A Bear in the Bedroom

by Larry Teren

“There’s a bear in your bedroom.” That’s how Harry the lawyer greeted Dick, my accountant over the phone. Or at least that’s how he started the story he was repeating to me. Harry and Dick shared clients so it was not unusual for them to have regular phone conversations. Dick’s father-in-law lived next door to Harry. So, it wasn’t Dick’s bedroom- it was his father-in-law’s. And it wasn’t a bear but a– wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

I stopped at Dick’s office to kill some time and lament about the Cubs. I did so at least once a week. It’s a better cure than chicken soup- lamenting, that is. Dick had mentioned that his father-in-law was on his last legs. He hadn’t been living in the house for quite a while. He was in a medical facility waiting out his time but probably not knowing it. The house was unoccupied, or so everyone thought. I had asked Dick why he and his wife had not tried to sell it and he said that out of respect they would wait.

The day that he died, Dick called Harry to let him know. Harry was looking out a window in his house at the dearly departed’s bedroom window. That’s when he yelled into the mouthpiece, “there’s a bear in your bedroom.” Naturally, Dick replied, “you’re joking, right?”

Harry responded, “well, if it isn’t a bear then it’s something. I think you better call animal care.”
Dick called and found out what I could have told him- that municipalities aren’t into the business of getting animals out of your house. You gotta call a private firm. He did and they came out, put in a trap and waited until the next morning to check the results. As expected, they caught a more than forty pound raccoon. The masked invader was an uninvited guest using the house as a summer home. The professional trapper told Dick that there was good news and maybe not so good news. Depending how long ago the animal took up housekeeping could determine whether it was a lonely interloper or if there was a family. Another trap was put up. The next day another raccoon was caught. No other animals were subsequently found.

Animals have a way of leaving a scent as to whether a place was a good haven or not. Most likely the two that were caught left something to warn off others. But it didn’t help the damage that was done to the foundation and drain pipe. The insurance company indicated that it was over fifteen thousand dollars or at least that’s how much they were willing to pony up.

This reminded me of the time a few years back I was visiting Ma and took a nap in the early afternoon in the middle bedroom. I was awakened probably ninety minutes later with the sound of pitter-patter coming from above the ceiling. Or was it outside scampering up the side of the house?

I mentioned it to ma who told me that she had been hearing it on and off lately. I told her that it meant that squirrels were probably in the attic; We were also forced to hire animal control experts who put up a couple of traps and snicker bars laced with poison. Over a couple of days the chocolate killed two fury pests. Just as they had sent a message to others to use the place as a refuge, their last act was to kindly leave a scent that warned off their buddies. The control fellows were also intrepid and discovered the source of the hole that the squirrels created with their strong teeth. They filled it up with sheet metal. They also said that there were several houses within a block or so radius that had similar problems. It didn’t matter whether the homes were expensive with many rooms or just a townhouse. The squirrels were not picky.

The pitter-patter wasn’t only a sign of rodents looking for a place to hibernate. A few years earlier, both my brother and I stayed overnight, each taking a separate room. We both heard pitter-patter early in the morning and thought it was a couple of squirrels playing catch. We found out later in the day that a couple of goons had broken into ma’s next door neighbor’s townhouse unit through a hole in the roof. They had gone through the rafters between units until they picked hers. Apparently they were able to tell no one was home. They didn’t take much but no one wanted to feel violated. So both the neighbor and ma paid for a security alarm service.

But, I digress. A man lives a long, long life filled with good tidings- children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and some relative wealth. He outlives his wife but he cannot outlive time. For all his effort in making something of value to his years spent here he ends up giving himself back to the earth practically unaware as the moment he is born. Creatures of nature try to claim their right for the sanctuary of his home but they end up back to earth just as unaware. The cycle continues.

Senior Legal Advisor

by Larry Teren

Is eighty-one considered old? My neighbor Mark thinks not. His list of activities makes one half his age envious of his continuing accomplishments.
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You Know Me, Pal

You Know Me, Pal

By Larry Teren

What are you suppose to do with a thirteen year old nephew for a day? I’ll tell you what you do, pal. You go to the batting cages in the morning and if the weather holds up, eighteen holes of miniature golf at the same place. Then to lunch and wash it down with a matinée movie. But, you know me, pal- I find some way to make it an adventure.
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Coats Off, Belts Off, Pants Pockets Empty

By Larry Teren

“Coats Off, Belts Off, Pants Pockets Empty” is a familiar enough refrain when you stand in a security check line at the airport. It also happens to be the same greeting you hear when going to court- in this case, traffic court. But first, let’s roll the tape back to the scene of the crime. (Yes, that’s the way the law enforcement officials treat you now-a-days- as a criminal unless you kill someone- then you’re given all the rights.) Read more »

Say What You Mean But Mean What You Say

By Larry Teren

Voice over phone: “Welcome to the American Association for Better Communications. Press one for English, o para Espanol oprima dos…” Huh?

Okay, so I like to buy used books through Amazon. A lot of people do. In most cases, the books come from trading partners and are at ridiculously low prices- often a penny each. The shipping costs, though, add up- $3.95 a pop. Sounds like I’m gonna make a beef? Right? Yeah. Because that’s what I do.

About ten days prior to going out of town for a week or so I order a couple of books from one book store. I choose a reseller in a distant place that doesn’t have sales tax reciprocity for purchases out of state. Besides, how do you charge sales tax on a penny purchase?

I order the books in the early evening. The next day I receive the usual email indicating that I may no longer cancel the order as the books are SHIPPED. Fine, I make note of the day of the week and the calendar date and eagerly anticipate the two books.

Eight days later, with nothing in hand and not wanting to seem like a crybaby and contact the book seller, I check the original email acknowledgment and find the USPS shipment tracking number. The USPS website indicates that the books are received at the shipment facility on the 24th of the month in the locality of the book shipper. This is a full three days after I am informed that it shipped. I file the “hmmm” for later use and calculate to receive the books a couple of days before I go off on the vacation. Which is exactly what happens.

As Shakespeare would say- “ay, wheres the rub?” And I would answer- a few days after I return from vacation, I receive an email from the bookseller/shipper asking me to rate the experience in the handling of the shipment. I’ve done this countless times for all the other books and it is usually a slam dunk “very satisfied”. Not this time- I write of disappointment that the truth has been stretched. The notification that it is shipped is untrue as it does not get into the post office hands until a few days later. I rate my satisfaction with the service a 2 or 3 out of 5. No big deal to me- I still intend to purchase from them but just want them to know I am unhappy this one time.

The next day I receive an email from the customer service manager crying to me that things happen and apologizes. That’s nice but he takes it a step further that rankles my artificial feathers. He asks me to take back the negative feedback and gives me instructions on how to do that on the Amazon site.

I reply to him that feedback is what it is. One doesn’t take it back. Amazon encourages customers to provide feedback. That’s how resellers learn how to give service, American style. It doesn’t mean that I won’t buy again but that I have a right to let someone know not to send meaningless emails about something being shipped just because. One can argue that it is ridiculous to make a stink over a one cent purchase- eight bucks (two books) if you include the postage. I say look at it as a dress rehearsal for a more meaningful purchase. You want to disagree? Fine! So, try this one out:

My brother receives perks for the many airline tickets he purchases during the course of the year. One is to get a free subscription to a magazine of choice. Out of the goodness of his heart (yeah, sure), he decides to assign the free subscription for a nameless business magazine to me.

I eventually receive the first copy and find it to be not to my liking which is disappointing. I used to subscribe to that magazine in the 1980s and thoroughly enjoyed it. Now it has a totally different look, more upscale, yuppie-like and hardly anything in it to which I can relate. (Okay, so it makes me an old fogy. But I don’t relate to AARP Magazine either.)

I notice on the mailing label the subscription end date and see that it will be sometime in February. This gives me several months to try to get used to and enjoy the periodical. Uh-uh, no-go. I can’t wait for the subscription to end. In November, I receive a letter reminding me to resubscribe as it is expiring soon. Three and a half months is soon?

At the beginning of February, a page is attached to the cover of the magazine reminding me that the subscription is almost over and I need to re-up or lose the valuable information I receive each week. Two weeks later I receive an attachment with the magazine indicating that this is the next to last issue. The following week, the attachment reads that this is my final issue.

The following week I receive another copy with no reference to the delivery expiring the prior week. Ditto this week. I suspect that the guy whose job it is to write “final” and send it is working in a cubbyhole somewhere in the south of India. In the meantime, it’s business magazine as usual. And that’s final… or is it?

The Shootist or The Awful Truth

Sol, fifty-seven years old, looks forward to doing his tour of duty for border patrol. Not a military person by experience nor trained for security but he relishes the opportunity to serve his community.

He goes to the target practice area in the morning and feels good about his score. It should qualify him for patrol. But, there is one other hurdle to acceptance and that requires taking a physical exam where one is not graded on a curve. He is middle-aged and has acquired the requisite waist spread although it doesn’t look too out of place on his six foot frame. Read more »

Keeping Up With the Joneses

By Larry Teren

Mention two words- “Maritime” and “Jones” and most of us immediately think of John Paul Jones. You know, the sailor who helped us win the Revolutionary War. Yeah, that guy. The one who said, “I have not begun to fight.” There was another Jones associated with protecting America’s seas. But first—-
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Opting Out

By Larry Teren

It seems like “opting out” has become the preferred method for those who want to confuse and take advantage. Recently, I receive a letter in the mail from a company claiming to be the authorized entitlement to supplying electricity for my condominium apartment. The letter states that the Village of So-and-So has an Electric Aggregation Program and I should be grateful to have the opportunity to participate in it. It also states that I am automatically enrolled in it and that I have to opt out if I still want good old COMED to sell me electricity. Aye, there’s the rub.
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Self-Checkout Hits a Snag

By Larry Teren

News item: Chicago area supermarket chain eliminates self-checkout lanes at nine stores.
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The Price is Wrong

The Price is Wrong

By Larry Teren

I’m a martyr to my own sense of justice- but aren’t we all? Take for instance what happened today at the supermarket:
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