Category Archives: Whimsical

Prank Cards, Even For Xmas

For many, the tradition of holiday cards is a dying custom. I don’t envy people for their interests or habits. It’s not a good recipe for living to feel obligated to follow the old ways. For me, though, there are times when the opportunity to send cards brings out the part of me that lives in a vast world full of billions of souls, each wanting a little bit of spectacle and magic. Oddly, even those who’ve scorned social media are as likely to have given up writing letters or sending a holiday card to friends and family. It’s a dying custom.

It’s hard for me to send a simple card. I have to make it complicated and personal! 

I don’t send out cards in expectation of reciprocity. That, too, is a poor way to live one’s life. There are times when I put in a little bit of effort and then am surprised when I hear nothing in response, though. That’s part of the bittersweetness of sending unsolicited bits of fun and zaniness out in the world. People don’t have the time – or always make it – to let you know they liked it or hated it. Static sometimes fills the air. It’s a gift to be able to tune it out when you put out some creativity in the world. A good response is to keep sending them cards regardless of their interaction. 

A couple of years ago, I created a complex and custom birthday card online and sent it to an acquaintance. I made the card from social media pictures. It was a work of art, if I do say so myself. I used another return address to conceal my identity further. Since the company which printed and mailed my creation sent it, there was no postal marking to identify its origin. My acquaintance was genuinely perplexed and spent DAYS vainly trying to discern who might have created the artwork cards. So great was her interest that she finally posted on her social media page to beg for help figuring out ‘who.’ I was surprised that no one immediately connected the dots to me, given the work’s detail.

In a tradition I don’t always follow or do in the same manner, I send several personalized Christmas cards to people and families that I’ll never meet. In a few cases, I found pictures of LinkedIn, yearbooks from long ago, or social media. I downloaded them, and in some instances, photoshopped them before creating the custom cards that went to each of them. I chose a person at random from a yearbook for one of the lucky recipients I’d never seen before and researched them sufficiently to discover their new life. I also used ancestry to find a distant cousin and pieced together clues to figure out their real identity from the anonymous one used on the ancestry website. Using an inmate website, I found a person’s name and I.D. number and then sent him a glorious card and words of encouragement.

Though it might paint me as a bit of a weirdo, I find it challenging to explain to others how much fun I derive from sending total strangers a holiday card, especially when I personalize each with their pictures.

In each of these cases, I enjoyed each recipient’s imagined scenarios in my head, as they puzzled the personalized card from someone they didn’t know. In some cases, I used fake identities and addresses. In others, I used my real name, which might not necessarily allay concerns. “X” seems more like an accusation in some cases.

Of course, I also sent a few cards to people I do know, without using my real name and address, hoping to give them a bit of yuletide joy as they vainly attempted to figure out who had sent them a card. All those cards were customized and were a pleasure to create. I also sent a few to people using other friends and family members as the sender. I love living in a world wherein it is possible to convince people that someone else sent them a card, no matter how they might deny it.

Likely, I’ll never hear any of the stories that resulted from most of these custom cards. That’s how it works, though. Not knowing is often more rewarding than discovering the mundane answers.

Many people received Xmas cards over the years without knowing the person they thought sent it had nothing to do with it. Also? People don’t always look closely at the pictures. You wouldn’t believe the people and things I’ve edited into images without anyone noticing. 

I can imagine several of the recipients scratching their heads in bewilderment, wondering who, what, when, and where – all without an answer. They may half-expect a repeat this year. Because I used an online address book for most of them, I could go back and send them another card this year. That would get them thinking.

Because much of our modern lives are now redirected by technology, the old ways provide another road to have a bit of fun.

P.S. If you are not familiar with Postable, it’s a great way to have some of the fun without needing to do the actual creation by hand. Postable – Create and Send Custom Cards  You can upload pictures and design custom cards. They’ll also put it in an envelope and mail it for you – using any return address you might dream up. If you want to do Christmas or holiday cards, I highly recommend that you give Postable a try.

Once Upon A Time

I waved hello to the girl standing at the end of the trailer. Though the trailer had probably seen its last tenant, the little girl would grow up to touch thousands of people. She didn’t understand that the voice in her head was incapable of silence. As happens in so many similar places, the cauldron’s circumstance made it difficult for her to talk above a whisper. She would leave the place. Such places and the people who inhabit them touch us deeply and rob us of our ability to flourish.

I waved again, though decades of intervening history lie like a chasm between us.

Because no good act goes unheard in a just world, my small voice and gesture caught her attention. Time became diaphanous.

She looked up inquisitively. I felt her as she saw me wave.

Impossibly, she began to shout. The silence was no longer her prison.

When Life Hands You a Lemon, Embrace It

This is a non-traditional post. I started with a different idea. Instead of discarding it, I’m posting it.

“Y el amor nunca es amor si no es idiota…” Ricardo Arjona.
(From “El Amor Que Me Tenía)
Loosely translated: “…and love is never love if it is not idiocy…”

“Love is the thing that compels you to do something stupid before you do something even stupider.” – X

“Love is the thing that compels you to do something stupid before being able to do something reasonable.” – X (alternate)

As Steven Wright said: “I bought one of those tapes to teach you Spanish in your sleep. During the night, the tape skipped. Now I can only stutter in Spanish.”

Likewise, I find myself stuttering in other regards, wondering where people find the confidence and ease to live the life they know they should be living. I’m increasingly sure most of them are winging it.

“My wife said to me last night, “You treat our relationship like some kind of game!” Which unfortunately cost her 12 points and a bonus chance.” – Unknown

“X, stupidity isn’t a crime, so you are free to go.” – Several people.

“Without a doubt, my favorite Robin Williams movie is Mrs. Fire.” – Internet

I was voted Most Humorous in Mortuary School. I need to use that more.

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“Thank you for all your support,” I shouted to my work pants, acknowledging they had been tasked with the impossible.

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The Family Dinner Rule: If it ain’t been said at least four times, then it ain’t been said.

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My sister-in-law Darla’s bathroom had water all over the floor!

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My director told me I could no longer dramatically do a puff of magic smoke every time I left the work area, so I switched to glitter capsules. He’s pissed. But kind of cute with his face covered in glitter.

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My neighbors installed security cameras yesterday. I’m obsessed with doing puppet or character shows above the fenceline now. I’m letting you know in case they don’t find my idea as funny and brilliant as it seems to be to me.

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“You’re running for President – not Sheriff of Cracker Barrel.” – X

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IF YOU SEE A LINK THAT SAYS “DONALD TRUMP NUDE,” DON’T CLICK ON IT. IT’S A VIRUS AND MAKES EVERYTHING YOU TYPE APPEAR IN ALL CAPS. – X

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Springdale is having its Demolition Derby at the end of the month. Good news: AAF and Car-Mart, as always, are selling cars perfect for just such an event. #satire

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I wonder if anyone doing genealogy found out they had a great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather who was a Sheriff – and then found out they lost their job for failing to fire a warning arrow at a suspect.

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If I were in a gang, I wouldn’t carry a traditional weapon. I’d carry a violin. No one would see that coming until it splintered all over their head. Also, the police would have to start frisking people for violins.

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This Joke Works For Any Profession

Verne and Fern were sitting in the living room talking.

Fern said, “I’d like to win the lottery!”

Verne replied, “Why do you want to win the lottery? “Well,” Fern said, “I’d like to do nothing all day.”

Verne frowned. “You don’t need to win the lottery to do nothing all day! All you need to do is become a Maintenance Person.”

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Springdale experienced a massively thick fog last night, one that made the trees sound like a slowly running creek as they became drenched and heavy, highlighted the work of the surrounding spiders, and gave me an opportunity to make an unedited gif from the moisture blanketing the air.

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Untested truth: you COULD be bulletproof.

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In the way that so often happens to all of us, I had leftover Pitchfork Creeper pictures from my last birthday wrapping gift surprise. Because it’s been too long since I’ve done so, I took my extras with me to the grocery store and strategically placed them around the store.As always, I find myself laughing and wondering what people think as they encounter them in their mundane shopping experiences.*

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If you find yourself in a situation in which you are driving around behind random trucks to evaluate the scent and desirability of each vehicle’s exhaust, the truth is that there is someone out there who is thinking the same thing. That thought either liberates or confines.

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No one can convince me that flipping the overhead lights off as you exit a bathroom, knowing that someone is seated in a stall, isn’t funny. Not even the shrieks of my last victim dissuade me from this laughter.

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“I left nothing unsaid” can be either a reflection of personal authenticity or a sign you’re talking so much that the O2 masks may drop at any moment.

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The psychic I want to see is one who can tell me what lies are ahead. – x

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Though I am reluctant to admit it, I watched the new Borat movie. The movie? Terrible. Some of the jokes? Both surreal and hilarious. I’m informing you so that you can remind me of this when I try to use words such as “style” or “wit” without looking like a hypocrite. This movie is unintentionally a cross-section of so much that we imagine ourselves to be in the world, using satire and cringe so viciously that I wanted to file a police report.

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Any horror movie with the soundtrack sped up becomes a comedy. Any life remembered with nostalgia becomes too bittersweet to narrate.

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Masks are the minimum cost all of us should pay in public to acknowledge that we’re connected and reciprocally responsible for one another. – X

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My sister-in-law recently got diagnosed as a kleptomaniac. We were relieved to hear it. It explained why she took things literally.

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“Today is a full tomorrow, if you know what I mean!”

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Several hundred full-size candy bars doesn’t look like much now. Will there be little ghouls to rescue us from this hoard? *

The answer was “Yes!”

So many kids danced. laughed, and were incredulous to see me shoving handfuls of full-size candy into their hands and bags. I did my best to get the chaperones and adults to choose something, too.

At the end, I walked down the block with a full bin of bars. I gave the bin to the children at the door. Screaming and fits of joy ensued. I have to say it was one of those moments that I’ll probably remember forever.

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“Perfume as marinade” is a terrible way to get ready in the morning.

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I tried contactless delivery but the driver ended up in the backyard.

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For reasons I’ll explain in more detail if you need it, you should never mumble when ordering at a Taqueria.

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He didn’t just look a gift horse in the mouth but always took a long piercing look at the other end too.

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“X, I see that you’ve noted ‘Z’ in the blank for blood. That’s supposed to be your blood type.” The nurse looked at me expectantly. “It’s my blood typo, yes.” I smiled.”What does that mean?” She said.”Well, I wasn’t planned,” I said and looked away to give her a minute to figure out my humor.

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This is some of the weirdest, nastiest, and most delicious plant-based meat alternative I’ve ever tried. The texture is akin to alien epidermis. But I LOVE it!

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My voting anecdote squashes all others. For several elections, the Rodeo Grounds was my nirvana. I thought it couldn’t get any better. For this election, I of course voted in person. Having a stupid name amplifies the possibility of shenanigans, both giving and receiving. I waited zero seconds to get in. Zero to be identified. Zero to get to the kiosk to vote. And zero seconds to put the ballot in the final collection slot. My apologies to everyone who didn’t wait zero seconds, like me.

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Get To Know Me

I still buy an entirely new set of socks each time I need them. For me, they are like new tires. Buying a few is tomfoolery. As comedian Steven Wright does, I wear and sort my socks based on thickness rather than color. Colorblind people everywhere are in my corner.

If that joke doesn’t work for you, try this one by Steve Martin: “I like a woman with a head on her shoulders. I hate necks.”

Since you’re already a fan of mine as evidenced by the fact that you still somehow find the nerve to read what I write, you also know that I do not fold socks. It’s not that the mechanics of it escape me. It’s the folly of the days of one’s life spent doing it. Before you attack me, NO, I do not know what I’ve otherwise done with this amazing bunch of time I’ve saved by not folding socks.

Often, I of course use the old laundered socks as packaging material. Years ago, I accumulated them and packed them into my mom’s surprise packages I sent her. I sometimes wear the socks the last time when I’m on a trip and discard them once worn. There have been times I’m certain that housekeeping wonders what kind of lunatic discards his socks.

Not that y’all care to know, but I do the same with my underwear – except I don’t use those in my mailings, unless you ask me to. People tend to react unexpectedly upon opening a surprise box and discover underwear in various stages of decomposition. The idea of having underwear with different birthdays amuses me.

Before you mock me, I’ll admit that I CAN intermittently replace my socks and underwear without a total replenishment. But what else would I do with this obvious wealth I’ve accumulated in life? If one cannot splurge and buy a new set of underwear in its entirety, that is when life gets truly oppressive. You won’t find that written anywhere unless you inherited the diary of a madman.

For all the above reasons, perhaps you can now see why I am a liberal.

Quickened Mind

The subconscious is a powerful thing.

Because of my job and my proclivity to make unexpected conversational turns, I was asked, “X, are you under the influence of anything?”

Without hesitation, I replied, “Eros!” and did a pirouette and walked away.

The Rueful life

Whether or not feeling well warped my sense of self or feeling something inside me well up intolerably, I went out into the world for what I thought was the shortest of intervals today. Though you might doubt me, those moments stretched into a length that flowed without end.

Most people use the word ‘rueful’ in an exaggerated negative sense. I prefer the term to mean “expressing sorrow or regret, tinged with humor.” Those are the sublime connotations that often fuel me. Humor is what shields me; bittersweet fringes give me pause to ponder at the simultaneous complexity and simplicity of life. Swimming in the valley between them is a blessing interspersed with the unknown horizon.

My limited interactions while out in the world today reminded me of life’s sublime ability to be filled with our exclusive perceptions. Today’s moments were wrapped in the lightest of gauze and applied with gentle attention. To walk in a world so gossamer each day would be my undoing.

Such attention to the essential ruins us in our endless and needless desire to see the things around us instead of our interconnections.

During the first encounter, the female clerk ran across the recently-mopped floor, risking life and limb simply because she thought a customer might have waited too long. She made eye contact with me, and I said, “Please don’t worry. Nothing at hand deserves any stress.” While she wore a mask, I could see her eyes widen in curiosity. Her eyes then darted behind me as she noted another customer behind me tapping his foot and shifting his weight.

It’s when the shift I felt toppled inside me and made me lopsided.

As she handed me back the change, I tapped it and said, “This is for you, if you can accept it. And if not, let it be for someone who will soon approach who needs it.” Her eyes widened and became tear-laden. She nodded, unable to say anything. Not from awkwardness or loss of words, because whatever became momentarily off-kilter inside me became the same for her. It was tangible.

I walked away. The next two interactions were similar, even though it would be easy to dismiss them as figments of my feverish mind.
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“With careful toes, I pranced through my life, to awaken no one. And in so doing, the ones who should have noted my passing failed to look up and witness me.”

Security Camera Theater

Yesterday, I exited through the back door of my house to collect the trash blown loose from my villainous neighbors. I went house left to the front.

Note: I am using the term “house left” just like actors would when reading or hearing “stage left.” It’s a handy trick to distinguish which side of the house you’re talking about, mostly when gossiping about your neighbors. If you don’t gossip or speculate about your neighbors, chances are you’re not one of my people.

My Latinx neighbor was outside with another gentleman. A ladder was near the front of the garage. I peered up to see that they were installing security cameras. The neighbor tends to work at nights, leaving his wife nervously at home. I used to tease him that his encompassing fence managed to conceal potential intruders rather than thwart them. Additionally, when working, his lights often pointed annoyingly in my face or a random direction.

Now that I know he has installed cameras, I can’t get the idea out of my head of doing weird puppet or stick figure shows above the fenceline so that the rear-facing camera on the right side of his house will capture my imagination come to life. I laughed earlier this afternoon when I realized that I was Googling creative and bizarre characters to buy for just such an endeavor. The internet being what it is, there are a lot of websites for this sort of zaniness.

Now that it’s starting to take form, the urge to bring the idea to fruition is almost insurmountably overwhelming me.

The idea of my neighbor’s face reviewing his camera footage to discover that someone has staged a stick or puppet show above his fenceline brings me joy.

Run Past

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I sprinted past the moment, though it didn’t truly exist in the way that things do.

I had looked forward with such intensity and anticipation that it had condensed into an impossibly small point in time.

Because I’m older, I now see that this is how most of us manage the span of our entire lives: increments, milestones, and anticipated moments.

There are labels for this sort of thing. “Futurizing” is one of my favorites.

Though covid fleetingly slows us from careening as carelessly as we once did, even its lesson of mortality will soon enough become a vague memory.

Each of us will step back into the tide of normalcy, whatever that might be, and pace forward.

Birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, achievements, all seemingly without terminus – although undeniably connected by an invisible strand.

I predict we’ll be more feverish postcovid. We’ll collectively feel the pause button click free and begin our mad dash to collect what we thought we missed while the world held its breath. People do not like to feel like they are missing out, even if what they have fills their lives.

Weirdly, I feel that we should take a breath and slow down. Sit and stare. Read and contemplate. Look within and around. We were not prepared, despite having history’s best medicine, technology, and logistics.

Our failure wasn’t external, however.

It lies within us where, in reality, each of us lives.

Density Of Time And Place

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I walked through a dense, foggy meadow in the early morning. As I moved through the tall grass and flowers in the growing light, I walked across the meadow and into the stand of trees on the other side. The dense smell of foliage and trees lay heavy around me. For several minutes I walked. Finally, I stepped through into a small clearing. In the middle, a man sat hunched near a small fire. Above it, a metal coffeepot swayed slightly.
As I cleared my throat, he turned and laughed.

“Took you forever!” He said. “Sit,” he said. I walked over by the fire as he poured me a half a cup of coffee. I sat on the ground. It was covered with dry pine needles.

As I took my first sip of the aromatic coffee, he spoke:

“For anyone taking the time to share their stories and especially for those prone to self-doubt, here is the phrase you need to consider: “the voice in your own head never needs to stop to take a breath.”

Even while you’re hearing this, it’s likely that the narrator trapped in your skull is talking to you in ways that seem slightly out of your control.

If this happens to you consciously, imagine the number of ways your mind is interfering with you in ways that you can’t or won’t notice.

Most of us don’t hang around people who embody what we’re aiming for. Absent such examples, the people who’ve shouted into our periphery through life get the front row in our heads. When you’re taking the risk of doing something meaningful for yourself, you look out into your life’s audience and the first faces you see are generally those packed into the front rows. You didn’t choose them as your audience. Be wary of all those who are spectators to your life. They aren’t you and don’t know you.

Even if we imagine several people applauding toward the back, we tend to assume that they are outliers and aren’t seeing something that those who know us best see. The truth is that your entire life will be different if you treat the outliers as the ones who matter most. They see something in you that those nearest cannot.

Each of us is lucky if we have one or two cheerleaders in life. Most people are too busy with things in their own corner of the world to encourage you; it’s the daily grind of life manifesting itself by taking people’s attention.

When you consider that every other person in our lives has a different version of us in their head, it becomes easier to understand that we’re never going to be understood in the way that we ourselves understand what motivates us.

Equally true is the fact that many people are insecure and don’t have experience with authentic people or those doing things differently. Most are dialed into the common routes and expectations of what being alive is supposed to entail. We focus on the process instead of why.

People dedicated to doing their thing also tend to reflect back honestly to those around them. It’s evident that many people resent their reflections and respond defensively. Silence is easier for them, even though it lessens their time here. They’ll work hard to push you into silence, too.

It is a rarity for someone to stand on top of the pile of all these tendencies and forge ahead. Think of someone you admire. Whoever it is, they laugh often and always share who they are, no matter where that is.

If each of us could witness the totality of a single life from a distance, we’d see that most of the struggle is of our own making. We cannot win in the sense of winning that we’re taught. You don’t win by playing. You win by not playing by the rules other people demand of you.

The voice of doubt in your head is there for a reason – but not for a reason that benefits you. Make it pause and take a breath. Somewhere in that absence, you’ll discover the absurdity of almost everything we take for granted.

Whatever you’re here for, I’m certain that you can see that silence and uniformity make us all lesser human beings.

Your time is here is almost up. When you finish that cup of coffee, you’ll wake up and wonder why you dreamed of me. Soon after, you’ll look up into the sky this morning and see your life reflected there. There is only one you.”

The clearing dissolved to nothing. Despite having a box fan turned to ‘high’ and thunderstorm noise playing in the room, I woke up instantly. Outside, a single bird squawked raucously. Before I lost whatever it was that the imagery provided, I went and made a picture for a friend, one treading the line between reality and fiction. In it, I captured the essence of a world she needed most.

All because of the smell of woodsmoke, fog, and coffee in a place more real than imagined, inhabited by a strange voice that was my own.

A Trashy Post

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Early last year, I wrote about our waste management company.  Previous post…

I discovered that many people didn’t know the precise rules about their curbside pickup. For example, they didn’t know the trash company must pick up all the extra bags you pile on the bin – or around it if necessary. My ignorance was compounded by observing neighbors furtively sneak around and put their overflow into other people’s bins.

The people at Waste Management were among those people who weren’t sure how it worked.

After writing to the City of Springdale and following up, the trash company realized that they offer an additional bin for residential use for just $7.50 a month.

They revised their CSR scripts and information to include the new details I had inquired about.

While you might be proud to own a shiny new luxury car, I can think of no greater luxury than having an additional trash bin at the house. Some weeks, there’s not much. Other weeks, you’d swear thirteen people live at the house, people dedicated to depleting all the earth’s resources.

We already get a large bin for weekly trash and a recycle for pickup every two weeks. I’d call it ‘bi-weekly,’ but a lot of people don’t understand if that means twice a week or every other week. I don’t blame them; English is a tortuous language absent much continuity.

To my credit, one recycle bin for us is not enough. It annoys me to need to put recycling in the regular trash bin. It annoys me worse than needing to repeat myself, especially when I’m the idiot that made it necessary.

Just to find out if the reality of having two trash bins matches my fantasy, I called and requested a second bin a couple of weeks ago.

Yes, jealous friends – you read correctly. I now have two trash bins to use.

I’ll be the envy of the neighborhood. Some of my neighbors already act like they don’t understand that the trash goes i-n-s-i-d-e the bin. They’ll pass out in shock when they see me displaying two trash bins and a recycle bin by the curb. No doubt the people working to pick up the bins weekly will not be as happy. My house will not be double the fun.

Now that I’ve done it, I’m wondering what it would be like to have two recycling bins.