack ‘o lanterns?  Do you realize that there are probably still about six thousand of those things still hanging around?”


“Yea, it’s a little weird to see half the town still decked out for Halloween.”


I rub my hands together with mischievous energy.  “I’ve got an idea.  Let’s borrow your dad’s pickup some night, dress in black, and steal them out of people’s yards.  It’s not really a crime right?  In fact it’s more like a public service!”


We performed Operation Trick and Take late on a Tuesday night so that the residential roads would be relatively traffic free.  We taped a piece of black plastic over the license plate.  Greg didn’t want any casual observer to be able to identify us.  (you know…in case we had to make a high speed get away from the police…the pickup was a 1946 Dodge with a wooden bed…we weren’t going to escape from anyone).   


At a slow predatory crawl, we skirted between streetlights looking for long expired Halloween decorations.  We didn’t have to search long.  As Greg drove the getaway pickup, I would speed out the door and grab the yard bags.  Some were so set into place that they burst open as I pulled them.  Others came away freely and were tossed in the bed of the truck.


“I feel so alive!”


The decision to conclude our nefarious activities was not made for us.  Before we finished mining the south side of town, the bags were piled well above the cab!  There was simply no room for any more.


“So, what are we supposed to do with them now?”


“Well, I guess we could go cruising for chicks.  We’re not getting a lot of attention as it is.  Maybe this gimmick is exactly what we need to garner a little attention for ourselves if you know what I mean.”


“Not really.”


True to form, not a single female waved us down or even tried to make eye contact with us.  The evening wore on and once the sugar from our 44 oz. Bladder Buster worked through our system, we decided to call it a night.  But that left us with another problem.


“So what are we supposed to do with these things now?  My dad has been leaning on me to get the trash bags out of the pickup.”


I stared down my straw looking for inspiration.  A moment later, I found it.  “Hey, why don’t we go and pile them up in front of the post office doors!  We might even make the paper!”


At 1:30 AM, with only a few lonely drunks to see our activities, we came to a stop in front of the post office and began tossing the yard bags against the front doors both of our expressions a mix of exhilaration and trepidation. 


The result?  The paper never carried the story but the police blotter did mention that a dog was reported barking on 3rd and Westgate.  If we had been more experienced miscreants we would have phoned in our evil deeds.  Shucks!

Spring Break?

Spring Break works its way up the calendar and the Southerners I live amongst make quick tracks toward the nearest shoreline.  In theory, it’s more than just a break from hustle and bustle.  As the name implies, it’s also a sign that winter’s harsh siege has been lifted and the beautiful outdoors is awakening from dormancy. 

My question is this…Have they earned a Spring Break?

Every now and then, snow and its wicked sibling, ice, wander through Middle Tennessee and other places just south of the Mason-Dixon Line.  The snow never stays more than a day or two.  Small pockets persist only in ditches and other heavily shaded areas, but on roads and lawns the snow’s persistence is measured in hours not days.

It just doesn’t stay very cold for very long.  In my closet is an expensive, heavy winter coat I’ve had for at least seven years.  It still looks brand new!  I’ve worn it three times!  If I were still living in North Dakota, the coat would be a different shade with a broken zipper.  People in the South flock to a grocery store the second after the weatherman uses the words snow and accumulation in the same sentence. 

I’ll ask again…Have Southerners earned a Spring Break?

My last winter in Dakota was also my first year of college.  I would wake up in the morning, shower, and make a hurried scurry to my car.  (Which was as cold as the outside temperature just without the wind.)  Once the engine rolled over and I began driving, I could reach up run my fingers across the bed of frozen needles my hair had become!  My hair would begin to freeze on the way to my car!

Yea, maybe Southerners should just call it “Was That It?” Break.

Here’s another cautionary tale from my final winter in Dakota.  One night a blizzard rolled through Western Dakota with snow falling thick enough to make buffalo wince.  It fell so fast you couldn’t see more than twenty feet in front of you.

Of course there was fun to be had with snow piling up on the roads and everyone with intelligence tucked inside their homes.  My friend and I took his dad’s pick up truck and went on a bit of a joy ride near the high school.

No one else was out so we gunned through the fast building snowdrifts.  With every muffled THUMP, a cascade of snow flew up from the bottom of the windshield completely blinding us.  We gunned it anyway. 

Then something strange happened.  With temperatures sunk near negative twenty, the engine began OVERHEATING.  We brought our vehicle to a standstill and climbed out to diagnose the problem.  Snow was packing the grill, melting, then quickly refreezing forming a thick hybrid of snow and ice, which choked off air from the radiator.  We spent the next half hour trying to open the grill again before the drifts grew high enough to trap us.

When a southerner expresses pleasure at the end of winter, I’m forced to smile.  They really have no idea.


Bad Haircut

This story is a good example of a bad idea.  I wrote it in college when young people were still wandering around with the “bowl cut.”  It was a nauseating style with short hair around the sides and back with long hair from the top cut evenly around the outside of the skull.  Perhaps it would be better to say the haircut looked like a mushroom.

Here’s another small note.  When I originally wrote this story, I misspelled bowl.  Instead I wrote bowel over and over again and never realized it.  Really, I think that’s funnier than the story.

Here it is…

Richard had a poor haircut.  Years ago, his mother Delilah attended the Bradshaw Bowl School of Beauty.  There, she was converted to the practical nature of the bowl cut and its worldwide propagation.  She was a zealot who would walk through the mall and cast scorn upon the buzz cuts and tasseled curls of other children.
Fed with a near constant diet of fruit flavored protein shakes, Richard’s hair grew quickly.  It allowed Delilah to experiment with the latest variations of the bowl cut such as the Saturn Tipper (a bowl cut with a distinct thirty-degree slant).

Richard despised the bowl cut and fought like a stuck pig each time.  Against his will he would be forcibly strapped into a gothic, high-backed chair; the red velvet a cruel comfort as Delilah patiently waited for her son’s protests to quiet.  This could take up to an hour. 

Delilah’s template was an adjustable plastic bowl molded to fit across the human skull that she called Venus’s Toilet since it resembled a urinal so strongly.  Once it was on, she simply shaved any hair hanging from the edges.  When she finished, Delilah would pull of the Venus Toilet and congratulate herself.  

Summer’s days were beginning to wane away, and Richard’s hair was showing signs of recovery from its last beating at the hands of Delilah.  With school again on the horizon, Richard decided that nothing would keep him from walking into school that first day with a normal, unassuming crew cut.  Using the full capacity of his twelve-year-old mind, Richard hatched a devious plan to spare his hair. 

One morning after breakfast, Delilah addressed him, “Say Dick, are you going to be busy tomorrow after lunch?”

Richard replied, “Mom!  Please stop calling me that!  I realize you have been removed from any real social contact for sometime so I will excuse you.  But the name carries small connotation I would prefer to avoid.

Oh yea, and I’m busy.

 His mother paused before stating, “Hmmm, we will see.  Now finish your shake.   Remember, rest makes the hair grow faster.”

Richard sat in his room staring into the closet conjuring laughing peers, raised eyebrows, and second glances.  If he received another bad bowl cut, his first day of school would break his sanity.

Finally a strategy hit him.  He crept out of bed, and into his parent’s bedroom.  Quietly he removed one of his mother’s favorite wigs and one of his father’s favorite inflatable women.  He then eased his way downstairs to complete his plan. 

When the sun next shone over the horizon, Richard leaped out of bed.  With a sharp spring to his step, his plan was brought into action.  He went downstairs, and inflated the woman.  Richard placed a very tight turtleneck and sweater over the frontal portion of the toy woman.  Finally, he added the wig and a sign.

The sign read, “Hello Mom.  I awoke with unparalleled excitement.  I simply cannot wait to observe my new bowl cut.  The excitement has stricken me speechless.  Clamps will not be necessary this time as I have already sedated myself.  I think you will find me a willing participant.  Love, Dick.”

Richard’s plan was in full swing.  He left, and marched straight towards a normal barbershop.  When he returned, Richard rushed downstairs to dispose of the now mutilated dummy.

The first day of school, everyone took time to comment on Richard’s new hairstyle.  Every girl wanted to play tag.  Every boy wanted Richard on his team.  Every teacher assumed he was intelligent, and assigned As to his papers.

The principal was called upon to divulge information regarding Richard’s hair.  “Dick, my boy, who cut your hair?”

Richard replied, “I am proud to say that Delilah Phelps, my own mother, cut my hair.”

Everyone at this particular community made haste to the Phelps’ door.  They had their children lined up, and were begging for Delilah to cut hair.  Such a demand caused Mrs. Phelps to open a barbershop downtown, which she called the Super Bowl.

Richard thought all was well until he heard a commotion from his parent’s bedroom.  His mother was working late at the Super Bowl, and his father had gone to bed.

Suddenly, Richard’s father appeared in Richard’s doorway.  “Where is Bambi?”  He yelled.  Richard knew he was in trouble.

Staff Memo – Employee Manual


Proud Employer for the Witness Relocation Program

Sponsor of Whimpleberry High School’s JV Chess Team

Lead Developer of D-U-Why Non-Alcoholic Whiskey

From the Desk of ChiefDodo-

Recently, several of our concerned employees have inquired about a written policy for professional behavior and a resource for addressing concerns.  I immediately scheduled a meeting for 6:00 Am Saturday morning.  Those emp0lyees that showed up were greeted by my secretary (I was in bed).  They were served beagles, rhubarb cream cheese, and a half bag of stale Bugles that I just couldn’t finish Friday afternoon.  Ursula handed out binders covered with faux Corinthian leather and inside were 600 pages that all said, “YOU’RE UNEMPLOYED, GO HOME AND WATC H CARTOONS.”

Such ignorance is not acceptable here at the cooperate headquarters.  As I like to say “True professionals approach their profession like pros.”  (I’m refering to athletes here. )

Here’s what I don’t get…If there aren’t any rules regarding something, why make them up!?  Do I have to put, “Make sure your pants are pulled up after leaving the bathroom” in writing or do you already have that down?

Fine, here’s a quick look at the Employee Pamphlet.

*Office romances are strictly encouraged.  I makes the work environment a whole lot more fun.  (As soon as I hire a female.  They walk by our offices all the time because I’m watching them!!  When one applies, I tell them that it will be just like the Smurfs.  She’ll be Smurfette!  She will have her choice of all the geeks!  This hasn ‘t worked out yet.)

*In the lunchroom, no one is allowed to make microwave able caramel corn.  Chemistry has nothing capable of taking the lumps of burnt kernels off the inside walls.

*All padded office chairs are stuffed with potpourri to help control unauthorized flatulaence.  Some workers (Eugene) mistakenly believe the shallow walls of thier cubical fence in such malodors.  They are wrong.  And I dont’ want to hear anything about the chairs stuffed with Evergreen Fresh.  Pine cones will not kill you!

Stupidity Made Easy

Foresyth Says,

“There are an infinite number of good ideas and twice as many bad ones.”

How often have you let your mind off its leash and the first place it wanders is the dung it dropped years ago?  You cringe as you think over the ridiculous idea you had and how badly it played out.  What you did or said cast you in the worst light possible.  You want to imagine that it was unavoidable or just bad luck.  You’d like to forget, but that won’t happen.  So off your mind goes…right back to sticking it’s nose into the big pile of doo doo and all you can do is squint.

My example goes back to when Melissa and I were first married.  We were on vacation with family members and close friends visiting an outlet mall in Florida.  You may think a mall is a terrible place to waste time on your vacation and you’d be right.  Time oozed by and before I realized it, I was on complete autopilot.  I shuffled after our group this way and shuffled after them that way.

Where I regained consciousness was the Ralph Lauren Outlet Store.  Its multiple bargains were stylishly accented with understated placards reading “Over Here Sucka.”

My herd wandered over to the clearance racks but I chose another path.  I’d been in the market for an attaché case with a hammer-swigging horseman on it and I figured this would be the best place.

“Ah a pair of thick corduroy summer shorts with extra inner material to soak up the extra sweat.  Oh my, a hand loop for my claw hammer or do I hang my sunglasses there?  Is that a strip of pastel plaid sewn along the inside?!  Where is…wait, there it is.  The little man on horseback stitched right along the flap that covers the zipper.”

My hand flails about looking for a price tag.  “I’m going to say a garment of this style and quality is probably worth twelve bucks.”  I find the price tag.  “Shoot!  Thirty-four dollars with a five percent discount.  Hmmmm.”

I studied the tag in my hand a bit longer.  It was a thick, sturdy paperboard with a high gloss finish over foil logo and script.  A short piece of braided, moss colored rope secured the tag to one of the belt loops.  And it had a tassel!  There it was, a small tassel hung from the length of rope.

“Darn!  I’ll bet the tag cost almost as much as this stupid pair of pretty boy shorts did.”

Then it struck me.  A plot so cleaver and so diabolical it could keep me entertained in any mall in the country!  “I’ll steal the tag!  What a great idea!  I’ll collect them!  Let’s see, there’s an infinite variety and they can be easily displayed or pasted into a keepsake book.  I’m sure I’m the first person to ever come up with such a clever pastime.”

I looked over at my party.  They were picking through the racks of clearance items like buzzards over a dead zebra.

“Go ahead ladies!  Take your time!  I’ve got a whole new pastime to get underway with.”

I used my peripheral vision to scan the area around me.  Turning my head to look would give my malintent away as it does my note-passing seventh graders.  Then, with only a quick pull, I broke the thin, decorative rope and slid it into my pocket.  (I would knot the ends later to make sure I didn’t loose the all-important tassel.)

With the ease of a gentle breeze, I walked through Ralph’s store pilfering tag after tag.  I could feel my heart beating with the all-powerful thrill of a near-misdemeanor!  The tags burned along my leg and caused my body temperature to rise.  Was I stress sweating?

Then I noticed a man in a white button up push through the backroom doors.  I didn’t know his first or last name but I’m sure his middle name was LongTimeAssistantStoreManager.  His expression was stern and chiseled with purpose.  There was evil a-foot.

Melissa looked over at me and called, “Matt, are you ready to go?”

Was she being sarcastic?  Was she trying to give me away?  It didn’t matter.  I slid along the outside wall and out the entrance to the store, in only a few more seconds I’d be home free.

As we all strolled past the kiosk selling obnoxious ties, Melissa looked at me and asked, “So, you seemed pretty busy in there.  What were you doing over in the women’s blouses?”

“Oh, something stupid.”

Wisdom of the Ages

I’m sitting in a congested church gym trapped on the far side of a plastic eight-foot table.  People have me boxed in on the right and on the left.  With the wall behind me, there is no escape.  The battered, steel-folding chair under my rear hasn’t warmed yet and I’ve been sitting on it for almost twenty minutes.  Then there’s my empty Styrofoam cup.  It doesn’t hold enough soda to quench anyone’s thirst and just looking at it gives me an environmental guilt trip. On top of everything else, one of the tines has broken off my clear plastic fork and has already become lost in a robust pile of various casseroles.

All this is to be expected and I still wouldn’t miss a church potluck for the world.  Everything that is important to a great meal is here in spades (well, except for atmosphere): more delicious food than you or your Saint Bernard could eat, in addition to wonderful company.

The older man in front of me goes by Mr. Jack.  Between bites of Swedish meatballs he says, “Matt, listen to a little bit of wisdom.  There are two things you should always be willing to lay out good money for.  They are a good pair of shoes and a quality mattress.  After all, these are the things you spend ninety percent of your time on.”

This bothered me a bit.  Here I am getting old and I completely lack any homespun advice to dump on other people after we’ve discussed the weather.  I needed to immediately begin breeding common sense with a bit of cleaver thinking.  I would begin the second I fished the plastic shard out of my goulash.

Amazingly, it didn’t take me too long.  In fact, it was an exercise similar to a zebra studying his own stripes.

Instant Wisdom #1- “Tis Better to be Bored Than Miserable”

This pertains mostly to your employment.  If you like your job, consider yourself one of the blessed.  If your job bores you to that certain numbness, then consider yourself better off than the pitiable that hate their job.  There’s no joke here.  If you’ve had a job you despise then you have a much harder time complaining about being bored.

The strange thing about this rule is some try to break it.  How many people do you know that the moment they become bored they have to cause some sort of trouble?

Disposable Wisdom #2- “Everything is a Hassle Until It Must Be Done.”

Taxes and that five page term paper slide into this maxim with remarkable ease.  It seems like every nagging thing in life loiters in the back of your mind until it becomes a pressing need forcing you into action.  Of course, if you’re responsible enough to take care of things as they come up…

Second String Wisdom #3- “Nothing of Any Value Occurs After Nine O’ Clock”

It’s with great confidence that I make this proclamation.  Oh, the countless hours I stayed up late doing nothing when an early rise would have meant a trip to the gym.  People only stay up late because they are blowing through money, destroying their health, or wasting time.  Anyone who’s attended college can boast proficiency with all three.

In fact, the only exception to the rule (and I hesitate to mention this) would be the conception of my children.


Victor Yost – Revealed!

Miss Nomer is sitting in the posh lobby of La’Porta Day Spa.  Surrounding her are calming earth tones accented in crimson and gold.  The interviewer sees wide gold threaded tapestries and tassels on nearly everything.  The air is accented with the flavorful mix of strawberries, cinnamon, and self-importance.  She sat down almost three minutes ago and her butt is still sinking into the ultra-plush, six-inch, silk seat cushion.  The gentle sounds of string music surrounds her as she waits but it doesn’t come from an elaborate speaker system.  There’s a pale looking man in the corner of the acoustically designed lobby playing a violin.

Miss Nomer (bouncing a bit to try and hasten her decent to the bottom of her seat):  “Hmmm, maybe the next time he has his tux starched he might want to get out of it first.”

A chime sounds and two thickly built porters in tight, black shirts enter the lobby pulling what looks like an ebony rickshaw.  There’s a man inside wearing a silk smoking jacket.  Another chime and both men stop then gently lower each pole to the ground.  The man in the rickshaw stands, ambles to the seat across from Miss Nomer, and sits.

Miss Nomer (eyebrows raised a bit):  Mr. Yost, I presume?

Victor Yost (slowly sinking):  Yes, hello Miss Nomer.  You may begin the interview.

Miss Nomer (reaches over to the crystal coffee table and starts the tape recorder) Hello, we are joined today by one of America’s most detestable men.  The mastermind of a money making scheme so powerful and far reaching that its true scope cannot be properly measured.  Mr. Yost is the broker behind the cost structure of college textbooks!

Victor Yost:  I think it’s funny how you use negative adjectives to describe me.  You people are just so cute.

Miss Nomer:  I’m a little surprised you agreed to this interview Mr. Yost.  After all, I just graduated from college and I can tell you first hand the righteous fury you feel when you’re picking up a common hardback book and the price tag is nearly the same as one’s first car.  How can you possibly defend the prices your putting on these books!?

Victor Yost (shakes head and smiles):  Miss Nomer, one cannot put a price on learning.  These printing companies and the esteemed authors require proper recompense for their contributions to our educated population.  As the founder and director of CREEP, I simply make sure that students ‘pay it forward’ if you will, to those who give their higher learning the hard bound backbone it needs.

Miss Nomer (interrupting):  When you say CREEP, you are referring to the Cartel Representing Expanded Edition Printing.

Victor Yost (nodding):  Yes, we are constantly reworking the cutting edge information contained in our volumes.  Our authors treat each book like a child.  They feed it new information; help it to grow and expand.  Better-organized information leads to a better education and that means a 14th edition.

Miss Nomer (sarcastically):  You mean rearrange the pictures then expect professors to require the 14th edition thus boosting your sales again.  Admit it!!

Victor Yost: Ok, I get to rearrange the pictures.  It’s a lot mort interesting than sitting around playing solitaire all day, besides it gives me a feeling of accomplishment.  When I’m not here at my home/spa, I…

Miss Nomer (Interrupting again): Home/spa?

Victor Yost:  Of course, I built this spa so that it is in conjunction with my home.  I just thought it would be fun to offer its services to some of my closest friends and other highbrows.  It operates as a money loosing business, which is a fantastic tax write-off.  Then, when the tax benefit expires, I close the books, choose another French word, and open it up again as a separate entity.

Miss Nomer (angrily):  You own this place as a private club and it’s subsidized by the government!?

Victor Yost:  A government would be useless without an educated populace.

Miss Nomer (furious now):  I spent almost six hundred dollars my last semester on only five books!  The day before the semester concluded all of your publishers came out with an entire set of new editions!!  I was offered only six dollars and fifty cents for books that were worth six hundred only four months earlier!!  AND ALLYOU DID WAS ADD A DUST COVER!!  A DUST COVER DOES NOT CONSTITUE A NEW EDITION!!!

Victor Yost (still calm):  It does when the dust cover contains a handy guide for English to metric conversions.  (snaps his fingers)

Miss Nomer:  (two of the porters appear and lock Miss Nomer’s arms against the chairs. Another takes away her tape recorder) You are a thief!

Victor Yost:  I have done nothing wrong.  If CREEP and I didn’t take their money then they would blow it on booze and beer.

(stands and adjusts the pulls on his robe)  Well, that was more fun than I thought it would be.  Here, (hands Miss Nomer a check) this is a check for the difference between the money you spent and the actual cost of your college texts.  I threw in a little extra for a new tape recorder.  Consider it encouragement to keep your mouth shut or my boys in black here may pay you a visit.

The ruffians let go of Miss Nomer and one waits to escort her out.  The others join Victor near his rickshaw.

Victor Yost: (to one of his porters) So, do you think this will count as a confession?  I want a clear conscious you know but I also want to protect my business.

Porter (with a wink and a nod): Sure boss, and don’t worry.  No one reads anyways.



I drove back to the dormitory with a head full of steam.  It was an insult to offer me clocks whose casement was little better than mahogany stained cardboard with the same guts you’d find in any common kitchen clock.  AND TRY TO CHARGE ME OVER A HUNDRED DOLLARS FOR IT!  My affection for Melissa was real and I needed a real clock to symbolize it!

(In a way, it was my divorce from the mall.  I only go there now to buy books and ever-so-rarely clothes.  There’s almost nothing of real value there.  It’s as if the entire place is like a roach motel for teenage wallets.  Everything is clumsily overpriced and I feel like a sucker walking into half of the stores.)

The next day I found a clock shop on the other side of town.  I opened the door for Melissa and both of us entered, what was for me anyway, a magic wonderland.  Ticks, tocks, fine clicks, and deep chimes surrounded us.  Through the store’s floor, I could feel the pulse of time.

“Hey, welcome,” One of the storekeepers gestured to us from behind the counter.  “We had a fire recently but don’t worry only smoke make it into the showroom.  Anyway, everything is half off so just look at the yellow tags and cut the price in half.  If you need anything just let me know.”

Right away my four hundred dollars turned into eight hundred!  Fantastic!

“Look Matt, I don’t want anything too fancy.  There’s really no reason to break the bank on this sort of deal, anything will be fine.”

Good.  Lower expectations are much easier to exceed.  And exceed them I would.

Melissa found several small timekeepers all with somewhat modest prices.  I dismissed them all as too decorative, too plain, or too small.  I wasn’t ignoring clocks that she actually liked since I was sure she was just trying to save me some money.

“Nope,” I decided firmly.  “I’m not leaving with a single cent.”

(This is an attitude that half of the population wishes their spouses/love interests had and the other half wishes they didn’t.)

Finally I found one that met my requirements in order of importance: quality materials (beveled glass, sold oak casement, brass face), I liked it, expensive (price tag was 1,100 dollars), limited production, extra options (three different chimes!), and Melissa liked it too.

I ended up borrowing almost two hundred dollars from my girlfriend in order to pay for the clock.  She didn’t have a problem lending me the money.  Her difficulty was the amount I was spending.

“You can’t spend almost six hundred dollars on me Matt!  We’ve only been dating for three months.”

It didn’t matter.  I was hung up on this girl and making a silly decision.  If you think about it, imagine the pressure I was now dumping on this relationship.  I’m buying her an expensive item that had “forevermore” slathered all over it.  What else could she take from it other than, “It’s too early for me to buy you a ring, so here is a different kind of tether.  I mean we’re getting married right?”

No doubt it didn’t help that I insisted we rush home and show Melissa’s mother.

(And for my next stunt I’m getting “I Love Melissa” tattooed across my forehead.)

I suppose it didn’t matter in the end.  Melissa and I did become one and have enjoyed more good times than bad.

The clock still sits on our mantel.  When I look at it now, I still see the meaning behind the gesture I made.  Yes, the tick reminds me of our time together and my commitment to her but it also serves notice of the dangers a young man (or woman) will jump headlong into for the sake of fresh love.


Foresyth says,

“Offer a pretty girl dreams and dimes.
Show her the keys to your soul.
With wind behind you, rush to her side.
Be excited, unconstrained, a brand new fool.”

Young men caught in the heady exuberance of new love can be convinced of anything.  They accept the quest to prove themselves by ridiculous feats and silly vows forged from their overheating inner furnace.  Their head swims.  The universe is a top spinning on the head of a single head of long beautiful hair, a single set of fantastically blue eyes, and a magnificently assembled set of curves.

(And then like all strong feelings…it fades a bit.  Gravity pulls you back to the earth and the obstacles, thistles, and dust that you once flew above now clogs your path.  That’s love’s ugly ankle tattoo that eventually comes to light.)

When Melissa and I began dating, little else mattered.  We had been friends for years and discovered feelings for each other at the same moment.  There was no getting-to-know you phase just a getting-to-know-you-better phase.  We had fun and even better, our personal traits either matched or complimented each other.  I felt like nothing could dent this relationship.

(Plenty of things did put a few dents and cracks in our early relationship.  No two people ever match seamlessly.  Of course, the small things didn’t matter when you were excited about everything else.)

About two months after we reached “item” status, I decided it was time for me to put my overwhelming tide of affection into some concrete display.  I recalled the story of the grandfather on my mother’s side; how he went and purchased an expensive clock for his wife.  The power of each second together being marked by a gentle, steady tick appealed to me.

I saved for a few months and put aside nearly $400 dollars to buy my girlfriend a true clock.  Like the naïve soul I was, I drove to the mall thinking I’d find the perfect one.

The clocks at one of the “fine” department stores under whelmed me.  I picked each up with easy effort and opened the back.  The body of the clock was made from some sort of pressed wood product only a quarter inch thick!  The clockwork was hidden in a small black box with “Made in China” slapped just above the battery.  There were no springs, no chimes, and not a comforting tick to be heard.

“Excuse me ma’am.”  I pulled aside one of the salespeople.  “Yea, I’m looking for a real clock.  You know, one that I might pass down to my children and still be taken seriously.”

“Oh, you wont’ find anything like that here!”  A slight chuckle escaped.  “You’d have to go to a real clock store to get anything like that.  And those are expensive.”

I waved my arm toward the wall full of one hundred dollar travel clocks.  “And what are these supposed to be?  Who would give you a hundred dollar bill for this glossed up junk?!”

“Those are for people who just want something that looks nice.  You know people who just want to give the impression of wealth.”