My Worst First Date – A Play-by-Play Highlight Reel

My Worst First Date – A Play-by-Play Highlight Reel

[Author’s note: The following story of my youth is completely true. It is the saga of my first – and worst – date ever. No exaggerations are needed to convey my humiliation. Perhaps this play-by-play highlight reel will help you appreciate the magnitude of my fiasco. TEJ]

This is a play-by-play look at my very first – and worst – date ever. I was only 16 and had no clue of first date protocol. I actually tried this suave move. Epic fail!

This is a play-by-play look at my very first – and worst – date ever. I was only 16 and had no clue of first date protocol. I actually tried this suave move. Epic fail!

Brad Braykizharte: Welcome to another episode of WORST FIRST DATES. I’m your host, Brad Braykizharte, along with my co-host, Craig Krashenberne.

This week on WFD, we take a trip in the Way Back Machine to May 1971, to witness the cringe-worthy first-date-astrophy of Tim Jones. Our hero’s maiden voyage into dating was akin to the sinking of the Titanic. Many experts consider Tim’s shipwreck one of the most traumatic close encounters of the worst kind in the annals of teenage dating.

Craig Krashenberne: That’s right, Brad. This one truly belongs in the WFD Hall of Fame.

Brad: I’d say Hall of LAME, eh, Craig?

Craig: Touché, pal. Tonight’s episode is titled The Strike Out King. Where should we begin, Brad?

Brad: Let’s start by painting the picture of how deeply infatuated our protagonist, young Tim (age 16), was with the attractive and alluring Suzie. He was besotted, over the moon, gaga, smitten…. You get the picture?

Craig: Indeed, I do.

Brad: In fact, unsuspecting Suzie lived right across the street, so Tim would gaze upon her house through his bedroom window, dreaming of holding her hand.

Craig: Sounds like a creeper, if you ask me.

Brad: Our hero was painfully shy and had no clue how to talk to girls, let alone how to ask one out. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he attended a private all-boys’ military academy where Dating 101 was not part of the curriculum.

Craig: To top it off, the boy had absolutely no fashion sense! For his first date with Suzie, the bonehead wore lavender corduroy bell-bottoms held up with a shiny white belt, and a lime green polyester shirt. Strike One! Are we sure he wasn’t gay?

Brad: Jury’s still out on that one. But enough about his fashion blunder. Let’s talk about the chauffer service he enlists to drive them to the movies.

Craig: Pretty classy move – except for one minor detail: the driver is his older brother. Because Tim doesn’t have his driver’s license yet.

Brad: True. Strike Two! And he hasn’t even left the driveway! Let’s deduct 30 coolness points right there.

Craig: Yeah, not a good start for his first romantic outing. But I’m sure he makes up for his initial faux pas by choosing a hilarious comedy, right?

Brad: That’s a big Negatory, Craig-O-Matic. He takes her to see WILLARD! 

Craig: Wait, Willard?? The creepy horror film about a young psycho dude who gets bullied, then trains hundreds of rats to kill people in revenge? Talk about bringing the plane down for a hard crash landing! The kid is going down in flames! Were there any survivors?

Me, circa 1971. What lass could resist the charms of this lad? Answer: All of them. I possessed the animal magnetism of a monkfish. Which is fitting, since I attended an all-boys’ school.

Me, circa 1971. What lass could resist the charms of this lad? Answer: All of them. I possessed the animal magnetism of a monkfish. Which is fitting, since I attended an all-boys’ school.

Brad: Barely. But let’s take a gander at Tim’s next Casanova move, shall we?

Craig: No, no, no. I can’t bear to look.

Brad: He does the “stretch maneuver” – reaching his hand out, extending it around Suzie’s back and landing his arm on her shoulder.

Craig: Oh, no, he didn’t! I thought they outlawed that first date move back in 1964.

Brad: Tim wasn’t much of a student of history. Apparently, he saw an episode of Bonanza where Little Joe put his arm around a woman he’d rescued from a burning house, and she swooned in his embrace.

Craig: Bonanza, eh? A great how-to manual for wooing – if the year was 1867. So, how does our little buddy’s daring maneuver work out?

Brad: You don’t want to know.

Craig: Well, now you gotta tell me.

Brad: Let’s just say, his grave is pretty well dug by then. Little Miss Suzie stiffens up like a cement pillar, her eyes glued to the screen. Apparently staring at ravenous rats devouring human flesh was less upsetting than having to make eye contact with Tim. After 20 minutes, Tim’s arm starts cramping up badly, but he feels stuck and leaves it there the rest of the show. He was committed.

Brad: You mean he should have been committed, for such an ill-conceived lame move. But you know, as awkward as that was, that isn’t the worst part – not by a long shot. Remember?

Craig: How can I forget? As the movie ends, Tim asks Suzie if she’d like to go out for ice cream, to which she tersely replies –

Brad: “I’d love to”? 

Craig: Not exactly. She said –

Brad: Oh, I remember: “Can you take me home pleeeeze – now?” Boom! DOWN GOES FRAZIER! The ref should have stopped it right then and there. And Tim doesn’t have a car, remember? So, he calls his brother on his cell phone, right?

Craig: No, dude. It’s 1971. His choice is calling up his brother on a pay phone – either that or hitchhiking. Only one small problem – Tim has no change and the concession stand is now closed. So, he asks Suzie for a quarter, but she didn’t bring a purse.

Brad: So, you’re saying they hitchhiked home?

Craig: Not quite. He literally goes panhandling, begging complete strangers for money to place the call.

Brad: Strike Four! Are you allowed four strikes on a first date?

Craig: Buddy, it ain’t over. Tim ultimately hits up eight people before one of them gives him 25 cents. By this time, the theater is closed. They’re forced to stand and wait outside – just the two of them, until Tim’s brother arrives. By now, Suzie is shivering, from the cold night air – or from the horrors of Willard – or perhaps from the traumatic memory of Tim’s arm around her shoulder. Of course, Tim didn’t wear a jacket, so no chivalry points there. 45 minutes later, the getaway car finally shows up.

Above: How I imagined my very first date might end. Below: A rough approximation of how it actually went. Her favorite part of our evening? When it was finally over.

Above: How I imagined my very first date might end. Below: A rough approximation of how it actually went. Her favorite part of our evening? When it was finally over.

Brad: Speaking of cars, this has turned into a five-car pile-up. But next comes my favorite part. Tim gallantly opens the car door to let his date into the back seat. Remember?

Craig: Oh yeah. That’s when Suzie speaks for only the second time that evening. As Tim endeavors also to sit in the back seat, she whispers, “Would you mind sitting in the front?” 

Brad: No way! She didn’t!

Craig: As God is my witness.

Brad: Strike… um… how many strikes is he up to? The kid is dying out there. Quick, get a medic. I’m not sure we can resuscitate the boy.

Craig: Suzie never says a word the entire way home.

Brad: Awkward.

Craig: But the final nail in the coffin is when they pull into her driveway. Tim’s father had taught him, “A gentleman always walks the young lady to her door.” Kind of hard to do when your date is literally sprinting to her front door and shouts, “Thank you, bye.” without even a glance back at the bewildered Tim.

Brad: Wow, that’s brutal. Those passengers on the Hindenburg suffered a less harrowing outing! At least for them, their agony was over quickly.

Craig: And here’s the amazing twist. Tim and Suzie went out for two years, and she totally fell for him.

Brad: Really? Did not see that coming.

Craig: No, you idiot. They never went out again.

Brad: Yeah, that makes more sense.

Craig: Experts say it’s a wonder this debacle didn’t cause him to re-evaluate his sexual orientation.

Brad: That’s all the time we have for WORST FIRST DATES. Stay tuned next week, when we’ll dissect the worst first date of Bill Gates, king of the nerds.

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 2021

The Secret to Writing a Successful Humor Column….

The Secret to Writing a Successful Humor Column….

… is something I know nothing about. Nevertheless, I can’t count the number of times people come up to me on the street, at the unemployment office or in the women’s locker room at my gym and ask me about my column. Why just last week, there must have been almost two people who approached me. Now that I think about it, he was holding a cardboard sign and seemed more interested in a cash donation than my column.

My point is that people ask me all the time about my column and how I accomplished all my success. In full disclosure the two most frequently asked questions are “How did you get my email address?” and “Will you please take me off your distribution list?” But a close third is “Tim, how do you write your weekly humor column?” In retrospect, I think the majority of them were not asking “how” I write my humor column so much as “why.”

Why do I write this column? As most of you know, I’ve been cranking out this crap, I mean column, since the mid-1980’s – about 12 years before Al Gore invented the Internet. Back then I just made photocopies of my column and taped them onto people’s computer monitors. It was hard work, particularly when the person got annoyed with me because, say, they were in the middle of inputting their quarterly report numbers into a spread sheet.

Of course, the main reason I do it is for the love of writing and only secondarily for the money. As some of you may have forgotten, when you first clicked on the link in your email pointing you to my latest column, my blogging software surreptitiously inserts a tiny piece of code – hardly worth mentioning – onto your computer which links my article directly to your online checking account. Each time a reader clicks on the link to read my weekly post, fifty cents is discreetly deducted from their bank account. A small price to pay for the gift of laughter, if you ask me. And I never deduct this fee more than once per week, even if you read my column multiple times, as that would be unethical.

It’s not easy sticking to the discipline of writing a weekly humor column. Every week I have to start from scratch and think up an entirely new way to embarrass my wife. Where do I get my ideas? Well, mainly from old newspaper columns written in the early 1960s which I calculate most of my readers have never read or long ago forgotten. I simply update their article by dropping in current references to things like Kanye West, COVID 19, and Tik Tok, so people won’t notice that it was actually written by Art Buchwald back in 1971. But every once in a while I have an original thought. Fortunately, it usually it passes in a few minutes, and I stick with the stuff that works – updating something Erma Bombeck penned in 1975.

Cynics have advised me that, since most people just skim and don’t actually read columns anymore, I should just write an opening paragraph and then insert Latin boilerplate for the rest of the piece. “Nobody will know the difference,” they tell me. Personally, I find that notion insulting and offensive. In fact, if you ask me, lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, consequat more than I ever could have imagined.

Sometimes, I take short cuts. I’m not proud of it. Like the time, in 1992 when I titled my post for the week “My Thoughts on the Civil War” and then copied and pasted the entire Gettysburg Address as my commentary. Many people graciously posted that it was my best humor writing they’d read in years.

Still, the more time I spend writing, the more I realize there actually is a system to my creative madness. It mainly involves staring blankly at my computer screen … for long stretches of time. Writer’s block is a common challenge for almost any gifted writer – not to mention writers like me. I sometimes find myself spending hours of my employer’s time sitting idly at my desk waiting for inspiration to strike.  Usually it never arrives, and the result is the weekly humor column you have become familiar with. But every once in awhile, an idea comes to me that I find brilliant and hysterical – but then I decide  “nah!” since I really don’t want to be sued by the Stephen Colbert for stealing his writers’ great material.

Much of my time involves taking an original idea I came up with, pounding out a rough first draft, massaging it repeatedly, editing exhaustively, re-writing it a third or even fourth time, before arriving at the most important step in my creative process: realizing the idea is totally lame and starting over. I often read my rough drafts to my kids as punishment when they misbehave.

Below is a detailed breakdown of the critical tasks I take on whenever I begin work on a new article:

Writing a humor column is also a great way to get my laundry done, mow my lawn, work out, pay bills, or organize my sock drawer as a way of effectively avoiding the bleak reality that nothing even vaguely funny can be located within a 5-mile radius of my cranium. If you’ve read one of my articles that you felt was particularly weak, chances are the storage shelves in my garage were very well organized that week.

Creative humor writing demands a sustained mental focus and inspiration – the kind I get by watching You Tube videos of drunk people slamming into the diving board, checking out my Face Book feed, and playing with my Giant Purple Magic Happy Fun Ball (see photo).

You might ask, “Has it all been worth it?” When I first started this column back in the late 1960’s, I had very few readers – particularly since there was no such thing back then as desk top computers – or humor. But over the years, my readership steadily grew (and by “grew” I mainly mean “grew taller,” because they were growing up – something I have yet to accomplish). Below is a chart comparing the readership growth over the years compared to the readership growth I had forecast for this column:

Pretty impressive, eh? Especially the grey section.

Writing a weekly humor column can be a gut-wrenching, soul-searching experience – riddled with agonizing mental blocks and tortuous dead-ends where sometimes my only escape is a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream and a vintage Wallace and Gromit video. But it’s the feedback from thousands of imaginary readers like you that keeps me writing week after week.

How long will I continue doing this? Hard to say. I guess it depends on how long before people start noticing those weekly fifty cent deductions I’ve been funneling from their checking accounts. To me, it’s been worth it. Hopefully, those of you who are bad at balancing your checkbook feel the same way.

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 2021.

Welcome to Orca Falls

Welcome to Orca Falls

Welcome to Orca Falls (formerly Stanwood), the happiest town in America. Come for our incredible natural beauty. And if you’re lucky, you just might catch a rare sighting of one of our orcas swimming up our waterfalls, as they do during mating season.

Welcome to Orca Falls (formerly Stanwood), the happiest town in America. Come for our incredible natural beauty. And if you’re lucky, you just might catch a rare sighting of one of our orcas swimming up our waterfalls, as they do during mating season.

I live on Camano Island in Washington state. There are no towns on the island and very few stores. To find a Starbucks, beauty salon, or tattoo parlor, you need to leave the island and head into Stanwood, the closest town. Like so many other small towns, Stanwood has been hit hard by the economic downturn caused by the COVID pandemic.

At the risk of offending the fine people of Stanwood, let’s face it. The town is not exactly a tourist mecca. It’s a hardscrabble, working-class community, whose stores are for the most part utilitarian and uninspiring. “Inviting” is not a word that comes to mind when you think of this place – unless you count Jimmy’s Pizza, which is always inviting – and full. When you think of a struggling small town like Stanwood, what comes to mind? Answer: Boring strip malls, a paucity of nice restaurants, and an unsettling number of “out of business” signs on boarded-up storefronts.

As my several million weekly readers will attest, I’m a humble man who is loath to boast about my impressive achievements. Heck, I never bring up my Nobel Prize unless you forget to ask. But it’s no secret I’m a nationally respected marketing / PR maven (because it says these words right on my business card). So, when Stanwood’s town council recently approached me for advice on how to turn around their flagging economy, I accepted my civic duty to save their town from disaster.

Now for some context. In the first half of the 20th century, there was a town called Leavenworth, nestled in the heart of Washington state’s Cascade Mountains. It was a thriving community with an economy based on logging. But by the 1950’s, the main railway had stopped serving Leavenworth, the logging industry collapsed, and the town came perilously close to bankruptcy. To avoid imminent financial ruin, the town reinvented itself into a Bavarian village, and all retail storefronts adopted a Bavarian theme.

Today it’s a bustling, highly sought-after tourist destination, annually drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors who apparently can’t tell the difference between an authentic Bavarian village and an IHOP restaurant dolled up with a lame Bavarian knock-off façade.

My point is this: What’s good for Leavenworth is great for Stanwood. When I think of the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, two things come to mind: breaching orca (“killer”) whales and craggy snow-capped mountains teeming with waterfalls. Admittedly, you might not think of these two things together, but just go with me, okay?

Ladies and gentlemen, WELCOME TO ORCA FALLS (formerly known as Stanwood). Doesn’t that sound charming? Of course it does. Forget about the Stanwood you thought you knew. It’s time to bring your family – and your credit card – to this heavenly, undiscovered Cascadian paradise we’ve rebranded to avoid foreclosure.

First-time visitors will receive $500 in ORCA BUCKS, which they can redeem at any participating store – sure to be a big hit! [Disclaimer: One Orca Buck = 1/100th of a penny.]

First-time visitors will receive $500 in ORCA BUCKS, which they can redeem at any participating store – sure to be a big hit! [Disclaimer: One Orca Buck = 1/100th of a penny.]

Are there really orca whales in Orca Falls? Technically no, but we’re working on it – just as soon as we can find a way to import 50 trillion tons of salt water – and a few dozen pods of orcas. And what about the towering waterfalls, you ask? Almost. We’re installing them as fast as we can. You’ll just have to visit to see for yourself.

As soon as the town council signs off on my modest $2.5 billion business development plan, before long, people will be flocking here like snow geese. Here are just a few of my brilliant plans for Orca Falls, which I am confident will win approval:

ORCA WORLD:  The largest – and only – amusement park for hundreds of miles, featuring the exhilarating Thunder Falls roller coaster ride and It’s a Small World. (I read that Disneyland is looking for a buyer for that ride). And we haven’t forgotten the kids. Make sure your youngsters get here early to beat the crowds waiting to ride on the backs of playful baby orcas – just be sure they jump off before the whale submerges. We’d hate to see them drown in such a magical setting.

For added fun, park visitors will enjoy imagining the sensation of being a salmon as they attempt to steer a rowboat upstream in the Ragin’ River Rapids ride. They will compete with other guests as they try to avoid being eaten by one of the park’s five adorably rambunctious grizzly bears. Don’t worry, our grizzlies are well-fed and wouldn’t hurt a soul – so long as you don’t make direct eye contact – or smell like salmon.

KILLER WHALE WAY: The town’s main street will be renamed and re-imagined with a fanciful whale theme. Store owners choose which whale image to carve into their storefront – orca, grey, humpback – or for a larger store, I’d go with a blue whale motif (it’s the largest animal on earth). Other storefront façade options include “Shipwrecked”, “Mutiny on the Bounty” and “Captain Crunch.”

Audiophiles will thrill to the soothing recorded sounds of whale clicks, whistles, and mating moans blasted at 150 decibels, sure to make you feel like you’re in the splash zone at Sea World (before they shut down the whale attraction on animal cruelty charges).

Visitors will thrill to the rides and shows at Orca World, where you will see our whales do things you never thought imaginable. [Park opening delayed indefinitely. Check back in summer 2031.]

Visitors will thrill to the rides and shows at Orca World, where you will see our whales do things you never thought imaginable. [Park opening delayed indefinitely. Check back in summer 2031.]

BUBBLES’ BATH: There’ll be no shortage of fun at Orca Falls’ giant public indoor – outdoor wave pool “where kids will have a WHALE of a time!” (I just made that up – that’s called marketing.) Visitors will delight to the hourly “Free Willy” playtime, as killer whales are let loose to mingle joyfully among the unsuspecting swimmers.

I’m confident my scheme will turn the town formerly known as Stanwood into a world class destination – right up there with Monte Carlo or Scranton, PA (another one of my success stories). But in the unlikely event the town council’s members aren’t quite the visionaries that I am, I have a fallback rebranding plan:

Welcome to Eagle Canyon. Come for the Eagles. Stay for our world-famous Eagle Pot Pie.

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 2021

Never Accept a Ride From a Stranger

Never Accept a Ride From a Stranger

When you were young, remember how your parents told you never to get in a car with a strange man? Well, this is the harrowing true story of the time a young, innocent couple accepted a ride from a strange man. And by strange man, I mean ME. A cautionary tale.

When you were young, remember how your parents told you never to get in a car with a strange man? Well, this is the harrowing true story of the time a young, innocent couple accepted a ride from a strange man. And by strange man, I mean ME. A cautionary tale.

They seemed like such a lovely young couple, deeply in love. They had their whole life ahead of them. They were on their honeymoon, without a care in the world. And then, they made a fateful decision that just might change their destiny forever. They did something incredibly reckless and impulsive, as young people are wont to do. They accepted a ride from a complete stranger. I saw the whole thing unfold because, well, um, that stranger was me.

Austin and Ali from Kansas City, KS, were vacationing in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). I now realize that they probably would not like if it I mentioned them by name, so henceforth, I will refer to Austin and Ali as Jeff and Beth from Lawrence, KS, to protect their anonymity. They were on a day trip to an idyllic tropical island called Jost Van Dyke and had taken a taxi ride to a remote beach, where they were frolicking in the ocean waves.

Unfortunately for this innocent couple, there was someone else lurking nearby: ME – and my wife, Michele. It turned out that we had similar plans for today, as we too were on vacation, and we had recently been on our own honeymoon 34 years prior. Like them, we’d heard that the most incredible beach in the entire BVI was on the opposite side of this extremely rugged, mountainous island. Austin and Ali, I mean Jeff and Beth, had just one small problem. They had no car. They would have to call a taxi driver and wait another 30 to 40 minutes to be picked up.

That’s when they made what could only be described as the worst lapse in judgment of their very young marriage, They accepted my offer to drive them to the other beach, The four of us piled into our cramped Suzuki hatchback rental car, whose main power source, I can only surmise, based on this experience, must have been four AA batteries.

This is Ali and Austin, I mean Beth and Jeff, a lovely couple on their honeymoon. Don’t they look sweet? Well, within minutes of this photo, they’d be praying to God to let them survive the ordeal I would soon inflict on them.

This is Ali and Austin, I mean, Beth and Jeff, a lovely couple on their honeymoon. Don’t they look sweet? Well, within minutes of this photo, they’d be praying to God to let them survive the ordeal I would soon inflict on them.

I was the driver, Michele the navigator. A word about roads in BVI. Even the very best of them are bad, filled with potholes, way too narrow, no lane divider markers, and extremely twisty, with lots of blind hairpin turns. And you have to confront all these obstacles while mastering driving on the wrong side of the street. But today, there wasn’t a “best road” in sight. No, we unwittingly embarked on a fool’s errand to test my driving skills on the most grueling road I would ever attempt in my life.

Michele consulted Google Maps on her phone for the quickest way to get across the island to the other beach. Apparently, the app must have thought we were using a helicopter or a zeppelin because the route it selected took us right over the very top of the island. Or perhaps the BVI version of Google Maps was designed by Satan. Because someone was out to get us this day.

I apparently missed the sign that said, “CAUTION: ONLY IDIOTS ARE PERMITTED TO TAKE THIS ROUTE” because within one minute, we had diverged from a paved surface and found ourselves routed to a dirt and gravel path barely wide enough for one vehicle.

I recall distinctly asking Michele, “Are you sure we’re on the right road? This doesn’t look right,” to which she calmly replied, “Yes, I’m sure. Google says this is the most direct route.” And of course, by “direct route,” what Google apparently meant was the most direct route to ensure your imminent death.

Very quickly, I realized we had made a horrible navigational error in choosing to go this way. If this route qualified to be considered “a road”, then having watched two seasons of Grey’s Anatomy qualified me to be “considered” a brain surgeon.

While this is not our vehicle or our road, this is a lot like the road we took, only safer.

While this is not our vehicle or our road, this is a lot like the road we took, only safer.

The trek became steeper and steeper, and narrower and narrower. The cliffs were easy to see because there were no pesky guard rails to block my view of the 1000-foot sheer drop-off. The further we drove, the rougher the terrain got. The boulders got bigger, the ruts deeper, and in many places we were attempting to scale an incline with a 45 degree angle or higher, sometimes transitioning to a switchback requiring us to make a sharp blind hairpin turn while accelerating up a steep uphill.

If there had been someone driving from the other direction, one of us would have had to make the very difficult choice to drive off the cliff, because there was no way we could pass each other on this narrow obstacle course. But I needn’t have worried about the possibility of someone coming at me from the other direction, because there was no way more than one idiot would try to cross this Highway to Hell.

As all our heads jostled up and down uncontrollably with every bump, like cheaply made bobble head dolls, I wondered what Jeff and Beth must have been thinking: “Lord, we will go to church every Sunday for the rest of our lives if you’ll just deliver us from this nightmare” or maybe, “Why did you agree to get a ride from a complete stranger? Maybe he’s a serial killer. Or worse – a Suzuki used car salesman!” 

The further I drove, the worse conditions became, Then I noticed that the pitch of the thoroughfare sloped noticeably to the right, and I had to fight to keep the car from drifting rightward, towards the cliff. Going downhill wasn’t any easier. I kept pumping the brakes over and over, to keep this freight train from barreling off the cliff as I tried to negotiate one 160 degree turn after another. But I stoically kept my fears to myself, so as not to alarm our passengers – except for the four or five brief moments when I came upon yet another gut-wrenching hairpin turn and I blurted out, “HOLY SH*T, WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!”

I’ve been to Italy’s ancient star-crossed city of Pompeii. Two thousand years later, their roads still were in better condition than what I had to contend with. During our nerve-racking ordeal, I was increasingly worried that this might end badly. I had visions of the lead story on CNN the next day: “HONEYMOON COUPLE MURDERED BY TERRORIST SUICIDE DRIVER,” followed by a related story on how Suzuki hatchbacks are not recommended for off-road travel.

Can you find a road in this picture? Neither could we. But this is a photo of the road we took. In many sections it was almost impossible to tell where the road was. This is a “road” my ass, Google!

Can you find a road in this picture? Neither could we. But this is a photo of the road we took. In many sections it was almost impossible to tell where the road was. This is a “road” my ass, Google!

This misguided journey took us over the literal peak of the island, through what was inarguably the most treacherous terrain I had ever attempted. If you could ignore the fact that in minutes we were all most likely going to perish in an agonizing 1000-foot crash, I have to say, the panoramic view from up here was rather magical.

After what felt like three days, but was probably closer to 40 minutes, we reached the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen: a paved street. Somehow I had delivered the newlywed couple to their destination physically in one piece (albeit emotionally in tatters). I thought about asking them for $25 for having provided them with a thrilling memory they would undoubtedly tell their grandkids one day, but Michele thought that would be in poor taste.

Hopefully, someday Jeff and Beth will be able to forgive me for the terrifying experience I put them through. Maybe they’ll even laugh about it. They had to head back home to Kansas the next day. I briefly thought about offering them a lift to the airport. But something told me they’d probably prefer a taxi instead.

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 2021

The Challenge of Getting People to Follow Instructions

The Challenge of Getting People to Follow Instructions

Recently I sent an email asking my 11 racquetball buddies to fill out a 30-second survey. I asked them to indicate when they’d prefer to play, choosing from six available times. That was apparently a much harder ask than I realized. I might as well have been asking them to provide the formula for the next COVID vaccine.

Recently I sent an email asking my 11 racquetball buddies to fill out a 30-second survey. I asked them to indicate when they’d prefer to play, choosing from six available times. That was apparently a much harder ask than I realized. I might as well have been asking them to provide the formula for the next COVID vaccine.

For years, I’ve played racquetball with a group of about a dozen men ranging in age from 62 to 83. Until COVID hit, we played doubles games every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8am to 10am. We would rotate teams after every game so that everyone had a chance to play. That is, until COVID shut the club down.

Recently, our club has partially opened back up but with strict health safety restrictions, including only allowing two people on the court at a time. (There’s only one court.) So, I was asked to send out an email survey asking everyone which time slots each person most preferred to play.

Okay, how hard can it be to get the group’s input on this simple question?  Turns out, way, way harder than I thought. Here’s how the group attempted to answer my 1-question survey.

GROUP EMAIL FROM TIM: Hey, everybody. The club is re-opening for limited racquetball play. So, I was asked to send around this survey to ask everyone when they’d most like to play. Because of the limit of only two players on the court at a time, we want to avoid having all of us show up at the same time, understand?

It’s a really simple survey. Just look at the six time slots available. Then email me back your preferred time slots to play, from 1st choice to 6th. Easy Peasy. To make it even easier for you, I provided this simple pre-filled example grid, to show you how to respond.

 

 

 

RAY’S REPLY: Yes to all.

TIM: Um, Ray, Not sure what to do with your response of “Yes to all.” Can you just fill out the survey with 1 for your top choice and 6 for your least preferred time slot?

NED’S REPLY:

 

 

 

TIM: Um, Ned, it appears you just copied and pasted my example and sent it back to me. Can you replace my example numbers with your own preferred times? Thanks, buddy.

GEORGE’S REPLY: Monday: 1, Wednesday: 1, Friday: 1

TIM: Hey, George. Thanks for replying so quickly. But you can’t make all your choices 1’s. Please stack rank the six time slots from 1 to 6. If this is still not clear, just call me.

CORY’S REPLY:  Tuesdays work best for me. I could also do Saturdays.

TIM: Sorry I was not clearer in my email, Cory. Tuesdays and Saturdays weren’t options. Have we EVER played on Tuesdays or Saturdays? If you slow down and re-read my instructions, you’ll see there are six time slots to choose from, two on Monday, two on Wednesday and two on Friday. Okay, buddy?

NED’S SECOND REPLY: Oh, sorry about my confusion earlier. Here you go!

 

 

 

TIM: Ned, you’re still sending me back my example survey, just like you did before. Please give me YOUR preferred times, okay? You don’t need to use the grid if that’s too complicated.

JOHNNY’S REPLY:

 

 

TIM: Johnny, have you taken your meds yet this morning? Not sure what to make of your responses. And what exactly do you mean with “okay?” Can you help me out, dude? Let me try this one more time: I’m looking for one number, 1 to 6, in each box. Got it?

FRANK’S REPLY: Here you go, Tim. Thanks for putting this all together.

 

 

TIM: Um, very helpful feedback, Frank. Great job at not falling into the trap of actually following any of my instructions.

RICK’S REPLY: I would like to play. Thanks for asking.

TIM: Rick, buddy, throw me a bone. Just READ THE FREAKIN’ INSTRUCTIONS!! Fill out all the boxes. Put a number 1 – 6, in each box. This is not rocket science.

RICK’S SECOND REPLY: Sorry about that. I wasn’t wearing my glasses before. Here you go.

 

 

TIM: Much better, Rick. Mission accomplished, buddy. I think it might be time for your nap.

NED’S THIRD REPLY: How about now? Better?

 

 

TIM: Ned, whatever you’re smoking, can I have some of it? Your latest response establishes a fairly lucid awareness of several days of the week. But I have to ding you 5 points for your final answer. Technically, “banana” is not a day of the week. I’ll send you a copy of our home game just for playing. Now, go have a donut. You’ve earned it.

NORMAN’S REPLY: Tim, when you say, rank our preferences from 1 to 6, with 1 being our top pick and 6 being our least preferred pick, do I win anything if I guess all the correct answers?

TIM: Yes, Norman. Yes, you do. You’ll win The Congressional Medal of Honor. Thanks for asking.

BERT’S REPLY:  Do I need to wear shorts?

TIM: Bert, what an excellent, totally on-point question. You can show up however you like, in boxer shorts, a tuxedo, or your favorite clown costume. I really don’t care. Sorry for taking you away from watching Judge Judy.

GROUP EMAIL FROM TIM TO ALL:  You guys are all killing me. Just read the F*CKING INSTRUCTIONS. As I stated in plain English – which apparently is a second language for many of you – I just want you to list your time preferences, ranked from 1 to 6. How is this so hard to comprehend? You know what? Never mind. Forget it.

The more I think about it, I need to apologize. I failed to grasp the enormous complexity of my survey question. It was not fair of me to ask everybody to give me answers using the first six numbers of our counting system. In hindsight, I realize now that I should have included a five-page set of instructions, with diagrams, a refresher on how numbers work explaining how 1 is a smaller number than 6, along with a detailed FAQ anticipating likely questions such as “what is a number?”

Forget about giving me 1 to 6 answers. Instead, feel free to reply any way you’d like. Perhaps just send your opinion on which is better, pie or cake. Or maybe share a quote from your favorite Tom Hanks movie. Or just enclose a photo of your favorite pet from your childhood. Any of these will be every bit as helpful as the feedback I’ve received thus far. Thanks.

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.

How to Create Your Own YouTube Channel in 386 Easy Steps

How to Create Your Own YouTube Channel in 386 Easy Steps

I recently launched my own YouTube channel. It will be a smashing success, just as soon as I convince Oprah to endorse it and Elon Musk to invest in it – or buy me out for $3 billion.

I recently launched my own YouTube channel. It will be a smashing success, just as soon as I convince Oprah to endorse it and Elon Musk to invest in it – or buy me out for $3 billion.

Recently I launched my very own YouTube channel. Why did I decide at the age of 65 to undertake such a daunting new challenge? Simple: I’m an idiot. To fully understand why I did this, I need to go back eleven years, to 2009. That’s when, on an otherwise uneventful August day, I did something unbelievably reckless: I listened to my wife.

She suggested I write a humor blog. Being an obedient husband, I did just that. 11 years, 450 articles and a few thousand frosted cinnamon pop tarts later, I’m still writing. I’d have been a millionaire by now, if only someone had offered me a million bucks – to stop writing. But no one did, so I’m still at it.

Not sure what my point was. Oh right, never listen to my wife. A few months ago, she had another brainstorm: “Hey, honey? Why don’t you start your own YouTube channel? Bring your favorite humor articles to life.” Being a slow learner, I did just that.

I spent sleepless nights pondering a name for my channel. I decided on – now this may surprise you – View from the Bleachers. Having perused the nearly 60 million YouTube channels out there, I noticed there is a serious shortage of juvenile humor content. I figured I’m just the person to fill this void.

This venture has made me a wiser man and I feel it incumbent upon me to share that wisdom. First, if you are even remotely toying with the notion of starting a YouTube channel, DON’T DO IT! If you are a glutton for nitpicking, critical feedback and flame comments from strangers who are easily offended about everything, then sure, go for it. However, to retain any shred of self-esteem, I recommend stamp collecting as a hobby instead.

If you’re still intent on pursuing your own YouTube channel, there are a few tidbits you need to attend to as you embark on your journey toward fame and fortune… and eventual disappointment and despair.

Step One: What is Your Channel About?

First things first. You need to decide on your focus. What do you want to communicate? Is it teaching orangutans to sew a quilt from jungle leaves? Helping inept husbands create gourmet meals without torching the kitchen? Or perhaps something even more futile, like teaching teenage texters the importance of punctuation.

Step Two: Get Your Equipment

Now that you’ve crystalized your message to the world, it’s time to blow your savings on the rudimentary gear needed to produce your incredibly fascinating video series on the history of Paper Mache. You need: a high-def camera, large green screen background, quality lighting and stands, lavalier microphone (a must-have), tele-prompter device (to scroll the script), video editing software program, an agent to promote you, an accountant to launder your vast earnings in the Caymans, and an attorney in case you get sued for copyright infringement. 

This is my recording studio. I’ve taken over our guest room. Can you tell what’s missing? You guessed it: a cat. Also, any chance of success with such a cutting-edge set.

This is my recording studio. I’ve taken over our guest room. Can you tell what’s missing? You guessed it: a cat. Also, any chance of success with such a cutting-edge set.

Step Three: Ask Friends for Input

Accept that you’ll no doubt make several rookie mistakes, like not noticing that your cat was licking its privates in the background through the entire shoot. Invite your friends to give feedback on initial test videos – on what works and what doesn’t. They’ll have no trouble with the latter, offering helpful advice, like, “Slow it down, dude! I can’t understand a word – not that I’m really interested” and “The lighting is way too dim. I can’t see your face – but your bald spot shines through” and “Do you have the slightest idea what the hell you’re doing?”

Step Four: Find New Friends

You’ll soon learn that everyone’s a critic and nothing you create measures up to your friends’ high standards. The most encouraging suggestions I’ve received so far have been: “We can’t all be winners” and “I’m sure you can find a buyer on eBay for all that equipment you blew your money on.” Who needs friends like these? Best to say adios to these dream killers. There are scores of folks eager to friend you on Facebook. Just don’t discuss politics. Trust me.

Step Five: Find a Video Editor

Creating a humor video is 20% humor writing and 80% technical wizardry. I already had a ton of content from my eleven years of writing. All I had to do was read it with some flair, right? Wrong. There is recording (1 hour), editing a five-minute video (five hours), removing all my verbal stumbles (3 more hours on a good take), locating background images, choosing theme music, and honing my acting skills. When it was all done, I noticed I had forgotten to wear pants. I needed a lot of help (in more ways than one).

There are services that will connect you with independent video editors who can do everything you need for incredibly reasonable prices. I found a very capable video editor in Pakistan. Oh, to be sure, he doesn’t understand English, and I can’t speak a word of Urdu, and all my videos end up running in reverse order. But he charges a very fair rate. And he says if I ever make it to Pakistan, he’ll let me ride his camel.

There are literally thousands of videos like this one, promising to reveal the hidden secrets to make your YouTube channel a success. All you need are some web tools to improve your keyword selection, creative social media strategies, and Stephen Colbert to host all your videos.

There are literally thousands of videos like this one, promising to reveal the hidden secrets to make your YouTube channel a success. All you need are some web tools to improve your keyword selection, creative social
media strategies, and Stephen Colbert to host all your videos.

Step Six: Learn How to Maximize Traffic

What good is having your own YouTube channel if nobody knows it exists? That’s why you should google topics like “What was I thinking starting a YouTube channel?” There you’ll find helpful tutorials explaining the 5,000 critical tasks guaranteed to propel your channel to the top 25 million most watched.

You have to learn about keyword maximization, search engine optimization, meta tags, and much more. Thankfully, there are tons of free tools out there to help build traffic to your new channel, just as soon as you upgrade to their Pro version for only $15 / month, or better still, the Platinum package for just $49.95 / month.

There are about 379 more steps, give or take, to optimize your channel’s one-in-a-million chances of going viral. Personally, I suggest just doing all your YouTube videos in the nude – especially if you’re Scarlett Johansson. I’m confident your channel will be trending in no time.

As for me, I’m committed to doing whatever it takes to make my new YouTube channel a tremendous success – unless someone wants to offer me $500 today to walk away. No reasonable offer will be refused.

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 2020. Edited by Betsy Jones.