Travels With Grumpy

Travels With Grumpy

This is me, Grumpy, with my owner. I’m the one in front. We have been together for over 40 years. One of us, on a good day, still has the maturity of a nine-year-old. I’ll let you guess which one.

This is me, Grumpy, with my owner. I’m the one in front. We have been together for over 40 years. One of us, on a good day, still has the maturity of a nine-year-old. I’ll let you guess which one.

Hi, there. I’m Grumpy. No, not that Grumpy. I’ve never met Snow White. Do I look like one of her minions? No, I’m Grumpy the bear. My owner, Tim Jones, adopted me in 1980 when I was a mere cub, barely 4 inches tall (and wide). I’m still the same size today because he never feeds me.

I need to get some things off my chest. I’ve kept silent for the past forty years. That’s in part because, technically, I’m a stuffed animal, with no vocal chords nor, for that matter, a mouth – unless you call this tiny strand of yarn below my nose “a mouth.”

You see, I’ve been bounced around by Tim, his sister Betsy, and their pal Dale for decades. The three of them have traversed the globe, taking turns with me riding shot gun. I’ve been to five continents – six if you count Iceland. Go ahead – correct the brainless bear by pointing out that Iceland is technically not a continent. Why would you expect a stuffed animal to be an expert on world geography? I’ve had virtually no schooling, since Tim and his cronies never saw fit to take me to school with them – , or even so much as let me watch a TED Talk. So cut me some slack, okay?

Over the past forty+ years, I’ve trekked to Paris, Berlin, Rome, Ireland, Switzerland, Russia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, South Sudan (during a civil war, I might add), Indonesia, China, Machu Picchu, Bali, and Scranton, PA, just to name a few. (Gotta say, I was surprised how much I liked Scranton. Good people.) Oh, and one more destination: The North Pole. More on that later. Dale, through his contacts at NASA, arranged for me to ride on the Space Shuttle, but then they cancelled all Space Shuttle flights forever. A pretty extreme way of keeping the Grump from exploring outer space.

Lest you’re thinking, “Wow, Grumpy, what a charmed life you’ve led. I’m so jealous,” – don’t be. These were not exactly Rick Steves tours – with the exception of a Rick Steves tour we took of Northern Italy. Um, what was my point? Sorry. With fluff for brains, I get easily distracted.

My point is that most of these journeys were no picnics. While I have explored all four corners of the globe, it is usually in cargo, in the bottom of a suitcase, inside a shoe, with no view and no free soda and peanuts.

When Tim and I flew to Paris, sure, he took a selfie of us in front of the Eiffel Tower. But did he let me check out the view at the top? Heck, no. It was one quick photo, then slam – back in the backpack.

Top row, L to R: Grumpy balancing atop a termite mound in Botswana; studying a map of Ireland in a B&B in Shannon; NOT catching the view of Mont Saint-Michel, France, from our hotel room. Middle: Grumpy checking out Komodo Dragons in Indonesia; downing Fanta’s with the locals in Zambia. Bottom: Grumps contemplates his empty glass of Merlot, oblivious to the 9th century Mahayana Buddhist temple behind him; so close to bathing at a sacred temple in Yogyakarta, Indonesia; examining the wrought iron work on a balcony in Paris.

Top row, L to R: Grumpy balancing atop a termite mound in Botswana; studying a map of Ireland in a B&B in Shannon; NOT catching the view of Mont Saint-Michel, France, from our hotel room. Middle: Grumpy checking out Komodo Dragons in Indonesia; downing Fanta’s with the locals in Zambia. Bottom: Grumps contemplates his empty glass of Merlot, oblivious to the 9th century Mahayana Buddhist temple behind him; so close to bathing at a sacred temple in Yogyakarta, Indonesia; examining the wrought iron work on a balcony in Paris.

One time, Tim, Dale and I trekked to Zermatt, Switzerland, home of the world-famous Matterhorn. I was stoked to join them skiing down the powdered slopes, taking in the incredible vista. But Tim shattered my dream,  claiming skis didn’t come in my petit size. I doubt he’d try that lame excuse on his true favorite stuffed animal, his brainless beagle Snuffles.

When Betsy ventured to Machu Picchu, she made certain to snap the classic tourist photo of me with the ancient ruins in the background. But before I could ask, “Is there a Starbucks nearby?”, boom again, back into the duffel bag, wedged between a leaking water bottle and her sweaty socks. I gave her a scathing Yelp review.

Throughout these wanderings, I’ve spent countless nights in dodgy lodgings. Man, these three people are cheap. They seemed to prefer hotels without elevators. Picture me scaling the stairs on my half-inch paws to Dale’s 4th story room in Jakarta. Whoever manufactured me didn’t know much about teddy bear paw design. But there was a bed – which  Dale wouldn’t let me snuggle in. I had to crash in the sink. Not even a pillow, much less a mint.

Here I am at the North Pole, thanks to a really crappy cruise ship. Not complaining, but the all-you-can-eat buffet sucked, and they wouldn’t let me play shuffleboard unless I agreed to be the puck. So unfair. [This is a real photo of Grumpy at the North Pole. At top is a photo of the actual Russian ice breaker Grumpy took to reach the pole.]

Here I am at the North Pole, thanks to a really crappy cruise ship. Not complaining, but the all-you-can-eat buffet sucked, and they wouldn’t let me play shuffleboard unless I agreed to be the puck. So unfair. [This is a real photo of Grumpy at the North Pole. At top is a photo of the actual Russian ice breaker Grumpy took to reach the pole.]

When Tim and I flew to China, I was exhilarated! Maybe I’d see the Great Wall, or perhaps the Terra Cotta soldiers. Wrong again. Turns out, he was there to adopt some cutesy baby girls, not travel with Grump. In fact, my presence was an accident as I wasn’t even supposed to be in his luggage. Guess how much attention he paid me once he stared into their innocent googly eyes? Correctamundo. None. I would have been better off back home hibernating.

Don’t ask me what the food is like in London, Lugano, Leningrad, or Lusaka. How would I know? Tim, Dale, and Betsy rarely took me out for dinner. I haven’t a clue how I’ve survived these 40 years without a proper meal. Oh right, because I’m an inanimate object made of stuffing. Duh!

Even my trip to the North Pole was bogus. A friend of Tim’s booked passage on a Russian cruise ship sailing out of Murmansk and I hitched a ride. The view from our cabin? One star. Nothing to see see see but sea sea sea. The unlimited buffet featured only unlimited cod. Do I look like a seal? No casino, no wave pool, no Trivia Night. A total bust.

We fought pack ice for seven days before finally reaching the pole. I picked the wrong time of year to shed my winter coat. It was freeeeeeezing out! But what a thrill to step onto a massive ice floe. Not bragging, but I’m pretty sure I’m the first fake bear to have set foot, er, paw, at the North Pole. Talkin’ to you, Fozzie. After that fleeting commune with nature, I was back below deck.

Through all these misadventures, I’ve stoically accepted my place as the quiet, accommodating sidekick. I never complained, despite the fact that not once in all of my globe-trotting did my travel buddies let me bob in the hot tub or order room service – or even use the remote. That’s why I had to set the record straight.

Uh oh. I just overheard Tim talking about another trip to Paris. Oh, non, non, non! Parisians are such snobs.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps my owner, Tim Jones, is off base.

L to R: Dale, Cousin Betsy, Tim, Sister Betsy, Dave

L to R: Dale, Cousin Betsy, Tim, Sister Betsy, Dave

[Author’s note: The story behind the story: When I was in my twenties, I bought a small teddy bear. Round and about the size of a softball, he had a frowny face. So, I named him Grumpy. I decided that all my closest friends needed their own Grumpy’s, including my sister Betsy and my friend, Dale. So, I bought them each their own. I wasn’t going to share mine! See photo.   

It eventually became an ongoing challenge between me, Betsy, and Dale to take photographs of our respective Grumpy’s in increasingly exotic locales. The three of us have been doing this for the past forty years. 

Many of the most extraordinary trips mentioned in this piece were taken by Dale or Betsy, both of whom share a love of travel. But it was my Grumpy who actually sat on the pack ice at the North Pole, having trekked there in a Russian ice breaker. Suck it, Dale and Betsy! – TEJ]

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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2020. Edited by Betsy Jones.

Today in Sports – Coronavirus Edition

Today in Sports – Coronavirus Edition

The Coronavirus doesn’t mean an end to sports. It just means taking a few common-sense precautions for your safety. Take this striker for Arsenal Soccer. He can continue to play with no worries – just so long as his helmet doesn’t fog up.

The Coronavirus doesn’t mean an end to sports. It just means taking a few common-sense precautions for your safety. Take this striker for Arsenal Soccer. He can continue to play with no worries – just so long as his helmet doesn’t fog up.

Welcome back to Eyewitness News. It’s time for a check on sports with our sports anchor, Tim Jones. Tim, what’s happening in your world?

Thanks, Tina. Love your purple medical mask, by the way. Matches your shoes.

Howdy, everybody. A lot to get to in today’s jam-packed look at sports. Just because, thanks to the Coronavirus, there’s no baseball, basketball, hockey, football, NASCAR, Olympics, soccer, golf, horse racing, track & field, boxing, volleyball, rugby, cycling, bowling, gymnastics, figure skating, badminton, or Australian Rules shuffleboard happening – which have all been cancelled through August 2023 – that doesn’t mean there’s no sports to report. So, let’s get started!

In tennis, 47-year-old Arnold Schwimmer defeated 53-year-old Ben Dankleworth of Westerville, OH, 6-3, 6-2, in their weekly tennis outing. Ben attributed his disappointing performance to a whopping hangover. “Being trapped at home for 24 hours at a time, I have only two choices: talk with my wife or drink. Guess what one I picked?”

I want to wish Ben the best of luck in his rematch next week – unless his wife confines him to quarters,  in which case, I might suggest Ben test his skills in his second favorite sport, beer pong.

Speaking of pong, 52-year-old Bart Mathers lost to his 25-year-old son Nathan in ping pong, 21-4, 21-3. After the match, the elder Mathers complained that his opponent displayed extremely poor sportsmanship by “never easing up on his old man.” The champ snapped back, “I could have beaten that boomer blindfolded.” In the subsequent rematch, Nathan did just that.

In an open grassy field in Bulls Gap, Tennessee, the finals of the Frisbee Toss Invitational pitted newcomer Joshua Klein against college roommate Micky Sullivan, the heavily favored reigning champion. Though held before a disappointing crowd of one – Josh’s dog Archie – it was an exhilarating dog-eat-dog clash. In a shocking upset, Josh claimed the win. However, his victory was not without controversy. In the final minute, just as Micky dove to make an incredible game-winning catch, Archie leapt from the sidelines, snagged the frisbee, and ran off with it. A formal protest has been filed. When interviewed, Joshua refused to comment, as did Archie.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, several sporting events were moved indoors to home venues. In Parkersburg, WV, Ralph Romano squared off against his 7-year-old daughter Lily, for the Romano Family World Championship of Jump Roping. Lily completed an impressive personal best of 32 jumps without a misstep. Her dad, on the other hand, fell way short of her mark, succumbing after only 5 rope revolutions.  Somehow, he got tangled in the rope and did a face plant into the family room coffee table. I regret to report that the lava lamp suffered a direct hit and could not be salvaged.

This elderly woman is staying indoors and enjoying her sports safely. See how she’s holding a Nintendo Wii game controller. Unfortunately she thinks it’s a TV remote, and she can’t figure out how to change from bowling to her favorite quilting show.

This elderly woman is staying indoors and enjoying her sports safely. See how she’s holding a Nintendo Wii game controller. Unfortunately she thinks it’s a TV remote, and she can’t figure out how to change from bowling to her favorite quilting show.

In fishing news, longtime angler Harley Dickinson from Moose Lake, MN went trawling with his buddy Herb. His wife Agnes cautioned them to practice safe social distancing in light of the pandemic. “We’ll be fine,” Harley insisted. “We’ll sit back-to-back in the boat.” It appeared that Harley might break the record for the largest fish ever caught on Moose Lake Lake, as he prepared to reel in a 6-foot, 200-pound sturgeon. That is, until the sturgeon tugged back and hauled Harley overboard.

Harley is recovering quietly on a cot in the garage (the sturgeon bit his leg). Agnes is not speaking to him. When asked for her thoughts about the near-tragic incident, Agnes merely muttered, “Idiot.”

Checking out hoops news, 13-year-old Wilbur Douglas, playing for Duke, beat his twin brother Orville, representing Kentucky, in the living room finals of the National Nerf Basketball Tournament. Duke had a comfortable lead of 37-21 at halftime but threw it away as Kentucky blazed ahead in the second half to triumph 59-57, thanks to a last second buzzer beater by the Wildcat’s star player, Orville.

Duke then challenged Kentucky to a slam dunk contest, which was promptly terminated by an official (dad) after Wilbur, attempting a difficult skyhook shot, swung from the chandelier and brought it crashing to the floor. In a first for a major collegiate basketball program, Duke was grounded for a week.

In a surprising announcement, the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics will indeed go on. Okay, technically, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic PlayStation 4 video game version. This year, 11-year-old Eamon Whittaker from Monroeville, PA competes against highly respected challengers from six countries, including the always formidable 13-year-old Victor Müller from Düsseldorf, Germany.

In Day One, Eamon was slightly in the lead in the medal count with 4 golds, 2 silvers and a bronze until his mother told him he had to, and I quote, “turn off the damn computer and come to dinner this instant or you’ll be doing dishes for a month.” He tried to go for another gold under the table using his iPhone, but was busted when he leaped up shouting, GOOOOOOOLD! The IOC president (Eamon’s mom) has banned him for future competition for testing positive for stupid. 

Despite the ban on most non-essential outdoor activities, President Trump continues to ignore safety guidelines. Experts all agree, what he’s doing is dangerous. Oh, and he should probably stop golfing, too.

Despite the ban on most non-essential outdoor activities, President Trump continues to ignore safety guidelines. Experts all agree, what he’s doing is dangerous. Oh, and he should probably stop golfing, too.

Martha Gladstone of Bozeman, MT, competing in a sport that has skyrocketed in popularity lately, defeated 17 other challengers in the Kroger Inaugural Toilet Paper Aisle Sprint. Martha reached the register tape with six bags of two-ply tissues just 1.7 seconds before her nearest rival, Thelma Vandenburg. Martha’s victory was marred slightly when she realized she’d raced right past the Purell and disinfecting wipes without thinking to grab any – a costly error. She was later disqualified for exceeding the limit of 3 bags per customer. On hearing the news, Thelma took a victory lap down the frozen foods aisle.

That’s it for sports. Join me again at 11:00 for highlights of the Miller family’s backyard horseshoe toss competition, along with an update on Lenny Davidson’s courageous quest for a personal best at the NordicTrack recumbent stationary bike challenge. You won’t want to miss it. Back to you, Tina.

Thanks, Tim. We’ll return with more news, including, When will it be safe to drink Corona beer? And more on the Governor’s new Coronavirus policy on social distancing, making it a crime to commit eye contact.

But first, this commercial message from the makers of Purell.

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 2020

Welcome to Skiing

Welcome to Skiing

If you’ve never tried downhill skiing, what are you waiting for? There’s no better way to experience the great outdoors of winter, draw in crisp alpine air and be carried off in a stretcher with multiple fractures.

If you’ve never tried downhill skiing, what are you waiting for? There’s no better way to experience the great outdoors of winter, draw in crisp alpine air and be carried off in a stretcher with multiple fractures.

So, you’ve finally decided to take up the adrenaline-pumping sport of downhill skiing. Congratulations! I’m confident that, in no time, with a little advanced planning, you’ll be swishing between moguls, mastering hot dog aerials and being carried away on a stretcher by the ski patrol.

Folks are surprised when I mention I’m a former Olympic downhill champion – perhaps because they’ve seen me ski.  Okay, maybe I’m not a former medalist, but that’s only because I was snubbed by the US. Olympic Ski Team. As I wrote in that previous column, when I tried out, the head coach said I was better suited for lawn bowling. Hogwash. Whatever I may have lacked in speed, endurance, strength, flexibility, agility, sense of timing, self-discipline, work ethic, raw talent and peripheral vision, I more than made up for in tidiness. But I digress.

I may not be a world class downhiller anymore, but I am equipped to share some important tips to ensure that your maiden voyage into – and inevitable swift exit from – the world of alpine skiing is a little easier.

Let’s start with the minimum required equipment. You’ll need skis (ideally two of them), poles, boots, bindings, helmet, goggles, down-filled parka, waterproof pants, two layers of under-garments, neck warmer, hand warmers, gloves, glove liners, insulated socks, backpack, lip balm, over-priced wireless ear buds, and a $250,000 whole life insurance policy – just in case things take a nasty turn. Lift tickets can be pricey, so I suggest saving money by purchasing a season’s pass – a wise investment, so long as you plan to ski at least 75 times this season, and you don’t mind telling your youngest child you can no longer pay for their college education.

Now that you’ve got your ski ensemble (making sure to avoid last year’s color scheme – pink is so 2019), you’ll want to show it off. No worries – you’ll have a good 45 minutes to sashay from your car parked in Overflow Lot N to the ticket booth. Add another hour in line to purchase your lift ticket.

By now you’re sweating like a pig – but a fashionable pig – and you have to “go.” Allow another 90 minutes to find the restroom, disrobe, freshen up, re-robe, and figure out which pair of skis piled up outside the restroom are yours. Add another 30 minutes to head back to Lot N because you left your gloves in the car. Did I forget to mention – if you hope for more than 2 exhilarating runs, arrive the night before.

You’re all set to hit the mountain. Just one teensy weensy problem. So is everybody else. I suggest you return to the lodge and find a cozy spot near the fire pit. Try again around 2pm – next May.

You’re all set to hit the mountain. Just one teensy weensy problem. So is everybody else. I suggest you return to the lodge and find a cozy spot near the fire pit. Try again around 2pm – next May.

In the blink of an eye (in geologic terms), you’ll be queuing up at the chairlift – along with 900 of your newest friends whom you met in the restroom. Don’t be alarmed. In less time than it takes to watch Gone With the Wind – the extended version – you’ll be soaring in style on your maiden voyage up the mountain, enjoying the view of majestic snow-covered peaks – until you enter a fog bank and can’t see the chair in front of you.

A couple words about dismounting at the top: Good luck.

A lot of people are intimidated the first time they disembark. Fear not. Just inch forward, ensure your skis are pointed straight, with tips up, lean outward and glide off the chair. Uh oh. I see you ignored my counsel about “tips up.” Kudos! You just performed a perfect five-point yard sale / face plant. Take your time retrieving your skis and poles. The 752 people on the chairlift behind you are all more than happy to swing in the wind while you look for your missing ear buds.

Once you’re finally at the top of the mountain – which according to my watch should be around 2:45 pm – might I suggest stopping for a quick bite at the alpine restaurant? You’ll need energy to hoist yourself up after tripping over your skis while snowplowing down the slopes. And you look hangry. Find a convenient place to stow your skis, then wait 30 minutes to order your food, and notice that there are no available seats. Enjoy your $35 hot dog and soda which you scarf down standing outside the locker-room. As you exit the summit chalet, it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: your very first run down the mountain.

Here’s a handy tip: Most mountains have color coded runs:

Green: Easiest way down the mountain. For novices. Typical names include Easy Street, Bunny Hop, Daisy Meadow, and Momma’s Boy.

Blue: Intermediate terrain for people of moderate ability. Look for names like Cruiser, Paradise, or Broadway.

One of the great joys of skiing is outdoor dining at the summit restaurant, with stunning panoramas. Oh, make no mistake, you’ll NEVER get this table. You’ll be lucky to find a stool in the kitchen. These restaurants are always packed.

One of the great joys of skiing is outdoor dining at the summit restaurant, with stunning panoramas. Oh, make no mistake, you’ll NEVER get this table. You’ll be lucky to find a stool in the kitchen. These restaurants are always packed.

Black Diamond: Advanced, high degree of difficulty. For Experts Only – and novice skiers who missed the turn-off for the Green run or idiots hoping to become a Darwin Award winner. You can tell an expert run by its ominous moniker like Widow Maker, Devil’s Crotch, Last Rites, Mine Shaft, Our Father, Organ Grinder, or my own personal favorite, Adios, Mother F***** (an actual trail at Snowmass).

Given the fact that you’re wearing your goggles upside down, how about we stick to the Green runs for a while.

Assuming you make it down the mountain in one piece – which based on your chairlift dismount is at best a 50-50 proposition – you might want to think about taking lessons. Or better yet, sell all your equipment on eBay and use the proceeds to buy a Play Station 4. They have this awesome downhill racing game called Steep, with incredible 3-D graphics. You’ll never freeze your fingers or toes, and the worst injury you might sustain is a sprained thumb. Plus, there’s no wait at the restrooms.

Ski safely, my friend.

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 2020

Mission Impossible: My brave escape from an Escape Room

Mission Impossible: My brave escape from an Escape Room

Escape Room - locked doorLast weekend I did something new and different. I tried a new adventure called an Escape Room. For the uninitiated, escape rooms are the latest fad activity in which they lock 8 to 14 people in a room. The group is given clues and puzzles to solve in order to make their escape. I’m a puzzle person.  Sounded like a fun outing.

I invited thirteen of my closest, soon-to-be-ex-friends to join me. The theme of our escape room was Jules Verne’s classic novel, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. Our mission: Find the key to escape before our submarine, the Nautilus, ran out of air.

Being a natural-born leader, I assumed the part of legendary Captain Nemo and immediately took charge of this mission. I’m not sure precisely when the mutiny began. It might have been when I ordered my crew to report every five minutes with any new clues they had unearthed. Or maybe it was when I ordered them to swab the decks. Group morale is such a touchy thing.

Turns out escaping from an escape room is an extremely difficult challenge. We had to solve a myriad of puzzles to unlock boxes, only to find inside even more enigmatic puzzles. As the Captain, I quickly came to two important realizations: 1) getting out of this escape room was going to require enormous brain power and concentration, and 2) I did not bring nearly enough money to bribe the staff to tell me what the clues meant.

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How I Got Crabs

How I Got Crabs

Yum, Yum. Look at this crab pot filled with so many mouth-watering Dungeness Crabs. At the grocery store, it can cost up to $9 a pound. That’s pretty darn expensive. Save money by doing it yourself. All you need is a $3,000 boat and $500 in crab pots, rope and buoys.

Not long ago, my wife and I moved to Camano Island, a tranquil, semi-rural community with lots of retirees. People here love four things: God, country, family and crabbing – but if they could only pick one, for sure it would have to be crabbing. People here are seriously into this activity. Just how serious? As you arrive on Camano Island, you’re greeted by a giant metal crab sculpture. The local newspaper is called The Crab Cracker. And if you confide in someone, “I’ve got crabs”, they won’t recoil in disgust. They’ll reply with, “Fantastic! Mind giving me some?” 

Having lived here for two years, I’d never bothered to find out what all the fuss was about. But after relentless pressure from neighbors whose constant nagging included questioning my patriotism, in the end I caved. Last week I finally went crabbing.

Most “crabbers” own their own crab boat and equipment. To get started you need the following essentials:

  • A motorboat – or if you’re cheap, then a rowboat
  • At least one, and ideally two or three crab pots
  • A buoy marker and approximately 100 feet of rope for each crab pot
  • Bait – typically chicken or turkey legs, or if you’re in a pinch, Lifesavers candies – the crabs grab onto the little hole in the middle and get stuck. Let me know how that works, dude. (This last bait option should only be used if you’re a complete idiot.)
  • A case of beer, to dull your senses and help you forget about what in the hell possessed you to take a rowboat instead of a motorboat with 25 mph headwinds out there
  • A sharp knife to kill your small crustacean victims in cold blood – or to take your own life if you have rowed out too far and you suddenly realize you’ll never make it back to shore before nightfall

Continue reading “How I Got Crabs” »