How to Offend People Without Really Trying

How to Offend People Without Really Trying

I’ve discovered I have an unusual talent. I have an amazing ability to offend other people without having a clue exactly what I did to upset them. As a result of this special gift, I have also become extremely adept at apologizing.

I’ve discovered I have an unusual talent. I have an amazing ability to offend other people without having a clue exactly what I did to upset them. As a result of this special gift, I have also become extremely adept at apologizing.

I grew up the fourth of five kids. My parents taught me to be kind to others, share my toys with my sister, hold the door for others, always say please and thank you, and apologize earnestly when I did something wrong.

In retrospect, I can only conclude that my parents must have failed miserably in raising me. I base this conclusion on the fact that I appear to have a unique talent for unwittingly offending other people – and not just my readers because of my latest column. Let me provide a few examples to explain how horrible an adult I turned out to be. All of the following are true stories.

A few years ago, I emailed all four siblings and several other relatives, asking if some of them might be interested in having a big Jones family Christmas gathering at our house. I sent the email in September. I wasn’t asking for a firm commitment. I just was looking for a general sense of who MIGHT be interested in my idea.

I later found out that one of my siblings was deeply bothered by the high-pressure campaign my email message had exerted by pushing everybody to make a go-no-go decision about Christmas so many months in advance. The fact that my email had not in fact asked anyone to make any such commitment apparently was beside the point. (Note to anyone who sends out emails: Suggest to your recipient that they actually READ the email completely rather than skimming the opening sentence and jumping to the wrong conclusion. They might comprehend the contents more fully, I have found.)

On another occasion, I was visiting another sibling for a week. We were planning to catch a minor league baseball game the following evening. But the morning of the game, I received a call from one of my closest friends – who I had not seen in years. They were only in town for one night – the same night as the game. So, without thinking, I replied, “Sure, I’d love to see you tonight.”

I then explained to my sibling my change of plans. Even though we could catch another game the following evening and I’d be here for four more days, the mistake I made was in choosing my friend over my sibling without consulting them first. My unilateral change of plans could only be interpreted one way: I clearly must care for my friend more than my family member, and I must not respect my sibling. As a result of my terribly insensitive spur-of-the-moment decision, they refused to talk to me for four months – despite roughly half a dozen emails and a similar number of voicemails in which I tried to apologize.

Not long ago, I wrote a serious, reflective blog article about the special people who had most influenced my life for the better. I wrote from the heart. It had almost no jokes (much like this article – sorry). But I learned later that one of my siblings about whom I sang their praises was slightly hurt because – and I am not making this up – they counted the words in my description about their influence on my life and noticed it was shorter than my commentary about some of the other people I had written about. They interpreted this the only logical way any reasonable person could: My love and appreciation for the important people in my life can accurately be calculated by my word count.

I once told a person about an incredibly kind, thoughtful project one of my siblings had just completed for our mom for her birthday. I bragged about my sibling’s kindness, generosity, and perseverance in going way over the top to make our mom happy. I was so grateful. But when I told my sibling how I had bragged to this other person about their amazing gesture, I was surprised to learn that I had committed an egregious offense. What was my crime, you might ask? I had stolen their thunder and thoughtlessly deprived them of the opportunity to share the news with that person themselves. (Did not see that one coming.)

Then there was the time several years ago, when I lent one of my siblings $500 on the condition they pay me back in three months. They agreed and thanked me for helping them out in a pinch. Five months went by with no sign that repayment was coming any time soon. So, I finally delicately inquired as to when I could reasonably expect my loan to be repaid. My outrageously pushy inquiry enraged them. They snapped back, “I’m family. You should NEVER expect a family member to pay you back. I can’t believe how greedy you are.” I guess I missed that financial life lesson from childhood. Oh, and then, apparently for emphasis, they leapt out of the car I was driving while it was in motion.

Starting to see a pattern here? Every example involved one of my siblings. Yes, I come from a particularly hardy stock of Anglo Saxon ancestors, who, it appears have DNA markers for male pattern baldness and for being extremely sensitive and easily offended.

I’m an expert in the art of offending other people. I do it every week when I publish my latest VFTB article. This is an artist’s rendering of the likely reaction of one of my siblings as they read this week’s article.

I’m an expert in the art of offending other people. I do it every week when I publish my latest VFTB article. This is an artist’s rendering of the likely reaction of one of my siblings as they read this week’s article.

But perhaps the most egregious example of my totally self-absorbed, narcissistic character took place in late November 1974, during my second year of college at the University of Virginia. My hometown is Albany, NY. But my father wanted a family Thanksgiving in Columbus, Ohio that year, since a couple of my siblings lived there, along with many other Jones clan relatives.

But I wanted to spend Thanksgiving in Albany, to visit my mom (my parents were divorced) and some of my high school cronies. My father went so far as to book my roundtrip airline reservations from Charlottesville, VA to Columbus, changing planes at Dulles Airport outside of DC. I disobeyed my stern father’s direct mandate and flew to Albany anyway. My egocentric impudence was met with understandable parental fury and threats of cutting me off financially.

Interesting thing about that weekend. It turns out that the December 1st TWA return flight my father had booked me on after Thanksgiving, from Columbus to DC crashed, killing everyone on the flight. (True.) Had I complied with my father’s orders, you would not be reading this article today. Nevertheless, my father was still annoyed at me for not sufficiently apologizing for being so rude as to ignore his charge and go to Albany instead. (Not exactly sure how I would have worded my apology. “Sorry I am still alive to say I’m sorry, Dad?”)

Like I said, I have a long history of being a selfish, insensitive person. Just ask one of my siblings. And for that, I apologize…. again…..

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

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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2021.

My Parents Never Told Me I was Chinese

My Parents Never Told Me I was Chinese

This is a photo of my family. Turns out that like our two daughters, who we adopted from China as infants, there is one more person in this picture from China. Read about my fascinating, life-changing heritage discovery.

This is a photo of my family. Turns out that like our two daughters, who we adopted from China as infants, there is one more person in this picture from China. Read about my fascinating, life-changing heritage discovery.

My parents named me Timothy Edward Jones, a boring Christian-sounding name. They were good people. They tried to raise me to become a decent, caring person. They sent me to very good high school and prepared me for college. My mom forced me to take piano lessons for four years, but I have long ago forgiven her for that.

But they lied to me. They never told me I was Chinese. I still can’t understand why they kept such a deep dark secret from me my entire life.

Don’t get me wrong. Some of my best friends are Chinese – including my two daughters, who we adopted from China as infants. I have nothing against Chinese people – other than their food. (I’m more of a meat and potatoes guy.)

23andMe estimated I was 50% German, 25% British Isles, 10% French, and 15% Ashkenazi Jew. But it turns out they lied too. Because I now know I’m definitely Chinese. The embarrassing thing is that as a Chinese person, I barely know any words of my own native tongue. I believe “xie xie” means “thank you,” and “Nǐ hǎo ma” means “how are you,” but that’s pretty much all the Chinese I know. Oh, wait. I also know “Namaste.” That’s Chinese, isn’t it? Ironically, many people tell me I’m almost fluent in English.

So how did I discover I’m Chinese, you might ask? Oddly enough, I have to give all the credit to Apple tech support, which broke the news to me. Not only that, but their website conclusively informed me that I am in fact a Chinese person currently living in China. You could have fooled me. I must live in the most American-themed community in the entire Middle Kingdom, as my homeland is sometimes called. Wait till I tell my next-door neighbors Brad and Tina that they live in China. They’re going to freak out. Unless they’re Chinese too. Hmm.

You might be thinking, “But, Tim, how do you know Apple is correct about your Chinese heritage – and current location?” Because Apple is never wrong – except when it comes to their GPS navigation system, Apple Maps. But that’s another topic.

I often receive emails from their iTunes store offering me special deals on music by the Bee Gees and Brad Paisley – two of my favorite artists, so they clearly know everything you need to know about me. In addition, my tech-savvy nephew buys everything Apple [iPhone, iPad, iWatch, iCar, iPet, etc.]. And he said that Apple has by far the best tech of any internet company. And my thirty-something nephew regularly reminds me he is never wrong.

Okay, perhaps I should back up a couple steps and explain how my racial / ethnic identity crisis started. The other evening, I wanted to watch the Apple TV show, Ted Lasso. All my friends told me it’s hilarious. So, I subscribed to Apple TV on my computer. Easy Peasy – almost. Then I attempted to sign in, using my Apple ID. That’s when I got the following message from Apple on my smart TV:

“Unsupported Region. The Apple TV app is not currently available in your country.”

Over the course of two hours and 37 minutes talking with Apple TV tech support, the agent figured out the problem: “According to our records, you live in China.” I began to protest, saying that I’ve lived in Washington state for the past 30 years. But then he walked me through how to get to my Apple ID’s settings to identify my location. Sure enough the system informed me that “This phone is registered to you as a Chinese Person living in China.” [That’s an exact quote.] 

I explained to the tech support person that, to the best of my recollection, I currently live in the United States of America – unless my parents had been lying to me all this time, not to mention my wife, and all my racquetball buddies – all of whom look suspiciously Caucasian. I went on to explain that I did not think I could be Chinese because I had blue eyes and light brown hair – two genetic traits rarely found among Han Chinese people.

My refutations failed to make an impression on the tech support person, who calmly reiterated, “Our system shows you as a Chinese person living in China.”

After an hour of trying to prove to Apple’s website that I was in fact an extremely Caucasian man with male pattern baldness (another genetic trait rarely found among the Chinese) I hit a brick wall – I guess you could say the Great Wall of China. It turned out there was absolutely nothing the tech support person could do to help change the settings in my Apple ID to show that I was living in the USA instead of China.

According to both Apple tech support and eBay, my phone says that I am a Chinese person living in China. I feel so embarrassed. All these years, and I still barely know the language or like the food. I hope my glorious Chinese ancestors will someday find a way to forgive me.

According to both Apple tech support and eBay, my phone says that I am a Chinese person living in China. I feel so embarrassed. All these years, and I still barely know the language or like the food. I hope my glorious Chinese ancestors will someday find a way to forgive me.

Adding to my dilemma, it turned out my non-iPhone phone, which I purchased on eBay, apparently was somehow registered as having been created by a Chinese manufacturer and sold to a Chinese person in China.

I thought briefly about contacting eBay tech support to plead my case but after almost three hours of exhaustive troubleshooting with Apple without success, I finally gave up and accepted my new Asian identity. On the bright side, it will give me and our two Chinese-American daughters something else to talk about other than asking to borrow money. (I promise to pay them back soon.)

So, there you have it. Apparently I’ve been an imposter my entire life. Sadly, it appears I will never get to see Ted Lasso or any of the other popular Apple TV shows – at least not until they eventually become available here in China. I guess I should start brushing up on my Chinese, to prepare for the time when a dubbed version of Apple TV finally comes here. Xie xie.

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.

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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2021

Did You Find a Pair of Glasses I Lost?

Did You Find a Pair of Glasses I Lost?

This is the 100% true story about the time I could not find my glasses. And no, they weren’t on my forehead like this image shows. Give me a break. How stupid do you think I am? (Don’t answer.)

This is the 100% true story about the time I could not find my glasses. And no, they weren’t on my forehead like this image shows. Give me a break. How stupid do you think I am? (Don’t answer.)

(Sadly, the following story is completely true.) As I age, I routinely am reminded that my body – and my brain – are slowing declining. I will never again grace the cover of People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive issue, and I’m pretty, were I to have my IQ re-evaluated, it would no longer be anywhere near 250.

Not long ago, I was looking at a small, furry rodent nibbling at something in a park – a type of critter we’ve all seen before. Small with brown stripes and an adorable button nose, kind of like a squirrel but browner and smaller. For the life of me, I could not think of the name. A total brain freeze. Then the next day, sitting with my wife on the couch, it hit me and reflexively, I blurted out CHIPMUNK! Naturally, my wife was startled, and more than a little confused, as that has never been one of my pet names for her.

Last month, I walked into our garage to retrieve something. But by the time I got there and turned on the light, I had no recollection of why I went there in the first place. And then there was the time last week, when I logged into Netflix on my computer and it asked for my password. Something I have done a thousand times. But in that instant I had another deer-in-the-headlights moment, completely blanking out as to my password.

What makes this even crazier is that my password for every website is the same: SmellyButt#1776. And just moments ago, I have this vivid memory of having shared my universal password with anyone reading this article. So, enjoy my Netflix account, everybody, I guess.

What was I thinking? Clearly, I wasn’t. And that brings me to the point of this article. It’s about what happened the other day. Consider the following Exhibit A in the case that I must be losing my mind.

Ever since I turned 45, I have worn glasses. All the time – except when I’m sleeping, and even then, sometimes I go to bed and forget to take them off. I entered the local IGA grocery store, wearing my glasses and, of course, wearing a mask due to Covid. (At least I remembered to wear a mask this time.)

As often happens when I wear a mask, my glasses began to fog up. So I pushed my glasses onto my forehead so I could see, and I continued with my shopping. After about 20 minutes of shopping, I placed my hand to my forehead. That’s when I noticed, oh crap! My glasses were no longer on my forehead. So, I retraced my steps from the previous 20 minutes, reversing the path I had taken, as best as my faulty memory could recall.

I should add that my glasses’ frames are clear, so they would easily disappear into the floor, making them a particularly vulnerable target for any shopping cart or shoe. After 30 minutes of searching high and low (but mostly low, since I assumed they were on the floor and not on the top shelf of the candy aisle), I gave up. They were nowhere to be found.

I went up to one of the cashiers and asked if anyone had turned in a pair of glasses. “I do have a pair of glasses, sir. Could these be yours?” he asked. But, even without my glasses, I could immediately tell they were not mine, as mine had clear frames and the ones he showed me were pink, with what looked to be a Hello Kitty design. “Thanks anyway, but no, those aren’t mine. I guess I will keep looking.”

Then another friendly young cashier chimed in. “Could you describe them? Do they look anything like the pair you’re currently wearing?”

I felt my face. There they were. I had been wearing them the entire time. At some point, I must have absentmindedly pulled my glasses down to inspect a package and forgot to push them back onto my forehead. I turned red with embarrassment and immediately proceeded to issue a loud public announcement for all around me to hear, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to bring your attention to the biggest idiot in the entire store – That would be ME!” (I actually said it. What’s more, no one refuted it.)

What happened to me came eerily close to a children’s story I told to my then-toddler daughter Rachel, who loved wearing her furry white winter hat everywhere. (No, this is not my daughter. Rachel was way cuter.)

What happened to me came eerily close to a children’s story I told to my then-toddler daughter Rachel, who loved wearing her furry white winter hat everywhere. (No, this is not my daughter. Rachel was way cuter.)

What makes this story even more ironic is that when my two daughters were young, I often made up bedtime stories for them. My favorite such story was one I told my daughter Rachel when she was just three years old called Rachel and Her Missing White Hat. The story I wove was about Rachel’s favorite white winter hat that she loved so much she wore it everywhere.

But one day she could not find it and, as I yarned in my meandering story, she looked everywhere:  throughout the house, all over her school, at the farm, and yes, even the grocery store. She could not find her favorite hat anywhere, I would tell her – UNTIL she finally looked in the mirror, and, voila! It had been on her head the entire time.

So, there I was, in the grocery store, literally re-enacting the very children’s story I had told to my toddler at bedtime countless times.

They say that as you get older, you start to revert to your childhood. I didn’t realize they meant it quite so literally.

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.

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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2021.

Judge Tim’s Court is Now in Session

Judge Tim’s Court is Now in Session

I’m excited to announce my latest career move: Replacing Judge Judy, who recently stepped down from The People’s Court. Pray to God you don’t have to appear before me. I’m a ruthless judge. I have a lot of scores to settle and a very long memory.

I’m excited to announce my latest career move: Replacing Judge Judy, who recently stepped down from The People’s Court. Pray to God you don’t have to appear before me. I’m a ruthless judge. I have a lot of scores to settle and a very long memory.

Recently, I decided to retire from my four-decades-long career in sales management. As you know, I’m not one to boast about my many lofty career achievements. but I humbly admit that I was extremely gifted at building and leading successful, high-performing sales organizations (if you ignore the input of my former bosses or any of my sales reps or HR Directors who had to deal with the litany of complaints they received from my sales reps and bosses).

I was preparing to retire to a simpler life of afternoon naps and watching reruns of Modern Family, when I read some shocking news. I learned that after 25 years and 12,500 episodes, Judge Judith Sheindlin, better known as Judge Judy, recently decided to call it quits. She would soon bang her last gavel on the long-running hit daytime show, The People’s Court.

I began to wonder anxiously: Who would fill the tremendous void left by Judge Judy’s departure? Would America start to descend into lawlessness, violence, and debauchery? More importantly,  What would I do to fill my time between 4 and 5pm on weekdays?

Then it hit me. Of course! Call off the search for the next Judge Judy. Because there was one person uniquely qualified to take her place. And that person was staring back at me in the mirror. I would be the natural jurist to fill Judge Judy’s shoes (unless she wore high heels, in which case, having to wear pumps would be a deal breaker).

What are my credentials, you ask? Too many to count. I went to Ohio State University’s law school, where I finished in the top 99% of my class. I also took three years of Latin in high school, and I remembered that judges use tons of obscure Latin phrases in their decisions, like Quid Pro Quo and Res Judicata. I have no idea what either of these mean, but that’s never stopped me from using them in the past.

During law school, I had a part-time job as a conciliation mediator working for the Small Claims Court of the Franklin County, Ohio Municipal Court System and my job was to attempt to persuade complainants to settle their claims out of court. I did a phenomenal job. In fact, I had the highest case settlement record in the court’s history. And there is no way my supervisor would dispute my claim because that was 40 years ago, and I’m pretty sure he died a while back.

Another reason I’m the logical successor to JJ is because I was in my high school’s theatrical production of Inherit the Wind, a play about the famous Scopes Monkey Trial. I was cast in the role of Matthew Harrison Brady, the prosecutor in the trial.

Again, pardon me if I sound immodest, but my performance was Oscar-worthy. My drama teacher Art Green said about my performance, and I quote, “Tim’s performance was at times erratic, and I don’t think he quite grasped the motivation of his character. He felt the need to hog the spotlight every chance he got. Tim would be a natural, um…lighting crew assistant.” 

Stop, Mr. Green. Stop! You’re giving me a swelled head! But perhaps most importantly, The People’s Court wouldn’t even have to buy me a judge’s robe, because I already have one (as proven by the photo above), which I bought for a Halloween party in 1994. It still fits me – if I don’t have a big meal before trial.

So, now that we’ve agreed I’m the obvious choice, you can start calling me Judge Tim – once my official judicial confirmation is approved by the U.S. Senate. I’ve got some, let’s just say, “embarrassing dirt” on Senate Majority Leader Schumer, so my confirmation is pretty much assured.

Here is a small sampling of the cases I plan to hear, as soon as I can locate my gavel (which I stole from the set of Inherit the Wind in high school, but please don’t tell the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee):

The case against Mary Spivey, who, in my freshman year at UVa, agreed to go out on a date with me when we were matched by a computer date matching service, only to have our first (and last) date end after 30 minutes, when an irate guy interrupted our date to inform me that, unbeknownst to me, he and Mary were engaged (true). Judge Tim doesn’t get mad. He gets even. Mary, I’ve ordered UVa’s registrar to update your final college transcript and change your impressive 3.9 GPA to a shameful 1.9. And just like that, your grandkids will lose all respect for you.

Why am I so sure I’ll be selected as the next judge on The People’s Court? Because I played the prosecutor in my high school’s production of Inherit the Wind. That’s me on the right as Matthew Harrison Brady. At left, my classmate, Arman Williams, who bore a vague resemblance to Spencer Tracy. Amazing makeup jobs, if you ask me.

Why am I so sure I’ll be selected as the next judge on The People’s Court? Because I played the prosecutor in my high school’s production of Inherit the Wind. That’s me on the right as Matthew Harrison Brady. At left, my classmate, Arman Williams, who bore a vague resemblance to Spencer Tracy. Amazing makeup jobs, if you ask me.

The case against my three college dormmates who pranked me one time by putting up deeply embarrassing posters of me all over campus. Sure, I laughed and pretended it was hilarious. Maybe you will all be in stitches when you see the punishment I’ll be doling out to you. Hope you like Mexican prisons.

The case against that Nazi storm trooper cop who issued me a ticket for going three miles an hour UNDER the speed limit. Kneel before me when you enter my courtroom, you pathetic little man, and hand me your badge.

The case against my neighbor for borrowing my weed whacker and never returning it. No wait, now I remember. Actually, I borrowed it from HIM, and then I lost it. Okay, I’ll go easy on him, I guess.

And finally, the case against Donald Trump for having taken years off my life, causing me to scream at my TV on a daily basis for the past six years, and raising my blood pressure to dangerous levels. Donald, Judge Tim would be happy to build that wall you keep ranting about, you petulant man child. But that won’t be necessary. I’ve already made all the arrangements. Your beautiful, insurmountable wall is waiting for you – at Sing Sing Correctional Facility.

It appears I’m going to have a full docket, I must say. I assure you, I will be a fair judge, committed to justice. And I will only accept cash bribes if I have a particularly large credit card bill coming due that month.

Wait a minute. I just read that Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer might step down in the upcoming year. Maybe I should turn down The People’s Court gig and put my name in for Breyer’s job. After all, these guys only work 26 weeks a year and they only hear cases on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. Talk about a cushy gig. Yeah, given my marginal work ethic these days, that job sounds more up my alley.

Court adjourned!

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.

Subscribe to my new View from the Bleachers YouTube Channel and request notifications to see my latest videos.© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2022

Surviving Christmas Dinner with Relatives

Surviving Christmas Dinner with Relatives

It’s Christmas dinner, a time of giving thanks and sharing good food and stories with your family, and occasionally with some quirky relatives who make things, well, let’s just say, interesting.

It’s Christmas dinner, a time of giving thanks and sharing good food and stories with your family, and occasionally with some quirky relatives who make things, well, let’s just say, interesting.

The weather is getting colder. The hours of daylight are rapidly waning. And Costco has inflatable eight-foot Snow Globes on sale (although in full disclosure, these went on sale in early September). The holiday season is officially upon us.

An important tradition is the family Christmas dinner with loved ones, and, sometimes with not-so-loved ones, by which I mean your cranky, Fox News-watching, conspiracy-theory-loving Uncle Howard, who announces three days before Christmas that he’ll be joining you for the feast, even though you didn’t actually invite him.

Unfortunately, all too often the sumptuous Christmas repast can be accompanied by heightened tensions as we struggle to avoid getting sucked into a heated argument with relatives who are oblivious of their behavior. If you’re anxious about the impending arrival of Uncle Howard, who will most likely be carrying a half-consumed case of Budweiser, don’t despair. It’s going to be okay. You’ll get through this in one piece, I promise.

When Uncle Howard makes his grand entrance two hours late with Carlotta, his latest practically-prepubescent fling, on his arm, be sure to greet them with a polite hug. Try to ignore their matching red MAGA hats – and the large tabby cat draped around Carlotta’s neck. You might want to lock Otto, your schnauzer, in the basement, lest his very strong prey instinct kick in and he chase the kitty around everyone’s feet.

Remember, above all else, DO NOT BRING UP POLITICS! When Howard snipes, “So, who did you vote for, for president in 2020,?” just smile, say, “There was an election in 2020? Who knew?” and quickly change the subject.

When all are seated around the festive table, take this opportunity to fan the flames of familial bonding by sharing how your wife has helped you to become a better husband. Well done. You could not possibly have guessed that Howard would use words of harmonious wedded bliss to torch his ex: “Speaking of wives, my ex totally cleaned me out in the divorce. And now she wants my house. Over my dead body…” Okay, maybe you should have foreseen that one. Time to change the subject – again.

I recommend football. What balding senior citizen with a hot young girlfriend doesn’t like to brag about his knowledge of sports. So, you open with, “Hey, looks like another rebuilding year for the Seahawks, eh?” Who knew Howard’s comeback would be, “Nah, pro football has been ruined for me – ever since all those Negroes showed their hatred for America by refusing to stand for our National Anthem.” I know what you’re thinking – did he just say “Negroes?” Bite your tongue.

Okay, so talking sports was a bad idea. You need to find an innocuous topic that no one can argue about. Ah…the weather. Conversation doesn’t get blander than that. You causally mention, “I hear we may get six inches of snow today. Looks like we might have a white Christmas after all.” But to your dismay, Uncle H storms back, “Gonna snow? See, I told you snowflakes that global warming is a hoax. All this hysteria about climate change is just liberal propaganda. I know because Sean Hannity says so.”

Okay, I’ll admit, I didn’t see that one coming either. Still, it’ll be fine. Deep breaths. Deep, deep breaths. Just then, the doorbell rings. Who could that be? To your great surprise, it’s your cousin Claire with her new wife, Monica. “Hey, Couz! We happened to be in the neighborhood and thought we’d stop by. Are we too late for chow?” What could possibly go wrong now?

As the gracious host you are, you welcome your unexpected guests to join in the gaiety. Out of left field – or rather, far right field – Howard walks up to Monica, smiles and remarks, “Howdy, girls. You know, 90% of lesbians are witches. You’re both gonna burn in Hell. But in the meantime, Merry Christmas. Or do you not celebrate the birth of our savior?” Looking back at you, he smirks, adding, “Or am I required to say, ‘Happy Holidays’ so I don’t offend all your liberal friends’ feelings in their communist War on Christmas?”

One thing that can create some anxiety at Christmas is the arrival of the unexpected relative who’s far more delighted to see you than you are to see them. No worries. What could possibly go wrong?

One thing that can create some anxiety at Christmas is the arrival of the unexpected relative who’s far more delighted to see you than you are to see them. No worries. What could possibly go wrong?

Somehow you are able to corral everybody back to the dinner table, making last-minute strategic seating alterations. Calm seems to have returned.

You gather everyone in your gaze and suggest each person share what they’re grateful for at this special time of year. You set an excellent example by observing, “I am thankful for my family, our good health, and our lovely home. We are so blessed.” Nice try. Then Uncle Howard chimes in, “I’m thankful Carlotta is way hotter than my nasty ex-wife. And I’m thankful to God for choosing Donald Trump to be our greatest president ever. And once his Supreme Court proves the election was stolen, he’ll lock up Biden, Obama, and Hillary.”

Things quickly unravel. Everybody starts shouting. Claire angrily hurls a dinner roll that hits Howard smack in the eye. Monica accidentally steps on Carlotta’s cat, who lets out a blood-curdling MEEOOOOWW!!!!. This sets off a barking frenzy by Otto, which startles Grandma, who jumps up from her wheelchair, accidentally knocking over the candelabra, which sets the tablecloth on fire. That activates the sprinkler system, completely ruining your wife’s new dress and expensive coiffure.

Baby Sally starts wailing, which further terrifies the cat, which suddenly hurls itself through the kitchen window, followed by Otto, who you did not know could leap that high. All of which amuses your kids to no end, as they laugh hysterically.

Claire screams something about Howard being a disgusting racist pig, to which Howard yells back, “At least I won’t burn in hell for being a commie lesbian!” Christmas with the relatives has descended into total pandemonium. When the smoke alarm starts trilling, you merely shake your head as you realize your apple pie in the oven is now toast.

Let’s face it. Despite your best efforts, your family Christmas dinner has  turned into a Chernobyl-level meltdown. And that’s not even counting the 150 stitches the cat and dog needed for their acrobatics, smashing through the kitchen window. To avoid another disaster next holiday, I suggest you seriously consider entering the Witness Protection Program, so none of your relatives can locate your address. Sure, that may sound drastic. But it’s either that or listening to Uncle Howard’s tirade at the next family gathering about how the COVID pandemic was a Chinese hoax, and the vaccine is a nefarious plot by Anthony Fauci to kill conservatives with micro-chips.

Good luck. I hear Montana is a nice place to start a new life.

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 2021

[Photos are stills from the 1989 film National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.]