Category: humor

Operation: Free Pizza–An Autobiographical Short Story

[NOTE: Departments may or may not have been changed to protect the innocent.]

It started the same as any other day at work. A minor crises or two, a slew of emails, some paperwork to push. We were having some computer issues: the catalog kept going down, and some of our internet connections were dropping in and out. Still, nothing a crack team of librarians couldn’t handle.

And then I got the call from IT.

I picked it up with my normal routine: “Mantor Library. This is Bryce.”

“We’ve got an emergency,” the voice said.

My heart dropped. An emergency? From IT? This had to be bad. “What is it?” I asked.

“They’re giving away pizza somewhere in the Student Center. For free. But we don’t know where, and it’s been going on since 11:30.”

I glanced at the clock. 11:53. This really was dire. On a campus full of students, offering free food was like spreading out chum to a thousand starving great whites. Once they got a scent of that blood, eyes glazed over and natural instinct kicked in. That pizza might be on its last legs even as we spoke.

“Roger that,” I said. “What’s the call?”

In seconds we had it all planned out. I was going to run a sweep through the top level of the Student Center, and IT would run a counter maneuver from the ground floor up. The first group to encounter free pizza would establish a perimeter at a table and repel all invaders. If we met in the middle, then we’d know that the worst had happened: the pizza had been consumed before our arrival.

I grabbed my coat and umbrella (you can never be too prepared) and headed for the door. The first few seconds were going to be crucial. If anyone stopped me–even for a moment–our entire plan might disintegrate in front of my eyes. But I knew the key to avoiding distractions: a determined, annoyed expression, and a brisk walk. Even so, I tried to avoid eye contact with people until I hit the Student Center.

As soon as I walked through the doors, my worst fears became realized. Students were everywhere, and they all seemed to have a plate with a piece of pizza on it. The scent of pepperoni wafted through the heating vents, and I worried that might be as close as I’d come to pizza today. Why hadn’t I checked the calendar? How had we let this pristine opportunity pass us by?

IT and I have an understanding. We all keep an eye out for free food opportunities, whether it’s a couple of mini-muffins being handed out at an art reception, or an entire spread of appetizers and brownies at a luncheon. Between our two organizations, we typically have most bases covered. We have connections that spread across the campus, a complex web of interactions that ensures none of us miss a mooch.

Still, even the greats have their off days. We wouldn’t even have known this was going on if it weren’t for a student worker coming back from the pizza and letting IT in on it. What separates the masters from the novices all lies in how they respond in times of trouble. We didn’t waste time worrying. We sprang into action.

No pizza on the top floor. None by the cafeteria. None down in the corner of the building. I kept scoping the halls, every step bringing my expectations lower. And then I saw it: an open door with a sign for pizza hanging on it, right there on the ground floor. Surely IT had gotten there first. The only way this could get any worse was if all of IT ended up with pizza and I was too late for any.

I entered the room, my eyes going straight for the telltale pizza boxes. There were six left. They weren’t stacked up, though–which made it likely that there were still a few slices left after all. Then again, none of the students were hovered around them, which made me wonder if it really was too late. On the other hand, I noticed some canned soda down at the end of the table. I raised my eyebrows. No one had mentioned free soda. It wasn’t pizza, but if I moved quickly, I’d at least get something out of this expedition. I scanned the room for any IT presence. They hadn’t arrived yet.

Typical IT. Claim an emergency, and then take forever to show up.

Well, it would be their loss. I crept toward the pizza, dreading that I’d open the box and find it empty. I lifted the lid.

Cheese. Slightly burned.

I grimaced. It wasn’t perfect, but I’d settle for it in a pinch. I quickly uncovered the other pizzas: green peppers, burned pepperoni, and then some sort of mystery pizza that looked like sausage, but you couldn’t be sure. Obviously we were down to the dregs of the pizza, but even dregs are better than nothing. I grabbed a plate and some napkins, then took a slice of the pepperoni and one of the mystery sausage. In times of desperation, you have to take risks.

As promised, I went to a table and defended the free space until IT arrived. While I was waiting, I decided to give the mystery slice a chance. If it turned out to be nasty, I could always pretend I needed more napkins, then grab a second slice of pepperoni when I went up. You have to keep up appearances, after all.

I took a bite, and my eyes widened. This wasn’t mystery sausage: this was meat lovers! A thick crust topped with a layer of sauce, then ham, then pepperoni, then more ham, then a thick strata of cheese, and then that sausage sprinkled on top. These students had been avoiding it, not knowing what they were missing. Talk about a lucky break. Not for the first time, I thanked the moocher gods that most free food never gets labeled.

IT arrived moments later, and in no time, we were celebrating the spoils of our mission. It had been precarious–even treacherous at times. But we’d overcome adversity. I checked the time: 11:55. Hard to believe it had all gone down in less than two minutes. It’s true what they say: time slows down during moments of extreme stress and hardship.

I sat back from the table, took a deep gulp of Mug root beer, and settled in to enjoy another successful freeloading operation.

Our Country is Facing a Crisis, Friends

Don’t you love the word “friends”? It adds emphasis and gravitas to just about any situation. Compare, “We’re out of toilet paper,” which seems like a banal observation, to “We’re out of toilet paper, friends.” Suddenly, you know you’re facing a life changing moment of immense importance. Stuff just got real, folks. (Folks is another word like “friends.”)

In any case, my confrontation with the harsh realities of our time came–as most confrontations of this sort do these days–during a recent visit to Walmart. Denisa and I have been on the busy side lately, and so I went shopping with her when it looked like the odds of us having time to go on an actual date were slim to none. So there we were, blithely going about our business, when suddenly it hit me. Full on. No notice whatsoever. One second I’m looking at the dairy section, and the next second:

An entire display of eggnog.

We’re not talking a few cartons. We’re talking enough eggnog to supply Santa Claus’s Christmas Eve party. Enough eggnog to go hot-tubbing in. Enough eggnog to drown Homer Simpson.

Mass quantities of eggnog.

Now, those who know me know I like to partake of the nog each year. It’s something I look forward to. I like my eggnog the way I like my bacon: chewy, and with a pleasant aftertaste that stays with you hours later. My inaugural eggnog purchase each year has been a perpetual time of celebration for my stomach and mourning for my arteries.

But friends, I think we can all agree that the sheer raw power eggnog presents to the world is something that needs to be contained and tightly controlled. It’s a force that must only be harnessed for good, and even then it’s something that needs to be imbibed only starting with the ramp up to Thanksgiving and finishing in the bleak January days after New Years.

This was October, people. Oc-freaking-tober. The witches aren’t just not even off their brooms yet–they haven’t even opened the closet to dust those brooms off.

What I’m saying is that our society works on a calendar. It’s a fine-tuned system that’s been developed over the ages to ensure we maintain peak sugary efficiency. You’ve got your October, which is designed for candy consumption. This blends into November and your turkey and stuffing, then back to sweets in Christmas before one last huzzah of culinary festivities on New Years Eve–just in time for all of us to swear we won’t eat so much next year. And through a good portion of that, the eggnog must flow to keep our spirits merry and our holly hopping.

But ain’t nobody out there wishing anybody no “Merry Halloween!” It’s not natural.

Octobernog must be stopped, and it must be stopped now. Think of the repercussions if we allow it to continue. Next thing you know, I’ll be drinking eggnog in September and not stopping until February, and then you’ll find me in some gutter somewhere, surrounded by empty eggnog containers and the strong stench of nutmeg.

You think obesity is a problem now? You wait until we’re all drinking eggnog at our Fourth of July parties.

You. Just. Wait.

So please. For the love of all that’s good and right in this world, join me in an eggnog strike. Let’s follow a simple rule: you can only buy eggnog during months that begin with N or D. That allows some wiggle room for drinking it at the beginning of January, but it keeps the rest of the year safe for eggnog-free lives. I think we can all agree it’s better that way.

But if we don’t do this strike–if we let eggnog run rampant through our society? I don’t like the future that holds. And right now, judging from the sheer quantities of eggnog Walmart had on its shelves (and worse yet, the many empty spots where you could see eggnog had just recently occupied), the strike isn’t being followed. Walmart’s not just selling the nog. People are buying the nog. And if people are buying the nog . . .

People are drinking it.

Please. Share this post. Save our society and ourselves. We’re no match for the overwhelming awesomesauce that is eggnog. It has to be regulated. Contained. Should we petition the government for this to happen?

Yes we can! I’m hereby announcing my official petition to the US Department of Agriculture to restrict the sale of eggnog to the months of November and December. You can participate in the drive. Head on over to change.org and sign my petition. Let’s make this thing go viral people. Save humanity. The fate of the entire universe might rest in your index finger right at this moment. Click “sign”, click “share,”

And make today mean something.

In Which I Discover the World-Shaking Truth About My Wife

Longtime readers know I love my wife. We’ve been together over thirteen years, after all. And after thirteen years, you’d think I knew everything there was to know about her. You’d think I’d know what to expect from her in just about every situation imaginable. So picture my surprise when I opened my drawer this morning to take a shower, and I discovered it. Incontrovertible proof of something that only became clear to me this morning. In that very instant.

What was inside that drawer? What terrible, awful truth did it reveal?

Clean laundry, my friends.

Clean. Laundry.

Not that clean laundry in my house is anything really surprising. I mean, Denisa’s been keeping me in clean laundry for over a decade.

Or has she?

You see, yesterday she finally went a bit too far. She got the kids ready for school, made lunches, cleaned the kitchen, watched the baby, organized her bread order for the week, lesson planned for her classes, graded tests, figured out dinner, cleaned the bathroom, checked on her mom’s flight, answered emails, got the kids snacks, played with MC outside, organized the pickup of our family pictures, spent time with the family, then went down to Portland to pick her mom up at the bus station, leaving at 9pm and getting back at 3am. And I think we can all agree that all of that constitutes one heck of a full day.

And yet there was the clean laundry, staring me in the face, daring me to come up with another explanation. Any other explanation.

But I couldn’t. There is no other possible way my wife could have washed, dried, and folded my laundry in addition to everything else she did yesterday. It all points to one fact:

She’s using House Elves.

This is a difficult thing to admit. I don’t normally like to narc on my wife, but I don’t see any way around it. In hindsight, I should have recognized the signs: her ability to get so much done on so little time. Her high cleaning standards. The way food magically appears at meal times. Her refusal to let clothes just lie around any old place, where they might accidentally be handed to the wrong elf.

It was all there in black and white. Hermione would be appalled.

So what do I do now, friends? Do I say nothing, and live on the backs of the downtrodden? Do I confront her? Am I supposed to stage some sort of intervention? I’m at a loss. My life hasn’t prepared me for this sort of encounter.

I went through the house from attic to basement, looking for where she’s keeping the house elves. I’m convinced it has to be down in the crawl space. There are some spots there I just can’t wriggle into. It must be simply dreadful for the poor things. And to think Denisa’s been doing this all along, and I was so clueless . . .

I blame myself, really. I know she wasn’t into House Elves when we got married. I must have pushed her there over the years, encouraging her baking and her teaching, all the while eating food and getting clothes dirty. I just didn’t think I’d push her that far.

But I’ve had some time to think about it now, and I might have come up with a plan. I won’t let her know that I’m onto her. I’ll start trying to help more around the house to alleviate the poor House Elves’ suffering. And I’ll leave socks in strategic places throughout the house, particularly in books. They’ll be accidentally freed, and my hope is we can just get through this.

Has anyone else out there had anything like this happen to them? Any closeted House Elf users out there want to give me pointers on how to approach the problem? I’m all ears. Wait–no. That came off wrong, since we’re talking about elves and all. I meant to say . . .

Inquiring minds want to know.

In the meantime, wish me luck.

Humor Impairment Awareness Drive

As we approach the holiday season, it’s important to take a moment and consider those less fortunate than ourselves. To reach out to the downtrodden. To lift up members of our community who might be dealing with struggles that make life much harder for them. And let’s face it: most charities do a wonderful job covering all your typical bases. These days, there’s a fund for just about anything.

Except one thing.

I’m speaking, of course, of the Humor Impaired. You see these people every day on the streets. At your job. Sitting next to you at church. People who really have no sense of humor whatsoever. Individuals who suffer from the inability to lighten up and laugh a little. The sad thing is, there’s no real way to identify these poor members of society other than when they reveal themselves in public, and the stigma against those with no humor is such so that a lot of them do their best to pretend they’re not suffering at all. They laugh along with everyone else, but really they have no clue what they’re laughing at.

Often, this causes no immediate consequences, but there are occasions when the Humor Impaired unintentionally out themselves in public. Sometimes they take a story on The Onion literally and post their outrage on Facebook. Sometimes they read a blog post and just don’t get the humor and get grumpy and upset instead. At times, situations like these have led to public shaming and mocking, and there’s really nothing worse for an individual suffering from this disease, because no matter how much you try to explain it to them, they just don’t get it.

Thankfully, science has developed some fairly accurate tests for this disease. There’s the famous “Arrested Development Marathon Test,” where you sit down and start watching Arrested Development, and you’re measured by how many hours it takes before you stop watching. People who suffer from Humor Impairment (HI) might be able to fake interest for an episode or two, but they rarely get past an entire hour. Preliminary studies show this test can be replicated with other series (Seinfeld, Modern Family, Better Off Ted, 30 Rock, etc.), but further research is needed before these are as clinically proven.

(Note: Studies have shown that there is a related disease: Abhorrentes Humore. This affliction causes people to think certain things are funny, despite the fact that those things aren’t really funny at all. The most famous current symptom is Two and a Half Men, of course–though there have been other well known examples throughout history.)

What can be done for these individuals? Studies have shown that with repeat exposure to genuinely funny material, a real sense of humor might be grown over several years. But unfortunately, most subjects refused this treatment without the liberal use of duct tape.

So if the HI aren’t going to watch funny things on their own, what can we do? We can go for the “Rising Tide Lifts All Boats” approach. If we support genuinely funny movies and tv shows and books, more of those shows and movies will be made, which in turn increases the likelihood that more of the HI will be exposed to this material. It’s a wonderful cycle where everyone benefits.

But beyond that, the best thing you can do is take someone aside when you realize they’re suffering from Humor Impairment. Tell them that you understand their pain and struggles, and that you’re willing to help them. Introduce them to real humor, and take the time to explain why things are funny. Gently correct them when they gravitate to the stupid. This might mean you have to call their cable provider and block CBS to keep them from watching Two and a Half Men, but really–isn’t it worth it? Suggest they get a subscription to Netflix instead–so you can carefully monitor their viewing habits and nudge them in the right direction. Years late, I’m sure your friend will thank you as he or she is leading a life much richer and fuller, blessed with the gift of humor.

If nothing else, just share this post with your friends and family and on your social networks. Let’s reach out to the Humor Impaired and let them know that we understand and want to help them. Let your friends know they’re safe confiding in you. Do your best to spread the gift of funny. Because Humor Impairment is no laughing matter.

In Which I Battle a Bat

I’ve been having a rough time falling asleep for the past while. so I’ve been making a concerted effort to go to bed earlier. Last night I was particularly proud of myself. It was 10:40, and I’d already stopped watching West Wing. So Denisa and I head off to brush our teeth and get ready for bed. On my way to the bathroom, I caught a flicker of movement in the corner of my eye. I turned to look at our enclosed front porch. Just as I was about to dismiss what I’d seen, I saw it again. And again. And then there was no doubt:

A bat had gotten in there.

This is a little room about ten feet wide and five feet deep. It’s got a door to the outside, but we’ve sealed that door shut with spray foam, since we never use it. It has a big window to the outside, though. A locked window. That could only be unlocked from inside the room, of course.

The room which had a very angry bat flying wildly around inside it at the moment.

Denisa and I conferred and came up with a few options:

  • Laissez faire–Leave the bat alone. It had gotten in there somehow. It could get out again, thank you very much. This seemed like a less-than-optimal choice, mainly because we were pretty sure the bat came in through a hole in the ceiling where we’ve been working on fixing a light. We never go in the room, so we’ve just left the hole there while the light gets fixed. It’s a small hole, however. I could see how the bat got in through it, but the odds of that flying rodent finding its way out were slim to none.
  • Call for reinforcements–Isn’t this why they invented exterminators? I could surely *buy* my way out of this mess. However, that goes against the DIY attitude I’ve somehow developed since moving to Maine (6 years ago today–can you believe it?) I didn’t want to pay some schlub to come take care of this problem for me. Plus, who knew how long it would take for it to get taken care of.
  • Wait it out–Bats have to go to sleep eventually, right? The little bloodsucker would get tuckered out during the day, and then we could catch it and release the thing into the wild, where it could prey on mosquitoes as much as it liked. The problem with this one was that we really had no clue if this would work, and Denisa does have to go in that room occasionally.
  • Get the bat out right then and there–Not as appealing as the other options, but it would solve the problem. One of us would have to go in, brave the fluttering bat wings, open the window, remove the screen, and then the bat would voomp! off into the wild dark yonder.

We went with the last choice. And I’m the pater familias. I’m bona fide.

I volunteered to be the one to go in with the Fledermaus.

I don’t have a lot of experience with bats. I’ve seen all the Batman movies, and I can sing the Mighty Mouse theme song (flying mouse–same thing, right?), but when it comes to bats in the wild, my experience boils down to one a dark night on the sun porch of my house growing up, where a bat dive bombed my sister and I laughed at her. (Sorry, Susie)

Karma is real, my friends.

Even though my experience was small, I *am* a trained librarian, and I’m awfully good at looking things up online. A few minutes later, and I knew that yes indeedy, bats carry rabies and other nasty things. You’re supposed to wear long sleeves and pants when dealing with them, and you want to limit your exposure. There was a YouTube video of a woman catching a bat, and if some random woman on YouTube can do it, so can I.

I’m bona fide.

So I got into my grubby jeans, threw on an old long sleeve flannel shirt (flannel is the cloth of choice for bat-wrangling), and went to the door to the porch, then paused. The bat was still flapping around, whizzing from wall to wall like a disease-ridden pinball. And I was about to step in there with that bat.

I’d need a hat. And gloves.

So I got the hat and gloves and stood in front of the door again. The bat had gone into stealth mode. I was fairly confident that bats didn’t have Predator-level technology (at least, I hadn’t come across anything indicating that on YouTube), so I was pretty sure it had just taken refuge in one of the piles of stuff on the floor. I looked at the window where I’d need to get to, then back to the door I needed to enter. Six feet, tops. Then pause at the window to open it, fumble with the screen to get it off, and then back to the door to get out. I could do this.

But I’d need protection for my face. Didn’t want that bat making a run for my eyeballs, you know. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Denisa has a bug hat she uses on particularly bad buggy days in the garden. I went and got that, and put it over my head. I was now armored for action, and no doubt looking about as stupid as a thirty-something librarian can look at 11:15 at night.

I took another breath, and opened the door.

The bat was ready for me. It started swooping back and forth, emitting shrieks of anger and no-doubt rabid intentions. But I kept my cool, went to the window, opened it, took off the screen (Denisa was helping from the outside), and then went back to the door and shut it behind me. I had done it! I hadn’t even screamed. Honest.

Problem solved, right? Wrong. You know how nature shows are always talking about how bats are like awesome and all that at finding their way around in the dark? About how they’ve got super awesome powers of sonar? Those nature shows are full of it. I stood there watching the bat fly around the room. And keep flying. And flying. Despite the fact that there was a square three foot opening for the stupid thing, it couldn’t find its way out. That bat couldn’t find its way out of a paper bag, let alone that room. And then it dropped to the ground again and went back into hiding.

No problem. The bat would come out eventually, right? Nope. I waited. And waited. And I was getting pretty tired, because I’ve been having sleep issues, you know? And it was now 11:30 at night. So I suited up again, grabbed a trusty broom, and headed back into the room.

No bat.

I poked around with the broom. I squeaked. I shouted. I clicked my tongue. I did everything but offer that cursed bat a steak dinner. It didn’t come out.

Denisa was sure the bat had already left the premises–that we’d just missed seeing it leave. Besides, we could just leave the window open all night, and the bat would leave on its own. “Denisa,” I said. “You’ve got to go in this room tomorrow or the day after. Are you going to feel comfortable going in there?”

She thought about it, and then sent me back in to look for the bat.

I was now at the most distasteful part of the evening. I don’t really like cleaning clutter up, but let me tell you friends–you’ve never cleaned clutter up like this. They could make a new game show out of it: “Mr. Smith! You’ve got a room full of clutter, and you’ve got five minutes to clean it out. But somewhere in that clutter, we’ve secretly hidden a LIVE BAT WITH RABIES! So, Mr. Smith. The time has come to see if you can be the one . . to FIND THE BAT!” (Cue audience applause)

I started an archaeological dig for that lousy bat. Moving box by box in a dark room (I mentioned the light in there was broken, didn’t I?), never knowing if the next box was going to reveal a winged horror. I’ve done more pleasant things in my life.

And then I found the bat. But it didn’t swoop into bite my neck. It was huddled underneath my briefcase, scrunched up in a ball on the floor. It was doing the animal equivalent of the five year old who squeezes his eyes shut in a misguided belief that if he can’t see you, you can’t see him.

I own pet rodents. (My kids’ degus) This bat wasn’t a fiend of terror. It was a small winged degu, and it was scared out of its mind.

From there on, it was smooth sailing. I grabbed an empty sour cream container, placed it over the huddled bat, slipped a piece of cardboard under it, and picked it up. The bat started screeching wildly then, fluttering around inside the container. I took it out of the room, set it on the porch, and removed the lid. The bat stayed huddled there for a minute or so, and then it flew off.

I went back inside and duct taped the ceiling hole closed in that room.

And there you have it, my friends. My first encounter with a bat. It might not have been glamorous. It might not be a story for the ages, but it kept me up until 12:30 last night, and I’m kind of sleepy today because of it. Denisa expressed her undying respect and admiration for my feats of bravery, and I assured her the main reason I did it was because I wanted a permanent “Get Out of Jail Free” card for anything. (Denisa: “Bryce? Come do the dishes!” Bryce: “I would do the dishes, but there was that one time I captured the bat. Remember that?” Denisa: “Oh, right. Never mind. Keep reading!”)

But when you get down to it, I did it because I’m the pater familias. Bat duty comes with the job description.

And I’m bona fide.

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