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My Sister’s Plot to Kill Me

[This is a true story.]

One of the following is something I have NEVER done. Can you guess?

  • Eaten oysters
  • Driven 1,300 miles with a rabbit and a parakeet
  • Gone skinny dipping
  • Jumped out of an airplane

If you guessed, “eaten oysters” you are correct. But also a shout out to my many supportive fans who wrote in “humor writing”. Yes, I actually jumped out of an airplane. But don’t worry. Many of you will be glad to know I survived.

Normally, I would never do something so stupid. It wasn’t even my idea. You can blame my sister for this reckless fiasco. For purposes of this story, and out of respect for my sister’s privacy, I’m going to refer to her as “Betsy” because, first, that’s her name, and second, I don’t give a rat’s ass about her privacy.

The year was 1982. Betsy and I were both attending The Ohio State University. One day, for reasons unfathomable to me, she quipped, “Hey, let’s go skydiving!” I could only deduce she was off her meds – or perhaps she was looking for a creative way to avoid working on a term paper. I replied as any loving, older brother would – I berated her for being an idiot. But my sister can be extremely persuasive, by which I mean she questioned my masculinity. Eventually, after badgering me for what seemed like three days, but probably was closer to eleven minutes, I caved.

Betsy discovered an outfit called Skydive Green County, in a rural community called Xenia, Ohio, where cows outnumber people 50 to 1. We dove into an intensive full-day crash-course on skydiving, which culminated in a static line jump out of a Cessna from 5,000 feet.

At noon, the class broke for a 45-minute lunch. It took longer than expected for my Last Meal to be served, so Betsy and I arrived back 15 minutes late. I figured, we couldn’t possibly have missed anything important in that short interval. Turns out, I was mistaken – perilously so.

After seven hours of training, the energy of these thrill-seekers was palpable – that is, of all but one. And he looked a lot like me. All I could think was, “How in the world did I let my crazy, impulsive sister corral me into doing such a daredevil act of insanity? Worse yet, I didn’t even use a 50% off Groupon!” My only consolation was that as a law student, I could one day sue my sister for wrongful death. Or maybe not.

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  • Published On Nov. 29, 2017 by TEJ
  • The Seattle Seahawks’ Secret Weapon: ME

    I’m a huge NFL fan. I root for the Seattle Seahawks because I live in the greater Seattle area, so it’s the law. The Seahawks have been one of the best football teams in the NFL recently, going to the Super Bowl twice in the past four years.

    After every win, the Seahawks’ head coach Pete Carroll steps up to the microphone and gives credit to his offense, his defense, and his assistant coaches for executing a great game plan. But not once does he ever mention the team’s primary reason for their victory: ME! That’s right, I don’t like to brag about this fact – because I am one of the most modest, humble people you’ll ever meet – but I am the secret weapon in their success.

    In full disclosure, the players and coaches did play a part in last week’s victory by doing things like scoring points and keeping the other team from scoring. But week after week, season after season, Coach Carroll ignores what I believe is the single biggest factor whenever they pull out a win: I WASN’T WATCHING!

    Oh, I know what you’re thinking. I’m just another freakishly superstitious football fanatic who thinks their quirky rituals influence the outcome of the game. Like the Carolina Panthers fan Nate Bosworth, who must always sit in the exact same spot on the couch and consume exactly 8 cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer (two per quarter) to ensure his team’s win. Or like Bert Flanderson, who cheers on his Cleveland Browns by wearing his lucky shoulder pads and 42-year old Browns helmet for every game. (Bert, I hate to break it to you, buddy. It’s not working.) Or even Ethel Lembke, a rabid New Orleans Saints fan, who belts out Gloria Gaynor’s feminist anthem ‘I Will Survive’ in full Saints regalia before every game, to nudge her team to victory.

    These people, of course, are seriously delusional. Trust me, their peculiar rituals have about as much chance of affecting the game’s outcome as I have of convincing my wife to buy that Lamborghini I’ve been eyeing. But it’s a proven fact that MY viewership behavior directly influences, no, make that DICTATES the results. I became aware of my powers a few years ago, when I noticed a pattern. Whenever I’d watch my beloved Seahawks play, they’d lose – about 70% of the time. But when I didn’t watch, for any reason, they’d win in equal proportion.

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    • Okay, Tim, so I ran a little long. The Mets weren't impressed, either, but you understand. I know you do.
      Drew Fisher
  • Published On Nov. 01, 2017 by TEJ
  • Vancouver? – Ya’ Can’t Get There from Here

    [The following is a true story.]

    Here’s a tip you might want to jot down: When your guests from Argentina want to hit the rails to Vancouver departing from Stanwood, Washington, the closest town to my home with a train station, you might want to make reservations. I didn’t – which caused the following chain of events…

    It was the end of a very nice visit with Monique and Manuel. (Not their real names. Their real names are Maria and Jose.) I had already mapped out my day: Drop them off at the station to catch the 9:15 train. Get back home by 9:30. At 9:35 commence sleeping in the hammock. A perfect plan.

    Except for one small miscalculation. I failed to make train reservations for my friends. I wanted to wave “Goodbye” from my car, but decided that might be rude. So, I walked them to the platform. That’s when I heard the conductor announce, “Passengers with reservations only! All Aboard!” Reservations? It’s a ten-car train hailing from tiny Stanwood. Who needs reservations? I immediately had my own reservations – something was not right.

    There is a quaint saying: “The journey is the destination.” Except for that day when the destination was everything: Vancouver, CANADA – on CANADA DAY, the nation’s Independence Day – their biggest annual holiday after National Apology Day.

    No biggie. We’ll just make reservations for the next train, right? Nope. It didn’t leave for another 10 hours. What about a bus? Sorry. The sole Vancouver-bound bus left 15 minutes ago. How about a taxi or Uber? Great suggestion, Tim. Problem solved – so long as my guests were willing to shell out 400 bucks (American) for a 178-mile drive.

    I researched every transportation option I could think of: ferry, rental car, crop duster, Pony Express, you name it. None of them was feasible. And I had a gut feeling that my guests were not the hitchhiking type.

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    • LOL National Apology Day. Good one. Though I'm sorry you see fit to mock our…
      Rob McCarrol
  • Published On Sep. 14, 2017 by TEJ
  • A Day at the Races

    I was not sure what to expect when a buddy of mine invited me to join him for drag racing. Contrary to my assumptions, there were very few men sprinting in high heels, makeup and wigs. No, it turns out that drag racing is a completely different genre of entertainment. If you’re not familiar with this sport, let me cover the basics.

    The average race takes less time to finish than it takes to finish the sentence, “the average race takes less time to finish than it takes to finish this sentence.” The fastest dragsters hurtle down a 1,000-foot track in under four seconds. When I told my wife this, her response was, “That’s barely enough time to make it to the first turn.” During one heat I sneezed, causing me to completely miss the race.

    My wife does not understand drag racing at all – in the same way that I usually don’t understand my wife. You see, this sport is all about three things: insanely fast cars, thunderously loud engines that could burst your ear drums, and sexy young women in hot pants and knee-high kinky boots, hanging around the starting line, pretending to serve a purpose.

    When we sat down for the first heat, I almost had a heart attack at the explosion of noise. Imagine the heavy metal rock band Spinal Tap, with their speakers cranked up to 11. Now multiple that by 11 gazillion and you have a rough approximation of how loud these engines are.

    Typically, two racers are pitted against each other in a sprint. Sadly, I did not witness a single car veer off the track into the wall. The closest any car came to disaster was when one dragster’s engine caught fire, causing him to lose the race. My buddy informed me that replacing the engine would cost upwards of $250,000. Given that the average income for a drag racer is $75,000 – well, you do the math.

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    • I'm with your wife. I just don't get it. The noise, the need for speed and, especially, the young,…
      Scoundrel
  • Published On Sep. 06, 2017 by TEJ
  • My Visit to Authentic Scotland (Sort of)

    Recently, my wife and I spent a day exploring Scotland. Okay, technically we didn’t actually travel all the way to the land of Braveheart. But we did the next best thing: We went to a traditional Scottish Highland Games. If you’ve never been to a Highland Games before, it’s a lot like Game of Thrones, but with seriously overweight people who can’t get dates and have no business wearing kilts, along with booths selling Haggis, meat pies, and funnel cakes. But unlike Game of Thrones, I’m happy to report there were very few fatalities.

    My wife is Canadian. Her grandmother immigrated to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland with quite a set of pipes – bagpipes, that is. Every visit to Grandma’s included a concert of bagpipe music, complete with Amazing Grace as the grand finale. Apparently, this is how they punish children for misbehaving in Canada.

    It turns out I too have some Scottish ancestry – 1/8th – which qualified me for 10% off on a raspberry scone at MacGregor’s Scones ‘n Cones at the fair. My lineage is through the Hanna clan and can be traced all the way back to the year 1215, to a tiny town in southwestern Scotland called Sorbie. (True!) There is even a 15th century castle there that belongs to my clan, but it’s largely a ruin now. It figures. My ancestors never took good care of their stuff.

    To venture into the Games, we traversed a rickety drawbridge through towering castle walls all made from traditional Scottish plywood, reinforced with authentic Scotch Tape. I could smell the earthiness of moors as we passed the Honey Bucket porta potties. I started to tear up as the strains of a tartan-clad marching band wafted through the air. I could imagine my ancestors trading their wares as I meandered past vendors hawking t-shirts and mugs with expressions like “If it’s not Scottish, it’s Crap.” 

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    • Hoot Mon, Timothy! Ye gee us a great read. I'm thinkin' ye'd look real posh in a kilt…
      Eleanor Rushworh
  • Published On Aug. 05, 2017 by TEJ
  • Trading Stories at My College Reunion

    I just returned from my 40th college reunion. It was an amazing experience to reconnect with many people I have not seen in decades. What college did I attend, you ask? Well if you guessed Harvard University, you’re extremely close – in fact, my alma mater shares several letters in common with Harvard, including a V, an R, an A and the entire word “University” (University of Virginia).

    One thing I’ve always preached to my daughters is the importance of being authentic, and to be proud of who you are – which can be a challenge at times when you realize you’re a humor writer. To be honest, I was a little anxious about seeing my old college cronies. Sure, I’ve had my share of achievements since I graduated – like having never once been convicted of a major felony. Or the fact that I am a published author of a book that has sold roughly 100,000 copies (if you round up to the nearest 100,000).

    I arrived at the reunion’s opening reception, and the first person I met was Brett Farnsworth III. I told him I wrote a weekly humor blog. As though he were experiencing an adverse Pavlovian reaction to the word “blog”, Brett abruptly excused himself, proclaiming he had to step away for a phone interview with CNN to discuss his role spearheading NASA’s manned flight program to Mars – ETA: 2022.

    Next, I bumped into Richard Brantley, who lived two doors down in my first-year dorm. “Tim, wow, I barely recognized you with your weight gain. And when did you lose so much hair?” I started feeling a bit self-conscious, but I tried to be polite, asking him what he’d been up to in recent years. “Oh, nothing much,” he started. “Same old – same old. Still Senior Vice President of Global Strategy for Apple. What about you?” A nagging feeling was mushrooming inside me that my career accomplishments might not stack up to those of my fellow alums.

    In an attempt to preserve my rapidly crumbling self-esteem, I went into improv mode. “Um, well, since you asked…. I was recently promoted to Executive Senior Vice President of International Brand Management for P&G – you know, Proctor & Gamble. I just flew in from our Geneva manufacturing facility for the reunion.” Okay, so I lied. Sue me. I just didn’t know how to make “I write blogs about being a bad parent” sound impressive. On the one hand, I felt badly about the ruse. On the other hand, Richard was clearly awed by how I engineered a five percent gain in market share in our consumer brands division in my first quarter in the job. So much for my plans to be authentic.

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    • So loved reading this. You've totally nailed why I absolutely refuse to go to reunions at all. (But on…
      Clare
  • Published On Jun. 24, 2017 by TEJ
  • Day at the Museum

    As a good husband, I try to feign interest in my wife’s favorite passions. It’s easy when we’re talking kittens or kayaking. But the next time my wife asks, “Honey, how would you like to check out this new museum?”, if you have an ounce of compassion in you, PLEASE, for the love of God, STOP ME from spinelessly acquiescing to her heartless suggestion. It’s dangerous to my emotional well-being. The problem is that my wife and I have very different notions about what it means to “check out” a museum.

    It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking a museum of paintings, cuckoo clocks, or the Wisconsin Museum of Cheese. It’s all about the approach. I like to swoop in, catch a glimpse of three or four major highlights, and get out while I still have some functioning brain cells. But my wife – she might as well sign a short-term rental agreement with the museum’s Board of Directors, because she’s planning on staying.

    Last weekend, we visited the Museum of Anthropology and Natural History. Michele got excited because she learned this was the last day of their special exhibit called Fabrics Around the World. I figured, how long could this possibly take? I mean, you have cotton, polyester, and wool, the three fabrics that make up every article of clothing I’ve ever owned. We’d roll through the entire display in fifteen minutes max. I was off – by a factor of five.

    My wife was fascinated by the intricate weavings found in Morocco, the brilliant colors preferred in the hilltop regions of Bhutan, and the myriad methods of felting coming from the British Isles. Meanwhile, my interest in fabrics was focused on a pizza stain I just noticed on my white t-shirt which was woven – I think you’ll find this interesting – in the Philippines, using a traditional polyester blend, made in a sweat shop by a nine-year-old boy named Danilo.

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  • Published On May. 07, 2017 by TEJ
  • The Joy of Sleeping

    Three of the greatest pleasures in life – and I’m sure you will agree – are: relaxing poolside in a sunny tropical location, eating cookie dough ice cream, and sleeping. When my number is up, I hope to go out napping on a chaise lounge in Hawaii with an empty quart of cookie dough ice cream on my lap.

    Seriously, is there anything more blissful in life than napping on a rainy afternoon? Oh sure, I hear you thinking, “You don’t want to waste your life away catching z’s, do you?” To which I say, “Of course I do!” I read an article that said on average, human beings spend 33 percent of their lives sleeping. I estimate I’ve spent closer to 38% – but then I’ve always been an over-achiever. (I would have read the rest of the article, but I was snoozing by the fourth paragraph.)

    You know the kind of people I can’t stand? People who get up at 4:30 am to work out at the gym for an hour before zipping through the entire New York Times crossword puzzle, while making a kale & kelp milkshake for breakfast before heading off to work by 7 to cure cancer or feed the homeless – no doubt with kale & kelp milkshakes.

    To be honest, for decades, I used to be one of those people (except for the k & k shakes, that is). But now that I’m retired, I realize that for all those decades, my priorities were seriously out of whack. Lately I’ve discovered the joy of sleeping in. Oh, I still wake up by 5:30, but now I pass the next two hours lulling in bed, debating how long I can stay there before my grape-sized bladder gives out. I love sleeping. It’s that tranquil period between 10 pm and 7 am when I don’t have to wash dishes, do laundry, clean the basement, pay bills or listen to my wife complain about how much time I waste sleeping.

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    • For ten years of my moderately interesting media career, Tim, I worked a shift that began at eight in…
      Drew Fisher
  • Published On Apr. 30, 2017 by TEJ
  • How to (Almost) Kill Kittens Without Really Trying

    Let me set the record straight: I love kittens – and cats of all ages and breeds – with the exception of Persians (I just don’t trust those shifty little eyes). My wife and I have had cats (or more accurately, cats have had us) throughout our entire marriage.

    We even foster kittens to help get them used to being around people. We feed them, cuddle with them and play with them for six to ten weeks, until they’re ready to be adopted. It’s how we ended up with our two current cats, Zippy and Buddy, neither of whom, as best as I can tell, fear that I’ll try to murder them in their sleep.

    I’ve never once thought about trying to snuff out any of our feline friends – okay, maybe I harbored a few nefarious thoughts when Patches peed on me, but that’s the only time – unless you count when Monster ran off with my digital watch and I later found it in the toilet.

    With those very few exceptions – and maybe five or six others – I’ve rarely contemplated putting out a contract on any of our cats. But if I had plotted their demise, I could not have come up with a more fool-proof plan than the one we accidentally set in motion last week – one that almost drowned and / or electrocuted five adorable kittens and their mom.

    Let me start at the very beginning…

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    • How did a cat turn on the faucet? You must have one of the lever kind that a jump…
      Janice Strong
  • Published On Apr. 06, 2017 by TEJ
  • Being a People Pleaser Can Get You into Trouble

    [WARNING: This blog post contains a visual image which some readers may find offensive and which could cause nightmares. Elderly people, young children and readers with weak constitutions may wish to avoid proceeding further.]

    There is something seriously wrong with me. No, I’m not talking about my moderate OCD. Or my phobia of snakes. Or that I listen to Gregorian Chants – even though each one sounds exactly the same.

    No, I have an even deeper personality flaw: I’m a chronic people pleaser. Throughout my life, I’ve been hard-wired to want to please people and have sometimes gone to ridiculous lengths not to disappoint them. A few cases in point (all of these are true):

    In high school, the class I hated the most was Latin. But my teacher, Mr. Vandenberg, really liked having me as a student. So, at the end of the year, he asked if I’d sign up for Latin 2. I swore I would NEVER take Latin 2. But I caved, because I did not want to disappoint him – which is why I also took Latin 3 the year after that.

    In college, I always gave my roommate the bed closest to the window. In grad school, I offered my apartment mate the nicer bedroom. Not because I was a great guy, but because I wanted them to like me.

    Once when I was a sales manager my team had a record-breaking quarter. I took them out to celebrate. The reps only wanted one thing from me at the party: to watch me smoke a fat eight-inch cigar they’d bought just for the occasion. I don’t smoke. I’d never smoked anything stronger than a candy cigarette before that moment. But they all were cheering me on, and well, I didn’t want to disappoint. So, I puffed, gasped and choked my way through the entire cigar. It was torture. And they loved that I was a good sport. Then I excused myself to the bathroom so I could throw up.

    A few years later, I was boarding a commercial jetliner on a business trip with co-workers. One of them urged me to walk into the cockpit, hold out my boarding pass and tell the pilot with a straight face, “I believe you’re in my seat.” So, I did exactly as he asked. Thankfully, I was not arrested. But that may explain why I’m now on the terrorist watch list.

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    • That was hysterical!!! Now, tell us! Tell us! Tim! Tim! Tim!
      Dorothy Rosby
  • Published On Mar. 26, 2017 by TEJ