Stories from the Cat House

Stories from the Cat House

My wife and I foster kittens several times a year. Here are some of our recent guests. I know, they all look so adorable. Don’t be fooled. They’re non-stop eating, pooping machines that will turn your house into utter chaos, or as my wife calls it, “happy pandemonium.”

My wife and I foster kittens several times a year. Here are some of our recent guests. I know, they all look so adorable. Don’t be fooled. They’re non-stop eating, pooping machines that will turn your house into utter chaos, or as my wife calls it, “happy pandemonium.”

My wife and I run a cat house. We take in girls – and boys – who were living on the streets and require them to do tricks in exchange for room and board. We’re not proud of this. But we can’t help ourselves. Oh, it’s not what you think. No, we’re not running a brothel. Heavens, No! My wife always reminds me, “We’re never doing that again!” 

What I meant was that we rent cats. Okay, some people might call it “fostering.” We take in orphaned kittens and we feed them, cuddle them, and teach them tricks like how to chase a string. Our guests stay about five weeks, after which, having (temporarily) satisfied our craving, we send them back to the local animal shelter. But it is an addiction, and withdrawal is no laughing matter. So, after a couple months, we give in and get another fix of furry toddlers.

Our two adult cats, Zippy and Buddy (former fosters themselves), graciously allow us to invite these occasional intruders. I want to keep them all, but my wife says zoning laws prohibit more than two permanent feline residents per household. Apparently, any more than that would cause a level of chaos and destruction that might threaten world peace – not to mention our marriage.

Make no mistake, my wife likes cats – a lot! If she and I were on a rowboat in the middle of the ocean with Zippy and Buddy, and a big wave washed our cats and me overboard, and she could only save two of us – let’s just say, my wife would probably be remarried by now.

While she likes cats, my darling wife absolutely ADORES KITTENS! That’s why she likes to rent, I mean foster them. Our job as a foster family is to play with the kitties and get them used to humans, so that I can fall in love with them and get my heart torn out when they inevitably journey back to the shelter to find permanent homes.

I’ll be the first to admit, fostering kittens is a lot of fun. But it’s also a lot of work. That’s why my wife and I divide up the tasks evenly. I’m responsible for feeding, scooping the litter, replacing said litter, cleaning the ubiquitous poop skid marks off the floor, sweeping the strewn litter bits, and picking up countless bits of shredded paper the kitties create. The above tasks need to be done roughly every 30 minutes. My wife willingly shoulders the arduous chores of patting and nuzzling the kittens and posting adorable photos of them on Facebook.

If I may, I would like to circle back to the part about feeding and scooping. The kittens are often only two weeks old when we receive them. Sometimes they are so tiny we must bottle feed them. But once they can consume solid food (around three weeks), their appetites are insatiable. A litter of six kittens can easily go through eight cans of moist cat food and three cups of dry food in a day. But they poop out roughly five times the volume they consume – something scientists have never been able to explain. With any luck, by the time they are ready to leave us, most of the kittens know how to  dutifully excrete their poop within a foot of the litter box.

Our temporary house guests typically overcome their fear of us very quickly. By the second week, they’re routinely navigating up my pant leg, headed for my shoulders. Which brings me to the topic of claws. Did you know that kittens don’t know how to retract their claws? Me neither. I like to wear shorts. Imagine, if you will,  self-propelled razor blades covered in fur scaling your unclothed limbs. In no time, I look like a badly abused scratching post – only with far more blood.

Things tend to get a bit complicated when Buddy realizes we have visitors. Everyday it’s the same pattern: He stands outside the door to the guest quarters and whines incessantly until we let him in. He looks at the kitties with an approach-avoidance mixture of fascination and fear until eventually several of them start chasing (and biting) his tail, at which point Buddy freaks out and bolts. Then 30 minutes later, he wants back in again. Go figure.

Kittens are naturally curious and adventurous – especially as they reach four weeks of age. This is when they develop an urge to go walkabout and explore EVERYTHING. They climb, leap, and knock over anything they can get their mouths on. They will play with anything they stumble into – except cat toys, of course. They will entertain themselves for hours, batting around an empty toilet paper roll, a rubber band or a twist tie. And they are masters at chewing on electrical cords, scratching the wood furniture beyond repair, and getting stuck underneath the couch and other impossible-to-extract locations. At this age, they have only two modes: Total pandemonium and coma. There is no in between.

When our short-term residents reach two pounds (around eight weeks), it’s time to take them back to the animal shelter to find forever homes. And this, for me, is by far the most difficult part. Because every time we foster, I get emotionally attached. I always want to keep some. My wife rationally insists we have plenty of cats already. Our negotiation sessions typically go something like this:

Me: Let’s keep all six of them. They’re soooooo adorable. Can we, sweetie?

Michele: No. We already have two cats. That’s plenty.

Me: Okay, you’re right. So, how about we just keep two kittens?

Michele: No. We already have enough cats.

Me: I hear you. Final offer: Let’s keep just one.

In the end, we reach a compromise, by which I mean we don’t keep any. We go through this dance whenever we foster. Every time, I tell myself I won’t get attached, and every time I fall hopelessly in love with every one of them.

By the time you read this, our house will probably be teeming with our next set of furry visitors. I already know my wife is going to say no, we can’t keep any furballs. But I have a plan. I know some embarrassing details from her past that I just might “accidentally” post to her timeline on Facebook – unless she agrees to let me keep one. So, we can do this the easy way or the hard way. It’s totally up to my darling wife. Meow.

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 2019

Experts Debate: Is Trump a Lunatic or Just an Idiot?

Experts Debate: Is Trump a Lunatic or Just an Idiot?

When a reporter asked a question about Syria, the president launched into a 25-minute expletive-laden tirade about the Fake Media, the impeachment witch hunt, and how he was responsible for the Nationals winning the World Series: “I alone could win it.”

When a reporter asked a question about Syria, the president launched into a 25-minute expletive-laden tirade about the Fake Media, the impeachment witch hunt, and how he was responsible for the Nationals winning the World Series: “I alone could win it.”

During his tenure as President of the United States, Donald Trump has repeatedly demonstrated a tendency toward outrageous and mercurial behavior. He took office vowing to build the now infamous Wall that Mexico would surely pay for. He expressed awe and admiration for Kim Jong-un, indisputably the world’s most heinous dictator. And he has routinely sided with Vladimir Putin against his own intelligence experts – but in fairness, that’s what you do when you want to score points with your boss.

This past July, he demanded that Ukrainian President Zelensky dig up dirt on presidential candidate Joe Biden or else he’d  call Putin to invite Russian tanks to roll in. He even attempted to purchase Greenland from Denmark (in trade for California), then threw a tantrum when Denmark’s prime minister surprisingly responded, “Ummm… no, thanks, bucko.”

One strange episode that took the wind out of their sails for many high-level advisers came when our nation’s “most stable genius” president ever proclaimed himself the nation’s Weatherman-in-Chief, altering a weather map with a Sharpie – and then lying about it – to promote his story that Hurricane Dorian was headed for Alabama. The unprecedented levels of resignations and firings in his first three years in office have led experts to fear that “now that the guard rails are off,” and there are no longer any career professional advisers to steer him away from disaster, Trump will feel emboldened to act on his worst impulses.

Trump’s dubious and inexplicable actions and tweets may be in part due to the mounting pressure he is under facing almost certain impending impeachment. Experts speculate he may be showing signs of insanity. Others offer a simpler theory: Trump is an idiot. It’s become a hotly contested debate.

VFTB News has uncovered several startling instances of Trump’s progressively erratic conduct. In August, Trump, while sitting on the toilet, sent a privy memo to the United Kingdom demanding the Brits publicly besmirch Elizabeth Warren, or else he will have no choice but to release incriminating photos of Queen Elizabeth and her Welsh Corgis in compromising positions, or worse, blackmail the Royal Family into installing Boris Johnson as King.

An anonymous Pentagon source revealed that this past September Trump had issued an ultimatum to Iranian president Hassan Rouhan to come up with compromising information on Bernie Sanders or he’d order the US military to bomb Iran “back to the Stone Age.” He added, “Hey, Hassan, did you know that Bernie is a Jew? So what more incentive do you really need?”

In a move few pundits saw coming, Trump recently announced that, in order to bolster our dwindling military presence in Syria (which he blamed on the Democrats), he will be drafting Pete Buttigieg back into military service to serve his country. Although Mayor Pete was not consulted on this decision and has protested the questionable legality of the president’s one-person draft, President Trump tweeted, “Totally legal. Besides, this proves I support gays in the military. Too bad he’ll be stuck in some sand dune over in Syria and won’t be able to run for president. Sad.”

But the Donald’s browbeating tactics haven’t been limited to undermining his political rivals. We have just obtained a redacted transcript of a White House cabinet meeting in which Trump ranted for two hours and 27 minutes. He threatened that if any Republican Senator votes to convict him in the upcoming impeachment trial, he will cage their children in a detention facility in Texas. In a show of even-handedness, he added that any senator from either party who votes NOT to convict will receive a free weekend stay at his Mar-a-Lago resort – in the penthouse suite – with Melania – no questions asked.

With Attorney General William Barr at his side, Trump has announced that henceforth all Justice Department employees will be required to take an Oath of Allegiance – to President Trump. The oath includes a gag order  to never become a whistleblower – unless they have the goods on a Democratic member of Congress, in which case, they will receive a $15,000 tax refund and box of Trump Steaks.

At a recent rally, Trump drew raucous cheers of support when he proclaimed that if re-elected, he’d repeal Obamacare, leave NATO, get Mexico to pay for the wall, bomb California, and issue a new $1 bill with his face on it, to honor “our greatest president in history.”

At a recent rally, Trump drew raucous cheers of support when he proclaimed that if re-elected, he’d repeal Obamacare, leave NATO, get Mexico to pay for the wall, bomb California, and issue a new $1 bill with his face on it, to honor “our greatest president in history.”

More than a few Constitutional scholars have become alarmed by Trump’s recent unveiling of his plan to re-organize the Executive Branch. Effective immediately, Congress will report directly to Kellyanne Conway. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court will report to Ivanka – with a dotted line to Jared. Trump hotly rejected his critics’ claims of unconstitutional overreach, arguing, “The Constitution clearly states under Article 2 that the President can do whatever I want. And nobody knows the Constitution better than me.”

In related news, Trump issued another Executive Tweet announcing his plans to expand the Supreme Court from nine justices to 150, with all future justices to be selected by means of an eBay auction. Furthermore, the Republican Senator willing to pay Trump the highest bribe will get to select their choice for Supreme Court justice. He added, “unless you choose a Mexican, a Muslim or a Lesbo, then sorry, no dice.”

In another sign that Trump might be showing signs of accelerated mental decline, it has just been reported that he has unilaterally ordered the conviction of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam “Shifty” Schiff on charges of treason. When asked on what grounds he asserted this charge, Trump shrugged, “The guy doesn’t show me any respect. Besides, Article 2 says I can.”

A moment ago, we learned of this breaking news: a butt dial made by Rudy Giuliani reveals that Trump will soon announce swift retaliatory action against any black athletes who refuse to stand for the National Anthem. They will be summarily deported to an African “sh*thole country” immediately after the election. The president confirmed this, adding, “I hear Cameroni is nice this time of year.”

In other news, this morning Trump warned he will shut down the National Golf Club in Colts Neck, NJ for hiring illegal alien workers – until his Chief of Staff pointed out that Trump actually owns that resort.

In yet another indicator the pressures of the job may finally be getting to him, as the president prepared to Board Marine One this afternoon, he announced he will temporarily free all the illegal immigrant children from their cages and re-assign them to complete construction of his border wall.

He concluded by saying, “If they can finish the wall before Christmas, I’ll give each kid an autographed picture of America’s greatest president. That’s me, of course. Lincoln was so overrated. Everybody says so.”   

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 2019

Hey, Your Trees are Blocking My View (of Trees)

Hey, Your Trees are Blocking My View (of Trees)

I am on the Covenants Committee of my local homeowner association. My job is to review complaints about trees blocking views and sheds that are infested with rats. Trust me, nothing brings neighbors together like having someone file an angry complaint about your over-height trees.

I am on the Covenants Committee of my local homeowner association. My job is to review complaints about trees blocking views and sheds that are infested with rats. Trust me, nothing brings neighbors together like having someone file an angry complaint about your over-height trees.

Is your job no longer motivating? Would you like a change of pace? Maybe have the chance to get out of your generic office cubicle, drink in the fresh air and meet interesting people?

Are you the kind of person who thrives on the futile challenge of coaxing feuding neighbors to set aside their petty differences and resolve their longstanding dispute over an incessantly barking dog? Sure, the pay is $0/hour, but you get a clipboard and measuring tape.

If this sounds too good to be true, I suggest you re-examine your life. Or you could consider joining my community homeowner association’s Covenants Committee, where you too could incur the wrath of seemingly docile retirees. I’d gladly swap my prestigious role for your cubicle. Whatya’ say, buddy?

Let me back up. My wife and I moved to this semi-rural island community five years ago, attracted by the slower lifestyle and stunning views of mountains, saltwater and nature – just like the other 15,000 residents who moved here before us. And like the other island-dwellers in our community, we were required to sign a document called The Covenants, outlining in convoluted legalese our rights and responsibilities as homeowners. We were hesitant to affix our John Hancock’s, but decided it was for the greater good.

Not long after, a former friend of mine caught me in a moment of weakness and convinced me to get more involved by joining the Covenants Committee of our community’s homeowner association. Since I had spent my career managing people and mediating conflicts between employees, it seemed this post would be a piece of cake. Um, I still haven’t forgiven him.

My duties include reviewing complaints and settling disputes as amicably as possible. In other words, I am an enforcer – not unlike Dirty Harry, only without his enormous persuasive talents, by which I mean his .44 Magnum revolver. Typical grievances range from “I’m sick and tired of looking at their rusted-out junkyard of cars on blocks” to “For God’s sake, it’s 2019! Make them remove the “Re-Elect Nixon” placards from their front lawn!”  (We’re still working on that one.)

Far and away the most common complaint, however, is about too tall trees that are blocking one’s view of mountains, the sound, and, ironically, other trees. You’d think this issue would be easily remedied. I mean, how tall does a tree need to be?

Ours is a congenial community – most of the time. Once in a blue moon, there’s that one curmudgeon with the decrepit motorboat and the lawn he last mowed when GW was president. And he’s quite happy knowing it’s all driving the rest of us crazy.

Ours is a congenial community – most of the time. Once in a blue moon, there’s that one curmudgeon with the decrepit motorboat and the lawn he last mowed when GW was president. And he’s quite happy knowing it’s all driving the rest of us crazy.

And, there’s the “legally binding” Covenants,  which specifically detail the maximum heights of trees and hedges, so people would readily comply, right? 

Wrong. When someone buys a home in our community, upon receiving their signed copy of the Covenants, they are instructed to file this important document somewhere secure, which apparently means, “somewhere you’ll never, ever be able to locate it again.”

Sometimes my attempt at a friendly conversation in which I diplomatically request that they work with their neighbor to find an amicable resolution doesn’t always succeed. Take Ned Withers and Carl Johnson, for example. Carl requested that Ned trim his 45-foot cedars so that Carl and his family could catch a peekaboo view of the mountains in the distance. Ned said there was no way he was going to lift a finger for Carl because of Carl’s extensive collection of three-feet-tall garden gnomes (75, to be exact) that aggravate Ned to no end.

In situations like this, I may have to escalate the matter. By escalate, I mean, drafting a formal complaint on Covenant Committee letterhead, instructing the affronting party to take specific steps to address this problem within, say 30 days, or else we will have no choice but to take legal action. I usually throw in a few random Latin phrases just to sound like I mean business. My personal favorite is “Ego vere diligit lardum.” (That means “I really love bacon.”)

Most residents check their mailboxes only on Wednesdays – as that’s when the IGA grocery coupons arrive. So, getting a prompt acknowledgement of one of my official letters is a bit like waiting for the cable company to return my call about the billing error on their last statement. In 95% of the cases, the offending homeowner simply ignores my official certified correspondence. In the other 5%, I am treated to a creative reply like, “No problem. I’ll get right on this – just as soon as Hell freezes over.”

Ah, the joys of having quirky neighbors, who carry a grudge.

Ah, the joys of having quirky neighbors, who carry a grudge.

Sometimes, the complainant (that’s legalese for whiner) may push too hard, trying to browbeat the perceived offender into compliance. That rarely ends well. Imagine a simmering Hatfield – McCoy feud that began with Ned Withers’ flood light shining directly into Carl Johnson’s neon-lit bedroom – only instead of resorting to rifles and pistols, the weapons of choice are a Black & Decker AS6NG alkaline cordless screwdriver and a ladder.

Don’t get me wrong. The vast majority of folks here are considerate and accommodating, willing to work with their neighbors. But sprinkled among the reasonable denizens, we have our fair share of Ned’s and Carl’s.

It comes down to a fundamental problem: people here love to gaze out over the treetops at the shimmering  water and snow-capped mountains. What a view! It’s why they moved here. But some are not quite as concerned with their neighbor’s view. To be fair, most of the folks here are perfectly willing to consider a fair compromise – so long as they don’t have to lift a finger – or a chainsaw – and they can leave everything exactly the way it is.

It can get exhausting. But I feel like we are slowly starting to make some headway. Just this week, I was able to get Carl to agree (albeit, reluctantly) to stop blow-torching the branches from Ned’s cedar trees that are hanging over his side of the fence. And in return, I convinced Ned, finally, to stop sneaking into Carl’s yard after dark to knock over his garden gnomes. So, that’s sort of a victory, right?

Baby steps. Baby steps.

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 2019

I Love You, Daddy, But Not Enough to Give You My Snickers Bar

I Love You, Daddy, But Not Enough to Give You My Snickers Bar

Halloween was a special time for me and my girls. Here they are at ages 3 and 2, as a Kitty Cat and a Lady Bug. It would be 7 more years before they’d ask if they could dress up like Lady Gaga and Naughty Nurse. Sigh.

Halloween was a special time for me and my girls. Here they are at ages 3 and 2, as a Kitty Cat and a Lady Bug. It would be 7 more years before they’d ask if they could dress up like Lady Gaga and Naughty Nurse. Sigh.

It was a dark and stormy Halloween night. My two young daughters, Rachel and Emmy, could not wait to get started. Earlier that week I’d spent an evening helping them come up with their costumes. Emmy could not decide between a fairy princess or Barney the dinosaur or Hello Kitty. So naturally, the only solution was Barney the Hello Kitty dinosaur princess. Whatever makes you happy, my little angel, I mean, dinosaur kitty princess.

Rachel’s outfit was easier. She insisted on being Harry Potter wearing an invisibility cloak. So I drew a lightning bolt on her forehead, put a sliver of duct tape on a pair of my black-framed glasses and found a blanket to which I affixed a big sign that read: INVISIBILITY CLOAK.  YOU CAN’T SEE ME!

The girls kept asking, “Daddy, when can we go trick or treating?” To which I would respond, “It’s only Wednesday. Halloween is not for another three days. Be patient.” This went on every few hours until the big day, at which point, the incessant questioning accelerated to every 5 minutes.

Finally it was time for the main event. They looked so cute – Emmy in her princess tiara, sparkly gloves and Cinderella flowing gown, with the matching kitty ears, whiskers and a long purple dinosaur tail. Meanwhile Rachel was almost completely hidden underneath her Mighty Morphin Power Rangers invisibility blanket. Of course, once we ventured out into the 42-degree drizzling weather, it was actually hard to make out their costumes beneath their winter coats and Thomas the Tank Engine galoshes.

Everywhere I looked, there were pirates, super heroes, princesses and scary monsters – some of them in strollers – all in search of one thing: SUGAR! As soon as Emmy noticed all the other kids racing ahead for the same candy she was after, she started to panic, fearing all the good stuff would be gone by the time we got to the door, and people would be handing out pennies – or worse yet, toothbrushes. Like every year, we came upon a house with a sign next to a large wicker basket that read, “Please, take just one.” It was empty – of course. The time was 4:57 pm.

My girls rushed from door to door for what felt like three hours, but a check of my watch told me it had only been 35 minutes. It occurred to me that they might as well rename this Holiday “Disney’s Halloween”, because, as I looked around, it seemed that every girl under the age of eight was either Belle from Beauty and the Beast, Ariel from Little Mermaid, Jasmine from Aladdin, or Pocahontas. Although now that I think of it, there was that one seven-year-old girl dressed as a Zombie Princess / Egyptian Mummy carrying what looked to be a dead snake and a hula hoop. Not sure what her parents were thinking.

As we went from house to house, Rachel kept asking me to walk further away from her. She was only eight, but already she was embarrassed to be seen with her dad. I agreed to stay at the sidewalk while she took her sister by the hand to each door. Emmy got up the nerve to bravely demand, “Tick or Teat.” (She had not quite mastered the concept of the letter “R” yet.)

I looked at my watch again – and at their sagging, over-stuffed pillow cases. It was almost 7:30 pm. Over howling protests about me being a mean daddy – and their claims that all their friends’ parents let them stay out till dawn to trick or treat – I finally bribed them by promising not to eat all their candy after they went to sleep, if they agreed to come home now.

Then came the most important part of Halloween: The trade negotiations. Rachel and Emmy spent the next hour trying to outmaneuver their opponent.

Emmy: I’ll give you a Necco Wafers AND a Smarties for your Twix.

Rachel: Are you nuts? I’ll give you a box of Nerds if you give me your Nestlé Crunch.

Emmy: No way! My Nestlé Crunch is twice the size of that box of Nerds. I’ll give you all the candy corn in my bag for two Butterfinger bars.

Rachel: Nope. I’ll give you this box of Junior Mints for your Kit Kat Bar.

Emmy: Are you insane?

Halloween - bucket of candyIt went on like this for quite some time. In the end, I believe the only trade actually made was two pieces of bubble gum for a tootsie pop.

After they were asleep in their beds, I did what any loving father would do. I pilfered through their haul to collect my Dad Tax – you know, my fair payment for having spent almost three hours standing guard 30 feet away at the sidewalk when I could have been home watching the game. I doubt they’ll miss a couple boxes of Milk Duds or that Clark Bar. And don’t worry. I didn’t touch their Kit Kat or Twix bars. I would never do something so cruel. I settled for an Almond Joy because Emmy didn’t like coconut.

The next morning, I woke up to see my kids having breakfast together. Quietly. Calmly. No fighting. No name calling. I couldn’t believe my eyes. And then it became clear. They were too busy stuffing their pie holes with Gummy Bears and Reese’s Pieces.

I thought about intervening and shouting something about getting a healthy breakfast. And then I thought, why ruin this rare moment of tranquility. Emmy even gave me a Kit Kat bar (I think she stole it from Rachel) and invited me to join them. That breakfast with my two kids, scarfing down all that candy – yeah, that was the best breakfast I’d had in a long, long time.

Happy Halloween, everybody.

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.

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2015

Thank You for Losing My Luggage

Thank You for Losing My Luggage

[The following is a true story.]

This is the true story of the time a major airline accidentally lost my luggage. Both my luggage and I are still in therapy over the incident.

This is the true story of the time a major airline accidentally lost my luggage. Both my luggage and I are still in therapy over the incident.

Dear United Airlines Customer Severance Department,

I’m sorry. Did I write Customer Severance? Silly me. I meant “Customer Service.” Just like your airline meant to get my luggage from Seattle to Washington, D.C.

I hope I’m not catching you at an inconvenient time – though I have a nagging feeling you’re wading through a slew of letters just like this one. Perhaps you even have a whole department dedicated to lost luggage letters.

My boss was sending me to work a trade show. In preparing for my trip, I planned to take one small suitcase as carry-on, to avoid dealing with baggage claim – as much as I admire the delicate care always provided by your expert team of baggage handling professionals, mind you.

But then, the evening before my early morning flight, I received a most thoughtful robocall informing me that tomorrow’s flight would be quite full and advising me, due to limited storage capacity on board, to check my suitcase. Not wanting to be a disagreeable passenger, I dutifully complied.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that my obeisance to your airline’s directive to check my bag is totally on me. After all, this is a free country. I could have chosen to ignore your message and brought my carry-on onto the plane. But had I done that, I never would have experienced the joy and satisfaction of sharing with you the story of what happened next.

When I arrived in D.C. at 10:00 pm, I figured I’d be snug in my hotel room snoring by 11:15. Graciously, your airline had other plans for my evening. I went directly to the indicated baggage claim carousel. I was impressed that within minutes, luggage came cascading down the conveyor belt – one piece after another.

10 minutes later I was feeling less impressed. 25 minutes later, a funny thing happened. Let me rephrase that: A funny thing DID NOT happen. My suitcase never arrived. I am relieved to report that of the 275 people on my flight, only one person’s parcel failed to reach its intended destination. Spoiler alert: it was mine.

Of course, I had foolishly packed my blood pressure, cholesterol, and half a dozen other life-saving medications in that bag, along with the clothes I would need for the trade show. I totally should have FedExed the lot. What was I thinking?

It was surprisingly easy to find your lost luggage office. Less surprising was that I was the fourth person in line. Not unlike waiting in the queue at Disneyland’s Space Mountain during spring break, I eventually reached the counter – at 12:01 a.m. I will say, your agent was quite polite as he placed the “CLOSED” sign on the counter directly in front of me and informed me I could come back at 6:00 a.m. when they reopened.

I must have looked even more desperate than I felt – or more menacing – because your representative grudgingly agreed to help me out. Again, this was totally my fault for keeping him late, due to my blatantly misguided decision to follow your airline’s instructions to check my baggage. I just hope your agent can find it in his heart to forgive me.

In his professional opinion, he concluded that I probably checked in too close to departure and that my luggage simply missed the flight. No doubt your rep was right to pin the blame on me. My bad, deciding to check my bag a mere two hours before the plane’s scheduled departure rather than on the previous Thursday.

When I asked if it might be on a later flight, I had to respect the fellow’s candor when he said, and I quote, “I have no idea where in the Hell your bag is.”  Perhaps he was feeling a little hangry. 

Naturally I was hoping he would offer me a voucher to purchase clothes, since all I had were the T-shirt, shorts and Birkenstocks I wore onto the plane. He indulgently explained that my luggage should arrive the next day, and as a result, he was not authorized to issue me a clothing allowance.

I asked your charmingly helpful agent what impression he thought I might make at our trade show booth wearing my shorts and a T-shirt that read “People say I have A.D.D. but they don’t know what – Hey, look! A Squirrel.” He deferred to his supervisor, who was just getting off duty as well. The latter reluctantly okayed the clothing allowance. Then your baggage claim agent politely added, “Don’t go buying expensive Florsheim shoes or Calvin Klein shirts, as high-end clothing will not be covered.” I had no idea Calvin Klein made shirts.

The actual route my suitcase took is apparently classified. But here is my best guestimate of its whirlwind world tour. All those sites in only three days!

The actual route my suitcase took is apparently classified. But here is my best guestimate of its whirlwind world tour. All those sites in only three days!

The next morning at precisely 7:02 am, the most amazing thing happened. A customer service manager, no less, called to provide a most helpful status update. “We’re still looking for your luggage. We’ve not been able to locate it yet. All we know is it’s not in Seattle.” 

In the interim, I was able to find a Marshall’s department store, which, in case you’re not familiar with their luxury brand, makes the clothes at Walmart look like a Paris fashion show. I purchased a shirt and slacks that were vaguely close to the required colors of our booth attire – and only two sizes too large, because that’s all they had in stock. On the plus side, people wondered if I had lost weight. Sweet.

Your crack team of Sherlock Holmes detectives finally traced the location of my luggage only two days later. It had apparently been loaded onto a plane bound for Rio or was it Buenos Aires? The good news is that the moment they finally found my precious cargo, they quickly re-routed it… to Atlanta. Did I mention my trade show was in D.C.? But hey, at least my clothes, meds, and I were now in the same time zone, so that’s progress.

I finally received my stuff just in time for my flight home to Seattle. I opted not to check my suitcase for that trip. I hope your ticket agent wasn’t offended by my insistence.

So, there you go. You can count on me to share my great appreciation on Twitter, Facebook and 11 other social media sites. Please pass along to your baggage handlers and everyone else involved in re-routing my luggage to South America, my heartfelt appreciation for everything they’ve done to restore my confidence in –  my decision never ever to fly “the friendly skies” of United Airlines again.

Sincerely,

Tim Jones

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

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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 2019