Do I look Like I Speak Spanish?

By Larry Teren

What a great country! Well, maybe. No seriously. Okay, maybe it is when we are all on the same page speaking the same language. But you will say that this country is known for being a melting pot. The Statue of Liberty proclaims, “bring us your tired, your poor….” Yeah, but the idea is that the terrestrial aliens are supposed to be kind of like trying to learn to speak English so they can melt in quicker, no?       Continue reading “Do I look Like I Speak Spanish?”

A Star Isn’t Born

By Larry Teren

My buddy Tony has a vivid imagination. At least, that’s what I think. He is the guy who should have been sitting in the back seat of that car with Rod Steiger instead of Marlon Brando in the movie, “On The Waterfront”, and speak those immortal words- “I coulda been a contender!”     Continue reading “A Star Isn’t Born”

A Business Opportunity

By Larry Teren

It’s not every day that a solid business opportunity comes into the in-box of my email program. That is, one that has not already been placed into the spam folder before I have a chance to decide if it is legitimate or not. After all, it is not some influential businessman from Nigeria who is contacting me. No, this guy has it all worked out, carefully avoiding the scheme that asks me to cash his check and keep a certain percentage for doing him such a big favor.

And his salutation is so simplistic but eloquently put. Aw, what the heck- read the letter:

Continue reading “A Business Opportunity”

Red Dots

By Larry Teren

I see red dots everywhere. No, I don’t hallucinate about the chewy candy eaten while watching a movie at a theater. Nor do I dream of playing in a fast pitch 12 inch softball tournament that uses red dot tightly wound balls.
reddotsoftball In fact, until I was about 20, I thought small softballs were for girls and sissies. Real men played 16 inch softball without gloves in Chicago. A couple of broken fingers later, I resolved who were the true idiots. No, these red dots are the ubiquitous LED lights that glow in the dark. Continue reading “Red Dots”

“Hello, My name is Vishnu- Do You Mind Taking a Survey?…….”

By Larry Teren


The phone rang and woke me out of a dream while taking an afternoon nap. (The nap, not the dream is one of the perks of working at home. In the interest of fair reporting, I split up the day so that a good portion of the work I do is in the evening hours when it is convenient to remote in to clients’ computers without interfering with their processing.)

I picked up the phone on the nightstand to the left of the bed and answered the call.

Me: “Hello?”

Caller: “Hello, this is Vishnu. I am calling on behalf your health insurance company. They want to know if you are willing to take a three to four minute survey on the quality of the customer service they recently provided to you.”

Me: “Sure, if it is not going to take more than three or four minutes.” Like I was otherwise busy, huh?

Caller: “Yes, it will not take more than three of four minutes. Let us begin…” Continue reading ““Hello, My name is Vishnu- Do You Mind Taking a Survey?…….””


While driving, I heard a newsradio report about someone who committed a heinous action but was given absolution. That last word struck me as sounding very much similar to the word “absolute.” So, I checked out a dictionary definition of “absolute” and it read “free from imperfection, complete, perfect.” Now, wait a minute! How can someone who did a no-no in the eyes of the law (and maybe even a higher jurisdiction) be free from being imperfect”? Huh?

In mathematics, they talk of the absolute value of a number. That refers to its core value regardless of the sign. Doesn’t make a difference if it is a 1 or a -1, the absolute value is still 1. But, -1 is less than a 1, so how can that be a perfect solution to a value? Hey, if I can get away with this logic, maybe I can convince the bank that a
-100.00 balance in my checking account is absolutely 100.00 and to lay off the fines and penalties and bad credit ratings.

Of course, there are mathematicians who will explain that it really means to indicate the distance of the number from zero. I will kindly suggest to those geniuses that they ought to go out in 30 degrees below zero weather as opposed to 30 degrees above and still try convincing themselves that it is all absolutely relative to zero and it makes no difference.

In philosophy, they say that absolute is an objective reality that replaces the concept of there being a Deity. Well, you try saying ‘absolute damn it’ several times when you bump your knee into a chair.

I understand that astronomers use the expression “absolute magnitude” when measuring the radiance of a star. Why can’t they just say the “brightness”?

Linguists talk of absolute construction of phrases. Don’t ask me what that means but I understand that using the expression, “all things considered”, or “this being the case” are prime examples. Absolutely. Trust me.

Normal, Stupid or Jerk?

Ask me to use “normal”, “stupid”, and “jerk” all in one sentence and I’ll say, “normally, I come across at least one stupid jerk a day.” This past Friday, I had the “pleasure” of experiencing more than the usual quota. Permit me to explain:

I live in a 96-unit condo building alongside a major thoroughfare that derives its traffic from the off ramp of the expressway two blocks west of my building. One block east of me is another, much larger
condo complex. My co-owners are the poor cousins and those to the east are the enviable rich ones. They not only have 24 hour doorman service but apparently enough clout so that when the building was built, a stop light was put at the driveway to the complex to make it convenient for the snobs to be able to make a left turn onto the street and go west.

On the other hand, my building has two entrance/exits to the street spanning both sides of the north-side outdoor parking lot and smaller eastern parking area. Our village would never allow for too many stoplights so close to each other, so for those of us trying to get out of the lot and make a left turn onto the busy street, it is pot luck. We have to wait for traffic to subside and sometimes be daring. Those of use, such as yours truly, who habitually use the east driveway to get onto the street have the comfort of taking advantage of a safety island for left turns. If traffic going west is too heavy while nothing is happening on the eastbound side, we can at least make half the effort and get onto the safety island and then wait for the westbound traffic to subside and merge in.

Anyway, Friday morning my car rolls up the indoor lower east garage ramp only to be greeted by eastbound traffic at a total standstill. After waiting a minute or two, I inch my way into it, content to forget about the desire to make a left turn and go westbound. I’m already resolved to the notion of having to go a mile out of my way to finally get my car turned into the intended direction. Even if I tried to just go the one block east to the entrance to our condo neighbors, make a u-turn and take advantage of the stoplight at their driveway, it would not have helped. Other frustrated drivers were not giving up an inch and were blocking any effort at an open path for those at the rich people’s building from making a legally mandate left turn.

As I got closer to ground zero of the cause of this traffic gridlock, it became quite apparent what was occurring. The State of Illinois hands out contracts using taxpayer money to repave streets that don’t need it. You ask how I know that it is a waste? Well, paving the same area three times in six years should be a clue. Worse, they pick the most devastating time of the day to do this work.

They refuse to schedule the work at night because they don’t want to pay a premium for night work as well as fear of their employees getting hit by bad drivers. There is no justification for the first excuse because there should never be a premium paid for working a late shift. In today’s economy, people should be glad to have work. The second excuse is debatable. At night, there is less traffic and it should be more manageable.

I’m not sure if the traffic control workers at the road construction sites are employed by the State or by the contractors who do the work. It doesn’t really matter. Most of the time, they are stupid jerks. (Aha! You were waiting for the tie-in to the title.) Which leads me to first make an observation about this expression:

There used to be a time when being a jerk was synonymous with being stupid. Then, the algorithm changed and one could be stupid or just be a jerk. Jerk became associated with conspiring to be stupid or nasty and not necessarily accidentally. So, if I called you stupid, I understood you could not help yourself. If I called you a jerk, I was confirming that I knew that what you did was intentional, well-thought out and that you would never amount to anything good. But, a stupid jerk! That put someone in a special class. That meant that we all knew that you intentionally did bad by us but you screwed it up and couldn’t even get your evilness accomplished smoothly.

You see, the main corner two blocks east of my building is a diagonal intersect. The road crew decided to repave the left turn lane at the stoplight. In doing so, they closed off the left turn and the left traffic lane, naturally, leaving just the right traffic lane open. However, the stupid jerk traffic control person was holding all cars from pushing into the right lane while the traffic light was green, but letting them inch ahead when it was red. Not only that, but when a dump trump got filled with torn-away pavement and needed to go move it to a landfill, she held up traffic once again while the light was green, instead of waiting until it was red. This kept all eastbound traffic sitting in essentially the same spot for more than ten minutes. And, as I mentioned earlier, this same left turn lane had been repaved twice earlier in recent memory. It did not need another facelift.

The other encounter with a stupid jerk that day also had to do with being behind the wheel. On my way back from visiting a client as well as taking care of a couple of errands, I decided to take a different route back home fearful of being exposed to more roadwork. As I approached the major intersection two blocks west of my building from the north, the car just ahead of me pulled into the left turn lane as I would do to be able to go east towards my building. The driver- at this point sex unknown- stopped in the left turn lane instead of moving up into the intersection to be ready to finish the turn as oncoming traffic cleared when the light changed. Sixteen year old kids just getting their first drivers license know this. But this stupid jerk sat there with a good thirty seconds more left on the green light and was content to wait until the next change to green. Obviously my honking did nothing to budge the driver, but it was a healthy outlet for me.

As soon as the next green light came along with the obligatory left turn accommodation, the car in front proceeded as well mine did after it. Since the street we were both now on was a two-lane road and the car ahead of mine was moving along slowly, I had two thoughts in my head- one was that the driver was ancient and to hold my tongue while the other was to quickly go into the other lane and beat a path around it. As I came along side the driver, I quickly noticed it was a woman probably in her thirties or forties, yakking away on a small phone she held to her ear. Stupid freaking jerk! There, I said it. Thank you.

By the way, the next day, as I was taking a long walk to a planned destination on the street around 7:30am, I saw that the road gang was back out, this time repainting white lines at the diagonal intersection two blocks east. Once again, surreptitiously, the traffic control person decided to stop cars while they had a green light. I smirked, continuing my eastbound walk. two blocks and at least five minutes later, I turned back to see that the easterly traffic was still at a standstill and thought I heard honking.

As Rodney King once said, “Can’t we all get along?” No!

Neurosis is Habit Forming

I’m the guy who has to click his car’s remote control twice when he locks the doors. The first time I hear that swish but it isn’t enough. I need to hear that noise that sounds like a car breaking wind as if it has trapped gas.

I’m also the guy who before retiring to the bedroom for the night has to check in the kitchen at least four times within five minutes to see if the stove and range knobs are all turned to the off position, the sink faucet is closed tightly, there are no dishes or silverware in the sink tub and that any dishes or silverware sitting on the sink counter have been wiped dry by a towel.

I check that the kitchen blinds are totally closed so no one can peek in to the fourth floor from at least one hundred feet away. The same goes with the drapes in the combination second bedroom and computer room. I also make sure that the front door is locked at both knobs and that the alarm is on. My cell phone must be turned off and connected for recharging if required.

I also must look in the mirror at least three times before retiring, standing sideways and ask myself if I’ve lost a little weight since the prior evening.

In other words- I’m nuts. I have a need to make sure everything is in order. But I don’t trust myself nor the forces of evil that wish to harm me or ruin my karma, depending on the given night.

Truthfully, it’s not just a nighttime thing. I check email at least twenty times a day because I just have to know if and when someone wants to tell me something as quickly as possible. I also look at my web browser several points during morning and afternoon to check the Dow Jones stock average. Hey, it’s the lifeblood of the economy. And I only look at my mutual fund share value if the stock market has been up for a few days; otherwise, I don’t want to know.

I don’t like walking on the lines between each sidewalk section nor the cracks within them. I check to make sure my cellphone is still sitting on the belt clip at my waist just as I did twenty minutes earlier- a person can never be too careful, right?

Like the schizophrenic said, “I gotta be me- and me.”

My Mama Done Told Me

I got my masters in the discipline of causing trouble by spending several years observing two seasoned pros- my parents. Dad would be sitting down at the table as Ma brought him a bowl of soup. He’d take one slurp, pound his fist on the table and shout to no one in particular, “hot, hot, bitch, bitch, bitch.” And he’d finish it off with, “why did you have to make it so hot?” to Ma who would thrust his parry and reply with, “aw, go to hell.” And then Dad would counter with, “show me the way.”

Of course, if any innocent bystanders would smirk, Ma would quickly look at us and say, “what’s your problem?” and we would try to hold off falling on the floor from laughing so hard or it would have turned into the other extreme.

Then there would be the time my kid brother would visit from out of the country, he in his thirties by then and me in my- never you mind. Gary would stay at Ma during his visit so I would come over and we would be having a glorious dinner and the two of us would start in needling each other until it rose to a crescendo. At that point Ma would shout, “stop it you two, or I’m going upstairs!” After we waited the necessary five minutes to keep our collective mouths shut, we’d start up again and Ma would say, “can’t you two ever get along?” Of course, what she didn’t want to acknowledge was that it was our way of getting along- she just found it annoying.

I’ve been told by Ma’s younger brother that when they were kids, she organized a gang of two- them. They would go around beating up other kids who refused to play ball with them. Literally- I mean, she would beat them up if they wouldn’t let her play in the ball game already going on.

In the late 1950’s, when it was just my older sister, a younger one and myself hanging around the house, if one of us got on Ma’s bad side, she would vent her anger. If one of us stood behind her laughing at the sibling taking the brunt of her wrath, she would quickly turn around and say, “you want a piece of this, too?” And this from a lady who tells me when I chauffeur her around now that I need to to take anger management.

A couple of years ago, I invited to her house a family who lives near me to expand on her friendships – the father, mother, son and daughter. At the time, the daughter was twelve. We were eating a fancy meal in Ma’s dining room and I was goofing off as usual, so Ma threw me a wicked slider and said for all to clearly hear, “stop acting like a baby. Can’t you grow up already?” Naturally, since then that twerpy teenage girl throws that line in my face as often as she can. But again, when we used to play one-on-one basketball in her driveway, I never showed mercy and beat her off the dribble too many times. She won’t play ball with me anymore, so who’s the baby now, huh?