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NIGHT OF THE DEAD (AIR)

 [The following is a true story.]

The year was 1977. I was 22, just out of college, and working minimum wage for a top-forty radio station in Charlottesville, Virginia – WCHV.

I completed a grueling course to earn my Third Class Radio Operator’s license, qualifying me to be on the airwaves – and make photocopies for the other disc jockeys. Perhaps because I broke the copy machine and spilled coffee on the radio control panel, the station manager wouldn’t let me near the microphone – except to read the T & T (time and temperature) on Christmas day when everyone else was at home for the holiday.

My big break came the following Spring. It was 11:30 on a Tuesday night. I was in bed, unable to sleep because I lay there hacking and sniffling. I was sicker than a dog. Then the phone rang. It was the station manager: “Tim, Chris Furlong is under the weather and can’t do his midnight shift. I’ve called literally everybody, and nobody is available. So, what do you say? Want to be on the air?”

Tonight?” I wheezed. However sick Chris Furlong might have been, I was feeling ten times worse. So naturally I answered: “Abso [cough] lutely, boss! [cough]. THANK [cough] YOU!”

“Sure you’re feeling all right, buddy?”, he asked? “Never felt – ahhhhh-choooo – better. I’ll be right over,” I sneezed.

I arrived at the station at 11:50 for the 12:00 to 6 am shift. At the stroke of midnight, the previous shift’s jock raced out of the studio, like Cinderella fleeing from the Ball. At that moment, it suddenly dawned on me: I was totally alone in the building. The fate of WCHV was upon my shoulders ALONE.

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  • Tim. This was hilarious. I can imagine how you felt when the studio went dark. Kerp them coming. Jim
    James RichesonJ
  • Published On Apr. 12, 2018 by TEJ
  • My Visit with Mom

    Recently, I flew across the country from Seattle to my hometown of Albany, New York, to spend a few days with my elderly mother. While my father died relatively young (at age 64 – a year older than I am now), my mom is like the Energizer Bunny. At 97, she keeps going and going and going.

    Well, maybe not exactly. She now needs hearing aids in both ears, her short-term memory has declined significantly, and she is legally blind, able only to make out shapes and colors but with no detail. And she needs a wheelchair to make it any further than two feet. But otherwise, she is doing amazingly well.

    While my mother knew I was coming to town, she kept forgetting exactly which day I’d be arriving. So, when I knocked on her room door at the nursing home facility, I entered the room only identifying my presence by saying “Special Delivery for Betty.”  She got momentarily confused, not knowing who was calling on her.

    I proclaimed I had a special order of Peanut M&M’s (her favorite candy), but she was still unsure about who was bringing her this surprise. She guessed a few names before I gave her a hint: “It’s your fourth son, Tim!” Suddenly, she lit up like a Christmas tree and hugged me like my visit was the return of the prodigal son.

    Her fragile frame, once 5’3”, now barely reaches 5’. But her smile is still radiant. I would be visiting her for the next six days, and all I wanted to do was be there with her and to hopefully add a little sunshine for a few precious days.

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    • That was a sweet and tender blog, Tim. Your Mom continues to enlighten all around her. I remember…
      Eleanor Rushworth
  • Published On Apr. 03, 2018 by TEJ
  • A Husband’s Burden – Clothes Shopping with Your Wife

    Marriage is one of the most wonderful experiences in the world, second only, some would argue, to not being married. All marriages have their ups and downs. If you ask me, the key to a long, happy marriage is to be patient, keep the lines of communication open, and at all costs, not to get sucked into shopping with your wife.

    Nowhere are the fundamental differences between men and women more pronounced than by how we shop. There are two ways of going about this: the way women do it and the correct way. When men enter a retail store, the purchasing experience usually goes something like this:

    Man: Do you have these sneakers in size 10?

    Store clerk: Yes, we do.

    Man: Great. Here’s my credit card.

    The entire transaction lasts roughly the length of an Old Spice commercial.

    For women, on the other hand, shopping involves a complex journey through countless retail stores on a quest for the elusive Hope Diamond of outfits. If you’re obliging enough to tag along, buckle up, buddy. You’re in for a long, exhausting ride. And if your wife insists on bringing your seven-year-old twins along for some new outfits, well, not to sound overly dramatic, but there’s a 10% chance you may not make it out alive.

    Let’s back up. If your wife asks if you’d like to accompany her to the mall “to check out some sales,” there is, of course, only one correct answer: Over my dead body. I’d rather have a root canal. Now, to be clear, I don’t actually suggest you utter the aforementioned phrase verbatim. You might want to say it in code, such as, Oh, I would hate to get in the way of your fun afternoon. How ‘bout you call your friend Charlotte and have a girls’ day out. If that fails, follow up with, Here’s my credit card. This day is on me. I love you, Sweetie.

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  • Published On Mar. 21, 2018 by TEJ
  • BREAKING NEWS! President Trump Says Something Shocking AND Offensive

    [Author’s note: Every day seems to bring a new stunning Trump scandal or controversy, so much so that the mainstream media simply can’t keep up. So, as a public service, VFTB has issued this generic news story the media can use at any time, when they don’t have time to cover the latest outrageous thing that comes out of the president’s mouth. – TEJ]

    Dateline: Washington, D.C., Any Date 2018

    BREAKING NEWS. President Trump stunned the nation this afternoon when he said something shocking and deeply disturbing. According to an anonymous insider, he did not tell anyone in advance that he was going to say it.

    He apparently decided to go off script [choose one of the following:] at a meeting with Fortune 500 business executives / before a rally of his supporters / talking with fellow golfers at one of his resorts. He spoke extemporaneously – something that has created problems throughout his presidency.

    Members of the mainstream media were aghast by the president’s highly controversial pronouncements. Some political pundits called his remarks “unhinged” and “a new low even for this presidency.”

    Asked about the president’s disquieting utterances, House Speaker Ryan declined to give an opinion, saying, “I didn’t see his speech, so, I really can’t comment – unless Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham approved of what he had to say. Then, yes, I stand by my President.”

    No one really knows why the president decided to say something so deeply divisive and seemingly ill-conceived. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders initially denied that the president said anything inappropriate. Later, upon being shown the video, she questioned the sound quality. “I really can’t make out what he said due to the loud background music. Is that AC-DC’s Thunderstruck playing? I love that song.”

    The president later doubled down, tweeting that he meant what he said and that anyone who disagreed with his observation is part of the fake news’ witch hunt against him. When shown the president’s tweet, Huckabee Sanders backpedaled, replying, “I’m quite certain he was joking. The president is known for his hilarious sense of humor.”

    The President subsequently dispatched a memo declaring “I’m not joking.” Huckabee Sanders, asked if she still thought he was just clowning around, shrugged and said, “I feel a migraine coming on. I think I better lie down.”

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    • Hey Tim - would you please stop referring to him as "President" Trump. He's not a President. He's not even…
      Tim's Golf Buddy
  • Published On Mar. 14, 2018 by TEJ
  • “You Kids Have It So Easy!” (Parental Lecture, Year 2038 Edition)

    Growing up, I routinely was on the receiving end of my dad’s lectures about how cushy my life was compared to his when he was a youth. “You have no idea how easy you have it, son. When I was your age, I had no television or radio … or heat … or friends. I did 16 hours of chores each week to earn the privilege of sharing a single bed with my younger brothers. And if I got less than straight A’s, for my punishment, I had to paint the barn – with a tooth brush.” At least, that’s how I remember it.

    To be fair, my father, who grew up during the depression, had it much harder than I ever did. And my daughters, well, they lived in the lap of luxury, surrounded by computers and smart phones as they kept up with the Kardashians.

    It got me wondering. How might my daughters harangue their own slightly spoiled offspring some 20 years from now?  How would they contrive that their young lives in the early 2000s were oppressive? Perhaps that talk might go something like this….

    Europa. I know you’re only twelve years old, but I am sick and tired of your incessant whining. You have no idea how easy your life is compared to what I had to endure growing up. When I was your age, I didn’t even have a hoverboard, let alone a levitating hover car.

    My parents wouldn’t give me a smart phone till I turned 13. They were so strict. And to text anybody, I had to type on a keypad. That’s right. I literally had to enter a separate keystroke for every character. Telepathic texting was mere science fiction then. But these deprivations just made me stronger. I learned how to wait a full minute for a response to my Facebook posts. Don’t tell me you don’t know what Facebook was. You did a report on it in 5th grade history class.

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  • Published On Mar. 07, 2018 by TEJ
  • President Trump, Arming Teachers is an Excellent Start

    [Author’s Note: America’s gun violence epidemic is no laughing matter. What happened in Parkland, Florida recently, resulting in the deaths of 17 students, teachers and coaches was horrifying. This post is my attempt to point out the lunacy of the lame response by Congress, most state legislatures and our president to the issue, because they are all too afraid to stand up and take on the NRA. – TEJ]

    Dear President Trump,

    Let’s be clear: I did not vote for you. But I have to admit – you’re doing an amazing job at Making America Safe Again.

    I must say, whatever triggered your latest inspiration – to curb school shootings by arming teachers – is every bit as well-thought-out and necessary as your Mexican border wall idea – and nobody is more of a stable genius than you, Mr. President.

    In your courageous tweet you advocated providing guns to 20 to 40% of the teachers in each school. According to the Department of Education, there are approximately 3.6 million teachers in schools across the nation. Now, I’m no math genius like you, Mr. President, but assuming 30% of the teachers are armed, that works out to roughly 1.1 million more guns in our schools. Great plan, sir.

    Oh, sure, these teachers will need to spend a lot of time in training. But isn’t that a far more important use of their time than teaching students? After all, most of those kids aren’t paying attention in class anyway.

    And it will no doubt cost a pretty penny to buy all these guns and train all these teachers on the proper use of firearms. But if I know you, you’ll probably just take the money out of the Medicaid budget. I’m sure you’ve figured that all out.

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    • The NRA has the government, the R's and some Dems, by the Cajones! Bye Bye Democracy!…
      Davie
  • Published On Feb. 26, 2018 by TEJ
  • I Was Snubbed by the U.S. Olympic Ski Team

    Dear U.S. Olympic Ski Team:

    Congratulations on an outstanding Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. And hey, that 22-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin was impressive on the giant slalom. Well done.

    I just have one minor complaint to register: Why did you leave me off the team? I contacted you last summer, telling you I wanted to try out for the men’s freestyle aerials or half pipe or any alpine event you guys thought might attract babes. But nobody ever replied to my text message – which by the way I typed in ALL CAPS to get your attention.

    I have to say, your decision to leave me off the roster is confounding. I demand an explanation. When I attempted to get on the team plane for PyeongChang, one of your staffers refused to let me board. I must say he was very discourteous, even after I flashed him a crisp new Benjamin to let me get past.

    I demand to know why you refused to let me compete with the rest of the skiers. Was it because I’m 63 years old, and the next oldest competitor was 37? News flash: I checked, and age discrimination is totally against the law. Besides, I may be over 60, but sometimes I use Grecian Formula (dark brown), making me look closer to 50.

    Was it because you learned I was married to a Canadian and you questioned my loyalties? Or were you worried my wife would get into a cat fight with the American women’s hockey players? Or maybe you learned about my humor writing and worried I might write a sophomoric column which would create an international incident. I doubt I’d do that (although I confess I’ve never met a South Korean figure skating judge I trusted).

    Or was it the minor technicality that I failed to show up on the date of the U.S. Olympic trials last December? That’s extremely unfair. I just overslept that weekend and missed my plane to Park City, UT. I texted, asking about a make-up trial date, but nobody responded to that text either. Do you guys even read your text messages?

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    • TIM, I THINK YOU SHOULD RE-SUBMIT FOR THE SKI JUMP BUT SUGGEST THEY CREATE A NEW POSITION AS WIDE-TACKLE WHERE…
      mark
  • Published On Feb. 22, 2018 by TEJ
  • The Myth of the Reliable Contractor

    I thought I saw a reliable contractor once. Turns out he was hammered. My point is this: Ever notice how most contractors are a little flaky? Doesn’t matter whether it’s the guy installing a new furnace or the dude replacing your deck or your brother-in-law’s nephew repairing your washing machine. They all seem to have the same concept of customer relations: they’re slackers. They fail to call you back, they arrive two hours late – if they keep the appointment at all –and then they leave after just 30 minutes on the job because the one critical tool is back at the shop.

    Why is this? Why are most contractors so unreliable? I did some research on the dark web and stumbled across a Deep Dark Secret – That’s what it’s called: A Deep Dark Secret – the course all contractors are required to take –  and are sworn never to reveal to their clients, the homeowners.

    It is an intensive seven-week seminar on how to deal with difficult customers – by which they mean, well, anyone who hires them and expects the job to be done on time on price. Of course, getting the job done RIGHT will cost you extra. Every Joe plumber, electrician, and roofer must pass the course to get their license. I went undercover to expose this scam. Unfortunately, no one bought my act as Fred the Welder. Go figure. Eventually, though, I was able to obtain an exclusive copy of the course syllabus from a disgruntled former HVAC guy.

    Program Overview

    Don’t take crap from just anyone. Take it from us! In Customer Relations with Annoying People – or CRAP, for short, you’ll learn everything you need to deal with pushy homeowners. You know the type: the ones who expect you to do the job WHEN and AS promised. Never again let a trivial contract keep you from blowing off that roof job and going fishing instead. Follow the key principles in this seven-week program and before long, you won’t be taking CRAP from any customer [Disclaimer: Because you may no longer have any].

    Week One: The Initial Visit: Setting the Trap

    Arriving on time at the initial appointment is critical to landing the gig. But don’t worry – that’s the last time you need to show up on time. You will role-play a scene from our patented “First Impressions” in which you inspire unwarranted confidence in your workmanship with vague references to previous quasi-relevant experience to create the false impression you’ve actually done this kind of work before. 

    Week Two: The Estimate: Tightening the Screws

    This module teaches you to turn a 15-minute job tightening a screw with a Phillips into a major demolition project requiring an excavator and a cement mixer (hiding the bodies is an upper-level course). Experience the thrill of duping customers into believing that a minor leak (which you will secretly make worse) requires taking the main level down to the studs for fear their house will collapse into a giant sinkhole. Instilling fear is key.

    A panel of experts discusses how to use obscure terminology to make any everyday project sound far more laborious and costly than it should be, with phrases like, “Hmmm, I see that your Angular Discharge Tube is not feeding properly into your Compression Valve. That’s a serious a problem…” 

    Week Three: Over-Promise and Under-Deliver

    Master the technique of promising to complete the job in three weeks under budget, then actually delivering it in three months at double the original estimate. This session explains how to set up customer expectations, then slowly chip away at their false hope by routinely arriving late, leaving early and complaining about vital parts being on back order. Participants break into “Plausibility Groups” to compile a list of credible-sounding excuses. Want to spend the day drinking? Learn to say, “My truck wouldn’t start” with a straight face using our patented mirrors for instant feedback. Masters candidates learn how to get the client to pay for a new engine for your truck. 

    Week Four: Taking on Another Project That Pays Better

    A key skill for all contractors is blowing off a current customer when a better-paying gig pops up halfway through the project. Learn how to rationalize that this isn’t unprofessional. Let’s face it, you’ve got the first customer in a bind, so they can’t really drop you this far into it. Is it possible to juggle six projects at once without pissing off everyone and ruining your reputation? Of course, not, but this session teaches you how that’s really not your problem.

    Week Five: Avoiding Customer Calls

    Otherwise known as “PTSD: Practical Tips and Strategies for Deadbeats” – The How-To guide for avoiding customer contact when they begin to wonder if you’ve fallen off the face of the earth. Popular ploys include deleting messages without listening to them and turning off the phone for days at a time. It is crucial to avoid engaging with pesky clients asking why the kitchen light switch now sparks every time they flip the switch.

    Week Six: Ignoring Complaints

    If you’re a contractor, customer complaints are a given. Learn how to feign concern by promising to fix the issue without committing to any time frame. Skill-building exercises include blaming the customer for any misunderstanding and how you’d be happy to finish those previously promised repairs for an additional $1,000. We will briefly explore the ethical question, “Who says the customer is always right?” 

    Week Seven: Over-Billing

    This session equips you with a glossary of indecipherable construction-sounding terms to assist in padding your final bill. Easily transform a $50 service charge for shutting a valve into a $795 invoice for Pressure-Balancing the Discharge Flow to repair the Hydronic Shutoff Receptor. For an additional $49.95, you’ll go home with a three-ring binder filled with dozens of highly technical flow charts and electrical grid diagrams which have nothing to do with your actual project, easily attachable to your invoice to confuse your customer. 

    After you have completed this seven-week program, you’ll be prepared to respond to any customer issue that could possibly arise – whenever you feel like getting around to it – which according to my calendar is not for another three weeks months.

    That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

    PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

    Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

    ©Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2017


    • As always good one Tim... Being a contractor myself and to give you and your readers some helpful pointers when…
      mike s. praskalo
  • Published On Feb. 14, 2018 by TEJ
  • I Have a Drinking Problem

    I have something to confess. It’s hard for me to talk about. It may even shock you. The fact is, I have a drinking problem. It’s been a struggle, but I’ve been clean and sober for the past six months. Before you congratulate me, I have another confession. I have also been clean and sober for the past 62 years and ten months. You see, technically, I don’t actually have a drinking problem. I have a not-drinking problem.

    I simply don’t drink. Never have. And that’s created many an awkward social situation my entire adult life. A lot of people have difficulty accepting this aberration – starting with my young adult daughters. In their college years, they attended many a party and chugged many a beer. “It’s what you do at college” they claim. Thus, they refuse to believe that spirits never pass over my lips. Nobody could be that much of a boring, uptight nerd, they argue, convinced I must be keeping from them deep dark secrets about my past.

    I attended a university where so many students regularly drank themselves into oblivion, that I started to wonder if it was a pre-requisite for graduation. The entry requirement at most fraternity parties was to chug a pitcher of beer upon arrival. Apparently, it was a violation of the Greek code of ethics to be on frat premises without consuming large quantities of alcohol. The only permissible exception was if you’d already passed out in the hall closet.

    Even now, when I go to a gathering, people just assume I’ll be drinking, like everyone else. The beverage selections typically are two red wines, a Zinfandel, three types of beer, vodka, bourbon, and club soda. Invariably, when I mention that I don’t drink, people assume the worst: I’m an alcoholic trying to stay on the wagon. When I clarify that it’s not that, they assume the even worster: I’m a holier-than thou Prohibitionist who looks down my nose at these sinners whose weak moral failings have led them the bottle. Excellent guesses, everybody, but no, that’s not why I don’t drink (although, yeah, drunken, two-timing Charlie over there making out with the fern is probably headed south when his number is up).

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    • You'd enjoy Anne Fadiman's recent memoir: The Wine Lover's Daughter. The framework of the memoir is about how she just…
      Kathy Taylor
  • Published On Feb. 07, 2018 by TEJ
  • FIRE AND FURY – INSIDE THE TRUMP EARLY YEARS

    Unless you’re in a coma – or your name is Baron Trump – you’ve no doubt heard about Michael Wolff’s bombshell tell-all book, FIRE AND FURY – INSIDE THE TRUMP WHITE HOUSE. On its release day, F&F sold out in less time than it takes Donald to tweet “CNN is Fake News.”

    What you may not know is that I, too, have been hard at work writing a Trump exposé. Mine is called FIRE AND FURY – INSIDE THE TRUMP EARLY YEARS. If the title sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because Wolff copied me.

    My book describes a rich, entitled, angry, unstable, vindictive, erratic, undisciplined, lazy young child who hated to read. Thankfully for America’s sake, he eventually grew out of these ugly, infantile behaviors to become a normal, high-functioning adult.

    I interviewed dozens of childhood acquaintances, including teachers, classmates, and even his high school baseball coach. They paint a shocking picture of a deeply insecure child with a penchant for bullying, telling lies and bragging about his pee-pee size – and that’s all while he was still in the womb.

    Here is a sneak peek at the unsettling world of America’s 45th president several decades before he single-handedly (with a little help from Putin) decided to Make America Great Again.

    Donald John Trump was born in 1946 in Queens, New York City, the fourth of five children of Frederick and Mary MacLeod Trump. He came from humble beginnings, by which I mean his father was not yet a double-digit millionaire.

    When Donald was barely six years old, he mastered his first bicycle without training wheels. He boldly proclaimed to his father that no child in the history of the world had ridden without training wheels earlier than him. His dad didn’t dare tell little Donnie that tricycles didn’t come with training wheels…

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    • Did anyone ever tell Donnie that at one time, Queens was considered a shithole? I guess they climbed out of…
      mark
  • Published On Jan. 11, 2018 by TEJ