Category Archives: Humor

Don’t Take Notes! A Cautionary Tale

When I attended the University of Toledo I took 4 semesters of music theory. It’s a world-renowned musical arts university, eclipsing even that of the famed Cincinnati Arts College. As part of the curriculum, I was required to attend several lectures by prominent composers and music composition experts. I considered opting out for religious reasons, as the university adopted a policy that stipulated that music theory was just a theory, like evolution, and if you wanted to pretend it wasn’t a real thing, no one would stop you. Even percussionists were allowed to invoke the rule but due to their chronic lateness, we couldn’t be sure they ever heard about the exemption.

Before each outing, the professor would always look at the students sitting in front of him and insist that we take notes. It was a refrain we heard as often as “good morning.” I knew he was going to be a pain in the ass the first time I heard him speak, right after he told us that he started learning music on the clarinet. Reed instruments are the byproduct of devilish design – a fact well-known in music circles but seldom expressed so as to not harm the delicate feelings of those unlucky enough to have been cursed with reed instrument afflictions.

In my last semester of music theory, I was lucky enough to get an invitation to Fred Winnebago’s solo performance at the Nancy Drew Arts Project. Fred had just had his 6th major symphony recorded and was doing musical presentations around the country. Interestingly, his prosthetic leg didn’t slow him down very much.

Before the performance, Fred Winnebago took 30 minutes to lecture the audience about his musical methods. My professor had already done the introduction and once again reminded us to “Take notes!”

As the curtain opened, Fred sat at an ornate piano. The lights dimmed. As Fred’s fingers began to press the ivories, no sound emerged. Fred seemed confused and removed his hands from the keyboard. After a moment, he once again dropped his fingers lightly to the keys and began to move his fingertips over them. No sound whatsoever.

The professor stepped out from backstage, tentatively, holding a microphone up so that he could speak.

“It seems as if we are having technical difficulties,” the music professor began.

“Yes, you shouldn’t have told us to take notes – now there aren’t any left to play,” someone shouted from the back.

After a long, loud collective groan of mock disgust from the audience, we broke out in applause.

Even the professor, who now seemed uninterested in anyone taking more notes.

 

A Humorous Anecdote

My cousin Linda went to college for two years and then dropped out when she had her child. Years later, she went to Cosmetology School and acquired her license to practice. A few months after she started doing hair, another family member died, leaving Linda with more than enough money to open her own shop.

After renovating the storefront for her new hair salon, Linda had several of us over to finish moving a few things and to have an impromptu celebration lunch there.

As we were standing around chatting, Linda approached me and asked if she could pick my brain.

“X, you love this sort of thing. Given the type of person who will visit my shop, I need some ideas to name it.” She asked me to go outside on the street-side and pointed up to the mostly white sign.

On it were the words B E A U T Y S H O P in evenly-spaced black letters.

I went around back and retrieved a 6′ ladder. I climbed up to reach the sign and made my changes to her current sign.

It now read “B E A U T Y” S H O P

The black eye will heal sometime in the next few days.

My Name is Not Bill Engvall

I entered the elevator and pushed “4.”

At floor 3, a younger woman entered and turned to face the array of floor selection buttons.

“Going up?” she asked me, as if the ‘up’ arrow on the outside door wasn’t a clear indicator of my usage intentions for the elevator. Not to mention that the “4” on the panel was brightly lit.

“No, I’m going down,” I replied, jokingly.

“You can’t, this elevator is going up.” She said this without a trace of sarcasm or realization that she was informing me of something I knew before I had ever met her. I was like the Nostradamus of vertical travel, I suppose.

She turned to face me and undoubtedly noticed the large “X” on the front of my name badge. It’s only called a name bag because, weirdly enough, its main function is to identify the wearer by name. Additionally, most people have their own name on the name badge they are wearing – and not simply because most HR folks are as humorless as a tribe of accountants without trousers.

“Hmm… is your name X?” She asked, without a trace of mirth or sarcasm.

“No, my name is Bill Engvall, and it is a pleasure to meet you.” I put out my right hand, and she shook it.

I don’t think I have to say it, but for those old enough to recall, I am certain you’ll know which 3 words echoed in my head.

Drink It Forward

 

It was dark and I was driving carefully, unlike the demolition derby driver I impersonate when the sun is shining. As I pulled in to the Firewater parking lot, I had to unexpectedly yield to an older man riding his scooter across the parking lot in order to go through the drive-through. His face was one of determination. I laughed because I imagined that he had traveled far in order to get his liquor of choice.

By way of preface, Firewater is a strange little liquor store away from any residential area. A liquor store is a place where one can purchase, among other things, alcoholic beverages. Alcohol is one of those chemicals, when taken in moderation, which will drastically improve your ability to cope with everyone else but conversely will worsen almost every encounter you engage in with another living person, all the while blinding you to your own debilitating lack of judgment. A drive-through is a window at a liquor store in which all parties legally pretend that the person purchasing said liquor doesn’t have more than a 50% chance of imbibing on the way to whatever destination awaits him. (This paragraph will never be used in a Budweiser commercial.)

As I waited at the register to pay for my poison, the elderly gentleman on the scooter was outside, looking inside at the impatient manager, trying to find change to reach his quota in order to get his bottle of flavored vodka. The manager’s face told me the unspoken story of just how many times the man on the scooter had bottlenecked the drive-through like this. It seemed to be a foregone conclusion that there was going to be insufficient change to pay for the bottle he had requested. I motioned for the man in charge to look in my direction and offered to pay for the bottle. He told the clerk helping me to add ninety-three cents to my total. I pointed out that I offered to pay for the entire bottle, not just the difference in change.

“Wow, that’s a nice offer. How do you know him? He’s a regular.” The clerk seemed to be asking out of curiosity rather than politeness.

“I’ve never met him. I almost ran him over, coming in as he drove his scooter across the street and into the parking lot. But I’ve known many, many people like him.”

“Well, he’s a character, that one.” The clerk laughed.

The manager at the drive-through window told the man on the scooter that I had paid the difference.

The old man froze and looked inside to see who I was. “Well, thanks, Mister.” He nodded his head in acknowledgment.

“Pay it forward,” I said, and smiled.

“I’ll most certainly drink it forward,” he quipped and cackled like someone who had just discovered a free pizza on his kitchen table, after already being handed a 6-pack of his favorite beer.

I nodded back and the clerk and I looked at each quizzically for a long second and then we both laughed, too. We had taken an awkward situation and made it one of frivolous merriment.

“Hey, you know what?” The clerk asked. “IF you want to pay for a bottle, I’ll give you an extra discount and hold it for the man on the scooter for next time. It will give him such a kick in the pants to be given a surprise.”

“As long as YOU don’t drink it forward, yeah, that will be great. And do me a favor when he comes in. Ask him how fast he can go on that scooter.”

“Will do. Have a great night out there, sir.”

So, on some future night, if you see an elderly black man riding his scooter, restraining an impressive smile on his face, you can think of me. Vodka can power a few smiles, for a little while.

May we all drink it forward as we pass through our respective places.

MoFo Coffee Pot Adventure

My wife should know better than to let me wander in strange towns. It’s like an opportunity to be inside a petri dish, watching – and sometimes commenting.

It’s the commenting part that will one day lead to my body being inside a chalk outline on the sidewalk, probably with onlookers pointing and saying, “He had it coming!”

While Dawn made good use of herself, I went to find a coffee pot. I decided to buy one for the motel room so that we could enjoy coffee-on-demand without the necessity of hiring servants or driving around like electrocuted squirrels. We leave the coffee pot when we leave. They don’t get discarded by the staff. The “coffee pots” provided by most hotels, in my opinion, are secret torture devices that neither make coffee or provide any service, unless it is to test one’s ability to hurl a small appliance out the window and into the parking lot.

As I wandered around the Dollar General store in North Little Rock, I couldn’t help but be amused by the antics of another shopper. His fevered chatter reminded of that time when I gave my Aunt Ardith 2 bottles of 5-Hour Energy Shots instead of whiskey in her coke. (The doctor said she needed to drink less alcohol; the fault is his for not being cautiously specific about this sort of thing.) Not since the early comedy specials of Richard Pryor had I heard the f-bomb and mofo grenade dropped with such frequency. There were so many I thought I was seeing them begin to fall from his mouth and hang in the air, like profane Zeppelins. No matter where I wandered in the store, the F-Bomb Man seemed to materialize, like impossible-to-remove flecks of glitter in one’s underwear drawer.

I finally succumbed to the realization that I had walked around the store so many times that I was about to be made Store Manager. I stopped and bothered a young male employee who was apparently trying to strangle the cash register on the left in frustration. I swear that he said, “Go to the last aisle and jump off the bridge there, where the zombies are.” When I went to the last aisle, there were indeed coffee makers there. There was also an errant display of Halloween merchandise. I surmised that at least some of the keywords in the employee’s reply to my question were reality-based.

Lo and behold, when I got the register, F-Bomb Man and his female companion were behind me. The two children with them were darting around like pinballs in a half-broken machine, one manned by a maniacal player.

After a few more Mofo Grenades, I couldn’t help but to laugh. The little boy with the couple behind me stopped in his tracks and stared up at me, his mouth open, as if he were witnessing a grown man about to lose his mind and/or vote Republican. It struck me as strange that my laugh startled the boy sufficiently to bring his frenzied stomp around the central displays to a halt – but that the impressive onslaught of profanity from the adult male with him hadn’t fazed him. I made myself a note to write that child’s teachers in the future, to let them know that he was in no way responsible for believing that some profane words were substitutes for common adjectives, nouns, verbs, and salutations. (And probably street names too.) I had grown up with world-champion cursers myself. I was quite old when I realized that it was possible to read the menu at a restaurant without inserting colorful and possibly ear-piercing obscenity in the middle of descriptive items.

Turning to make eye contact with the man behind me, I was surprised that he had stopped talking too.

“Hey. How are you doing?” I asked, loudly, as my voice had been amplified by a town crier from the Middle Ages. And I laughed again, possibly from brain damage at this point.

Surprised, the man said, “Just maintaining, man. Sorry about all the cursing.” Which proved he realized he was cursing.

In a moment never to be rivaled by any extemporaneous quip ever, I replied, “Dude, just call me Ritz.”

And I held up might right hand for a fist bump, something I never do.

F-Bomb Man immediately held his fist up and bumped mine.

“Why they call you Ritz?” He asked.

Without hesitation and looking him right in the eye, I replied, “Because I ain’t no common cracker.”

And then we both laughed and laughed, as the man’s female companion and the cashier looked at us like giraffes with top hats on our heads.

PS: This story isn’t about the cursing. It’s like ambient background music to me. Without insult or anger, profanity is just another means of communication; it is often uncouth and undignified, but so too are parts of this life, one which is too busy and too demanding to be derailed by a poor choice of words. Also, the F-Bomb/Mofo Grenade Man was a Rembrandt of his time with cursing.

A Quarter Past Halloween

A Halloween Story For My Friends:

I’m normally not one to attend parties, especially if drinking or dancing are expected. Or being awake past 9:01 p.m. There’s too much temptation for me to do an unannounced gravity check and meet Mr. Floor during these events. Especially Mr. Waxed Floor, whose most trusted friend, “Mrs. Lower Back Injury,” seems to be everywhere.

My wife Dawn insisted that I at least try to go and enjoy myself. A local club was sponsoring an event near Downtown Springdale last year, during the prolonged period in which Emma looked like year 2 of the Vietnam War.

Dawn wasn’t amused when I asked if it was an “either/or” proposition. In typical fashion, she replied, “It depends on whether there’s a scented candle to mask the smell of blunt force trauma.”

As is always the case, I spent an inordinate amount of time planning my costume. Attending a Halloween party without wearing a costume is akin to eating the label from a jar of pickles and discarding the contents: it’s amusing, but in the end, not very rewarding. I take these things very seriously, as older adults get fewer chances to mock other adults without the risk of a scuffle. The riskiest thing I had done all last year was cast my vote for president and it seemed like I was still doing time for that error.

As you would imagine, I got kicked out of the party. But not for a reason you would ever expect. These party people sure don’t have a sense of humor to match their drive to hold gatherings of strangers. I theorize that their thickening wallets cut off the blood supply to their cerebral cortex.

“Why are you dressed like a quarter, X?” Several people asked me this as I milled around the Halloween party near Emma Street.

To which I replied, “Well, Gandhi himself told us to “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.””

🙂

5 a.m. Bullhorn

I drove back toward civilization this morning and parked across from Wal-Mart, the retailer that allows us to purchase both bowel medications and oil for our 3-speed bird feeder at 3 a.m. It was that time of the morning before the hopeful sunrise would come and dispel the lingering dubiousness of the night’s secrets, and all the lights seemed bright enough to perform a surgical exorcism in the parking lot. Parking lot lights at this brightness are what someone who had suddenly regained their sight might install in their bedrooms for leisure reading. I’ve long held the theory that such lights actually c-a-u-s-e criminal behavior.
 
As I walked around the side of the building, a small bright green new car approached. It was smaller than a Cube. Its headlights weren’t on and I could already see that it was going to be interesting, as someone who resembled a Halloween skeleton was leaning out of the rear driver window, smoking. As it neared, I could see that a witch was driving, cigarette comically dangling from her mouth. It seemed as if the cigarette in her mouth was touching the windshield. She didn’t turn her head as she slowly passed in front of me. As small as the car was, I could also make out that 5 people were stuffed inside the confines of the vehicle.
 
All the occupants looked like rejected extras from the bad parts of “Breaking Bad.” As the car turned right onto Robinson Avenue from the parking lot, another Ph.D. candidate leaned out from the rear passenger window. He was holding a small red bullhorn and began shouting something at me through the megaphone. Although I couldn’t hear him, I could imagine that he was shouting his favorite words from a Yeats or e.e. cummings poem.
 
At 5 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, the only thing that could have made the moment more surreal would have been if an entire caravan of such crazies exited the parking lot simultaneously.
 
As the car drove away, headlights still off, I waved at the bullhorn-holding man. I wondered what a police officer might think as he pulled over the overstuffed car. He might stop them to advise them to turn on their lights, but he would linger as he became increasingly confused. I can only hope that the gentleman leaning from the window with the bullhorn would do all the talking – using the bullhorn.
 
I know that some of you will assume I’m exaggerating. I’m not. Like the moped pulling the skateboarder with a rope on one of the busiest roads in Springdale a couple of weeks ago, the 4-wheeler doing acrobatics on the sidewalks, or the numerous under-the-influence drivers I’ve witnessed as they’ve performed feats of involuntary agility, this story is true.
 
It’s not that you’re unreasonable for a little disbelief, but the people-of-WalMart website didn’t get created without reason. Perhaps this motley group doesn’t deserve my tongue-in-cheek derision, but on the other hand, I’m not the one who decided to cram into a car in the early morning hours of a late summer Wednesday morning and shout at fellow citizens with a bullhorn.

Pay It Forward, Even If It’s a Scare

“You’ve got to pay it forward” can be quite dangerous advice.

This morning, I was strolling through the blackness, a dark so pervasive that I could have been looking through the souls of insurance agents. I was immersed in a TED talk with the volume loud enough to overcome my middle-aged ears’ tendency to interpret everything as either a whisper or a scream.

In the background, I heard faint music. After a few seconds, I heard it again. It sounded like someone had put a transistor radio in their pocket just as the mafia threw them head-first into the trunk of a 1978 Buick. Just as I reached up to turn down the volume to listen attentively, from behind me a booming voice said, “Good morning!” just as a runner came sprinting by me. I’m pretty sure I slapped myself in over-reaction to being startled in the dark like that. So much for having the small slices of Springdale to myself. It’s too bad the runner hadn’t been a ninja with sword upraised just as I turned to see him. A coronary might not have startled me as much. “Thanks!” I hollered at him as he streaked ahead. How he could see anything was a mystery to me. Now that I think of it, I’m not sure if I was walking on the road or an imaginary surface, either.

When I finished my walk, I decided to go ahead and go the store. I chose Harp’s because it’s much quieter in the morning. My wife had mentioned needing a toenail clipping holder or sour cream. I couldn’t’ remember which so I decided to go inside and jog my memory. Though not germane to this anecdote, I found Schweppes Lemon-Lime sparkling water and stopped to cry a few tears of joy. Though not as good as Tab soda (the best soda ever created), it’s a joyous drink.

As I neared the row of registers, I briefly courted the idea of making a run for the door just to see if anyone would notice. By run, of course, I mean ‘walk like my legs remembered what running felt like.’

Instead, as I reached the last register aisle, I noticed that the cashier was standing with her back to me, her mind lost in the early morning doldrums so frequently exhibited by people who don’t have the sense to get up later. I crept closer, certain that she surely had heard my approach. I leaned over the register conveyor and whispered, “Boo!” in a soft voice. Although her head didn’t quite touch the overhead ceiling tiles as she jumped in terror, her ponytail did have sufficient time on the landing to swirl around her head at least 5 times before her toes touched the ground. As she turned, she began laughing, which was a relief. It’s one thing to be tased but another to be tased before you’ve had your morning coffee. (Again, although not related directly to this story, the cashier’s eyes looked like Alanis Morissette.)

We shared a laugh as I apologized and reminded her of the importance of paying it forward, whether it might a scare, a dollar, or a laugh.

 

Lose Weight By Reading This in Chinese

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I’ve been asked more than once why I didn’t do more “Handmaid’s Tale” pictures. The answer is that I have done more and they are in all the corners of the internet.

For those unlucky citizens who haven’t watched this masterpiece TV show on Hulu, perhaps the depth of the joke is lost to you.

This particular picture ties several elements together – and answers the burning question, “Can you describe in a simple picture what it feels like some days to watch as DJ Trump, aka 45, speaks in public?”

Otherwise, you can look at this picture and see just how far this weight loss thing has taken me in the last couple of months.

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Social Engineering Idea #7. If a police officer is about to give you a ticket, he should give you a choice between paying the ticket or letting him go live on social media and then smacking you in the face with a cream pie. Some people would speed just to get caught, that’s true, but at least we’d have a great story to share. (Cake shops could do free sponsorships, too.)

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We should have known things were a mess when the military band changed the song to “Hell To The Chief.”

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Trump’s remarks last night were a reminder to us all why meth is such a real problem in society.

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Note to self: cooking prowess possibly over-rated if both wife and cat hurl during the same night.

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Garth Brooks has certainly changed his look and sound. His new CD of cover songs surprised me, especially his new version of, “Two Of a Kind, Twerkin’ On a Full House.”

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After winning last night, Bret Bielema went home and wrote in his personal diary: “Can you believe they are still paying me $11,000 a DAY for this?”

The Florida A&M coach makes around $200,000, about 16 times less than Bielema.

Someone put the ‘high’ in higher education, that’s for sure.

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To the pilot & 7 other jumpers, please accept my apology. When I was invited I thought he said “Parashooting.”

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“I wasn’t mumbling – I was speaking in cursive.”

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You know you’ve made a bad decision when your imaginary life narrator says “This is going to be good!” in a resigned tone of voice.

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“I’ve eaten so many vegetables lately that when I asked the DJ to play an artist, I accidentally told him, Elvis Parsley.”

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