Archive for the ‘Ha!’ Category
Winnowing out the Rolodex could mean the end of something, but I don’t know what (and maybe don’t care)
Story and photo by Ronald Ahrens
Every so often, I weed out my Rolodex.
The reason I still have a Rolodex is because of stapling business cards onto the blanks, a good way to match logos with name-o’s.
I first saw this Mandarin system on the desk of Jean Jennings.
Blank cards are getting hard to find. For example, the last bunch came not from a store shelf but the Internet.
And now I’ve run out.
As I look for my doctor’s card, I see the name of a garden tractor salesman from seven years ago at a Pennsylvania flea market. Not that I wouldn’t love to go back. Or the local bartender who offered to wash my windows.
In the photo, you see I selected some to be set aflame (using kerosene, or maybe just the plastic coatings, as an accelerant) and then to be run over by a steamroller.
Reasons for deletion:
- You moved on, were fired, became disabused of all notions, went on permanent vacay, moldered, retired, drank hemlock with Socrates, called it a day, or otherwise died
- You never phoned or treated me to lunch, you didn’t pay up, you must be kidding
- You had a sex change
- You’re on e-mail, on the Internet, on a bathroom wall, or you posted a card on the hardware store’s bulletin board
- We will never work together again because you over-edit
- You dangle modifiers
- You don’t know that prepositions take objects, even when compounded (for him and me, for crissakes, not “for he and I”)
- I can’t remember how we met
- I never believed you worked there
- Comb your hair and brush your teeth!
- When I asked if you wouldn’t mind picking up the tip (or else I would’ve had to use my credit card), and you were embarrassed, and said your wallet was in your car because you’d slammed on the brakes and it had slid from your purse—you’re Type A, you drive like a demon, and your car is a leased Mercedes even though you rent a room in Palm Desert—yes, that’s right, when you flounced back in through the wine bar’s front door in your frilly purple minidress and blonde-white hair and heavy make-up, I glimpsed you and wondered how a whore had gotten into such a nice place
- You drive a hybrid and like to talk about motorcycle accidents
Mr. Elon Musk
Dear Sir: –
Before the nurses change my bandages again, and while I still have lithium residue in my lungs, I will oh-so-calmly tell you what a dandy car you make. Even before the early fireworks show in WeHo, I have drove Teslas exclusively when I could get away with one. For sustained mashugana and wide dismemberment, the Model S has got ever other car skinned. Even if my business hasen’t been strickly legal, it don’t hurt anything to tell you, no matter what the range indicator said, that I truly believe we could have outrun those coppers clear to San Berdoo in the Model S.
Champe Barrow, indireck relation to Clyde
The yellow Tern Verge bicycle first caught my attention, then his craggy grin. He was tall, wild looking, with a woolly jaw. The bike was a $2000 beauty, yellow and black, like a meadowlark. He wouldn’t let me take a picture, saying I could get one on the Internet. He suggested I buy a Tern Verge for myself, dismissing my assertion that I have a bicycle. This one folds up, he blithely pointed out, and it has a 30-speed drivetrain.
“It’s fast,” he said. “I can get to La Quinta in an hour and a half—faster than the bus.”
Then he started about putting rockets on it, yes, here on either side of the seat post, and making his own hydrogen fuel, flying away, and landing on the flat roof of the house, which is covered with solar panels. Houses will soon be clad with solar skin, you know.
“We have all this technology now, but the big oil companies don’t want us to use it.”
He followed me into Von’s, pushing the bike along, and when he waved his right arm in making a point about 3-D printers, which allow you to make this very bicycle in your own home, the automatic doors reopened behind him. We advanced further into the store. Too far, actually. He had now transitioned to stem cell therapy. We don’t need doctors any longer. We can do it all ourselves: teeth, hair, hydrogen assist for people with wonky limbs. The VA is sending you out on your own. Obamacare? Useless.
I made a getaway, later thinking I should’ve asked his opinion of orgone therapy. celiac disease, electric cars. And whether someday his picture will be taken without his knowledge.
When I checked out, the cashier said he’s a regular, and she laughed when I rolled my eyes. He was standing at the end of Aisle Two, having accosted today’s lucky shopper.
At the aisle five checkstand, I placed two cans of Foster’s beer on the belt and stood there daydreaming as the guy ahead, a combo Munchkin-troll, completed his transaction.
“Izzatgudbr?” he said to me.
“What was that?”
I still hadn’t understood, so he extended his left hand and hoisted one of the blue, gold, and red cans. “Izzatgudbr?” he repeated, no more plainly but with an increase of vehemence.
The gesture helped to clarify.
“Yes, very good.” Trying to be useful, I added that I buy it regularly.
This was the type of sparky situation you might end up hearing about in the news: Troll Arrested After Grocery Store Rumble Grievously Gores Goading Goofball. Despite my desire to please with a dandy answer, I was mildly offended at his grabbing the beer; he was more than mildly offended at not being understood. Additionally, for me, a modicum of shame attends the public purchase of alcohol. Please, no evaluation or questions. I averted my eyes.
The troll turned to the cashier, a big, hefty fellow with a ruddy, sympathetic face.
“I was speaking English,” the troll said.
The cashier wanted to stay out of this one.
“Sorry,” I said. “I didn’t understand.”
The troll fumed some more until change was dispensed, and then left abruptly.
Now I stepped before the cashier. “Next time someone asks about my beer, I’m going to say he should spend two dollars to find out for himself.”
He replied, “Or just, ‘Piss off!’”
So what really happened to the Malaysian airliner?
- Elon Musk captured it in a force field in order to have enough test drivers for a new, secret series of electric cars.
- It was made to land in North Korea, and passengers are being used as guinea pigs in experimental Dennis Rodman surgery that, when perfected, will be done for Kim Jong-un.
- Captain Amelia Earhart guided it to her secret base, but a renegade band of passengers is already at work there, renovating the S.S. Minnow for escape.
Cars without brakes are scary, but my grandmother was scarier. She always saw imminent disaster.
When I was setting off with my dad to drive a rented moving truck from Omaha to Tampa, she asked if we were going through New Orleans. Why go so far out of the way when Nashville was on the direct route? “Because your brakes will go out in the mountains!” It was an utter certainty.
She had her reasons, having experienced plenty of small disasters. The battery that was located under the front seat of some Dodge the family owned had caught fire, and everyone jumped out while the car was still rolling.
Another time, the travel trailer came unhitched and passed the tow car on the way to oblivion. And then Aunt Mary cranked too hard on the wheel of her first car with power steering, a 1951 Chrysler Saratoga, and flipped it.
Disaster lurked around every corner. A few years ago I drove a ’51 Saratoga in the Carolina Trophy rally. The brakes faded so badly, I couldn’t have stopped that thing before the Tennessee line. But scary? I could veer off into a tobacco patch if necessary.
What has always scared me is the memory of her leaning across the front seat of her ’59 Imperial after I’d gotten out, asking through the open window, her eyes agleam as she planned misery for this eight-year-old, “Would you like to play the trombone?”
Whenever I clean out my clip files, there’s the problem of what to do with this story from the Omaha World-Herald.
I don’t have a file for wooden-bodied cars. Nor one for auto bodymen-versus-carpenters.
Maybe “Puns” would be appropriate. But I’ll hold my tongue-in-groove.
Dean Haden built the custom wooden body after his wife Marlys complained about their rusty 1968 International Scout. The former postal vehicle had been in the family ten or twelve years.
“Now Haden’s portable sundeck (with matching aerodynamics) is saluted by Weber grills and patios everywhere,” the Associated Press reported, adopting an unusually waggish tone.
“But there are worries. Like termite insurance. And you’ll note a unique vulnerability to penknives and young love.”
Maybe so. The vulnerability I see is in stopping the thing. With such a heavy body, you’d better hold brake the pedal to the floorboard.
Only a sap would push past 50 mph on the open road.
Oh well, no telling where the Redwood Runabout is now. The number I had for the Haden residence is out of service.
Maybe it’s on an errand at a nice lumberyard somewhere.
I have an amazing new friend who this afternoon challenged me to a creative writing face-off. We would give each other a topic, and simultaneously in a ten-minute window of time write to the topic. The one I received from her was a bit unnerving, really: “Write a sweet piece about a little pony, for the age range 6-8 year old girl.” Outside my comfort zone? Yes. For the last few years all I’ve written about are cars and business history. But the name Fred surfaced in my mind, and I started.
Fred was a hairy little pony who hated his name. He took his name from the pizza restaurant, Big Fred’s, where he worked. He was tied all day to the railing on the front porch, and his job was to greet patrons. Children loved him, petting and stroking him. (Some bad little kids tried to give him their medication.) Fred liked his job all right, but whenever a shrill little voice called him–”Hey, Fred! Freddie, Freddie Krueger”–he found himself dancing and tugging at the rope that kept him from running away. One day a toad named Herbert came by to say hello. They were old friends, but it had been a while since Herbert had been around.
“How can I get my name changed?” Fred asked.
“You could work at a different restaurant,” Herbert said.
Fred stamped his front hooves. “That’ll never happen.”
But one day a crew from the sign company showed up in the parking lot. They had a big new sign for the restaurant, which they put into place that day. It had a picture of a pony and the name Winkie. There was a banner, too, that said, “Under New Ownership.”
Once Fred’s tears stopped flowing, he braced himself for his new life.