An Arresting Development

The other day I got a phone call from my cousin’s son telling me that he has been reading my stories blog and thought he had a good one to tell. You see, Jake lives in New York and had a recent run-in with the cops.

Jake, his wife and the two youngsters were out for a joyous ride to visit family in New Jersey. (That’s where he went wrong in the first place.) A half hour into the trek, they approached the toll booth in the Midtown Tunnel and gave the attendant the necessary coinage. Immediately, an officer who was hanging out with the toll taker took a hard look at the windshield of Jake’s car and with his Superman eye strength noticed that the registration paper indicated that it was now expired. He rushed out of the booth and made them pull over.

Jake’s wife was driving the car so the officer asked for her driver’s license. She pulled out a learner’s permit. The policeman then asked Jake to show his license. He had one, but it was from out of state and suspended. He then asked for a registration card which they could not find and for his insurance card, which turned out to be… you guessed it- expired.
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Fall In The Family

It seems as if I suffer from genetic imbalance. In other words, I come from a long line of people who tend to fall down at the wrong time and do damage to themselves. The earliest recollection that has any significance is the time Dad started things rolling. It was in the late 1970’s and my older sister had moved to her first house in Skokie. It was wintertime and a bitter cold had turned snow into icy patches on the sidewalk. Dad was now in his fifties and maybe a little too confident about his gait. Before he could make it to the front door, he slipped and proceeded to break his left arm to such an extent that a surgeon placed a metal rod in his arm. One could see its very obvious outline under the skin. He kept the rod in him for years out of fear- not of the bones falling apart inside but of the pain in having it removed. However, it finally got to a point about twenty years later when another surgeon removed it because it was causing a hole in his skin by the elbow and he was leaking in more than one place, if you know what I mean.

It was Ma’s turn next and she made Dad look like an amateur. She and I had gone to visit another sister on the East Coast. Ma was in a hurry to go between rooms at a banquet hall where they just recently waxed the floor. She was wearing high heels which she hardly wore anymore. You guessed it. She went flying as she fell and ended up not only tearing her shoulder but also breaking a hip to boot. She stayed on the East Coast for a couple of months at a rehab place after a doctor had repaired her hip. He did little for her shoulder other than pat her on the back and wish her well.
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Altar Ego

You know the guy I’m talking about. The one who is the first to get up and implore, cajole and nudge others to give to a worthy cause. He doesn’t give much himself but agrees to use his good name as an endorsement. I say that this type of hornswaggler has an Altar Ego.

A non-profit organization gets desperate to make ends meet. They use the Altar Egotist who employs a catchphrase such as ”Give until it hurts!” to ring your emotional chime. Except that I can quote economic scripture, too, and my favorite verse is “Charity begins at home”. I’m not saying that all these fundraisers are dirty rotten scoundrels. What I am saying is that it is not right to put people into a tough money-spending decision-making quandary. I’ve noticed that well-intentioned souls leave millions of dollars for medical research or for a new study program at a university. That’s very nice, indeed. But how many people would have been clothed and fed if the donor had given a million less for their name on a building or wall and to soup kitchens instead?

Some people are quick to give big bucks for a new fancy place of worship rather than make do with a lesser facility. Sure, everyone wants to pray in a nice place and to brag to their friends, relatives and acquaintances how they helped make it so. But, at what price glory?

My feeling is that Mr. Altar Ego should put up his own money AND shut up. The rest of us can measure guilt feelings on our own and act accordingly.
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Lowered Expectations

Baby boomers are getting to that age where we expect to get the short end of the stick. Many who have lost jobs during the most recent economic downturn have found there to be an unspoken prejudice against anyone over the age of fifty who are seeking employment. After all, a younger person can be hired at a lower salary, less expensive health insurance premiums and tends to not need to take off as much time as an older person. A younger person also seems to have more energy in doing his or her work. Experience, thus, doesn’t seem to count as much as the pocketbook.
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Games People Play

Baby Boomers well remember three big games shows that were broadcast in prime time during the 1950 and 1960’s. They were What’s My Line, I’ve Got a Secret and To Tell The Truth. For sure, there were others but these were unique in that they matched up four celebrity panelists against guests whose job it was to keep them finding out something about them. Most often the give-and-take led to embarrassing moments. The panelists would dress up in their finest clothes and try to act dignified and with a sense of propriety. This made any red faced discoveries that much more dramatic and fun to observe.

I’d like to see a new game show called It’s Embarrassing. A contestant would let the viewing audience in on an incident that left them with egg on their face. I’d volunteer to be on the show at least twice. Each one had to do with events that happened around a work situation but not exactly because of it.
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Eager To Agree

crossword_puzzleAre baby boomers the last generation to latch onto crossword puzzles? If I were in charge of education, I’d make it so that once kids learned basic reading and writing skills, they’d be obligated to take a course in word puzzles. The class would be geared toward teaching them how to recognize word and sentence construction by doing all the different type of puzzles. For example, When they’d see a four letter word that began with a t and ended with a t, they would know instinctively that more than ninety percent of the time, it would be ‘that’. They would learn the rhythm of word flow and usage. They would also appreciate being able to complete the puzzle and feel a sense of accomplishment. This makes more sense than forcing them to read a novel and try to get them to explain what the author meant. Who cares what the author meant!
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Cheap Thrills

By Larry Teren


When we were baby boomer kids in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, Dad would find the least expensive way to provide us entertainment and get us some fresh air at the same time. Usually this meant going to a handful of choices. Continue reading “Cheap Thrills”

Room Service

There is a time and a place for everyone. My time is between four and five o’clock in the morning. I’ve found that sometimes a good whopper of a dream can put me into an interesting situation. Take, for example, this nocturnal sleep-induced encounter I recently had:

doorI approach a room with a sign on the door that reads ‘Growth’. I enter in and see that there is a fellow sitting at a desk reading a book. A nameplate reads: H. Allen Smith. I say to him, “Mr. Smith, or should I call you H?” He looks up from the book and gives me a nasty sneer and says, “you can call me Henry.”

So, trying to be cute I begin again, “okay, Hank. Is this the room for growth? If so, I’d like to add a few inches to my height.”
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Changing Times

Kids growing up nowadays marvel at the thought that there was a time when a person had to use a rotary dial to make a phone call. It sounds so quaint yet archaic. This is not that much different when we baby boomers looked in amazement during the early 1960’s watching The Andy Griffith Show. Sheriff Taylor would click a receiver to get Sarah’s (the operator) attention in order to put a call through

Today’s kids cannot believe that we could only choose among five or six channels to watch on television and that the tv set needed an aerial or sometimes a wire hanger to get half decent picture reception. Or that cars didn’t come with air-conditioning and a rear defogger or an on-board computer screen that helps you navigate where you were going. Part of the fun of going on a vacation trip used to be waiting for the motor club to send a map with the route laid out highlighted by a colored magic marker. In our family, one of us- usually me- would have the responsibility to hold onto the map and tell Dad ever so often how we were doing on course. (It was usually a ruse. He knew where he was going- it was just to keep me preoccupied)
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Thank You

It is so easy to say “thank you” and it makes you look like a cultured, nice person. Except sometimes, one’s gratitude can be nauseating. Take, for example, an award presentation like the Oscars. A performer who is a first time winner flies off the handle when her name gets called. It starts with shock, then recognition of what has just happened and, finally, it morphs into panic. That’s because she never expected to win and was not prepared with a simple, yet elegant thank you speech. Instead, you get a rambling on, stream of conscious listing of anyone who ever had a part in the making of the honoree’s success. If she could only remember, she would even mention the name of the person who diapered her when she was a baby.
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