Annoying People

Annoying People

There are some people who just annoy the hell out of me. Like the guy sitting next to me who felt a need to yammer on about the best way to rid your backyard of moles for the entire six-hour flight to Chicago.

There are some people who just annoy the hell out of me. Like the guy sitting next to me who felt a need to yammer on about the best way to rid your backyard of moles for the entire six-hour flight to Chicago.

I consider myself relatively easy-going. It takes a lot to tick me off. And “hate?” Well, that’s just not a word in my vocabulary – unless used in the context of “I hate broccoli”, in which case, “hate” doesn’t begin to cover it. I honestly can’t think of anybody I hate (with the exception of my first-year college roommate, Lenny).

Life is just too short to go around hating others. But it’s not too short to point out those who annoy the hell out of me. I’ve plenty of time for that. Here’s a small sampling of people who really get under my skin…

Folks who walk through the door I’m holding for them without saying thank you. Seriously, dude, is it too difficult to utter two words?

People who send their annual Christmas card with no handwritten message – just a photo of three kids I’ve never met (how do I know they are even theirs?!), dressed in matching red sweaters, with a generic “Seasons Greetings from the Millers” embossed in Helvetica font. Could you possibly have put in any less effort to personalize your card?

My wife – but only when she asks, “What inning is it?” while I’m watching football. I swear, she will never figure out sports.

Neighbors obsessed with attaining the perfect lawn. I call them Lawn Nazis. Their grass is as smooth as a putting green, not a single weed or yellow patch in sight. Meanwhile, my yard features mole holes, a large convention of toadstools, and drooping flowers that gave up blooming back when Tiptoe Through the Tulips was popular. Now that I think of it, that song was really annoying, too.

Continue reading “Annoying People” »

Things Didn’t Go as Planned

Things Didn’t Go as Planned

This is my yearbook photo. Look at those eyes filled with such a clear vision of the future that awaited me… that is, until I left school. This is a short story of my life and dreams that did not go quite as planned.

This is my yearbook photo. Look at those eyes filled with such a clear vision of the future that awaited me… that is, until I left school. This is a short story of my life and dreams that did not go quite as planned.

When I was young, I was always planning out my life, sometimes down to the minute. I was highly organized and self-directed. I knew that to fulfill these plans, hard work was essential. Even as far back as fourth grade, I always studied excessively and earned top grades. In high school I was on several sports teams. I was confident that my efforts would open the door to an Ivy League college.

Things didn’t go as planned. I was wait-listed for Princeton but never accepted. So, I attended my fallback school, University of Virginia. My plan evolved to include a strategic major leading to a lucrative career, falling in love, and slaving through law school with my college sweetheart-then-wife supporting me. I had further planned to love the law and maybe move back home to Albany, NY, taking over my father’s law practice – and living a very comfortable life in upstate New York, raising 2.5 well-behaved brown-haired kids with big blue eyes (like me).

Things didn’t go quite as planned. Turns out Communications isn’t a door-opening major. And though I did attend law school at Ohio State, and my college sweetheart did support me (emotionally, that is), she was wedded to Virginia, not me. Not long after we broke up, my father passed away quite unexpectedly. As I had just begun my second year of law school, I was in no position to take over his practice. So much for the upstate NY picket fence and 2.5 adoring kids who looked like me.

Things were not going as planned. Next thing I knew, I had graduated with my law and MBA degrees and had absolutely no idea what to do next – except that I no longer wanted to be a lawyer. I waited tables for several months as I tried to identify a respectable career opportunity – preferably somewhere in DC or Boston. I did not plan on moving to Miami. But after nine months with no serious job offers, that’s where I finally found a job.

I held on to my plans for marriage to my dream wife. Don’t all men have a plan as to what type of woman they’re going to marry? My plan was to marry some nice American woman of tall stature and brunette hair who shared my love of sports and peanut butter. I certainly wasn’t planning on falling in love with a 5-foot tall, red-headed, freckle-faced Canadian, who had about as much passion for sports as I had for broccoli. But love makes you do crazy things.

And then there was my plan to become a feared but respected marshall of a small western town and marry the brothel owner named Fannie. Turns out those plans went south too, but that’s a story for another post.

And then there was my plan to become a feared but respected marshal of a small western town and marry the brothel owner named Fannie. Turns out those plans went south too, but that’s a story for another post.

I began planning a life with this extraordinary woman, even contemplating settling in Miami. Then I received a call from my manager telling me that if I wanted to remain with the company, I’d have to relocate to Chicago… in the middle of winter… to manage their Midwest region sales office – alone, all by myself. I was SO not planning on that.

Remembering my days waiting tables, I agreed to the move. I planned on redeeming the situation with this company, only the company went out of business. Surprisingly, its parent company offered me a position at their newspaper in Philadelphia. Nothing about Philly or newspapers excited me, but it was within driving distance of Connecticut, where my then fiancée Michele was now living.

Eventually, we got married and Michele joined me in Philadelphia, where we decided to settle down. Life was good and it seemed I was back in the driver’s seat of planning my life. Silly me. Perhaps if I had planned on getting laid off, it wouldn’t have happened. But I hadn’t planned on getting laid off. And Michele hadn’t planned on her employer, IBM, selling off her division. Suddenly, my plans had fallen apart again.

Quite unexpectedly, Michele was offered a job in Seattle – our dream destination. I became a trailing spouse. I had no idea what I was going to do in my next chapter, except for one thing: I would NOT take a job in newspaper advertising sales. Eventually I accepted a job as a newspaper advertising sales manager.

Before long, we decided to start a family. Given our genetics, our kids would almost certainly be pale-skinned and freckle-faced, with blue eyes and reddish brown hair – not what I had planned, but still adorable. Luckily, we never were able to conceive – because a few years later, we were standing in an orphanage in southwestern China, cradling the most beautiful dark-skinned, black-haired, brown-eyed baby girl. A year later we went back to China to adopt our second beautiful daughter.

For years I had worked in newspapers, followed by a series of jobs in fast-paced technology startups that required me to put in 60+ hours a week. I was exhausted. More importantly, I was missing my kids and their childhood. So, I abandoned my career plans and took a less demanding job in a small business, in order to have more time with my family.

I figured I would work there a few years, enjoy family life, and plan my next major career move. But things didn’t quite go as planned. I stayed at this last job for the next two decades until I retired. I planned lots of adventures for this sunset chapter of my life. And then, I unretired. Oh well, my knees can no longer handle racquetball 3 times a week anyway.

Many many things in my life did not go as planned. Like marrying a foreigner and raising two adopted daughters. I’ve learned that sometimes, the best plans are the ones that you don’t see coming.

Many many things in my life did not go as planned. Like marrying a foreigner and raising two adopted daughters. I’ve learned that sometimes, the best plans are the ones that you don’t see coming.

A few years ago, Michele became tired of living in “cookie cutter suburbia” as she called it. I was leery of leaving our neighborhood, our friends and the house our kids called home. But my wife is a smart person (no comments on her choice of husband) and we found ourselves moving to a charming island far from Seattle into a lovely home overlooking an idyllic view. That was never part of my plan.

As I look back on the past five decades, I realize that time and again, the direction of my life did not go as planned. There have been many twists and turns, some disappointments, even a few deeply scary times – and countless happy surprises.

If someone told me when I was still in high school that I would marry a Canadian artist, become the father of two delightful daughters from China, move to an island in the middle of nowhere in the Pacific Northwest, and start writing a humor blog, my first response would have been, “What is a blog?” But my second response would have been, “No way. I have a very different plan.”

In looking back, I’m grateful that in my life, things didn’t always go as planned.

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

Classmate Updates I’d Like to See

Classmate Updates I’d Like to See

This happy fellow dancing badly is my high school classmate Doug Stone. He partied all the time, was a total slacker and arrived late & drunk to graduation. He now manages a global hedge fund & earns $15 million/yr.

This happy fellow dancing badly is my high school classmate Doug Stone. He partied all the time, was a total slacker and arrived late & drunk to graduation. He now manages a global hedge fund & earns $15 million/yr.

Every three months, like clockwork, I suddenly experience an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy. It happens when my high school alumni newsletter arrives. I went to a private all-boys’ military high school, the Albany Academy, founded in 1813. The school sends out a quarterly newsletter for three reasons:

  • to update alumni on programs they’ve initiated, like the incredible new state-of-the-art athletic complex
  • to not so subtly solicit generous donations to fund the incredible new state-of-the-art athletic complex
  • and most importantly, to invite alumni to send in updates about their booming careers (and invite them to share their riches to offset the cost of that incredible new state-of-the-art athletic complex)

I don’t normally suffer from poor self-esteem. I feel fairly good about most of my vocational moves – even my current ten-year gig as a humorist, despite the fact that it is a source of constant embarrassment to my wife and kids.

I generally avoid contact with most of my high school classmates because it invariably degrades into a rencounter among alpha males for top honors in career achievements. I’ll bump into someone from my graduating class who had been a stoner and slacker and barely eked by with a C- average. In the first minute of our encounter, he informs me that he’s now Chief of Neurosurgery at the Mayo Clinic. Or perhaps he invented GPS technology or won the Nobel Prize in Mathematics. Then comes that awkward moment when he asks what I’ve been up to and I am thrust into the awkward moral dilemma of whether to tell him I’m the CEO of a multinational technology firm or Ambassador to France. I usually just dodge the entire issue by vaguely alluding that he does not have the proper security clearance for me to divulge the details of my amazing story.  Continue reading “Classmate Updates I’d Like to See” »

My Shopping Experience That Went Off TARGET

My Shopping Experience That Went Off TARGET

Read my cautionary tale about my visit to a particular retailer (whose name I won’t reveal) in an attempt to redeem a gift card. It was a snap, if by “a snap” you mean as simple as deciphering the Da Vinci Code.

Read my cautionary tale about my visit to a particular retailer (whose name I won’t reveal) in an attempt to redeem a gift card. It was a snap, if by “a snap” you mean as simple as deciphering the Da Vinci Code.

[The following is a 100% 98.7% true story.]

Recently, I had a rather unpleasant shopping experience involving a well-known retail establishment. I’d rather not mention the store by name, as I would hate for others to TARGET this chain with well-deserved, snarky tweets.

It started with a gift card from a friend for Christmas. A delightful surprise. But the process I endured to redeem it was, well, let’s just say I’ve had root canal surgeries that were more pleasurable – and took a lot less time.

Here’s what happened. My friend – whom I’d like to assume had positive intentions – gave me an online gift card to use at the afore-not-mentioned giant red & white-colored discount retailer. I printed it out and proceeded to the nearest store. I wandered through the aisles, stocking my cart with exotic splurge items like paper towels, light bulbs, and a plastic waste basket. Okay, so I lead a dull life.

I reached the checkout counter and presented my printout, showing the amount, bar code, and a couple long numbers, identified as the “gift Identification number” and “PIN code.” The cashier greeted me cheerfully. I figured I’d be in and out of this store in under 30 minutes. But the universe had other plans for me that day. Continue reading “My Shopping Experience That Went Off TARGET” »

How to Retire Filthy Rich

How to Retire Filthy Rich

Look at this happy couple. They were smart. They planned far ahead for their golden years with a sound investment strategy. Her great grandfather was John D. Rockefeller.

A wise man once said, If a man’s wealth be measured in grains of rice, he could hold all the riches of the world in his hands. Okay, so that man was an idiot. He was also my Uncle Larry, and he died penniless – unless you count the 850 boxes of Minute Rice found in his basement after his funeral.

Thankfully, I did not follow Uncle Larry’s investment approach, though I am enjoying the Minute Rice he left us. In fact, I have accumulated a large amount of wealth over my lifetime – almost as much as I have lost. If you’re concerned you may not have saved enough to comfortably retire before the age of 75, you’re not alone. You’re still probably screwed, but at least you’ll have company.

Let me share a few pearls of wisdom. First, whatever you do, and you might want to get a pen to write this down: NEVER HAVE KIDS! They are insanely expensive. The ROI on progeny is like a buying a bond – it takes decades to see a profit – if you’re lucky. According to recent studies I just made up, the cost of raising a child through college is $4.9 million – even more if you indulge in orthodontia for their crooked teeth. Okay, maybe I’m overshooting my cost projections slightly. My point is, kids will drain your retirement savings.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my kids – almost 70% of the time. I’m just saying, think of all you could do with the mega-bucks you’d save by being a little more conscientious about birth control. You could buy a small island off the coast of Greece (other than Mykonos or Santorini – I checked – they are way out of your price range). However, if you glibly choose to ignore my advice and decide to start a family anyway, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Continue reading “How to Retire Filthy Rich” »

Forget About Putin. The Real Threat to America is Poutine.

Forget About Putin. The Real Threat to America is Poutine.

Putin vs. Poutine. One is an evil, deadly killer that over time has ruthlessly attempted to slowly eat away at and destroy the safety of an unsuspecting country. The other is Vladimir Putin.

Putin vs. Poutine. One is an evil, deadly killer that over time has ruthlessly attempted to slowly eat away at and destroy the safety of an unsuspecting country. The other is Vladimir Putin.

Every day I read another news story citing Russia’s ongoing attempts to de-stabilize America. And then there’s the increasing specter from China, with its treacherous plans to steal all our technology and hack all our phones.

We’re also told to be wary of the menace from our southern border, where thousands of terrorist Hispanic children with their Hello Kitty backpacks are preparing to invade us.

As serious as these threats are from our east, west and south, our government, in its futile efforts to protect the American people, is looking in all the wrong directions. The real peril – and it is a formidable one – is coming at us from the north!

I’m talking about the People’s Socialist Republic of Canada. I have always distrusted Canadians – especially this one particularly beautiful redhead “comrade” I have long suspected of being a spy – my wife. And seriously, how can any country be that nice?

It’s not the Russian Bear we should be worried about. It’s the great white Polar Bear lurching towards our 5,525 mile-long unprotected northern border. Canada may not have the military clout to conquer us (their entire military could fit into a Walmart Super Store). No, their tactic is far more devious and subtle. You’ve heard the adage, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”? Well, through the stomach is also the way to our demise – and it is how they plan to kill us.

How do I know this? Because I recently visited a Canadian family in Vancouver, BC. We took walks together, chatting about the challenges of living in a northerly country with only four hours of sunlight on a good day. We pondered whether Canadians will ever learn how to spell words like “color” and “theater” properly. We laughed. We bonded.  I thought they were my friends. They even forgave me for living in a country that elected a president who thinks Canada’s capitol is the North Pole. (Every American knows Canada’s capitol is Toronto.)

The entire time I was in this perplexing alien land, folks were extremely polite and hospitable. My guard was down, and so they lulled me into a false sense of acceptance – and trust. Too late, I learned that secretly, they all despise Americans. Why? Perhaps they envy our ingenuity in creating Disneyland and the diaper alarm. Or maybe their shame over our women’s hockey team beating theirs for the 2018 Olympic Gold medal was too much. The truth is, I now believe my hosts were trying to kill me the entire time, and I have definitive proof.

On my final day there, my Canadian “friends” took me out to a popular local eatery for a last meal before I headed back home to the states. The specialty was a popular traditional Canadian meal called poutine (“poo-teen”) and they insisted I try it. I had no idea they intended this to literally be my LAST MEAL.

I know, you’re saying, “Tim, you sound paranoid!” But let me explain. This meal was created by the most dangerous specie of Canadian: the French Canadians – and is composed of greasy French fried potatoes mixed with large chunks of cheese curds, smothered in a thick blanket of beef gravy – or as it’s better known, the Three Pillars of Death. The portions are huge. The “Child Size” is so named, I believe, because it’s roughly the size of a toddler. My theory is that poutine was originally used as a substitute for mortar to adhere the ice blocks together on igloos.

Flashback to the cozy scene at the restaurant. Within minutes of gorging on this lard-based sludge with the consistency of wet cement, I could barely stand up. My dinner-mates were ever so solicitous as they ushered me into my car and bid me a fond farewell. I could hardly stay awake on the three-hour drive home. I could have died in a car crash – which in retrospect, clearly was their plan all along.

Poutine – a French Canadian dinner staple consisting of French fries, cheese curds and beef gravy that has become Canada’s signature meal – or as I call it, The Artery Assassin.

Poutine – a French Canadian dinner staple consisting of French fries, cheese curds and beef gravy that has become Canada’s signature meal – or as I call it, The Artery Assassin.

In doing research for this article (why are you laughing at the thought I might do research?), I learned that poutine is insanely high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and refined carbs, and causes instantaneous thickening of artery walls. In fact, a single serving (typically 5,000 ounces) can kill you (although in full disclosure, that’s more likely due to the waiter deliberately dropping the ponderous plate onto your head at the sound of your American accent.)

Fortunately, for me, I only ate a small portion of my 64-ounce “Infant” serving, or else, I’m fairly certain I would have suffered a heart attack – or at least a really bad case of indigestion.

What the mainstream media won’t tell you is that it’s all part of a nefarious plot to invite Americans to come to Canada, to help prop up their faltering economy, and then, when we least suspect it, serve us a truck-bed serving of poutine, so we’ll all keel over from cardiac arrest. Then they’ll take our cars, break into our homes –and steal our flat screen TVs and jewelry – while leaving a very thoughtful apology note on the kitchen counter.

I now believe Canadians are hellbent on destroying America. They have long been jealous of us, mainly because they are sick and tired of the NFL drafting all the best football talent before the CFL gets a pick. Their plan is to take us out, one unsuspecting football fan at a time, by offering to make us home-cooked meals of their artery-clogging poison.

You may be asking yourself, “Hey, if poutine is so deadly, why do Canadians keep eating it, and why aren’t they dying from it?” – to which I say: you ask really annoying questions. You’re forgetting that they’ve had a century to build up an immunity to this deadly concoction. They also drink maple syrup straight from the jar and consume Canadian bacon by the shovel-full, and yet somehow survive. Those bastards have arteries of steel.

America, it’s time to stop falling for all the Fake News stories about Russia, China and Mexico trying to undermine our great country. Our real enemy will be invading from the north. And they know the fastest way to bring us to our knees is through our pie holes.

Tonight, when you tuck your kids in bed, tell them you love them, promise never to make them write everything in two languages, and be sure never to let them visit Canada. Because if they do, they may never return, thanks to a poutine overdose – or perhaps because they will be duped by Canadians’ devious displays of hospitality, generosity and the country’s incredible natural beauty. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

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